I love Pokémon. I grew up with it. Coming into the Alola region from Kalos was oddly refreshing in the original Sun & Moon. I really liked how Nintendo was able to freshen up the battle system while bringing back some of my favorite Pokémon. But is Ultra Sun & Moon a money-grab tactic? Is it any different than the original? If you’re a Pokémon fanatic like me, the bottom line is that you’ll probably play it regardless. Do I think it’s worth the price of a new title? Nope, not at all. Will I play it regardless? Hell, yeah.
Disclaimer: I’ve only played up to three-quarters of Akala Island (that’s the second one, for you newbies) so I do not know the entire storyline yet. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the new features of Pokémon Ultra Moon.
So what’s new, other than different catchable Pokémon? First up, Mantine surfing! I really enjoyed this mini-game because it is integrated into the story (you use it to travel between the islands), and it doesn’t penalize you for being bad. Although it’s similar to the mini-games in Pokémon Amie, I don’t see myself playing it often because using Charizard glide is just so much faster than using Mantine surf.
I noticed that the game is slightly harder than I remember (and I’m glad because I used to OTK everything). For example, I was forced to catch a grass Pokémon in order to beat the teacher’s Popplio in Pokémon School because my starter, Litten, was just not strong enough even at 5 levels ahead. I also found myself using more potions and stat boosters than usual. To balance out the increased difficulty, your Rotom Dex rewards you with boosters after you’ve travelled a set number of steps. This new addition was particularly entertaining because you get to spin a wheel, and I love gambling.
As for cosmetic or aesthetic changes, a new photo option now exists where you can take pictures with your team… The interface for this system was designed quite nicely, but it serves no other purpose than what it sounds like. Still nice to see them try to add some new features.
Story-wise, it’s pretty much the same. Assembly of the Zygarde cube is no longer part of the game. Instead, you collect these totem stickers to exchange with Professor Oak for “unusual” Pokémon. You don’t technically need to find all of them to get rewards and they encourage you to spend more time in towns – a win-win situation. The totem Pokémon battles are slightly different from the original, but still similar enough that it doesn’t quite feel like a change.
A new team appears, but they give me a bad feeling because they look like the Aether Foundation gone dark. They make all these “observations” about Pokémon, trainers, and Z moves. I can’t comment on whether or not they’re good or bad but they’re definitely the key to this game being different from the original. Perhaps they are from the same wormhole Lusamine went to?
Overall, the game definitely feels like a re-run. While the integration of the world has improved, the storyline has been lackluster at best. Compared to Pokémon X and Y which introduced 3D models and multi-dimensional terrain, Pokémon Ultra Moon feels like a re-mastered version of your typical 7/10 cookie-cutter game. It’s pretty much just like the extra Poké beans you get when you buy a Pinap Juice at the Pokémon Café. Don’t over-hype the game, and you’ll enjoy it just fine.