Opinions: Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon

At the end of my high school speech, before proclaiming that I’d forever be a nerd, I had also said that even as a greying grandfather I’d still be playing Pokémon. And though at that time, the tender age of seventeen, I felt that sentence would ring true, as time goes on I wonder if I was lying, not just due to the slim chance that someone as unqualified for love as I could become grandparent one day, but also because with each title after Pokémon Heart Gold & Soul Silver it seemed as if the quality of Pokémon games was dropping.

While I know that Black & White, were good in a narrative sense and gave you compelling characters such as N, the unfortunate fact remained that I didn’t care for the graphics or the new Pokémon. Sure we were given Scrafty and Excadrill and Accelgor, but I didn’t care for the starters or, once again, the art style. Black 2 & White 2 continued to be good narratively, but still there was something about the sprites that felt like a wrong direction (also though unrelated to the games, Black & White had a horrid anime. it ate floor candy). X & Y were great for entering Pokémon into the handheld 3D character realm, but with these games came a lack of post game material and a sort of weak storyline (though Pokémon games aren’t known for well written narratives, compared to Black& White and their sequels, this story was pretty weak). ORAS, though objectively fun, had too much water didn’t feel new because it was a remake, but Episode Delta did add some great post game fun.

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I remember being in line for the midnight release of ORAS. We all chanted, “too much water!”, for a while. Jeez, I was a cool college kid.

Then there was Sun & Moon, a quite anticipated and maybe, in retrospect, overhyped game. As we hankered down and waited for the game’s release, Youtubers released theory videos and discussed how they thought the narrative would go. Nintendo released a demo for the game. People datamined the demo to find its secrets. But after the game released and people beat Red and or Green (Blue for Americans), the hype died down. There wasn’t really a post game to play. Battle Royales were flawed in execution. The Festival Plaza (yes. that’s my sentence. it’s not that there’s something wrong about the Festival Plaza, what’s wrong is that it exists). And it might have also been that, with the exception of Ultra Beasts and Alolan Forms, most of the Pokémon introduced for the 7th generation were kind of bad. My care for the game simply dwindled. Then there was the whole Pokémon Stars fiasco where people couldn’t consider the possibility that it was simply a code name and not the actual name of the project. People hoped there’d be 4th Gen remakes or that the next project would be for the Switch, but that didn’t happen and we got Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon instead. Now I wasn’t hyped for the game, thought it’d be more of the same, but as we received more trailers for the game I started to fall for the hype. And boy was it a good payoff. Starting off with just the hair styles.

In terms of narrative, the game stays relatively the same until the fourth island where things truly differ. You get an additional trial where you have to battle a few of the trial captains. The former version’s villains take a seat for Necrozma. It actually becomes a different experience. Before the 4th island you mainly get a few additional cutscenes here and there, but the intriguing thing about some of those cutscenes is that it gives a true character arc to Hau. In the previous version of the game, it felt like he wasn’t a fully developed rival, and that’s why I had liked Gladion more as a character. While the character development for Hau helped, I still didn’t care for him that much, but that isn’t to say that the character development was bad, it’s just that I’m at a point where I don’t and won’t care for him (it’s also because of being forced to go into Festival Plaza). Though it was still intriguing to see him receive cutscenes where you saw him develop, especially since one of the kicking off points for his development was the introduction of Guzma.

Guzma was also a character who got more insight, since we saw him actually end Team Skull and live a life without his gang. We see him going on the straight and narrow, but even better it’s without the influence or coercion of a kahuna, he himself decides to change.

But even with both developments for Guzma and Hau, it feels as though we lose some of the tension of the once true big bad, Lusamine. As her motive has changed from simply wanting to reach UB-01 to wanting to save the region from Necrozma, Lusamine now looks kind of stupid. When the big bad is trying to save the world, but by alternative means, that makes for a compelling villain, but she’s essentially saving the world in the same way your character does. It’s just that your character finishes the job after she’s defeated by Necrozma. And that doesn’t make a compelling character. Now that I think of it, Necrozma isn’t compelling either, but that shouldn’t matter because it’s a Pokémon game.

One of my only other complaints that should be a praise for the game comes near the end of the main storyline. As you and your party get to the Elite Four, there’s a moment where your starter Pokémon breaks out of its pokeball to look at you. The narration then picks up to tell you to think about your adventures with your Pokémon, and as well thought out as it was, I felt it didn’t execute the way it should have. Most players do that already, and a good number of times the bond they have isn’t with the starter. For my gameplay of Ultra Sun it was my Lycanroc. And while I enjoy that the game wants you to reflect on your adventure, it just felt too forced. And even though it felt forced, I liked the potential of that move.

But the point where I truly enjoyed the game was the post game. Facing off against Rainbow Rocket was amazing. I loved the remix of the old school Team Rocket battle theme. I loved the character models they gave to the grunts. And I sorely missed the floor tile puzzles that they implemented into the game, and felt that the use of them was missing for the original Sun & Moon. The battles felt like a challenge, and the game gave me a reason to continue using my Pokémon after level 60 and a way to level them up without grinding, and therefore this post game was actually enjoyable (except the part where I had to go to the Festival Plaza). This is where the game truly shines and it’s a great send off to the DS/3DS generation of Pokémon games. You’ll get to face all of your favorite villains and relive the history of Pokémon, and that my friends is the point of the adventure. Now that that’s out of the way, I can’t wait for the next entry which is slated for the Switch. I leave you with the trailer for the game. Later days.

P.S. Do you like Pokémon content and YouTube? If so there are a few PokeTubers you should watch. Do you enjoy the competitive battling scene? Watch pokeaimMD, Thunderblunder777, MrJamvad, or Chimpact. Wanna watch an alternative battle mode called Free for Alls (where you’ll here banter between friends competing against each other?) Watch DuncanKneeDeep, Kenny, or HoodlumScrafty. Do you enjoy nonsensical top ten lists? Watch Jethrotex. And if you want a culmination of all of that and rapping, go to the first PokeTuber I ever watched, shofu.

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