While this review is well overdue we can at least say it didn’t take long for the next installments for Generation VII to come out, roughly at least one year after “Pokémon Sun” and “Pokémon Moon”. After spending a few hours in “Pokémon Ultra Moon” I can safely say that it adds more to “Pokémon Moon” but unnecessary sacrifices were made in the process.
“Pokémon Ultra Moon”, like all Pokémon main series games before it, is a JRPG where venture in the Alola region to catch, train, trade, and battle Pokémon in turned based combat. While each generation of Pokémon was given revisions and additions to the gameplay this is more of an update to the previous entry (“Pokémon Moon”).
To put it bluntly, it’s the same game but with tweaks and new features. The Island Challenge still plays an important part of your adventure, but some Captain’s Trails were changed to make the experience more enjoyable and throw off players who played the previous incarnations.
The game also features a new trail given by Mina, putting aside her art to give us a little round trip in Alola. Side quests were given more emphasis on, having more fleshed out and memorable moments, with one quest having you helping an Alolan Vulpix from being abused by Team Skull to getting it back to its natural environment.
The Poké Ride Service is still in place of HMs to travel and explore Alola, but the new Mantine Surf is a separate mode of transportation. Surfing on a Mantine is not only a fun mini game that gets you between islands but will generate BP (Battle Points/Beach Points) that you can use anywhere that accepts them.
Similar to Mantine Surfing there’s the Ultra Wormhole Riding where you hope on Solgaleo/Lunala and travel to other worlds. I was worried how the motion controls would be awkward but it’s more fluid and responsive compared to the stiff controls you would deal with the Circle Pad enabled.
Additionally with Mantine Surfing, a high score will net you a special Pokémon. The Poké Finder also comes back with a few new spots for a photo shoot, though you still need to catch a perfect shot to post for likes on Poké Book. QR Scanner returns so you can add Pokémon (Seen) to the Rotom Dex and do an Island Scan for rare Pokémon after checking out ten QR codes.
Poké Pelago is still the place to help you with harvesting Poké Beans, growing berries, finding treasures, and raising Pokémon. As far as changes go, there is a new convenient option on Isle Evelup that let Pokémon play longer without switching to and from the Pokémon Storage System. Pokémon Refresh is also here to help raise your Pokémon for better performance in the single player adventure and cure ailments after battles.
And for multiplayer (outside of Quick Link) there’s the Festival Plaza for more organized trading and battling, facilities to use, and mini games to play alone or with others local and online. It also houses the new Battle Agency that hosts battles with three trainers (yours and a couple of others) using rental Pokémon.
It’s a neat idea though it feels more like a Single Battle with different trainer models than a different variation of Multi Battle It’s still a cool facility since you choose one Pokémon and have to use other others that other trainers picked.
The Photo Album lets you take photos of your Pokémon and avatar (optional) to commemorate an occasion, with decorations to add in post production. Rotom is more talkative, but this can get annoying as he talks your eyes off after you exit the menu or a battle. To be fair he does give useful advice you may not have known.
Through the Roto Loto you can win Rotom Power items that will give you different power ups. They come with various effects that will make your play sessions easier with tough encounters, training and breeding, and a few extras.
He will also give you an occasional freebie like a Z-Move recharge. Speaking of powers, there are a few new Z-Crystals that you can get, although people are split on if Kommonium Z is overpowered or not. However, if you missed some event Z-Crystals you can pick them up as long as you have a Pokémon that corresponds with it.
And naturally we are spoiled with new Pokémon and forms. Dusk Form Lycanroc is a hybrid of its Midday and Midnight counterparts with both their move pools but you’ll need the special Rockruff with Own Tempo from the event. This particular Pokémon can be bred, however, so you just need to find someone to hook you up. Then there are the fusion forms of Necrozma, Dusk Mane (Solgaleo) and Dawn Wings (Lunala), but this isn’t even its final form.
Ultra Necrozma may seem like another Mega Rayquaza but unlike that legendary Pokémon Necrozma needs a Z-Crystal to turn into its Ultra form, so it can’t hold another item to make it overpowered. Other than that, there are the new Ultra Beasts, Stakataka (Ultra Moon), Blacephalon (Ultra Sun), and Poipole the UB that the Ultra Recon Squad dangles in front of you.
In fact, in this “altered story” the Ultra Recon Squad’s ultimate contribution is to show off Poipole. They had so much potential to the story. However, they are useless to the plot, though props to them for catching a Furfrou with a Beast Ball (catch rate of snowball chance in Hell with non-UB Pokémon).
The only alteration made to the story was changing the Ultra Wormhole arc from stopping crazy mom showing her love and affection to the Ultra Beasts to stopping Necrozma, who is apparently an Outer God now. Lillie still hangs in with the story, even having her Z-Powered Form moment, but as a PokéTuber said her character arc was assassinated.
The post game story Episode RR (Rainbow Rocket), on the other hand, was a fantastic edition. An entire plot of a reformed Team Rocket that is composed of past organization leaders who succeeded in different dimensions, with the original Giovanni in charge, is a far more interesting tale than having a bunch of edits in the original Sun/Moon story.
Unfortunately, Episode RR is just the post game, let alone a major selling point, if not only, to “Pokémon Ultra Moon” and the fanfare to Generation VII. Nevertheless, it does leave some possibilities open down the line.
The presentation is the same, but some changes and additions were made. There are still small touches such as certain trainers using a particular Poké Ball, with a new addition of the battle touch screen having a Beast Ball background designs (being that in Japanese, the Beast Ball is known as the Ultra Ball).
The new Dusk Form for Lycanroc has this cool hybrid look of its other forms with a digitized grow that suggests it has power behind it. The Necrozma form Dusk Wing (Ultra Moon) does resemble Lunala but with black prisms as part of her body, having a cold presence to the Pokémon you’ve known since the beginning.
Ultra Necrozma has cool crystal dragon design, but it’s not as intimidating as Dusk Wing. That is not to say it won’t mop the floor with you if you’re not prepared as it covers its bases in elemental offense and has an aura like a Totem Pokémon. Furthermore, the new Ultra Beasts look as bizarre and alien as the rest of their kind. Poipole may be the cutest Ultra Beast I’ve seen, until you evolve it into a poison needle dragon.
As for the human models, they use the same trainer class designs as well as the more unique special character models such as the Captains, Kahunas, and other key characters. The Ultra Recon Squad has this 80s feel with their space outfits that protects them from interdimensional travel and natural light, having an alien look to them.
Ultra Megaloplis looks like a section of a city blocked off like a crime scene, so it feels like a let down since the Alola region, with several cities and towns taking different cultural inspirations within a tropical location with special biomes for a Captain’s theme, encouraged sight seeing.
The Team Rainbow Rocket models are a callback to the old Ken Sugimori art style, having outfits and facial designs resembling his old work from the concept art and Generation I and II manuals. So if I may say so, the female Team Rainbow Rocket Grunt is the cutest minion to date. Giovanni’s character model even looks like his original design, bringing fan service with his smug, nihilist personality.
Audio is a mix of the old and new as well. The Ultra Recon Squad battle music does have a familiar sound to it, but the composition makes it sound alien when compared to the rest of the sound track. Necrozma’s tracks build up hype but since its overall importance in the story was more raised compared to “Pokémon Moon”’ I can’t say it deserved all the hype it gets.
Team Rainbow Rocket has a few remastered tracks for the hideout, Grunt battles, and Organization Leaders. As for Giovanni, he has an epic remix that takes previous Team Rocket themes and creates a glorious track fitting for a final boss battle.
In overall, “Pokémon Ultra Moon” is “Pokémon Moon” with a few changes as though it was a patch update. So it could be considered as an alternate story where Necrozma became a theme but events still played out more of the same.
Honestly, if Team Rainbow Rocket was somehow involved main story than just the post game then this could have been a crazy alternate story with a team up of past villains. Sadly it was just rewritten scenes and downplayed character development. The only selling points to this are having an updated Pokémon game with more content, updates, and a hell of a post game story. It’s not a bad installment but this is an equivalent to a game that got an update on Steam.
Nevertheless, if you’re a fan of Pokémon, then I bet that you will love “Pokémon Ultra Moon” with no doubt. In other words, you might want to pick up the game when the price has dropped a bit.
+ A nice blend of new gameplay content along with previous mechanics.
+ Improved and fleshed out side quests.
+ Fantastic Post Game Episode with so much fan service.
– Not exactly an alternate story.
– Ultra Recon Squad was only good for showcasing Poipole.
– More of a game update.
Replay value: 4/5
You can go with either “Pokémon Ultra Moon” (or Ultra Sun) or “Pokémon Moon” (or Sun) since the games are mostly compatible with each other. It’s more of a preference of content versus story. Despite the issues, I still find “Pokémon Ultra Moon” to be a fun game to play with its “alternate story,” as it offers quite a bit in terms of entertainment value. And thus marks the supposed end of the main series games for the Nintendo 3DS.
So there are quite a few features that I hope will make it to the Switch when Game Freak finally announces their new set of Pokémon games for Generation VIII (hopefully not too soon). Nevertheless, if anything, I hope to see Giovanni soon, for his Team Rainbow Rocket has gone well beyond the stars above.
Disclaimer: Due to limitations most of the media within this review are from official sources and not a press kit or self created.
Title: Pokémon Ultra Moon
Developer: Game Freak
Format: Nintendo 3DS
Resolution: 400 x 240/320 x 240
Release date: 2017-11-17
Difficulty: Normal to Hard (progression, post game)
Spent time: 122+ hours
Average grade internationally: 82.96% Gamerankings.com
PEGI/ESRB age rating: PEGI 7+/Everyone
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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