Last November, in our 9/10 review of Pokémon Sun and Moon, we shared how the pair of titles helped to reignite our love for the two-decade-old franchise, with a stunning Hawaiian-inspired setting and all-new innovations; such as Alolan forms and island trials. One year later and with the tearful announcement that there will be no further Pokémon titles on the 3DS, we have two enhanced versions: Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. The two releases have been teased as a culmination of the series; bringing back all past legendries and villainess groups, whilst also improving aspects of the seventh generation. The titles are undoubtedly the best option for those who missed out last year, but is there is enough here to tempt returning fans back to the tropical shores of Alola?
We should perhaps stress first that those seeking a brand-new experience from Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon will likely be disappointed. Like Yellow, Crystal and Emerald that came before; the titles follow the same core path of their processors and you'll find yourself undertaking the same trials, battling the same trainers, and scrolling through much of the same dialogue as before. But even though these aspects remain largely the same, GameFreak has looked out for returning fans and has added a touch of variation. Many of the trials have been remixed with different totem Pokémon, there are all-new Z-moves for you to try out in battle, and the total of possible catchable pokémon has been raised to around 400.
The headline feature within the trailers leading up to release was the new and improved storyline, which saw a more formidable threat and the return of some familiar faces. Legendary pokémon Necrozma is the star of the show this time, threatening to rid the world of light and taking hold of both poster boys, Lunula and Solgaleo. All previous villains from past generations also return headed by team rocket leader Giovani in a supergroup known as Rainbow Rocket. While we don't want to spoil too much, we found ourselves much more engaged in the narrative this time around and the many call-backs to previous entries resulted in a nostalgia trip from start to finish.
As previously mentioned, Ultra Sun and Moon boast a roster of over 400 Pokémon spanning from Gen 1 favourites to all-new creatures and Alola forms. The new games also go a step beyond sister titles that have come before them and introduce new ultra beasts and pokémon forms. The new ultra beasts include the adorable UB Adhesive, the clown-like UB Burst, and UB Assembly, which kind of resembles a pile of bricks. The new Rockruff form stands out as a cool blend of both its midnight and midday forms, but sadly it's only available during a limited timeframe around launch (pretty frustrating if you plan to arrive late to the party). That being said, you'll have even more opportunities to build your perfect team here, even if there is also a disappointing lack of new Alolan forms present.
Scattered across the various towns and cities of Alola are totem stickers, which can be collected in exchange for your own totem-sized pokémon. These stickers can be found just about anywhere; from the fronts of stranger's fridges to the middle of fountains, and push you to explore every inch of the tropical region. Some even require you to backtrack as you'll require a fishing rod, for example, to grab a sticker from a fountain. While the treasure hunting aspect is fun, it's the reward that we are mostly disappointed with. Many of the totem-pokémon can be caught in their original versions and we wish GameFreak would have just given us the option to catch our own totem pokémon. There's also the Pokémon Battle Agency where you can rent any pokémon that you wish for battle, really letting you experience what it's like to fight with creatures you've yet to capture.