Around this time last year, I reviewed Pokemon Sun and Moon, Game Freak’s latest entries to the beloved Pokemon franchise. The new Alola region promised plenty of new creatures, exotic locations, new Z-moves, and Alolan forms of Kanto Pokemon. Fans were ecstatic building up to the release. With all this shining new content, what wasn’t to love?

Sadly, a lot. Sun and Moon are quite a mess, featuring some clunky framerates during battles, little exploration, mind-numbingly simple gameplay, and the greatest offense of them all, the horrendous cutscenes. Initially, I had given the game a 7.0 largely overlooking the massive flaws in favor of the wonderful environment and enhanced gameplay features. As time has passed and I have had more time to fully experience all the Alola region has to offer, I would downgrade that 7.0 to a 5.5 or 6.0 to be generous. Sun and Moon seem out of character, simplified, and downright tedious to trudge through.

So here we are a year later with the release of Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Do these games fix many of the original flaws in Sun and Moon?

Why wasn’t this DLC?

Instead of a third game entry such as Black and White 2, these titles offer something a bit closer to Emerald or Platinum. The difference? Black and White 2 are brand new games entirely, whereas Ultra Sun and Moon are almost the exact same game repackaged as an “alternate universe”. What does that mean? Well the trailers leading up to release sure left that vague, but basically it means like older third entry games in the franchise, almost nothing has changed until over halfway through the game.

Let me repeat that again: until around halfway through the game little to nothing has changed.

Image from Serebii

If you have played Sun and Moon, you’ve basically played these games. As mentioned, slight differences to the story do exist, such as the focus now placed on the Pokemon Necrozma, but overall nothing too significant is present throughout most of the game. The game does begin to change once you’ve progressed well into the game, such as the much hyped Team Rainbow Rocket and the parallel universe, but by this point the majority of your adventure is done, and it hardly justifies its own release.

Now, previous third entry titles like Yellow, Crystal and Emerald are guilty of this too, but this time around everything feels a lot more malicious. Rather than one title to accompany the two main entry games, we have two. Unlike Black and White 2 which vastly reimagined the region and made for an interesting revisit, Ultra Sun and Moon instead feels like a lazy cash grab that could have easily been offered as DLC. During the generations prior to generation 3, DLC simply wasn’t an option, somewhat justifying the updated third title entry. Now with DLC easily accessible on the 3DS, repacking a nearly identical title with a $40 price tag is unacceptable.

How this entry evolved

Ultra Sun and Moon suffer from the same flaws as Sun and Moon. Prior to release, I had hope Game Freak would heed the criticisms surrounding the numerous cutscenes, and for a brief moment after first switching on my copy of Ultra Sun, I had thought they had actually listened. Rather than waiting for an oddly long amount of time to receive a starter Pokemon, the player is granted one of the three almost immediately. Does this mean I can actually walk around without being bombarded with cutscenes? Would I actually be able to traverse the land with my trusty Litten uninterrupted? For a brief moment I was pumped for my Alola adventure.

Alas, it was only a clever ruse.

Image from Nintendo Insider

Yes, you get a starter quicker, but you will still be dragged around for roughly 30 minutes before being allowed to do much. The game, much like the main entries, simply will not allow you to discover new areas without Lillie or Hau holding your hand the entire way, and I do mean the entire way. Literally right to the Elite Four.

Let’s talk about Lillie

Outside of the constant hand holding, Ultra Sun and Moon still desperately try to make a compelling narrative but simply don’t know how to do so. The problem with Sun and Moon, and by extension Ultra Sun and Moon is that the story simply isn’t the player’s; it’s Lillie’s. Some players genuinely like her character development and praise Pokemon for actually trying to have a story.

While I love some characters such as N for their actions or personality, I want to be the protagonist. I play the game to be the very best. I don’t want to spend hours reading dialogue strictly to develop what should be a side character. To add insult to injury, Ultra Sun and Moon give Lillie even more of a role in the story than she already had in Sun and Moon.

Why does Pokemon even need a deep story? Personally, Pokemon for me is simply about catching them all and being the very best. Additionally, more cutscenes does not equate to “deep” storytelling. Most of the information the game relays could be said in a few textboxes. Instead, walls of constant text are further slowed with camera zooms emphasizing the game’s sloppy, pixelated character models. While a lot is being said , it feels like nothing of substance is being relayed.

Image from Serebii

Almost none of Sun and Moon’s problems were fixed. The marketing for Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon played up how different this entry would be, but it feels gross and manipulative seeing how astonishingly little was done to make this entry worth the $40 asking price. For all of its flaws, there is still a competent game. However, the third game in each generation is one where changes are supposed to have been made after having the time and perspective to take a hard look at the shortcomings of the first two entries.

Featured image from Bleeding Cool

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