As we all are well aware, Pokémon is bigger than ever, with kids (and adults) across the world rekindling their love affair with a game that has a very simple, yet addictive principle. I reviewed Pokémon Sun, and found myself re-living some of my childhood memories as I ran around in patches of grass in order to fill my Pokedex. So when rumours of Pokémon Ultra Sun started to appear on the internet, I was extremely interested in carrying on my love affair for this game.
It must be said now that the style of this game has not changed at all from Pokémon Sun. Once again we are sent back to the Aloa region (which is basically the Caribbean of the Pokémon universe), as a young girl or boy that has just arrived from another region. The main plot of this game still focuses on the Island challenge, a quest of sorts that requires you to travel around the four different islands of the region and collect Z-Crystals; items that allow you to perform a powerful move depending on the type of Pokémon you are using. Once again, the days of battling various gym leaders in order to get badges seem to have gone, with this format remaining a breath of fresh air and well received from the Pokémon community.
Old faces make a return from the previous game as well as some new ones, while the main storyline of the game has been changed slightly to not only add further depth to the new region, but also to fill in some of the plot holes that were present in Pokémon Sun. For example, your rival was able to gain an item used to evolve a Pokémon roughly three hours before you were able to. This has since been addressed, and adds a greater flow to the gameplay experience. The first three hours of the main game are basically a tutorial stage, with Pokémon Ultra feeling like it takes an age to really be given the freedom that players would be used to in other entries. The developers have also changed the Totem Pokémon of each trial (sort of like a boss), with some of them being notably harder than in Pokémon Sun.
The Pokémon format has changed very little from the days of Pokémon Red and Blue on the Gameboy. As we plod around the four different islands, we are forced to take part in numerous Pokémon battles both from trainers and Kahuna’s; the region’s equivalent of Gym leaders. All the while, you must search through various regions in order to catch and train Pokémon to evolve them to fill in the gaps in your Pokedex, which acts as a huge in-game encyclopaedia. It is here that Pokémon Ultra Sun starts to feel like more of a grind than previous editions in the series as I tried to evolve that one Pokémon or run around the same patch of grass to catch that elusive species in order to add it to my Pokedex.
There are two notable differences in each game. Ultra Sun takes place mostly during the hours of daylight, relying on the time programmed into your console to change from day to night during the game, while Ultra Moon is flipped over, with the main story taking place during the hours of darkness. There are also numerous different Pokémon that are unique to each game, again continuing with the age old tradition we have come to expect from the series. It also depends on the time in game as to which Pokémon you can catch, with some only being available during the hours of daylight, while others at night. New species have also been introduced from previous editions, allowing you the ability to really customise your team in order to suit your style of play.
One thing that fans of the series were very critical about was the lack of content after you have completed the main game, with many players finding that it was a bit light of any additional quests after you have achieved the overall aim of the main story. GameFreak have really stepped up to remedy this and there is now an additional ten hours or so of gameplay to work your way through after you have completed the main quests, something that they have been praised for.
But for all their positives, this game does have some faults that I feel should have been rectified beforehand. One of them is GameFreak constantly forcing the fact that we need to trade with other players to fill the Pokedex, with many of the more powerful Pokémon only evolving once they have been traded. Although I understand the premise behind this, sometimes it is not as easy as they make it out to be. For example, I only know three other people that own a copy of this game, and I find it difficult to track them down in order to trade with them. The addition of Pokémon Bank makes this easier (an internet based system that allows you to store and switch Pokémon between games), but this has a yearly cost and does not act as a trade system.
As I mentioned previously, I did find Ultra Sun to be more of a grind than other games, with the rarer Pokémon being much harder to find than in the previous title. Whether this is just my game being awkward or whether that’s how the game has been designed, I do not know. Newcomers to the series will also find the new format slightly off putting, with the island challenge format still needing a touch of polish to really reach the same level as the gym format.
But for a relatively small outlay (I paid £30), what you get is a game that I have, so far, chucked over forty hours into, and still going. If you decide to not use Pokémon bank, then you get a fantastic amount of gameplay with no microtransactions or season pasess. The Aloa series of Pokémon games are fast making their mark on the Pokémon universe.
Review copy purchased
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A fantastic re-visit to the Aloa region of the Pokémon universe that follows the same style as the game's predecessor. With an improved storyline and numerous new side quests to undertake, this is a great addition to the world loved franchise. However, newcomers to the series will struggle to get their head around the new format.
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