Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon allow players to revisit the Alola region and view a new and improved plot, along with in-depth character development.
It's initially disappointing that Ultra Moon is not a sequel to Pokémon Moon but rather a remake of the games with added features. Although that might leave some players with low expectations, the changes in the beginning of the game were cool.
It seems like Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon should be sequels, much like Pokémon White 2 and Black 2. However, you could say Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are to Pokémon Sun and Moon what Pokémon Emerald is to Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire.
When the player begins to build a team and really focus on the story, there are several differences from the games released more than a year ago, including interesting side quests, new and improved trials, and the character development of Hau and Lillie.
The non-playable characters of those games have more depth than previous games, most having their own story and side quest for players to solve. Some stories that were left incomplete in the previous games were solved; some were just interacting and playing games with wandering Pokémon had no real reward but were oddly satisfying. Some side quests may take some time and exploring, but all were optional and a nice addition to the final Pokémon game for the Nintendo 3DS.
Mantine Surfing was one of the most mind numbing mini games I have played in a Pokémon game for a long time. I wasted at least an hour becoming the number one Mantine surfer on all four islands. Pro tip: Old fans will receive a very nostalgic reward for doing that as well as unlock moves to perform while surfing.
Some trials stayed the same; however, trials that seemed to be lacking in the previous games were improved so players didn’t feel as if the captains were giving them busy work. Mina’s, the fairy-type captain who was too busy painting to actually have a trial in the previous games, has an especially interesting trial this time around. During her trial, players will remember their previous trials and battle people they were unable to in the past.
The addition of the Ultra Recon Squad was different and not exactly what might be expected. Their encounter and battle music was a bop, and players might consider buying another Pokémon album because of them. They end up spicing the story up and reward the player later in the game. They also allow players to use their Solgaleo (Ultra Moon) or Lunala (Ultra Sun) to ride to different Ultra Wormholes during the main story, as well as postgame to catch various legendary Pokémon.
During the climax of the game, I passed one of the most difficult Pokémon battles I had ever experienced in my 13 years of playing. Not wanting to spoil it, this battle is oddly placed about 25 hours in, considering a trial and final grand trial follow its events. The events that follow, including the Pokémon league, seemed much easier in comparison. Something entirely different from the previous games, the scene induced both frustration and enjoyment and made me glad that I grind when playing through Pokémon games.
As for character development, Hau seems like a new, more determined trainer, which really is an improvement. In the previous games, Hau hardly took anything seriously unless it came to Lillie (who he has an obvious crush on, but that’s another story). From his choices in Pokémon to his different attitude on battling toward the end of the game, Hau appears to be a real rival as compared to the past as well as the player’s rivals in Pokémon X and Y. Difficulty to defeat Hau has definitely increased, and the end of the game proves that.
Lillie, on the other hand, seems to develop her ideals before the post-game unlike in the previous games. She’s not as afraid as she once was and is determined to help Nebby and the player however she can. At the end of Sun and Moon, Lillie leaves for the Kanto region to become a trainer and grow with her Pokémon, despite her originally dislike of Pokémon battles in general because she did not want Pokémon to get hurt. In Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, she stays in the Alola region following the events of the climax of the game and helps the player out tremendously in the episode following the credits.
As for the postgame, the Team Rainbow Rocket episode was nostalgic to battle villains from previous games and explore the idea of alternate universes where there wasn’t a protagonist to stop them. However, there was an unpleasant vagueness as to why Giovanni returned.
The entire plots of Pokémon Gold and Silver are centered around Team Rocket’s former members trying to call for their old boss, Giovanni, after he disbanded the group entirely in Pokémon Red and Blue. Giovanni’s former followers have tried to make themselves known by committing crimes in both the Kanto and Johto regions and even sending an announcement on the national radio system within the regions to call for his guidance.
The player ends up defeating this new form of Team Rocket, and Giovanni never reappears, much to his followers' dismay. The fact that Giovanni wouldn’t respond in the past might make the player question why he would suddenly want to fight the hero again. Unfortunately, those questions were never answered.
Overall, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon allowed players to revisit Alola and view the region in a new light. Trials and other qualities that made Alola different were improved, keeping the region fresh for players who have come accustomed to the traditional badges system for the past 21 years. Pokémon should have only released one game rather than two to show that the original plot has not changed, much like they did with Crystal and Emerald.
The game is a great option for players that have not explored Alola previously and wish to experience Pokémon on the 3DS for the last time before the transition to the Nintendo Switch. Try to start before Jan. 10 to get the event-only Lycanroc with the Own Tempo ability that will evolve into its dusk form, which was very useful in gameplay.