It has taken me six days to complete Pokemon Ultra Sun. I would have finished sooner if I wasn’t an adult and had to work in between playing. Regardless, I’m content with the time sunk into the Pokemon company’s latest title because I believe it is their best offering yet. In fact, I am grateful to be playing the game later in life as I have been able to play most of the other titles as well. This has allowed me to watch the series develop and mature into the current generation. I’d like to highlight some of the evolutions in the games that have begun to thrive in the newest editions.
Since the original Red, Blue and Yellow titles the Pokemon games have followed a standard formula. Each new edition gained slightly more features, a new set of critters to catch and benefited from the upgrades in recent technology. Over time the games became fairly standard in their content. You start your journey as a child to collect that region’s badges; another child forms some form of rivalry with you and will attempt to defeat you throughout the game; you have to foil the plans of the country’s evil team and capture the legendary Poke; finally you defeat the Pokemon League, become Champion and all there’s left to do is collect every creature to complete your Pokedex.
I won’t deny that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon share all of these common traits that epitomise the series. However, the newest games expand heavily outside of this. Instead of the traditional eight gym set up, you have to complete a series of trials. The trials always conclude with you fighting a totem Pokemon instead of a gym leader. These beasts are buffer versions of what you normally encounter in the wild and present a harder challenge than can be found in most Pokemon games. Frequently, I found myself defeated by these new obstacles.
Until Ultra Sun and Moon your journey to become the region’s Pokemon champion was always hindered by an evil team e.g. Rocket, Plasma, Magma etc. The new games not only boast Team Skull but you also have to contend with the Aether Foundation, the Ultra Recon Squad (are they bad, good or just cyborgs?) as well as the post game Rainbow Rocket whose ranks include every villain from the previous titles. The expansion of the story is perhaps due to technology as well as how much time developers can pour into the games. No matter what the cause of the fresher and more expansive story is, the result is a more engaging and unique experience.
After seven generations of games the Pokemon franchise has expanded a lot. The original 150 creatures has multiplied into 807, which is an awful lot to choose from. The Alola region offers over 400 of these to capture. I put my starter in the box and made my team completely of Pokemon that resemble dogs. This was only possible because after so many games the world has a ridiculous variety of creatures to choose from. Not only are there a lot of Pokemon to fill your party but you can also catch almost every legendary (I don’t think Mew, Celebi or Shaymin are available). The plethora of options allow for endless combinations and fresh ways to play. This is developed further by regional variants. These variants take the standard Pokemon you have come to know and exposes them to different biological diversity. A new region provides new environmental pressures and their result is abstractly evolved Pokes.
In the older games there wasn’t much to distract you from the main story. If you wanted an early Dratini or Porygon you could always gamble all your money in Game Corner. Likewise, Gen IV offered mining opportunities for rare stones and secret bases were available in Gen III but none of these side features engaged me for very long. Most of them demanded you play with friends or weren’t fun enough to distract from the story line. Ultra Sun and Moon offer more rewarding features such as a surfing mini game to get between cities. Surfing whilst fun also rewards your for your efforts and skill with TMs.
In the same vein, you can ride on a legendary Pokemon throughout space. In this feature you dodge electro-balls, garner energy for boosted speed and are rewarded for your skill by traveling through wormholes where rare Pokemon reside. The new mini-games are more appealing because they are not just distracting. Even though you aren’t forced to play them they offer rare and unique rewards that are often unattainable elsewhere in the game. Dedicating your time to them is essential to completing your Pokedex and providing a complete experience of Ultra Sun and Moon.
Overall, when I think back across my time with the Pokemon franchise I am happy to see how it has grown. The content is more plentiful and richer, the game play is more challenging and whilst a lot of the traditions of the series remain untouched there is original ideas being offered. The accumulations of the franchise so far has potentially produced the best game to date. Apparently Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the last titles to be released on the 3DS console. It may be a few years before we see a new game and who knows what format it will take but if the most recent games are any indication then the franchise can only get better.