Pokémon Ultra Sun is a fresh and nostalgic retreat for older Pokémon players

By ·December 11, 2017 9:00 am

It’s been a while since I’ve played a Pokémon game. My last major game before Pokémon Sun was Pokémon Sapphire. I was still getting used to the new steel and dark types introduced in Gold and Silver and had my hands full figuring out the differences between the new psychic type Gardevoir versus an old standard psychic type like Alakazam. Now with the release of Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon there are many more Pokémon to deal with, with more combinations and types – and even variants of previously existing Pokémon – that you can choose from to make your team the best it can be.

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon expand on the world introduced by Sun and Moon. As an 11-year-old Pokémon trainer, you travel to four islands and undertake their island trials, ultimately defeating the island kahuna (the equivalent of a gym leader) for each of them.

If you’re an old-time veteran looking to get back into the Pokémon world, there are a few things you can consider before jumping into the franchise’s latest offering. I personally played Ultra Sun so I’ll be focusing on that game for this article, but this extends to Ultra Moon as well.

The nostalgia’s still there

Team Skull.

Even though many new Pokémon have been introduced since “the good old days,” the gameplay is pretty much the same as it was in Red and Blue. There are some added quirks like personality values, which can affect your Pokémon’s stats, but the basic premise is still there.

You catch creatures out in the wild, hastily looking up their stats to see if they’re good or not – and then train them to be part of an unbeatable dream team. Given Pokémon’s lasting popularity, it’s great that they’ve kept the core of what made the old games so addicting.

And yes, it is very easy to get addicted to Ultra Sun because of that.

Another bit of content that may play on your nostalgia is the silliness of some of the villains in Ultra Sun. There’s a new team in town called Team Skull, which consists of skull-headband wearing gang members that like to dance at you before they battle you.

Sounds like they could give Team Rocket, the folks who always blasted off into a bright speck in the sky while incompetently trying to steal other Pokémon, a run for their money.

It’s great seeing all the new (and old) Pokémon

Alolan Dugtrio has no rival in fabulousness. Note: this image is from the anime.

Ultra Sun does have the same issue which plagues much of modern life. There is simply too much data, too many Pokémon and too many new types to look up to really figure out what would constitute the absolute best. As a returning, casual player I didn’t spend nearly as much time poring over guides as I could have.

Even so, it’s still awesome to encounter all the new Pokémon. I’m very impressed with the creators’ ever-expanding set of creatures, whether they’re common flying-type Pokémon or Ultra Beasts from another dimension.

But it’s not all new Pokémon per se. Ultra Sun features island versions of first-generation Pokémon, which can drastically change their appearances and even their types. My personal favorites are the beautiful ice version of the normally fire-type Ninetales and Dugtrio, whose wavy blond hair could blow in the wind for me all day long.

There’s other surprises, too. Ultra Sun happens to contain a lot of older legendaries, including Gold’s Ho-oh and Ruby’s Groudon. Ultra Moon contains the alternate legendaries from those sets.

The stakes are much higher

It’s dark times in this game.

I may have bad memory, but aside from the Pokémon movies, I don’t really recall paying much attention to the story in the Pokémon games. Instead, I only focused on the gameplay and attaining the end goal of becoming a Pokémon master. For me, that was basically the gist of Pokémon, and I was content playing it over and over again for that reason alone.

However, Ultra Sun really makes you pay attention to its plot, which features legendary Pokémon, the interplay between different worlds (and the wormholes connecting them), deity Pokémon who choose the leaders, or kahunas, of these islands, and much more.

One of the trailers for Ultra Sun focused on the world being bathed in darkness rather than the fact that it was another Pokémon game coming out.

For me, that’s really amped up the stakes for the Pokémon franchise. I don’t recall ever being so engrossed in a Pokémon game for anything but the Pokémon themselves. Even then, this added emphasis on plot didn’t detract from its nostalgia charm.

Overall, playing Pokémon Ultra Sun and its predecessor felt like a welcome back to the franchise. They retained enough of Pokémon’s old-school charm to make me feel like I was revisiting my childhood days while adding enough new elements to keep the series feel fresh and modern, more than 20 years after Red and Blue were released.

Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are available on Nintendo 3DS.

Image credits: Game Freak

Written by Alane Lim

Alane Lim is a materials science graduate student and writer based in Chicago, IL. She has been published in science, satire, and entertainment writing, the latter focusing on character and show analyses.

Her interests include indie games, Archie comics, and sci-fi/fantasy books.

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