Released in 2017, Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon was the final game in the franchise to be released on 3DS. The games were upgrades and remakes of Sun/Moon like Pokemon Platinum was for Diamond and Pearl. Players were left with a confusing, slow game that didn’t seem like it should have been made.
This article will explain why you should avoid Pokemon Ultra Sun/Moon at all costs. The problems and issues these games feature only build on top of each other and create one of the worst experiences in any Pokemon game.
As the Pokemon franchise has grown exponentially over the years, the games became more about accessibility. This isn’t inherently bad, as including more people in a game will only make the community grow and doesn’t take away from past titles. Plus, Pokemon games have never been too difficult; even the hardest ones are easy compared to other franchises.
However, Ultra Sun/Moon is almost too beginner-friendly to the point of alienating veteran fans. Players will spend the first few hours walking from point A to B, where a cutscene will play. Rinse and repeat until after leaving the first island, and you have a frustrating experience right from the start.
In fairness, Ultra Sun/Moon did reduce the amount of cutscenes from Sun/Moon, but they still have a large presence. This would seem normal and fun to someone who has never played a Pokemon game. Not only do you get storylines, but you see characters and learn the game.
The lack of skipping only leads to more frustration and boredom. But the hand-holding doesn’t just stop at having the player watch a cutscene and stop everything every three minutes. It works its way into more facets of the game.
Replaying a Pokemon game should be a fun and exciting experience to look forward to. Now that you understand the game, Pokemon, and Gym Battles, you can plan accordingly. These games are about building new teams or trying Pokemon you didn’t get to in the first playthrough. This is the problem with the hand-holding and unskippable cutscenes in the game; it lacks replayability.
It may be great for a first playthrough for new players, but what about when they want to replay the game? They will know just as much as veteran fans but still be forced to watch cutscenes, endure loading times, and deal with the pacing issues. No one wants to replay a game that forces you to do the same thing in the same manner for four hours straight.
Granted, Ultra Sun/Moon does have post-game content to complete and battles you can compete in. It’s probably best and makes the most sense to stay in the end-game to not deal with the sluggish gameplay again. But building on top of the replayability and hand-holding aspects, one more issue grows from each of those.
The exploration in Ultra Sun/Moon is unlike past titles in the series and makes you question if this is a modern Pokemon game. These games were supposed to be the peak of the franchise and provide a modern, sleek experience. But players will find it resembles an old SNES game when exploring the map or trying to at least. Video games in the 90s like A Link to the Past, Earthbound, or Chrono Trigger felt like they had more exploration than Ultra Sun/Moon.
Each route in the game is very linear and has the player walk in a straight line to get to where they need to be. In fairness, Pokemon has always been this way and never marketed themselves as a truly open-world experience until Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Walking from cutscene to cutscene and scripted events still taking place makes the game feel more linear than past titles.
So we have three features, hand-holding, replayability, and exploration, that all work together to create a bad experience. Each builds off the other two to create an annoying, frustrating, and lacking game. These were all added to give Pokemon a more central story, which is in the background in most other games. But they went too far and overcompensated by having too much story and cutscenes take place.
Ultra Sun/Moon is similar to Platinum in that it was supposed to take elements from the base game and fix any problems. On release, fans could expect an improved experience that felt unique. This is opposed to Black/White 2, which were sequels instead of generational upgrades. So, given that these types of sequels/remakes are common in the franchise, what exactly did Ultra Sun/Moon do wrong?
It’s not what it did; it’s what it didn’t do, and Ultra Sun/Moon didn’t have many changes. It played and felt almost exactly like Sun/Moon, and additional features were few and far between. This was further shown when the games were released and became the lowest-rated Pokemon game in Japan. Criticism called Sun/Moon an incomplete game, with Ultra Sun/Moon being an incomplete game with minor changes.
Buying Ultra over the base games makes sense for first-time buyers, but there’s almost no point in upgrading for fans. Ultra Sun/Moon felt more like a DLC and was labeled a cash grab, leading to its demise. This is after fans waited for hours and lined up for the game. Players were excited and wanted something new to Sun/Moon but were greeted with practically the same experience at full price.
Z-Moves was a gimmick ability given to 29 Pokemon in the game. If the Pokemon had a Z-Crystal or Z-Ring, they could perform a powerful move once a battle. Gimmick moves have been present throughout the Pokemon franchise and usually have mixed reviews. While Z-Moves are not inherently bad, they add an unexpected element to the game.
You never know when a Z-Move will appear, which can be interesting in theory regarding strategy. However, what ends up happening is a Z-Move is used, and the Pokemon is K.O’d instantly. Anyone fortunate to survive will be at low HP and lose the next turn.
This isn’t to say strong moves shouldn’t exist, but it’s impossible not to roll your eyes when you see one happen. Plus, just like the story, players must watch a cutscene for the moves, some of which aren’t animated properly. So, while not terrible, the Z-Moves aren’t special or unique enough to justify purchasing and playing the games.
Ultra Sun/Moon tried to be everything. It wanted to innovate, modernize, and be unlike anything fans had seen before. And in some strange way, it succeeded in just that. But what fans were left with was an incomplete, lazy game that treats players like they don’t know what to do.
Can you have a fun time playing Ultra Sun/Moon? Yes, but playing other Pokemon titles would be the best option. Despite the games being more beginner-friendly, they are one of the worst ways to experience Pokemon for the first time.
Instead, players wanting to know where to start should go with the classics like HeartGold or Platinum. These games will work on the 3DS if you can find one online. If you don’t have access to a DS/3DS, Sword/Shield and Legends: Arceus on the Switch are fun ways to experience the series.