Pokemon Ultra Moon begins with a video call with Professor Kukui, your primary contact for your move to Alola. You choose your photo for your Trainer passport, and then your move to the sunny region is set to begin. If you already played through Pokemon Sun or Moon, these scenes will obviously seem familiar to you, all the way up through playing with your character's mother's playful Meowth and choosing your starter Pokemon.
There are slight differences, however, that demonstrate the subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes that have taken place in the year since Pokemon Sun and Moon debuted. A Nintendo Switch is nestled within your character's bedroom, for one, and your outfit has changed, no matter if you're playing a male or female trainer.
These small changes that you may or may not notice begin as less noticeable alterations and eventually blossom into major diversions that you can't help but embrace. It begins innocently, like the manner in which you receive your starter Pokemon, and then spirals into something unrecognizable in moments later on in the game. Without spoiling anything, it's almost like returning to play a favorite RPG that feels just as comfortable and fun as it did the first time, but as if you're playing it in a different life, or a different dimension.
Having played through every single Pokemon game since Red and Blue debuted on the original Game Boy, it's such a trip to think about how far the franchise has come since it came on the scene so many years ago, and Pokemon Ultra Moon is an exemplary sendoff for the franchise so far that's ticked off all the boxes in terms of improvements and necessary alterations. If this is the last hurrah for Pokemon on the Nintendo 3DS, as has been previously stated, the series couldn't have gone out on a better note.
It's the little things that matter the most in Pokemon Ultra Moon, from the gorgeous battle animations, menu flourishes, and the backgrounds that absolutely pop when you move from one area to another. The basic plot changes are woven in such a subtle manner that you'll need to refer back to the original Pokemon Sun and Moon introductions and story threads at first to see if you did or didn't remember what happened the last time you went down these roads before correctly. It lends an interesting haze to what could have otherwise felt like a "New Game Plus" mode for the Pokemon series.
For instance, rather than new Ultra Beasts or version-specific Pokemon and other alterations, I found myself interested in all the little changes that I just didn't pay much attention to before, like the color of text windows or the backgrounds of touch screen menu buttons that seemed a little more spruced-up than they were before.
The real meat of the changes you can expect in-game come further down the line, but those venture too far into spoiler territory to speak on in full right now. It's already been made abundantly clear in the Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon promotional trailers and materials that there's a new set of Pokemon to seek out and capture, and they play a major part in the main scheme of things. I'll have more on that to discuss after the game's officially out in the wild, but just know there's a lot more to look forward to than just what you've seen in the short promotional clips.
Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon is an intriguing and excellent example of tweaking a formula, even one that we saw the previous year, to near-perfection. It's streamlined, augmented in all the right ways, and bursting with content. If you need to know right now ahead of additional details later this week if it's a Pokemon adventure you need to take, know that the answer is a hard yes. It's just a shame that there wasn't a brand new, distinct Pokemon journey to take on the Nintendo 3DS before the franchise moves on. "Alola" oe, indeed.