I recently reviewed Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, and whilst finding the game a particularly good Pokémon game, it ultimately changed very little from its predecessors, Pokémon Sun and Moon. Much was my concern on how to rate this game (and quite frankly, my doubts on whether I had been reasonable), I decided to ask the Nintendo 3DS Reddit community about their opinion on third installments, with rather mixed results.
After reading the views of other critics from other publications, I did find myself on the contrary. Eurogamer called it “a 3DS victory lap” while IGN said “the Ultra versions pump Sun and Moon full of smart improvements.” High praise, and to some extent most deserving, but the differences between Pokémon Sun and Moon and Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon remained barely distinguishable until the very end. Therefore, rather than it being a question of the quality of the games, it’s more a question of whether these third installments are good value for money.
While such a small source is not a true reflection of the Pokémon community as a whole, the mixed reaction from Reddit certainly highlights some reluctance towards the third installments. As it happens, the popularity of a third installment is often determined by how much it changes from the original two games. Pokémon Yellow was the first third installment, and it wasn’t entirely inspired by Pokémon Red and Blue before it, but rather the animé series, changing the story and dynamics enough to be distinguishable from its predecessors. Pokémon Black and White 2 are often regarded as two of the best third installments, changing the story from Pokémon Black and White to become an entirely separate game.
Whenever the third installment of a Pokémon generation gets announced, it often feels like Game Freak has a Meowth with an amulet coin
This is what much of my criticism of Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon boils down to: what is significantly different from Pokémon Sun and Moon to make them a full price game? Let’s look at an entirely different Nintendo game that won many accolades this year: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The DLC The Master Trials was released in the summer, bringing new items, clothing, and the ‘Trial of the Sword’ challenge. Let’s suppose for a moment that instead of releasing this content as a DLC, it released Breath of the Wild again with this new content, called it Breath of the Wild 2 and charged $60. I assume many people — not just me — would find this unreasonable.
This isn’t quite the unfair comparison it might first appear. Separate what Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon added to Pokémon Sun and Moon and you’re left with DLC content at best. The additional four Ultra Beasts they added are the equivalent to the new outfits from The Master Trials. The Team Rainbow Rocket saga after you defeat the Elite Four is the equivalent to the Trial of the Sword challenge. Even the additional side quests in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are not nearly as integral to the overall experience as the few side quests added to Breath of the Wild through the DLC. Plus, there’s an additional DLC coming this Winter called the Champions’ Ballad, both of which together will still cost less than Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon.
Of course, comparisons between Breath of the Wild and Pokémon Sun and Moon is apples and oranges, but this isn’t an argument on the grounds of quality; it remains an argument on the understanding of value. Whenever the third installment of a Pokémon generation gets announced, it often feels like Game Freak has a Meowth with an amulet coin. I suppose if you could double your money selling the same game then you would be a fool not to. The argument slowly becomes one between the sensibilities of the consumer and that of corporate greed. Should Pokémon fans expect more from a third installment than what they got in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon? I think so, but if they’re still willing to pay $40 for the game they purchased a year before, then Game Freak will be vindicated to continue with the third installment.
Pokémon X and Y (generation six) never had the third installment. The rumors of Pokémon Z were found to be untrue, and instead they did a remake of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. Remakes of older generations are much preferable to the third installments, as they introduce a younger generation of Pokémon fans to a region they’ve never been to before. With so much emphasis on the Kanto region in Pokémon Sun and Moon, with the Alolan forms and Lillie heading off to Kanto as part of the post-game, a revisit to the first generation wouldn’t have been incongruous. Actually, the tailwind would have been behind the Wingull on this one.
The positive step forward would be the discontinuation of the third installment to each generation
With Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon being the last Pokémon game (and last major title) on the Nintendo 3DS, it was a slightly underwhelming end to one of the most successful consoles of all time. The series is now heading to the Switch, with an announcement at E3 this year suggesting a major Pokémon title is already being developed. This is likely to be generation eight, and the expectations have never been higher. With Pokémon X and Y, along with Sun and Moon, Game Freak achieved an amazing accomplishment on the 3DS, introducing a new formula to Pokémon that I believe has been positive.
What Pokémon will become is only known to Game Freak, and all those associated with the development of the next generation for the Switch. However, for all that my opinion is worth, the positive step forward would be the discontinuation of the third installment to each generation. Instead, I propose if any changes are needed, or any new features are wanted, then a DLC — much like that for Breath of the Wild — would more than suffice. Needless to say, the jury is out for the third installment of each Pokémon generation, and nobody needs reminding why I was disappointed with Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. However, I do believe that if Pokémon is to continue with the third installments, then we as the consumers should expect more for our money.