A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon are tweaked versions of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. Players take control of a customizable young Pokémon trainer who travels across the region of Alola collecting monsters to train and putting them in battle against other monsters. Combat involves a variety of melee and magical attacks, with flashes and sound effects accompanying hits. Pokémon never die, but instead faint and then recuperate. The simple story contains themes of friendship and personal growth, mostly displayed by kind and helpful non-player characters who are part of the story. Combat eventually grows to become challenging, but a gradual learning curve lets rookies get a good feel for how everything works before the game gets too hard.
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What's it about?
POKÉMON ULTRA SUN and POKÉMON ULTRA MOON aren't brand-new Pokémon games, but altered versions of 2016's Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. Players still begin by taking on the role of a kid newly arrived on the islands of the Alola region (inspired in look and feel by Hawaii), and quickly set about fighting and collecting colorful monsters. The core experience of completing trials on each island remains the same, but the story has been tweaked so that familiar characters now appear in new places and get up to different things, and a mysterious group called the Ultra Recon Squad nudges the player in new directions -- including the newly added Ultra Megalopolis area -- creating a somewhat different version of the original tale. The types of Pokémon you can collect have been expanded, too. There are new ultra beasts and more legendary Pokémon -- with new legendary Z-Moves -- pushing the tally of catchable creatures past 400 (though, as usual, some are only available in one edition or the other). New activities have been added as well, including an entirely new trial, an enhanced photography hobby called Alola Photo Club that allows players to deepen their bond with their Pokémon by posing and snapping pictures of them, and a full-fledged sport dubbed Mantine Surfing, which challenges players to not just ride Mantine but do so with style.
Is it any good?
Both of these games are undeniably fun -- better, even, than the two upon which they're based. Pokémon Ultra Sun and Pokémon Ultra Moon's tweaked story elements are engaging, helping players get into the thick of things a bit quicker while introducing some surprises that create a meaningfully different experience. And kids who love to collect Pokémon will undoubtedly have a blast trying to track down the new and powerful monsters lurking around Alola. There's also plenty of fresh busywork for players who enjoy the Animal Crossing-style elements of Pokémon games, plus new places to explore and new challenges to overcome. If you didn't play 2016's vanilla versions, you'll be in for an especially fun time. The big question, though, is whether or not these games are worth revisiting for those who played the originals. Is there enough new here to justify purchasing and playing what, underneath all the enhancements, is essentially the same core game a second time?
The answer to this question depends entirely on just how big of a Pokémon fan you are. Series acolytes will delight in all of the alterations and embellishments, lapping up the ample references to previous Pokémon games both subtle and overt while feverishly trying to fill up their expanded Pokédexes with all the new critters. More casual players, on the other hand, will likely experience a serious sense of déjà vu and find themselves wondering why they're doing stuff they did just months before. These kids are better off waiting for the next generation of Nintendo's pocket monster role-playing game series, which is set to debut on Nintendo Switch and will likely play host to a huge range of satisfying series-evolving enhancements.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about marketing to kids. With no shortage of Pokémon-themed products available, how do you choose the best to spend your money on?
Talk about the psychology of collecting. Why does it feel good to collect things, and why do the types of things we choose to collect matter?
- Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
- Price: $39.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo of America
- Release date: November 17, 2017
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: E for Mild Cartoon Violence
- Last updated: May 12, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.