New Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon Information: Surfing Alola

On September 13 there was a Nintendo Direct. A rather long one, standing strong at 45 minutes worth of information regarding games of all shapes and sizes. Because of life being life I didn’t have the chance to talk about my thoughts regarding the Direct, but there was plenty of great stuff there. The new Kirby game looks really, really fun, as do the Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga remake, Fire Emblem Warriors and Mario Odyssey. Plus there’s plenty of updates coming for games like Splatoon 2, ARMS and Breath of the Wild on top of some interesting ports for games like DOOM, Sonic Forces and a remake of L.A. Noire.

One thing the Direct also addressed was Pokémon Ultra Sun and Moon, and there were some interesting information dropped that I sort of regret not delving into. Necrozma’s role in the games was elaborated on a bit more, there was a new Z-Move for Lycanroc shown off that varies depending on which Lycanroc you have and they even told us that new Ultra Beasts will join the line-up of available Pokémon.

Because I dropped the ball and missed talking about that update before I won’t slog down this post with too much discussion about it, but if you want to see the trailer that came with this new information you can hop over to this video.

After all, now isn’t the time to be slogged down in old-new information, we have some new-new information to discuss! I mostly wanted to include that introduction as a filler for the gap in my informative timeline, as today I’m looking to talk about the brand new informational trailer that was released for the world to enjoy.

As usual, I’ll be holding my long-winded discussion below this read more line in case anyone’s looking to not get spoiled on Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon information. That may be counter-intuitive since I just spoiled the entirety of the last trailer right above this, but… That was a few weeks ago. I guess.

Just bear with me.

To preempt the question: Yes. Super Mario Sunshine is the first thing I thought of when I saw Mantine Surfing.

Figured I would put that out there.

That said, this trailer actually offers quite a bit of new stuff that has me rather excited, so let’s jump right in shall we?

Revamped Island Trials

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One question that has plagued Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon since they were first announced is the question of similarity to their predecessors. The games are coming out just a year after Sun and Moon, which seems like not a lot of time for implementing novel additions to make things feel different than what we essentially just played.

Nintendo and Game Freak have arguably done a good job so far in showing that things will be different, and this trailer does so in spades.

Judging by the scene snippets that are shown off related to the Island Trials here, it seems like every trial has something new to offer:

  • Mallow’s trial in the Lush Jungle features new Sudowoodo standing around to offer something or another. However, summoning Totem Lurantis still appears to be the overarching goal.
  • Sophocles’ trial at the Hokulani Observatory now features more Pokémon hanging around and a strange mechanical Vikavolt, implying we’ll either get extra context behind the power loss gimmick or perhaps a totally different story all together.
  • Acerola’s trial at the Abandoned Megamart at least has extra dialogue added in based on the way she stands at a doorway shouting for someone – or something – to get out.
  • On Serebii, there are some screenshots they’ve been able to pull showing that Kiawe’s trial atop Wela Volcano seems to have a Totem Marowak rather than a Totem Salazzle.
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  • Most notably comes an entirely brand new trial for the Fairy-type captain Mina based in Poni Island. In Sun and Moon the cute yet somewhat dazed and checked-out painter girl arguably got shafted in terms of included content. She appeared while you made your way to the final trial against Totem Kommo-o to talk and give you the Fairy-type Z-Crystal. She appeared when you made your way to the Battle Tree and offered to battle if you beat every trainer on a given route. Beyond that she got almost no inclusion in the game. Now, even if it’s just being teased at this point, she’s going to have a complete trial for you to take part in. This by itself is exciting not only because it means new content, but because it means new content that more dramatically shakes things up in the game’s story progression while also offering a chance for previously unseen character development. I’m rather excited to see where they go with it.

On top of the trials themselves changing, it seems like contexts surrounding the trials and how characters react to them are going to be different as well. This trailer shows that off by presenting new dialogue with Lillie and Hau at various points in the game. Add that to the prospect of a new trial with Mina, new Totem Pokémon and even with smaller changes like bits of text with Acerola and everything seems to be pointing to an increasingly new experience that hopefully won’t leave people wondering why they paid for the same game just a year after they first played it.

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but from what I can tell Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon seems like it’s going to be a deluxe or even final edition of the original games. Something about it suggests there was a much more grand plan for Sun and Moon that wasn’t able to be developed in time, so the sequels are meant to represent the true vision of what was intended thanks to an extra year of development.

Can’t say I’m complaining, as no matter what the reason is behind the choices they make are, we get new fun stuff to play with.

More Pokémon in Alola

This trailer totes Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon as being a bigger experience not just in story but in available gameplay content. Over 400 Pokémon will be initially available in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, both returning cast members and newcomers to the islands of Alola like Tropius (who frankly should have been there the first time given his tropical nature), Zorua and Larvitar. As usual, some will be universally available while others will be version exclusive Pokémon: Houndoom in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Manectric in Pokémon Ultra Moon for example.

Frankly there’s not much more to say on the subject beyond laying it out. Just like with Black and White and the sequels Black 2 and White 2, Sun and Moon were apparently more interested in displaying a new unique regional flora and fauna while Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are more interested in providing players with more bang for their buck.

It’s a superficial difference to me personally since I already have a complete Pokédex ready to transfer over, but I can’t deny there are some exciting things implied by the appearance of more than half the Pokémon ever created in these games. More Pokémon means more creative team builds in-game, more post-game content like shiny hunting for a larger collection of monsters and even potentially new attention and care being given to things like move sets of now available Pokémon that will facilitate different competitive battle scenes.

Honestly there’s really no downside to adding more Pokémon besides losing some of that Alolan uniqueness, in my opinion. It’s a good choice Game Freak.

The Alola Photo Club redux

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The photo club was a feature we were introduced to more than a month ago now (Which blew my mind a little because man… Seems like that was yesterday) through an interview with Kazumasa Iwao, and frankly I don’t think my feelings toward the idea have changed all that dramatically since then.

Like I said in that previous post, I can appreciate the novelty of being able to take photos with my main Pokémon team, something to commemorate those who I played through the game with. However, unless there’s a way to get those photos off of the 3DS… I’m not sure I can see too much longevity in the feature. It’s the same issue with things like the Rotom Pokédex landscape photos in Sun and Moon as well as earlier novelties like Trainer PR in X and Y.

Granted people will always find a way to share things on the internet, and given the vast amount of customizations it looks like you can apply to photos you take I can only imagine the photo club will become an interesting meme-generator if nothing else. But the way the video specifically stipulates that you “share photos with friends” makes me imagine it’s something locked to the game system, which could be a missed opportunity all things considered.

One thing seeing this part of the video made me consider is that I actually don’t know who my main team for the Ultra games are going to be. I likely won’t use my same squad from Sun and Moon, but I feel like I’ll still want to take on a team of cool Alola Pokémon. It’s something I’ll have to think about before the games come out, I suppose.

Mantine Surf

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Now here’s the part of the video that seems to have everybody talking: Mantine Surf. There are multiple facets why from what I can see, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t personally succumbing to the hype train over it.

For one thing, not only does Mantine Surf play into the promise of new content building on the world Sun and Moon created, but it does so in a way that’s creative, interesting and quite fitting for Pokémon’s ever-present ‘bonding man and nature’ ideology. Alola is a series of tropical islands that, in Sun and Moon, were separated by rocky barriers. As organic and complete as the world felt in-game, the fact that the divisions existed was a somewhat disappointing and ever-present thing. The only ways to travel between the islands came from cutscene boat rides and trips on Charizard as your built-in flying slave.

Now, thanks to Mantine Surf, we’ll be able to travel between the islands by catching waves on a Pokémon that hasn’t really gotten too much attention since its inception in Generation 2. For a game set in a series of islands, adding a surfing feature like this just feels right at home.

Given the somewhat skewed perceived distance between the islands of Alola, it might be considered ridiculous to travel between them on a surfboard – even if that surfboard happens to be a sentient Pokémon. However, the reverse could just as easily be said. Perhaps it makes more than perfect sense for the people of Alola to enjoy a means of travel between the islands that’s closer to nature. I feel like it would make perfect sense, and I’m quite looking forward to seeing how well the feature is integrated.

After all, Mantine Surf also serves an in-game utility that, based on previous experience, is likely something I’ll enjoy. Soaring over Hoenn was introduced in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire as an alternative to simply flying between Pokécenters in each town. It wasn’t nearly as fast as selecting town icons to fly between, but there was something special about being able to quick select the Soaring feature, jump up on Mega Latias /Latios and literally fly over a beautifully made scale model of the Hoenn region. Perhaps I’m biased in that Hoenn is still arguably my favorite and most memory-filled region, so I inherently love the feature from that alone, but there was also an integrated usefulness to the fact that you could land in exclusive new locations, battle Pokémon in the sky and take part in the game’s veritably legendary catching marathon. Pun intended, for those who remember the large catalog of Legendary encounters in ORAS.

Soaring felt fantastic, looked great and felt real to the world. It wasn’t just shoehorned in, it seemed like something the developers intended to have the game’s protagonists want to do as much as the players controlling them. Even if it took extra time to fly to specific spots, I essentially never used the traditional flying HM after gaining access to Soaring.

I bring up the Soaring feature from ORAS because I can only hope that Mantine Surf will do the same thing for Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. The chief difference between the two comes from the fact that Mantine Surf is more of a mini-game than a quick travel option. The way that mini-game is integrated could make or break it, as there needs to be a balance between creating a realistic experience of travel without numbing a gamer’s senses by offering overly long travel times or a lack of real benefits to taking part in the new game, but I have high hopes for Game Freak in general.

The mini-game features a scoring system of sorts, allowing you to perform tricks atop Mantine while you travel to rack up a points. There’s certainly a solid replay aspect to personal competition and beating your last score, one which I imagine should be more fun given the somewhat kitch-y but adorable way trick names are based on other Water-type Pokémon (Primarina Twist, Gorebyss Spiral, etc). However, if the high score serves literally no other purpose besides doing the best you can, and that comes with an overly inflated travel time, people might get tired of it quickly.

Personally I think it looks fun, and I can imagine myself playing the game often for the sake of immersion in the world, but whether it will be as well-used as Soaring over Hoenn is something we’ll have to see come November.

There’s also an aspect to Mantine Surf being a new addition that suggests more might be waiting in the sidelines. While it appears to be a separate mini-game rather than an integrated quick-select feature, Mantine could be considered a new Ride Pokémon much like the HM replacing Tauros, Sharpedo, Charizard and others from Sun and Moon. If that’s the case, who knows whether more Ride Pokémon could be introduced, either for new features we don’t know about or as aesthetically different options to utilize.

I always manage to amaze myself with how much I can pull out of a small trailer like this. I’m sure this is way too many words about a minute-and-a-half long video, so for those of you who stuck with me I appreciate the support.

How do you feel about the new Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon trailer? Is there a story element you’re interested in seeing get a revamp? Are you excited for Mantine Surfing? Let me know in the comments below!

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