In two months, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon will open wormholes worldwide as the potentially final core games to launch on the Nintendo 3DS. Their predecessors are critically acclaimed and beloved by fans, so you’d expect everyone to be clamouring for a return to Alola, right? Well, I can’t blame you for thinking that – nor can I blame you for not feeling it either.
I’ve been a hardcore Pokémon fan going on 18 years now; having intimately followed and reported on the news cycles for a good part of that time. This is undoubtedly the quietest pre-hype season I’ve seen – but maybe now it’s finally time to get hyped for Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon?
I can totally get why Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon haven’t exactly been lighting the world on fire. For starters, after the curve ball of Black 2/White 2 and the absence of a return to X/Y‘s Kalos, the idea of a Yellow-esque retread was always going to be a harder sell. After months of supposedly reputable rumours teasing of a jump to Switch with Pokémon Stars, the choice of platform was also near universally seen as a downer – especially after all the preamble in this year’s Pokémon Direct, hyping up the new console for… Pokkén Tournament DX.
During Nintendo’s E3 showcase a mere week later, The Pokémon Company president Tsunekazu Ishihara announced development of a core series RPG for Nintendo Switch. No matter how you look at it, that was damage control.
Problem is, once people learned a game is in development for Nintendo’s shiny new console, that dominated discussion over those coming to a, shall we say, well-established one. This is especially significant to Pokémon, with the Nintendo Switch marking its debut on home consoles (Colosseum and XD don’t count as core titles). It’s not only fans who have brushed aside this last 3DS pair either, but even the gaming media are largely in PokéSwitch mode, outside of reporting the odd tidbits of Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon news that drips through. Speaking of which…
The first opportunity to turn the tide came and went two months later, when our first actual news on the games’ content dropped – a new Lycanroc form that many derided as a mere recolour and in fairness to them, the Midday and Dusk forms are perhaps a little too similar. That’s how The Pokémon Company chose to break their silence and start the pre-launch campaign. Their next step would be to destroy month-long, excited fan speculation of a return for Gyms by revealing that empty lots found across Alola in Sun/Moon would actually be filled by… venues for the Alola Photo Club. In fairness to GameFreak, we weren’t promised anything and it isn’t their job to meet fan speculation, but when items like these are what’s chosen as the opening acts of the news cycle, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it?
What should have taken the opening spotlight however, was an announcement quickly breezed through in last week’s Nintendo Direct. While new forms of existing Pokémon are often added to newer instalment’s of a franchise’s “generation, never before have entirely new species – until now. Code-named UB Burst and UB Assembly, these brand new Ultra Beasts are making franchise history – so why were they quickly thrown into a montage trailer and why don’t we even have official artwork for them yet (at time of writing)? Seriously, all we have right now is their very brief in-game footage – yet we know so much about Dusk form Lycanroc that we could probably commit identity theft.
The notion of brand new Pokémon is a very exciting one; provided we’re not let down with the only additions being these two. At the very least, regional differences of older species were introduced in Sun/Moon to immense success – with Alolan Exeggutor proving particularly popular. With the current line-up of Alolan variants exclusively featuring Pokémon from the first generation, an expansion here could be very well received. Although, I do worry that our lack of seeing any thus far, despite the news drought, could very mean there are few or none at all – because surely The Pokémon Company would want to parade them out in front of us?
Another source of potential excitement amongst fans, are the details noted on promotional posters recently sighted in Japan. Alongside what appear to be new human characters at the top, people have noted Lillie’s attire to be that of Sun/Moon‘s latter parts and her hands gripping a Pokéball – despite not liking battles. Could this be alluding to a post-game Delta Episode-esque story? And if this is anything of significance, why debut a vital piece of key art with in-store advertisements aimed at a single region, when your international marketing campaign has been a flabbergasting void, leaving even the most hardcore of fans not really knowing anything about the game they’re expected to buy in just two months? Hopefully it receives a big international blow-out and the attention it deserves soon.
There’s no denying the stream of news hasn’t flowed as smoothly as hoped, with The Pokémon Company themselves throwing rocks in its path, but as we approach the final stretch, could it finally be time to start getting excited about Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon? Hopefully, the marketing department puts the pedal to the metal soon.