Moving in from Kanto
My adventure started on 29/05/2021. Both myself and my in game character have just moved in from Kanto and are ready for the sunny shores of Melemele Island in the Alola region - looking forward to a new adventure.
I really liked Ultra Sun, and I feel the franchise needed it. The features the Sun/Moon series brought to the table were pure comfort food:
- Overworld HM usage is via Poké Rides. Essentially summoning service Pokémon for Fly, Surf, Rock Smash, etc. Absolutely the best addition. It frees us from HM moves and it's introduced in a cool and not shoe-horned way, AND it's super fast to summon. A ride on Tauros takes the place of the bike, which I feel is also such a treat and the maps are designed wider for this too.
- No traditional gyms. While they are essentially there via the Island Challenges, I liked the idea of mixing it up where it was still Pokémon in feel, but was different enough.
- The colours! They're so bright. The areas are bright, the menus are bright, the Pokemon are bright; with this being the fourth Pokémon game played in this project, it was refreshing!
- Introducing regional forms to the series. I wasn't playing Pokémon when these were originally announced and I initially didn't like the idea, but as time went on, I came to really enjoy regional differences. They bring a unique addition to the already long Pokémon roster without it feeling like needless padding. The lore behind them is often really neat too, with my favourite Gen 7 regional being Alolan Exeggutor because they are perhaps the true form of Exeggutor due to the sunlight and environment in Alola. ...It's also part dragon type for some reason?
I watched the first episode of the Sun/Moon anime arc for fun to get myself into a newer Pokémon game. After overt exposition, predictable pacing, and Ash's Pikachu being beaten by a garbage Grubbin, I remembered I wasn't 10 anymore - ironic given the nature of this project. However, something you may have noticed from the video at the top of this post is that the Sun and Moon anime changed the art style for the series.
Paradise, the Story
The stereotype of a "tropical paradise" is strong and true here. This Alolan holiday experience tasted sweet after all that Hoenn/Kalos, it felt like time away from "normal" Pokémon games. It was exactly what was needed to keep the Pokémon burnout away.
The story follows you, a new resident in Alola, and your journey along the Island Challenge - essentially a unique take on the gym system, with both puzzles and battles (against Totem Pokémon and the Island's Kahuna) to earn the island's stamp. Earn all the stamps to earn the privilege to battle in the Alolan Pokémon League, which I feel is a testament of humanity's arrogance. The League takes place in a single purpose building built on the summit of Mt Lanakila was no doubt difficult to construct and destroyed the local ecosystem - just my first impression upon learning about it.
On the topic of bad guys, the bad guys in this game are Team Skull. Probably the most rag-tag and ad-hoc villain group with no real clear goal apart from them doing them. Mildly organised hoodlums at worst. Their walk and interact animations are amusing as they're a cross between swagger and gang sign throwing. We get a twist later on in the story when it's discovered that the squeaky clean science faction, the Aether Foundation, are quietly bankrolling Team Skull to do some dirty work.
It's the Aether Foundation that is doing research on the Ultra Beasts, hunting down your friend Lillie, and doing experiments to create new Pokémon. They think they're good, but it's a bit creepy. Ultimately you save the day of both the real world and Ultra Megalopolis by defeating Necrozma, realign the Aether Foundation, and win the Island Challenge.
I enjoyed the other fun side quests and activities. While I didn't care much for Mantine Surfing, I did think it was cool that surfing on the back of a Pokémon progressed the story to another island. The Ditto Five was a wild little story where five Ditto are impersonating people in Konokoni City. I also liked the collectable side quest of Totem Stickers where these gold stickers were hidden all over Alola and you rip them off buildings, fences, pools, behind bookcases, etc.
Another thing I realised a little bit into the playthrough was that different grass patches on the same route could hold different Pokémon. For example while there may be Growlithe on Route 2 they're only in a specific grassy area of said route. Made me double check Bulbapedia often for the completion Pokédex later.
There's no nice Pokémon League clear screen in this generation, but my squad was made up of:
When it was all said and done, my trainer card:
Back to the Catching
Alola gives us 86 new Pokémon and 18 Alolan forms of existing Pokémon. Sadly two mythicals are missing (Marshadow and Zeraora) but thankfully, the mythical Magearna is available via a QR code. QR codes played an interesting part in Gen 7 via the QR Scanner where a QR code in the real world could add a Pokémon into your Pokédex as if the player had seen it in game. There was also the limited ability to bring in a whole special Pokémon themselves right into your game.
My first Partner Cap Pikachu came via the QR Scanner in this exact way. In Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon there exists Pikachu Valley, a neat little area to stumble into earlier in the game. Sure, Pikachu is the face of Pokémon, and there's this whole area with a camper van dedicated to it, but this place was special to me for one particular reason: this was my first experience with a modern Pokémon event. I finally started feeling caught up and "with it" with current events in Pokémon games (albeit this event can always be done with the right know how).
The specific event I'm describing is the Partner Cap Pikachu for the 20th Pokemon Movie from 2017. There are actually a few unique Partner Cap Pikachu Pokémon and this specific one is grabbed via a QR code from going to the movie - thankfully those QR codes have been preserved and I can grab a Pikachu too! It was as easy as scanning and heading to Pikachu Valley to pick it up.
The Artist Returns
Back on the regularly scheduled catching front, my star player made a return.
Smeargle made light work of all the regular Pokémon. Though it was around here that I took a little break - in the real world that is. I had been playing these games nearly non stop, so I took a brief rest. Thankfully too, because I needed it for what was about to come...
Whereas Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon have the Ultra Wormhole minigame where you travel through space on the back of Solgaleo or Lunala to go as far as you can (read: thousands of light years) to get the chance of a legendary, an Ultra Beast, or a much higher shiny chance of select Pokémon. The mechanic itself is a bit fiddly and this video can help explain it:
Or if you're inclined to see it in tabular form, Serebii has a great page for it.
This is where I spent a lot of my time. The repetition of a few minutes of wormhole minigame looked like:
- Jump into the mini game
- Attempt to fly through lots of rings for a minute or two
- See if you got anything good at the end
I started recording some attempts on a spreadsheet and found it took me about 122 attempts to grab half of the legendaries I needed. This is outside of any shiny hunting or Ultra Beast grabs. I could re-catch all the legendaries via the wormholes too, but with how grindy this minigame is, I only opted for the ones I needed.
Again I think it's neat, but hell it's a grind. The controls are awful (and it uses motion controls by default!), the hit detection feels loose, and it's still a dice roll chance whether you'll get what you want. I think I spent about 30+ hours hanging out looking for Pokémon here. I'm pretty keen to never do that again.
My only little problem was the wormholes had exclusive Pokémon to each version... Meaning I had to do it all over again in Ultra Moon. Except, that cartridge had an existing save on it.
I’d Like You to Meet KOBY
Just like the hero Kieran was in Omega Ruby, KOBY had a finished save which had:
- The Ultra Moon exclusive Ultra Beasts
- His own shiny Pokémon (via the better shiny chance from the wormhole minigame)
- EVENT POKÉMON!
- Lots of misc. Pokémon I could take for my own Living Dex
KOBY saved me dozens of hours of wormhole minigame. I only had to nab a few version exclusive legendaries, everything else was already sitting in the PC. Thank you KOBY.
KOBY had a few shiny Pokémon:
Including a shiny event Zygarde! I use this in later games as a crutch because it's hella strong.
After finishing up the story, the Dex, ultra wormholes, and pillaging KOBY's save; what I wish was a longer experience (sans wormholes) is over. I liked this game a lot and wish I was around for when it was new so I could've soaked it up - but we're in the present and I need to move on.
To Finish Off
With Gen 7 done (we'll get to Let's Go Pikachu in another post), we can look toward Sword/Shield, meaning it's time for a Pokémon Home subscription and a mass migration from Bank to Home (which was pretty easy).
Oh, and as promised from last post: Pyukumuku chucking!
Parts in this series:
- Making a Living Dex: Part 1 - A Lifelong Dream
- Making a Living Dex: Part 2 - It Begins With Generation Six
- Making a Living Dex: Part 3 - Preservation and Generation Five
- Making a Living Dex: Part 4 - Generation Seven, ”Alola!”
- Making a Living Dex: Part 5 - Generation Eight, Sword and Shield
- Making a Living Dex: Part 6 - Odds and Ends
- Making a Living Dex: Part 7 - Wrapping up the First 898
- Making a Living Dex: Part 8 - Odds and Ends Round 2
- Making a Living Dex: Appendix A - The Whole Living Dex Roster
- Making a Living Dex: Appendix B - Achievement Screenshots