The opening sequence of Pokémon Ultra Sun is so…frustrating.
It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game that’s so mind-numbingly, frustratingly linear as the opening to Pokémon Ultra Sun. This sequence flat out refused to let me explore and seemed practically allergic to allowing gameplay to happen organically. And it’s not that the game penalizes you for stepping out of line. No, it’s worse than that. This game ties you down to its conveyor belt so you can’t step out of line to begin with, no matter how desperately you’ll want to.
Playing the opening to Pokémon Ultra Sun felt like a chore. Despite many great aesthetic and gameplay improvements over previous generations of the series, every time I picked up my 3DS to start playing, I felt myself breathing a sigh of weary resignation because I knew I was signing myself up for an experience that’s bogged down by boring, long-winded character interactions, unskippable cutscenes, and annoying, forced tutorials.
I went online a little while ago to see if I was alone in my thinking and, not only am I far from alone, but that this rigid hand-holding, oppressive structure doesn’t really let up entirely until after the credits roll, at which point I guess the game assumes you can finally fend for yourself. And that’s probably what most irritates me – how insulting it feels. Pokémon Ultra Sun treats its players like they’re the unfortunate victims of a few amateur lobotomies.
Every concept – be it a new addition or one that’s been with the series for literal decades, like how to catch a Pokémon – is explained in excruciating detail to make sure no one is left behind. In practice, all this does is create a tedious slog that I felt like I had to force myself to play – a feeling I’ve never had playing any prior Pokémon game.
In the interest of fairness, I must note that, once you get off of the first island, the aggressive hand-holding does ease up somewhat, but Ultra Sun’s adherence to the “tell, don’t show” school of storytelling remains in full effect. This game is infatuated with text dumps. Conversations are drawn out forever, hell, even the PokéDex (!) talks to you and doesn’t know how to shut up. Not only that, but it feels the need to talk about new Pokémon you encounter, new captures, evolutions and even filling up its pages.
So, why did I want to write this? Because the opening of Pokémon Ultra Sun is so boring, so slow, so utterly annoying that I feel like I shouldn’t be the only one whose time is wasted by it. No, but seriously, this is an anomaly. This isn’t the first time I’ve spoken about my issues with mandatory tutorials and these days, it takes a pretty egregious example to get me this worked up.
It might seem unreasonable for me to be this agitated and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a naturally impatient person but the opening of this game is around eight to ten hours long. Eight to ten hours of inane dialogues, drawn out explanations of simple concepts, and silly cutscenes and gameplay vignettes that you can’t simply skip or speed up in any way.
The opening of a game is meant to get its hooks into you and draw you in so you’re so intrigued that you can’t wait to see what’s next. Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon do the opposite and left a bad taste in my mouth. Even though I can say now after sinking more time into the games that yes, it does get better, but that’s certainly not a ringing endorsement. Having to play about ten hours just to get to the good part is not a point in the game’s favor.
Despite the issues I’ve had with it, when the game decides to shut up and get out of its own way, it’s actually quite enjoyable. I’ve had much more fun after getting off the first island, but the fact that it takes so long to even start to get good makes no sense and might turn off many new players before they have the chance to see what the game is about. Like I’ve said before, I’m a fan of the Pokémon franchise. I just hope the two upcoming games, Pokémon Shield and Sword don’t follow Ultra Sun’s lead. I simply don’t think I have the patience for another slog like this one.