Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon were revealed back in June with the promise of having an alternate story. We didn't really get much information to elaborate on that until fairly recently, when it became clear that Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon are a return to the style of game that has become known in the Pokémon community as an "Enhanced Version".
What's an enhanced version? Basically it takes the basic structure, story and elements from the game that started a generation and expands upon them to various degrees. These games never sell as much as the originals but are often considered the best of their respective generation. While they don't tread as much new ground as a new gen release, they bring a lot to the table and often serve as a testing ground for features which will come at the start of a next generation.
As we approach the first enhanced version we've have had in 9 years, it's time to look back at the enhanced versions that have existed and what they brought to the fold.
Generation 1 - Pokémon Blue
Pokémon Blue was in fact the first of the special enhanced versions. In Japan, Pokémon started with Pokémon Red and Green. Then, later in 1996, CoroCoro ran a campaign for a special edition of Pokémon exclusive to it. This game had bug fixes, updated sprites and various changes. It had different encounter tables, allowing for wild Jynx and Lickitung as well as altering the Unknown Dungeon's layout. Eventually, when it came to the west, our Pokémon Red & Blue were built off of the structure and sprites of Pokémon Blue, but with the encounter data of Japan's Red & Green.
Generation 1 - Pokémon Yellow
Now this is probably the enhanced version that you're most familiar with from Pokémon's beloved first generation. Pokémon Yellow was a bit different in that it was created to tie in with the Pokémon anime. As such, various encounters, Gym Leaders and so forth were adapted to tie in with the anime, so Lt. Surge would just have a Raichu, you'd get given a Charmander and you'd encounter Jessie & James of Team Rocket. You would also have Pikachu out of its PokéBall following you. This helped introduce the concept of Happiness that Pokémon uses to this day for various elements. This game also updated all the sprites to more closely resemble the anime artwork and, outside of Japan, was the first Pokémon main series game with Game Boy Color capabilities.
Generation 2 - Pokémon Crystal
Pokémon Crystal is another beloved enhanced version and is the enhanced version of Pokémon Gold & Silver. This game didn't change much, but had you focus on the Pokémon Suicune. In this game, you'd encounter a character called Eusine who was hunting Suicune. This meant that as part of the story, you'd actually encounter the cover Legendary Pokémon, unlike Gold & Silver where you could go through and not actually encounter it. In addition to this, Pokémon received special animations when they entered battle so their sprites weren't static. It also introduced the concept of Move Tutors, as you could teach your Pokémon Flamethrower, Ice Beam and Thunderbolt. However, the most notable change is that this was the first Pokémon game in which you could choose the gender of your character.
Another notable addition was the Mobile Adapter System GB. In Japan, Pokémon Crystal also had a feature where you could connect your Game Boy Color to your mobile phone in order to battle and trade online. It even had online distributions where you could receive items like the GS Ball which was used to find the Mythical Pokémon Celebi and a special Egg Card to receive a special egg. Most of these features then got incorporated into the game without it, such as getting the Odd Egg from the Day Care Couple and the Battle Tower, which has become a mainstay in the Pokémon games ever since. Unfortunately, the GS Ball was not one of these options.
Generation 3 - Pokémon Emerald
Pokémon Emerald is probably the most different enhanced version, when compared to the original. As Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire had different antagonists hunting for a different Legendary Pokémon, Pokémon Emerald combined both and had you face off against both teams in a story that culminated in the appearance of Rayquaza after both teams awoke Groudon and Kyogre.
Pokémon Emerald changed up a few other bits, too. The graphics were overhauled slightly, with animations coming back to Pokémon battles to remove static sprites. The games also implemented wireless communication features that were spearheaded by Fire Red & Leaf Green. It also introduced a brand new Pokémon form, Deoxys Speed Forme.
The game also introduced a variety of new areas to the Hoenn region, to help push the narrative of both Team Magma and Team Aqua trying to accomplish their goals as well as a special Mirage Tower where you get the fossils. Of course, that's not the main area people think about. This game was the first Pokémon game to have a Battle Frontier. This area of the game featured 7 facilities where you could battle Pokémon in a variety of ways. The Battle Pike had you go through various rooms with the contents of the room being different each time. The Battle Dome was a tournament-style system. The Battle Factory had you battle with rental Pokémon. The Battle Arena was a facility where you got judged based on how you battled over 3 turns. The Battle Palace was where your Pokémon battled by choosing their moves based on their nature. The Battle Pyramid had you go through floors of wild Pokémon and trainers and the Battle Tower made its triumphant return. This facility also included Move Tutors, providing a wide range of attacks to teach your Pokémon.
Finally, it also allowed you to rematch against Gym Leaders through the Match Call feature in the PokéNav. There were a lot of minor improvements and additions to this game which are too plentiful to include. It was truly the biggest enhanced version.
Generation 4 - Pokémon Platinum
This game was the last true enhanced version. It altered the story of Pokémon Diamond & Pearl a bit, having Team Galactic focus on awakening Giratina in the Distortion World. It was less of a change to the story compared to Pokémon Emerald, but it did include more elements as you progressed. It added the character Looker, who has appeared in many Pokémon games since.
However, Pokémon Platinum in general had less changes than Pokémon Emerald. There were no new areas in the game other than the Distortion World, but many areas featured improvements. In Pokémon Platinum, the Sinnoh region was altered slightly to account for its more northern climate, so you saw more snow around the game.
However, the game did add something that hadn't really been touched on before. It introduced the concept of adding new forms to existing Pokémon outside of Mythical Pokémon within the generation they were introduced. Aside from the Mythical Pokémon Shaymin, who got its Sky Forme, the Legendary Pokémon Giratina got its Origin Forme and the Pokémon Rotom received five different forms. This opened things up from what to expect of Pokémon games in new generations.
It also reintroduced the Battle Frontier, this time with some new facilities including the Battle Castle, where you had to earn points to heal your Pokémon and give them hold items. The Battle Arcade where you ran a roulette to decide any special effects that afflict your Pokémon, and finally the Battle Hall where you just faced one Pokémon at a time of a specific type.
It also had a variety of improvements including faster surfing and battles, fixing the speed issues people had with the originals, as well as Gym Leader rebattles and many other improvements.
Since then, we haven't really had an enhanced version. Pokémon Black & White 2 were sequels to Pokémon Black & White, but had many similar enhancements. It added some new areas, multiple new forms for Kyurem, Tornadus, Thundurus, Landorus and Keldeo as well as facilities such as the Pokémon World Tournament. However, as it was a sequel it doesn't count.
In Generation VI, with the prominence of Zygarde in material in 2015, people were certain there would be a Pokémon Z, but that never came to be.
Generation 7 - Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon
So now we're at Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon and the return of the enhanced version. Due to the 9 year hiatus, it's understandable that many fans are unsure about it due to having not experienced these before, but let's look at what we now know.
For the first time ever, the games will introduce brand new Pokémon outside of the start of a new generation. That in itself is pretty huge. To top that off, the two Ultra Beasts that were revealed are shown as being part of the story, which - while clearly incorporating a lot of elements from Sun & Moon - also has a lot of new elements, especially as Necrozma will absorb the previous cover Legendary Pokémon to become its new form. The true extent of this in the narrative is unknown as it doesn't quite fit what we had for Sun & Moon, so it should be interesting to find out what's afoot.
We have a new form for Lycanroc - the Dusk Form - as well as two known new Z-Moves: Lycanroc's Splintered Stormshards and Kommo-o's Clangorous Soulblaze. After Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire broke the precedent of adding new moves after the start of a generation, it's good to see this continue with the generation's new mechanic of Z-Moves.
We also know there are to be many new areas including a valley of Pikachu and a beach where it appears you can use PokéRide on Mantine. The trailers have shown us a lot, too - including new scenes at Aether Foundation with kidnapped Pokémon, the Elite Four member Kahili using a Z-Move and the mysterious Ryuki residing in a building akin to Vermilion City's Gym.
Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon already are looking to be a very enhanced version of Sun & Moon. What else could we possibly see by launch? Let us know by posting a comment.