The Ultra Wormhole Worlds

In original Sun and Moon, the Ultra Beast pokemon were alleged to have come from some other, poorly understood dimension referred to only as "Ultra Space," briefly glimpsed as an ethereal cavern of luminescent crystals and coral-like organic growths. Cool, but frustratingly vague, and we were left to speculate how the other "Ultra Beasts" as well as other Pokemon fit in with this peculiar realm.

With Ultra Sun and Moon, players are given the ability to dive as many times as they like into the Ultra Wormhole, and the results are...mixed. Passing through one of many randomized, color-coded portals will dump the player off on what is apparently one of many distant planets, not just alternate dimensions, where one can battle and capture a single Pokemon in a single small environment, and while some of these appear as mundane forests, mountains or deserts where we can catch anything from Stunfisk to Arceus, we can also capture the original seven Ultra Beasts from special, unique worlds all their own, beginning with...

Ultra Deep Sea

It turns out that our first glimpse of "Ultra Space" was really just the specific planet inhabited by Nihilego, which I have to say comes as at least a bit of a disappointment. We were kind of lead to believe this was an entire parallel reality completely unlike our own, from which all the weird and wacky Ultra Beasts were born.

I suppose this does, however, explain the inconsistent visual style of the creatures. Some of them hail from planets as weird as this supposed "Ultra Deep Sea," which isn't even underwater, while others hail from worlds much closer to our own, and the creatures themselves aesthetically follow suit.

Ultra Jungle

Case in point, BUZZWOLE turns out to originate from a jungle that could have come from Earth, if Earth also had ridiculously massive trees with biceps. It makes sense, to me, that the mosquito would come from a more Earthlike environment rather than some surreal crystalline landscape, and the music makes this brief but bonkers expedition more fun than it has any business being.

We may never know why both mosquitoes and palm trees evolved to resemble human bodybuilders in this distant land, but I'm happy for the glimpse into just how zany the Pokemon universe can apparently get.

Ultra Desert

Pheromosa's planet, meanwhile, is actually one of the longest, the only one where you can call upon your ride pokemon and must do so to traverse its terrain. The bright, sandy wastes and glittering crystals certainly suit the elegant cockroach, even if I'm a bit disappointed by the implication that Buzzwole and Pheromosa might come from entirely different worlds and never normally interact with one another as bitter martial artist rivals. I also find this one the least exciting visually, though I originally missed the crude, simple stone buildings behind Pheromosa, as though built perhaps by the roaches themselves.

Ultra Forest

The home planet of Kartana is also the first of these planets where we meet any human beings, which is pretty wild. These old men are apparently known as "Kartenvoys" and refer to Kartana as "The Paper One," so I guess the little origami samurai is an integral part of their spirituality. The trees even bear flowers somewhat resembling the creature, and the ground is scattered with perfectly rectangular trees. Is angular, grass/steel vegetation a norm in this faraway world, or is something else going on here?

This is another case in which the "Earthly" qualities make sense. Kartana's visual themes are too close to human cultural concepts to make a lot of sense as something utterly otherworldly, so either our world or Kartana's world had to have exchanged some information at some point in ancient history.

Ultra Crater

If you're getting tired of these relatively terrestrial settings, however, the most abstract looking Ultra Beasts graciously come to us with equally dreamlike habitats. I just love this foggy moonscape so ravaged by its population of Celesteela, which apparently just grow up from underground before launching themselves into space. The music here is also just delightful, with a playful but ever so slightly menacing whimsy that truly communicates the weird chaos and danger of these rocket-powered giants, too busy with their own impenetrable machinations to care if they accidentally blast the tiny mammaloid intruding on their turf.

Ultra Plant

Visually, this is my easy favorite of the Ultra Worlds. The Xurkitree we can capture would appear to be only a bitty baby of its kind, whose shimmering forms pepper this dark, stormy wasteland like a sea of stars, many of them looming like titanic radio towers in the distance. You even walk on the roots an especially gargantuan specimen.

It's a hauntingly beautiful vision of another world I honestly was not expcting from Pokemon, a setting that has spent so much of its existence grounding even the most fantastical creatures in relatively mundane surroundings. Even looking as much as it does like household electrical cable, Xurkitree leaves no doubt that we're seeing something alien.

Ultra Ruin

Xurkitree's world may offer the coolest visuals, but the rarest Ultra Space encounter, Guzzlord, offers the most story, and it's one heck of a story to cram into such a small space in a Pokemon game. We encounter another human right off the bat, wearing a Guzzlord-themed environmental suit and dropping the bombshell that this planet has been largely abandoned by humankind.

The devastated city outside looks just like any of our own, and includes references to both an emergency relocation program and some sort of promising new power plant before we find Guzzlord munching away at the edge of a vast, smoldering canyon.

It feels at first like we're supposed to be seeing a world devastated by Guzzlord, but after catching "Mr. Glutton," we can converse more with our masked friend to fill in some of the blanks. Guzzlord are really just another animal of his world, but apparently declining in population, and he actually stayed behind in part to keep an eye on the hungry baby. What actually devastated his world was the new power plant, leading to a scenario in which everybody had to live in hazard suits like his until they finally gave up any hope of restoring their ecosystem.

...And why does this world look and sound so much like our own?

One broken, rusted sign you can read actually matches up perfectly with a sign outside Hau'oli city in this very Pokemon game, and even the soundtrack is a distorted, reversed version of tracks that normally play in the area.

Near as we can tell, "Ultra Ruin" is set in either an alternate or future version of the Pokemon world we're familiar with, one in which Guzzlord also happened to be a native Pokemon or established itself after coming through the Ultra Wormhole.

Ultra Megalopolis

Last but not least - in fact the first other world you're sent to in the game - is the plot-relevant Ultra Megalopolis, a world where the Pokemon Necrozma apparently consumed all light and plunged the native humans into darkness. I'm not sure if that's why they have pale blue skin and all wear the same gear, but theirs is the world where Poipole is the basic starter pokemon, and all we get to see of this world is a single, massive tower surrounded by a city we don't get to explore any deeper.

The subplot of freeing this city from Necrozma's terror, unfortunately, replaces the awesome plot thread from Sun and Moon where Lillie's mom is so obsessed with a space jellyfish, a crime I frankly find impossible to forgive. Could they not have just included both!?

That said, the fact that we can suddenly just up and visit entirely different planets and dimensions, inhabited by entirely different pokemon and humans, seems like it should be a bigger deal than these games are making it. Like, something the series has kind of been building to since the very beginning. The most groundbreaking expansion to the continuity they've possibly ever dropped on us. It opens the possibility of an entire galaxy of Poke-worlds never before hinted at in more than a few miscellaneous dex entries, and lends quite a bit more credit to my theory that all Pokemon were originally "aliens." The fact that Ultra Sun and Moon themselves play out as an alternate timeline to Sun and Moon, or that Sun and Moon in turn are alternate timelines to each other, definitely feels like it ties in deliberately with the concept of the Ultra Wormholes, and it's just a shame that, if we've learned anything from this franchise, it's actually quite possible we'll never, ever hear about any of this again.

If the next generation touches upon "Ultra Beasts" or delves any deeper into alien planets, I will figuratively eat that hat I'm always saying I'd eat if I had any hats.