Pokemon was the first game series that captured my imagination. I didn’t even need to really play the game to enjoy it. I played Silver version before I could even read, so my first playthrough was just me battling Sentrets with my Cyndaquil for months. I just liked spending time with my little fire echidna.
Over time, of course, I became really involved in the battling meta and trying to catch all of the Pokemon in the Dex, even though that was incredibly difficult for someone with only one version of the game.
With age, the formula has begun to stale for me, and whether that’s because Pokemon isn’t keeping up with current industry standards or because it was always aimed at kids under the age of 12, I’m not entirely sure.
It’s been years since a Pokemon game has pulled me in and let me get completely lost in its world. The mainline series has just felt so flat lately, but with the release of Pokemon Legends: Arceus, everything has changed for the better. This one is special and should be a testament to the fact that Pokemon can still be for everyone.
Get Lost in the Pokemon Folklore
Not since the Ruby/Saphire games have I given the slightest hoot about the story in a Pokemon game. I was in it solely for the new Pokemon and battling my friends. Legends: Arceus, however, brings us back to the Sinnoh region and explores the myths that were introduced in Diamond and Pearl.
You play a 15-year-old who is brought back in time by the God Pokemon, Arceus. With nothing but a semi-out-of-place “Arc” cellphone, you are set out into this region before Pokemon and humans became friends.
You quickly meet up with Professor Laventon, who asks you to help him catch his Pokemon, thus showing off some of your modern Pokemon skills to him. He’s so impressed he asks you to join the Galaxy team who are not evil in this game but just trying to help everyone understand a little bit more about Pokemon and the region.
The Galaxy team leads the Survey team which is in charge of going out and working toward the first PokeDex, which is only a little journal at this time and not the complex talking computer we were introduced to in Kanto. It’s during these outings that you come in contact with the other clans in the area and learn what they are about.
The Diamond and Pearl clans each believe that Sinnoh was created by a different God and have their own practices around them. Each group helps to oversee the Noble Pokemon in the area, which are like spiritual leaders of their surrounding area. Each Pokemon is a Hisui variant, so it’s often a treat to confront these berzerk Pokemon.
These disturbances with the Noble Pokemon lead you and your new friends to investigate the rifts that are popping up around the region and see how they might be connected to the region.
Now I can understand how some of this might seem familiar to long-time fans, but it’s how much more interaction you get during these sections that make the story feel much more engaging. It actually can feel like real changes are happening in this world, from changes in the day-to-day activities to the intense region changes caused by events. It’s thrilling – for a Pokemon game.
The Best Pokemon Gameplay Has Ever Been
The tried and true Pokemon formula has needed a shakeup for a number of years. Almost every wish that I had ever wanted is at least explored to some degree in this game. From exploring an open world to catching Pokemon in real-time to being able to see the size differences between Pokemon.
The game is open world, to a degree. It’s split into different sub-areas that can be explored once they are unlocked. Each of these areas covers a different setting (beach, volcano, mountain, valley, etc.) that should be familiar to fans of the Sinnoh region. I wish that the entire world is open, but I’m okay with the sub-areas for this introduction. Anything is an improvement over the narrow hallway routes that were in Sword and Shield.
What I’m not a huge fan of is that you need to go to Jubilife village in order to go to a new location. You can’t simply teleport from Obsidian Fieldlands to the Coronet Highlands. No, you need permission first, which I didn’t mind initially, but over time has begun to become a little tedious as I am working on completing the PokeDex.
The areas look better than any Pokemon game (except New Pokemon Snap), but that isn’t saying much. I really liked when weather effects like fog or snow took place as it all helped to give the areas more life. When it was just me standing on the top of a hill looking out, it could feel empty or disjointed as a Starraptor flew by with only 2 frames of animation.
The flying Pokemon suffer from this disjointed animation which I assume is a compromise so that flying Pokemon can be seen at all. Typically, Pokemon will only spawn if you are relatively close to them – similar to how Sword and Shield or the Let’s Go games handled it.
Despite that, seeing Magnezone floating around at the top of a snowy peak can feel oddly intimidating as you make your way through rough uncharted territory.
It really can feel how your first Pokemon game felt in your head. This sense of adventure with a bunch of cute/cool Pokemon that you can’t help but assign little personalities to, which only helps to get you attached to them over time.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All, Again
This isn’t solely a turn-based adventure anymore. Pokemon can attack you at any time and you are free to fight back on your own or throw your Pokemon out, which will return it to the familiar turn-based combat.
On your own, you are free to throw pokeballs, smoke bombs, and other items that can help to turn the tide of the battle. Not to mention that you have a handful of pokeballs that will help you tame these wild Pokemon. Now that Pokemon is more real-time, there have been a few new pokeball changes that we have never had before.
Since you can aim your Pokeballs from anywhere, there is a weight to a standard ball. Game Freak made different balls with different weights to help catch Pokemon in a variety of settings.
See a Pokemon far away and don’t think you can get any closer without spooking them, use a feather ball and watch it go almost in a straight line to its target. While the heavy ball is, well, heavy which helps to catch Pokemon when you are close up.
Let’s be honest: Pokemon has been more about battling than catching for years, but Arceus shifts the focus back to catching and discovering these pocket monsters. There are a handful of battles in the game which is nice but the majority of your time will be spent catching, releasing, and interacting with wild Pokemon.
The little battling there is can be a bit of a challenge. The way that Arceus handles speed is different from other games and Pokemon can easily sweep whole sections of your team if you aren’t careful.
There are a ton of quality-of-life improvements that would feel right at home in any past Pokemon game such as the fact that you can change Pokemon’s moves at any time during the game. There are also the mount Pokemon which are more realized than they have ever been; it often can feel like you are using an HM when you pull them out and not some lame riding section like it had been in Pokemon Sun and Moon.
There are side quests to complete, rare Pokemon to find, and lore to uncover. There is a lot of meat in this Pokemon game and I am still finding stuff that makes me smile.
There are so many nice little touches to the game that help to give life to the game where the graphics don’t deliver. The animations of the Pokemon are better than anything that we have seen outside of a Pokemon Snap game. Just take a look at Mr. Mime who pretends to sit on a bench sipping a drink or maybe how cute a Wurmple looks curled up and sleeping in the afternoon sun.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus is the next evolution in the Pokemon franchise and while it has some areas of improvement such as its graphics and open world, these are things that can be easily improved in future titles. Legends Arceus has set a solid foundation where a new generation of Pokemon games can grow and improve and I can’t wait to see just how much further this series can go after playing this one. 8/10