REVIEW

REVIEW

Pokémon Legends: Arceus

February 8, 2022

GOOD

  • Updated, innovative take on Pokémon
  • Accessible
  • Refreshingly fun

BAD

  • Some graphical issues
  • Lack of breeding, trainer battles may disappoint some
  • Bika?!

MASTERPIECE

MASTERPIECE

The newest and thankfully best entry to the Pokémon franchise on the Nintendo Switch. This offshoot from the main series refreshes a tried and true formula for the better and as Pokémon fans we can only hope for more like this from Nintendo and Game Freak.

The Pokémon games have been a safe space for me for a long time. I have played every game Red, and while I dabbled in the competitive side of Pokémon (most recently with Sword and Shield (SWSH)) it never really grabbed hold of me. For me, it was always about going back to ‘catch ’em all’. There is just something special about playing Pokémon games – perhaps it’s their simplicity, their timelessness, the soothing yet repetitive music, or (probably) it’s the adorably cute pocket monsters themselves. I honestly, don’t think I will ever be able to tell you what exactly it is that has endeared Pokémon to me, but I can tell you if there is a Pokémon game on the horizon I am almost always very amped for it. That being said, I actually spent the month leading up to Pokémon Legends: Arceus on the fence. I tend to try to avoid spoilers and go into my favourite games blind. However, this time about 30 days before launch I watched the introductory trailer and suddenly felt like this game may be too far off the trend for me. No gyms? No Elite 4? Weird reused starters? All my buttons were pushed, and I was bristling. I was really very lost as a Pokémon fan. I was (and still am) a bit washed out on the remakes with the same old turn-based combat paired with recycled storylines, but I would rather have that, than something that looked like it might change too much and leave a sour Pokémon taste in my mouth. However, despite my very real reservations I decided I needed to at least give it a fair go and am I glad I did!

Guys… Oh, guys. What an experience!

In fact, I now never want to go back to that formulaic elite-four-gym-beating, catch-em-all-toting, turn-based Pokémon of old. I want this game format to be the future of this franchise. It is fresh. It is fun. It isn’t too lengthy and I could not for the life of me put it down for a week straight.

Oshawott outings Old and New

In terms of what you can expect on your Arceus adventure, the main storyline (plus a few sidequests thrown in here and there) took me about 32 hours to complete. I also still have the majority of the post-game to do which I’m looking forward to tackling at my own pace. So there’s enough to do. And I’ve enjoyed my time with it so much that I actually want to catch and get all the Pokedex entries up to level 10. I even want to complete all the side quests, and I want to get to know the Hisui region like the back of my palm! I just loved it all. I must admit that I found the story a bit all over the place. It starts off by presenting humans with a very different attitude towards Pokémon than you may use to. Instead of seeing them as friendly, helpful creatures that surround people’s everyday lives, we travel back in time thousands of years and experience a world where they are feared and misunderstood. I won’t go into too much detail, but the basic narrative that follows has you as the protagonist being a sort of agent of change and showing how people and Pokémon can peacefully co-exist as you complete the first Pokedex. Some twists are served up, which is actually new and refreshing, but I still would not recommend you play any Pokémon game if you are yearning to be wowed by a story-heavy RPG. These games have traditionally relied on cute (and not often quality) storytelling, and while Arceus leans into the deeper (and sometimes darker) lore side of things it’s still mostly fluff.

 It is fresh. It is fun. And I could not for the life of me put it down for a week straight.

Along with the main missions (tasks that move the story along), there are new side quests, which you can take a detour to accomplish at any time. These take the form of requests from the inhabitants of your home village. They range from the simplest fetch quest to simple puzzles or collect-a-thons, and even sometimes battles against specific Pokémon. By completing these extra tasks the village that serves as your main hub really starts to feel like home especially once you start helping out all the locals with building homes and farms and showing them the true joy of Pokémon. It just adds another interesting layer to the game that no previous game in the series featured.

Rumbles and Roaming with Rowlet

Of course, as you’ve probably heard, this is also a uniquely open-world Pokémon game, and so completing main missions and requests means you’ll be exploring the Hisui region and battling and capturing Pokémon in ways you’ve never been able to before. While roaming on foot, the world feels massive and the inclusion of mounts is also revolutionary (please don’t ever take them away from me!) Climbing a mountain on a Sneasler in a basket? Yes, please! Then, sneaking from one patch of long grass to another to ‘snipe-catch’ Pokémon without having to wait for the turn-based phase to start, has absolutely changed the future of what we should expect out of this franchise. You can use cakes (a lovely treat for Pokémon, which you can craft yourself even while on the go!) to cause several Pokémon to descend upon an area, and then quickly catch a bunch in a row, without once having to wait. And even this small feature has no doubt changed the game for shiny hunters, and general collecting. The battle system is also much improved with load times into the battle basically removed, While still turn-based, battles have a different flow to them thanks to the addition of agile and strong fighting styles. Using a move with the agile style boosts your speed and may give you two turns against your opponent. However, while using the strong style makes you hit harder, it may give an opponent two turns to retaliate if they survive. This provides a deeper level of strategy which when playing especially the late to post-game stuff really started to matter. Plus, because you can move around and actually be affected by the Pokémon attacks depending on where you’re standing a new layer of realism is added and the battles don’t feel as staged and cumbersome as in previous games.

The world feels massive and the inclusion of mounts is also revolutionary (please don’t ever take them away from me!) Climbing a mountain on a Sneasler in a basket? Yes, please!

In terms of difficulty, the game has maintained the level seen in SWSH, making it somewhat more accessible to everyone, or at least easier than the older generations. The boss fights, if failed, can be resumed from where you were or restarted at any point. These are changes that definitely make the game easier in general, however, because much of these are optional there are choices the more hardcore player can make to impose a greater challenge on themselves if they prefer to play that way.

Cyndaquil Stumbles & Screams

Despite all these positives, there are some stumbles. The graphics themselves are not the very best we have seen served up on a Switch. The colours popped on my OLED’s screen, but there is nothing that the fancy new display can help with when it comes to trees with low res leaves and no texture. There are also times when there is a weird outline around your character, making you feel a bit removed from the world. I noticed this especially in dark areas, like caves or tunnels, where there was a faint white line around my character.  While flying or riding a mount, pop-in is very noticeable, and the invisible walls of Hisui are suddenly much closer than you think. The Pokémon themselves are modelled well, but for some reason, some of their cries have been changed to something far from what we are used to. Pikachu, for instance, does not cry “Pika!” (like he should!) but instead screams “Bigaaah!”. This really bothers me, as we have had the same sprites and 8 bit sound for years, and now with a chance at refreshing it all, Game Freak gets one of the most beloved Pokémon in the world to cry wrong. It just makes no sense. There is also some disparity in the community around some of the new Hisuian forms, some love them, some hate them. I found that they grew on me and I really do love the new Arcanine form.

The colours popped on my OLED’s screen, but there is nothing that the fancy new display can help with when it comes to trees with low res leaves and no texture.

Kleavor Conclusion

As you can hopefully tell from what I’ve said so above, this is so far from a traditional mainline Pokémon game that I’ve struggled to even begin to compare what has come before to what we now have today with Arceus. This is not an apples-to-apples or even a pika-to-biga analogy. This is Pokémon game as many of us have imagined or possibly hoped them to be. In fact, this new Pokémon formula was so magical and I became so engrossed in it, that when I opened SWSH to check something, it felt like I had gone back at least 10 years. And despite my initial fear that this game had gone too far, I then actually started to dread the possibility that Game Freak and Nintendo would navigate the future of this beloved franchise away from this new formulae. In short, I truly feel that if you love Pokémon, you will love Pokémon Legends: Arceus. It will sweep you away and reinvigorate your love for pocket monsters. It is brought to life on the Switch and shows the promise this franchise still has. And we have just heard that the Switch is securely in the middle of its life cycle, so we are bound to have more games added to its Pokémon collection. my only hope is that, after we’ve had this taste of a BOTW-esque Pokémon game, the=new games meet my updated expectations… and that they can bring back “Pika”.

Written by Kelly Stretch

Luigi is better than Mario.
February 8, 2022

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