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A new Pokémon game greets us upon the arrival of 2022, which is Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Announced in a “Pokémon Presents” video back in February last year, many people were cautious about this new entry and direction of the series. After all, many complain that the Pokémon games have been declining in quality as of late. Now that the game is out, was the fans’ wariness warranted?
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is heading in a different direction than what was considered traditional games of the franchise. It is an open-world game where you can walk around the area wherever you want, though the map is divided into sections similar to Monster Hunter games.
Naturally, I was cautious of the game. I have been a fan of Pokémon ever since I first played the Ruby and Sapphire entries, and after the Sword and Shield fiasco, I held on to my money. Yet after a few days that Legends: Arceus came out, many reviews came out positive, reaffirming its status as a great game.
So, I picked it up, slightly confident of the game’s quality, yet still cautious. And after several hours of playing it, I have finally concluded. In this review, I want to break down what I love about the game, my criticism of some areas, and more.
Gameplay Review: A Refreshing Way to Catch Them All
Before Pokémon Legends: Arceus, the way to capture Pokémon would be to go towards the tall grass, encounter one, and catch them with a Poké Ball. However, things are different in this game since you hide behind the tall grass. You have traveled back in time when the concept of catching Pokémon is still new, so it makes sense that the power dynamics have shifted.
The map is split into several large regions that you can travel around, and each region has different sets of inhabiting Pokémon. To capture a Pokémon, you need to equip a Poké Ball and throw it at them. You do not need to engage in combat to do so. However, you need to hide first. There are tall grass and ferns in the area, so use the environment to your advantage.
If a Pokémon notices your presence, there are two possible outcomes: it will either flee or attack you on sight. If it attacks you, you can either evade and run away or confront it using your partner Pokémon. As such, it is vital that you always have your partner Pokémon with you, as being alone can be your demise.
In this game, you are tasked to fill up the Pokédex. Different kinds of Pokémon are wandering about the land, so you can do your task by completing particular tasks. For example, you can fill up information about Psyduck by capturing and defeating them a certain number of times. Other ways too can help out your research, such as giving them food, evolving them, or seeing them use a move.
Honestly, I love this new direction that Pokémon is going, and I appreciate that the franchise is not afraid to try out something different. The concept is really good, as it shakes things up. This game brings catching Pokémon to a whole new level. You no longer have to watch an animation of a Poké Ball fly to the enemy. Instead, you must strategically utilize the area around you.
Despite this new way of catching Pokémon, the old way is still applicable. When you battle it out in a wild encounter and their health is low, you can throw your Poké Ball to catch them. Also, the crafting in this game is not egregious, and the items are actually useful. New players can play this and enjoy it as I did.
Graphics Review: It’s Not Very Effective
The glaring issue that the game has is the visual graphics. The gameplay is fun, exciting, and refreshing, but the utterly horrifying graphics can sometimes suspend that excitement. I am not one to nitpick visuals as I have played tons of games that do not rely on them. I love indies, and many of them are even in 8-bit style.
However, Game Freak and The Pokémon Company are not indie companies. Surprising, I know. They can invest their money and effort to make it look better, but it seems like they didn’t. This criticism does not only apply to this game but also to previous entries. Sword and Shield looked like it copied its movements from X and Y. The characters in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl look like shiny toys.
Realistic landscapes do not constitute good visuals, but art does, which is where Pokémon Legends: Arceus is lacking. The ground has the same texture everywhere you go, and it looks like a bunch of compressed grass. The surface of the trees looks pixelated upon closeup. I think that with the proper textures, the graphics could be better.
I also understand that the Nintendo Switch is not really a beast in power and graphics. However, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, an older open-world game, looks better than what this game offers in terms of visuals.
Some fans believe that Game Freak does care about their games, but they do not have enough time. I can also agree on this, so I believe they should not rush releases out. I still value gameplay over graphics, so I still am having fun with this game. I just cannot comprehend how a multi-billion-dollar franchise can lack in this regard.
Story Review: A Time and Place for Lore-Building
This review will not cover major spoilers of the story but instead talk about the game’s overall plot. The story centers around you, the player, who has seemingly traveled back in ancient times where Pokémon were still feared instead of conquered with Poké Balls. At the start, you are floating in a vacuum as you talk face-to-face with Arceus, the mythical creator of everything.
Arceus sends you back in time to catch Pokémon in Hisui, which is Sinnoh’s former name. There, you fall from the sky and meet Professor Laventon, who becomes your ally and helps you join Jubilife Village. You will learn that catching Pokémon is still uncommon and dangerous at times, and you, as an experienced Pokémon trainer from the future, are given a job to do just that.
After the whole controversy of the Pokédex cut in Sword and Shield, I am happy about how Legends: Arceus handles the situation. Understandably, a lot has been cut out from the game since you have traveled back in time when newer ones may still not exist. Pokémon from other regions like Alola or Hoenn is not present because it is difficult to traverse in this historical era.
I also love the potential of lore-building in this game due to its setting. Since you are the one who is filling up the Pokédex, you are there to see the events unfold in front of you. For example, it is established early on in a mission how a Drifloon could take a child away, which is accurate in all of its Pokédex entries.
So far, the story is great without risking anything hazardous. Despite being a child-friendly game, there are a lot of implications that adults can not miss, and it makes the story even better. Essentially, the plot is one gigantic background story for the Sinnoh region, and I love it.
Interface Review: Comfy and Easy to Learn
As a player of Monster Hunter, my knowledge of the controls and interface transitioned smoothly in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. At the start, you might fumble a bit with how the buttons work, but thankfully the game introduces the controls bit by bit, making it easier to learn, especially for new players. Walking around, which is an essential part of the game, is very easy to understand.
I appreciate how they present vital information on the screen. For example, you can easily see which of your held items or Pokémon you currently hold at the screen’s right corner. It does not interfere with anything major and neatly presents the data. I also think that it is nice how the developers put which button to press to open certain stuff like your bag or Pokédex.
Crafting is so easy, largely thanks to the ability to craft in bulk (unlike a certain Animal Crossing game). Although I have to be honest, I sometimes click on R instead of ZR when navigating my satchel. I also sometimes flick the left stick instead of pressing A when navigating between tabs of a Pokémon’s Pokédex entry, but I know that I will soon learn to control it.
Pokémon battles still have the same actions, albeit mapped to different buttons. Pressing A to Fight and B to Run makes sense, but I sometimes get confused between the Items and Pokémon buttons. Pressing Up on the D-Pad opens up the Items, while Down opens up the Pokémon list. However, this is not much of a nuisance.
I also appreciate how you can see what each move does with great detail, especially when the game has new mechanics like fighting styles. I like how you can see the Action Order of the battle, much like how games with turn cycles work. Overall, I love the interface and how simple it is to learn. I can understand that new players may find this confusing and jarring, but it can be easy with enough practice.
Replay Value Review: It’s Full of Content
You can expect to invest a lot of hours into the game if you want to finish it. The main story is long enough, and even after it is done, there is still plenty to do. Remember, your task is to fill up the Pokédex, and there are a lot of Pokémon available in Hisui. Completing the Pokédex is not an easy feat either, as you need to do several things to complete even just one entry.
Note that this paragraph contains post-game spoilers, so if you wish to avoid it, you can skip to the next one. After the main story, missions are available for you that can let you catch several legendary Pokémon, such as Uxie, Giratina, Tornadus, and more. You can even catch Arceus when you have caught all of them.
In summary, there is a lot of content present in the game that gives you ample time to enjoy it. If you are a completionist like me, you will play the game a lot longer than usual. Completing the Pokédex is an arduous task, but it is incredibly fulfilling. Plus, if you somehow finish everything, including unlocking every clothes, you can shiny-hunt every single Pokémon or just start a new game.
Alternatives to Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Pokémon games are not everyone’s cup of tea, and I can respect that. If you have seen the hype for the game but are not sold on the idea, here are some other games that you can try out that have similar elements or gameplay:
- Monster Hunter Rise
- Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
- New Pokémon Snap
- Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee
- Super Mario Odyssey
Question: Will Pokémon Legends: Arceus be on PC?
Answer: Considering that it is a Nintendo IP, it is extremely unlikely to come to PC. Pokémon games have always been exclusive to their consoles. For example, Pokémon X and Y were exclusively in the 3DS, and Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire in Gameboy Advance.
Question: Is Pokémon Legends: Arceus multiplayer?
Answer: Yes, somewhat. You can interact with other game players indirectly, although you can only trade Pokémon with them. There is also an online feature called Lost and Found, wherein you can retrieve items for players who have fainted on a certain spot. There is no way to fight against other players, although everyone is hoping that a future update or a DLC would come.
Question: Is Pokémon Legends: Arceus part of Generation 9?
Answer: No, it is still part of Generation 8 alongside Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Also, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a main entry to the game, not a spinoff.
Question: Will Pokémon Legends: Arceus have DLC?
Answer: It is possible. Several leakers of the game on the internet revealed to the public that certain files and assets in the game are unused. Plus, it makes sense for Game Freak to make DLC for this game, considering how successful it became.
Pokemon Arceus Review: Final Verdict
Overall, I give this game an 8.5 out of 10. I was actually surprised by how much I had so much fun with it, considering how I view the latest Pokémon entries as mediocre. It is definitely a step in the right direction, as many have said. However, there are still missing elements that would have made it an absolutely astonishing game.
This is indeed a new way of catching Pokémon, but sometimes it can get tedious or repetitive. As for my progress right now, I am having fun discovering and capturing new Pokémon, but I can imagine how it would feel when I have seen them all. Also, the game can be pretty vicious and unforgiving at times, so I can see new players not enjoying this. Still, it does not hurt to try.
Obviously, one thing that brings the score down is the graphics. Again, a game does not need to achieve photo-realism to make it visually pleasing. Instead, a game needs great art and detailed textures, which Pokémon Legends: Arceus greatly lacks. The gameplay makes up for it, however.