REVIEW: ‘Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ Shakes Up The Pokémon Foundation (Switch)

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Pokemon Legends Arceus - But Why Tho

Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes a look at the future of the Pokémon franchise by returning to the past. Several core aspects of the Pokémon franchise that fans have come to expect have been turned on their head, for better or for worse.

Developed by Game Freak, the game explores the history of the Sinnoh region originally seen in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. The region is referred to as Hisui in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and has yet to be completely settled by humans. There are no gym leaders to beat, there aren’t even trainers to encounter in the wild. Instead, the player is tasked with researching the Pokémon in the region and completing research tasks to help uncover the secrets of what will one day be known as the Sinnoh region.

In comparison to previous Pokémon games, Pokémon Legends: Arceus has a very primitive feel to it. The change to an open-world seems especially primitive, with little variety or things to impress located throughout the world. Each of the areas feel incredibly similar, which was disappointing. I didn’t experience as many issues with textures popping in as others seem to have, but it was still incredibly distracting when it happened. Controversy over the visual style of Pokémon games is nothing new, but I was sad to be so disappointing by Pokémon Legends: Arceus after the initial awe wore off. The open-world is nice, but it can get old very quickly.

I keep using the worse primitive because Pokémon Legends: Arceus is designed to feel that way, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, many of the story beats and systems in the game are either completely revamped or just removed entirely, but it works really well. The new mechanics for catching Pokémon, the ability to catch many without even entering a battle, is a welcomed change to the previous method. Even when catching a Pokémon does require battling, the battling system itself has been retooled and it feels incredibly fresh.

The addition of Agile and Strong attacks help break up the typical back and forth feel of a battle, which becomes really important when facing the tough Pokémon in the wild. There is more of a focus on strategy and real-time thinking in catching Pokémon in the games, which I hope they expand on more in future games.

The thing I appreciated most about the changes to gameplay is  that the game felt very difficult, despite the watering down of mechanics. I struggled with some of the more challenging research goals, especially against more powerful Pokémon. Pokémon Legends: Arceus feels less welcoming to new or younger players, but the challenge isn’t insurmountable. While some of the tasks came real close to feeling stale, the variety helped keep it fresh for the most part.

While the majority of changes feel good, they don’t always seem 100% fleshed out. The analogy that comes to mind is Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Origins, like Pokémon Legends: Arceus, uprooted the foundation of the franchise in really drastic ways. Both games also felt like works in progress, with the full vision of Origins not being seen until Odyssey was able to work out the kinks. Pokémon Legends: Arceus introduces plenty of things that feel like cut and paste JRPG. There is crafting, there are side quests, there are tedious collect-a-thons. All things the average JRPG has, but Pokémon has mostly avoided in the past.

While the changes feel refreshing in the world of Pokémon, they don’t do anything that hasn’t been done before or do anything better than another franchise may have. The upside here is that there is the potential for a future game similar to Pokémon Legends: Arceus to improve on these new ideas and craft a truly incredible game.

That isn’t to say that Pokémon Legends: Arceus is bad, however. While not every change works as well as it could, there is a clear direction here for more Pokémon games in the future that build on what Pokémon Legends: Arceus presents. The new mechanics are neat and interesting but could use some expansion and more options. The world, while impressive since Pokémon has not been truly open world like this before, could use more variety in a future iteration. Long-time fans of the Pokémon franchise should be very excited about the future of the Pokémon games, even if not everything in Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a home run. Despite the flaws, I really enjoyed my time and can’t wait to see what comes next!

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is out now on Nintendo Switch.


Pokémon Legends: Arceus
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Long-time fans of the Pokémon franchise should be very excited about the future of the Pokémon games, even if not everything in Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a home run. Despite the flaws, I really enjoyed my time and can’t wait to see what comes next!

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