Introducing: Pokemon Legends Arceus Review
Perhaps this review is coming a little later than is typically expected for a big release like this. Heck, since we all started playing the game, an update has come out and a whole new Pokémon game has been announced! However, we wanted to take our sweet time with this game. After all, it’s meant to be slowly explored and figured out, not rushed through to the end! So, after we’ve spent days upon days slowly travelling across this strange new region, here’s our research report to you.
A Dive into the Past
Pokémon Legends Arceus starts with you floating in a nondescript void being spoken to by a being of light. The next thing you know, you’ve been dropped into the distant past as a modern person, indicated by your clothing when you get there and the way that you have a transformed cell phone to help you out. You’ve got to eat, though, so you take up with the local survey corps for your job until you can figure out just how to get back home again. In the meantime, there are some rampaging guardian pokémon to deal with and plenty of side stories to explore that help build up the town you are based out of and help people come to a better understanding of pokémon, as most in this era fear the cute little guys.
The story is a little on the repetitive side with meeting some wardens from the local clans and getting their assistance to deal with a rampaging pokémon five times in a row, but there are little shake ups here and there that help keep things a bit interesting. It helps that most of the characters have at least something that’s memorable about them, even if some are distinctly more interesting than others. Most of your time is going to be spent exploring, though, so you’re able to make up some stories of your own based on your exploration. There’s also a fairly expansive post game story that wraps everything up and gives some closure to proceedings. The biggest benefit is that it is different from the norm, which is exciting for the Pokémon series in and of itself.
Gameplay does have the turn based battles that the series is known for, but there are some big changes. Things have been pared down in complexity somewhat, with the removal of abilities and held items as battling is not the main focus here and there isn’t even online battling or breeding to curate the perfect pokémon. However, in place of those, we have been given a system of being able to use a move in two different styles, strong and agile.
A move used in the strong style will be more powerful than usual, but will be slower and can effect the turn order by giving the opponent an extra opportunity for attacking, while an agile move will function in the exact opposite way, lower power for the chance to attack more than once in a row. It’s an interesting turn on the system, but I wish the speed stat were more visible than just a turn order on the side as there were some times that I felt the agile move was never getting the chance to go first.
However, I don’t feel like this is that big of a problem as this game is not at all focused on the battles and, at times, you can go hours without getting into one. There are not any wandering trainers in the overworld like most games in the series. You can battle wild pokémon, but those can be avoided if you so desire and any battles you are forced into are part of the story. I can put up with things being toned down for the sake of other mechanics, is really what I’m trying to say. Besides, the fact that transitions in and out of battle are practically seamless is a beauty to behold.
Or a More Passive Approach
When you’re not battling, you’re going to be out exploring the world. It’s not a full open world by any means, but there are several large open areas that you can walk around in to either hunt or observe pokémon for the sake of the pokédex. The new mechanics that allow you to merely sneak up on a pokémon and throw the ball without having to even engage in a real battle are a lot more fun than a concept as simple as that might sound. There is little that is more satisfying than seeing a pack of a certain pokémon and managing to pick them off one by one without alerting the group. That could just be my love of stealth mechanics speaking, though.
The pokédex has been very changed as a result of this adjustment. No longer is just catching a single pokémon enough to fill out the page. Now there are tasks associated with each. The most common is to catch a certain number or evolve a certain number of the pokémon in question, but there are also cases where it will ask that you see one perform a certain move, either by your pokémon or a wild one. Certain pokémon even have special tasks that apply only to them, which really accentuate what makes them stand out from all the others in the game. You don’t need to do every single task, just mix and match a certain amount to get to a total of ten points, which will finish the page out, but there are bonuses to be gained if you are determined enough to complete every single one.
Pokémon Legends Arceus can be either a dream or a nightmare depending on just how interested you are in getting into the weeds of completion. Personally, I tried out going hard into the full completion path and found that it likely wasn’t for me. I was going to just get the ten points that I needed and that would be enough to satisfy me. However, if you’re someone with addicted or obsessive tendencies for completionism, this one might be a little rough on you and you should prepare for that in advance.
Alright, I’m not going to lie, how the game looks was one of the big points of contention when this game dropped and it’s been talked to death at this point. They went for a more Japanese watercolor inspired style for the game. The problem is they didn’t go as far into it as something like Okami did. Because of this, you can’t always tell that’s what they’re going for. It’s not the worst looking thing in the world. At worst, it’s a muddy texture or two and some pokémon moving at a low framerate when they’re in the distance so that the Switch doesn’t burst into flames. Sometimes that is noticeable, but most of the time it’s not that big of a deal. This is something where your mileage may vary, but for my money, it didn’t bother me.
There’s not a whole lot of music going on here. Just like Breath of the Wild, it’s mostly ambient noise and pokémon sounds. I personally would have liked a little music to fill some of the silence, but when you’re grinding out those research tasks, it is easy to just turn on whatever you would like to listen to instead.
A Little Slip
I never experienced any bugs while I was playing through the game. Everything ran fairly smoothly no matter where I was playing the game. However, I did see a little stutter in the framerate once or twice. This was not unlike the light ones that sometimes crop up in Breath of the Wild. It wasn’t egregious and didn’t personally bother me, but it did happen, so it’s worth mentioning.
Continuing to Explore
Overall, Pokémon Legends Arceus has been an interesting experiment in terms of what can be done with the world that the game series has established. However, I think that it is unlikely that we will see most of what this game explored carry over into the next titles aside from maybe the smooth battle transitions. That being said, it’s alright that this game was something all it’s own. I am looking forward to the next chance that the team over at Game Freak are given to experiment a little more with the more formulaic elements of their biggest game series.
- A refreshing take on the Pokémon formula
- Plenty to explore and do
- Still fun to be had after the main story
- Removal of emphasis on battles if you’re not interested in them
- We wish we could actually see the stats that determine turn order better
- May not be very inviting to someone who doesn’t know much about Pokémon
- Main story feels ever so slightly repetitive
Second Opinions from the rest of the team!
- “Pokemon Legends Arceus is a breath of fresh air to a long stagnated series. Nothing kept me more focused than the survey tasks to complete and the sheer joy of exploring the different biomes that the Hisui Region had to offer. Now if you excuse me, I have a God to go shove into a tiny ball.” -Greg