Pokemon Legends: Arceus Review - An Evolution For The Franchise
A whole new type of Pokemon game to experience!
Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Nintendo, The Pokemon Company
Review copy provided by the publisher
The Pokemon series has branched out over the years with a number of spin-off titles, but Pokemon Legends: Arceus is something different entirely and perhaps gives a glimpse at the future of the game franchise as a whole.
Pokemon just entered the eighth generation a few years ago with the release of Pokemon Sword and Shield, which was followed by a return to the Sinnoh region with the Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remakes.
While fans are awaiting the eventual ninth generation in the next few years, Game Freak is perhaps giving a preview with the familiar yet still distinctive Pokemon Legends: Arceus.
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The mainline Pokemon entries have evolved in various ways, including Pokemon Sword and Shield’s introduction of an open world with the Wild Area for the first time. Even so, there have been many people that have complained about the level of sameness and lack of innovation in a lot of ways.
Even though Pokemon Legends: Arceus isn’t introducing a new generation or anything, there is no question that the game features some of the biggest changes in the series, starting with its setting.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus takes place in the Hisui region, which is actually a past version of Sinnoh from the Diamond and Pearl games. This is very interesting, as we haven’t previously seen past versions of existing regions like this and the story itself fleshes out the lore of that region too.
The Hisui region does look quite good throughout too, with nice use of colors and such that you come to expect from the Pokemon franchise. Having full control of the behind the back camera allows you to really see the beauty of the game, though it is still somewhat limited by the Nintendo Switch due to its overall scope.
Each mainline Pokemon game offers players three new starters to choose from for that specific region, which would have made you think they would go with the three Sinnoh starters considering Hisui is a past version of it. However, Pokemon Legends: Arceus makes a major change by picking three starters from across multiple generations and letting you pick between them with Cyndaquil, Oshawott, and Rowlet.
On top of that, Hisui also features regional specific forms for certain Pokemon or their evolutions. Pokemon like Growlithe and Arcanine have specific Hisuian forms for both stages, while the three starters only get a Hisuian form for their final stage of evolution. In addition, there are also a few unique evolutions that are brand new to this game, including the new Bug/Rock evolution of Scyther named Kleavor and the new Water/Ghost evolution for Basculin named Basculegion.
Catching Pokemon has been pretty standard over the years, with you going into battle, weakening the opposing wild Pokemon, and then throwing a Poke Ball and hoping it stays in the ball. While this game may maintain the basic catch mechanics at its core, there are some key differences that set it apart from previous entries in Pokemon Legends: Arceus.
The game features a semi-open world design that is separated into a few locations that you can travel between, each of which can be explored individually and feature varying Pokemon that will be just walking around. You can choose to try and sneak up on these Pokemon and just throw a Poke Ball at them in the hopes that it will catch them, but that is often not all that successful, especially if they are a higher level Pokemon.
If you are having trouble catching a Pokemon outright, you will need to battle head-to-head to weaken it and make it more ready for catching. This is done by simply throwing your Pokemon at the opponent, with you even being able to sometimes catch them off guard. From there, an entirely new battle screen shows up on part of the screen, though it features the familiar options of Fight, Pokemon, Items, and Run.
Another unique twist in this game is that while Pokemon is still limited to four moves at one time, they have access to all of the ones that they have previously learned too.
From there, the combat system is fairly similar to what you would expect from any other Pokemon game, where you pick between one of four attacks to use. There are a few key differences here though from the usual game that can play a big factor. First of all is the Action Order, which is not always as simple as the classic turn-based back and forth approach. The majority of the time you and the opponent will be trading turns attacking, but certain fast Pokemon and moves can sometimes attack twice in a row based on your Pokemon’s own speed too.
This Action Order can also be altered by switching up your attacks to what are known as Strong Style or Agile Style. Strong Style attacks will deal more damage, but also leave you more vulnerable to extra attacks. Agile Style on the other hand will up your Pokemon’s speed at the expense of lowering its attack. You can really play through the entire game without even using these if you do not want, but they are a unique mechanic that can be very useful if you utilize them in the right way.
Another unique twist in this game is that while Pokemon is still limited to four moves at one time, they have access to all of the ones that they have previously learned too. This allows you to swap them out at will within the menu, which is a great feature to allow you to try out different move sets and such for Pokemon.
Catching and defeating wild Pokemon is also more important than ever in Pokemon Legends: Arceus too. With this game being set further back in time, the newly introduced Professor Laventon tasks you with finding all sorts of information out about the Pokemon in the Hisui region.
Just catching a Pokemon is not enough, but rather you are asked to complete research tasks for each Pokemon, which require you to do things such as catch or defeat a certain number, see a Pokemon use a certain move a set number of times, and many more depending on the respective Pokemon. This adds a lot more to the overall Pokedex filling experience and greatly increases the replayability factor for this entry in the series.
Completing various research tasks and turning them into the Professor will also reward you with Research Points, which will level up your star ranking over time. This will allow you to have higher level Pokemon listen to you, which continues to be crucial as you play through the game.
With Hisui being based on the Japanese feudal era, technology is much less advanced than in the previous games and that comes into play with series staples like Poke Balls that now can be built through a crafting system.
There have always been items to collect in the Pokemon series, but they have never been as important as in Pokemon: Legends Arceus. As you scour the various locales in Hisui, you will come across an abundance of materials like Apricorns and more that you can use to create usable items.
Finding these craftable materials can be done in a few ways, including some like Medicinal Leeks found right on the ground and others like various types of Berries that require you to throw one of your Pokemon at a tree to obtain. In addition, you can also get items through battle too, with certain item drops coming exclusively that way.
While you are still able to purchase items such as Poke Balls and Potions that you may need, crafting is a very useful addition that can be done both in the home Jubilife Village and on the go with your Crafting Kit.
The prototypical Pokemon game setup is going through a region and beating eight gym leaders before eventually getting to take on the Elite Four and Champion, though Sun and Moon did previously make some changes there. Pokemon Legends: Arceus moves away from this even more than that though, as there is really not even a substitute for them.
In fact, combat with trainers as a whole is pretty minimal in the game. You will get challenges to battles at times with certain trainers, but they are almost always story-based and are very easy to defeat. It would have been nice to have had more random trainers out in the wild as you see in the other games, but hopefully, that is something that could be included in a sequel to this style of Pokemon game.
With no gyms leaders or Elite Four to defeat, Pokemon Legends: Arceus instead focuses on the building of your Pokedex and stopping what is known as Frenzied Nobles around the region. These Frenzied Nobles are essentially boss battles where you do not get to fight the enraged Pokemon in the usual way, rather having to calm them down with special Balms first instead.
One area that continues to be a letdown for Pokemon, in general, is that of voice acting, which stood out even more in Pokemon Legends: Arceus.
These battles against the Frenzied Noble Pokemon do certainly get more difficult as the game goes on, with you having to learn their patterns and work to calm them down. Finding the right window to throw out your Pokemon to help and then switching back to throwing Balms is key as well. The only disappointing aspect is that you do not get to catch the respective Nobles after defeating each of them, which made each confrontation feel a bit anti-climatic. You are able to catch these types elsewhere though, so that takes some of the sting out of it.
One area that continues to be a letdown for Pokemon, in general, is that of voice acting, which stood out even more in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. The early part of the game especially is very dialogue and exposition-heavy, which could have definitely been improved upon by adding in voice acting.
The Pokemon series has rarely been known for taking major risks over the years, but Pokemon Legends: Arceus definitely goes against that trend and gives us one of the most exciting games in the franchise. While there are definitely some areas where there could be improvements, such as more trainer battles, Pokemon Legends: Arceus is hopefully a very exciting look at what we can expect to see more of from Pokemon in the future.