Good Day Readers!
I’m writing today to give a game review (my first ever- please don’t hate me) of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Just to know a little bit of my gaming background, I have been a long time fan of both Pokémon and RPGs. My first ever Pokémon experience was with Pokémon Gold. Not Heart Gold, just Gold. I started out when Johto was first introduced, when Ash felt his defeat in Kanto, then set off for new “great adventures”. Yeah, I’m old… er. Anyway, I’ve played a lot of Pokémon through the years. I have also played red, blue, and yellow (I have been unable to get my hands on a copy of Green), I have played every other Pokémon game in the series including games like “Hey You, Pikachu” (N64), “Mystery Dungeon”, and “Snap”. Also, I am a long time collector of Pokémon cards. Lately, my gaming fixation has been on all things Nintendo Switch and I’d like to share my review of this newest addition to Pokémon. I have been awaiting this game’s release since it was first announced, even preordering two copies since I have no one close to trade with (hoping I can still trade and unsure of any online capabilities). I am, and have always been, one to buy every option of Pokémon game available to get the entirety of Pokémon available to each region. If you are considering Arceus, I hope this review helps you decide if this is a game worth the cost.
From the very start of Arceus, it delves into a long ago past even going so far as to use words like “thee,” “thou,” and “thyself.” The town and interior of buildings show older style Japanese furnishings and clothing. It pulls you into an intense story with the legendary Pokémon, Arceus, leading the way. Literally, Arceus pulls you into the story. Adding to the feel of being in a long ago past, the Pokédex even appears as an actual book, paper pages bound with rope. It was a pleasant surprise for me as I became more and more enamored with the feel of this world and setting. The beginning was unsettling and intense, dragging me immediately into the story and had me on the edge of my seat begging for more.
This time, there are not region specific beginner Pokémon to choose from. You are able to choose from Cyndaquil (fire), Rowlet (grass), and Oshawot (water). Your first introduction to these possible friends is from Pokémon Professor Laventon. These mischievous little monsters run off, which was when I first realized that this was no ordinary Pokémon game. It is from this point that the tutorial begins and you take off to first discover a phone. Yes, the first and only real piece of progressive technology you are given is a phone. Known simply as the Arc Phone, this is your gateway to everything to do with the map and managing missions or requests simply. This piece of tech also guides you to where you need to go for any mission or request you choose- quite a handy device.
From this point until its completion, the tutorial goes on. The tutorial, to someone who has been playing Pokémon and RPGs for the last 24 years, feels excessively tedious and like hand holding (much like how Pokémon is normally); however, Arceus takes you beyond simply catching Pokémon and locating buildings. This walks you step-by-step through nearly every game mechanic. It changes the format of the tutorial every so often, utilizing hint screens instead of long dialogue. Unfortunately, the dialogue is still there and, to me, felt excessive. Even the hint screens felt excessive. I would have happily walked off alone into this wilderness, even if it meant being beaten to death by these cuddly pocket monsters. Truth be told, that was a real possibility.
Once I was finally released to be able to take in the scenery, I was absolutely stunned by the graphics and this new world. The graphics were so stunning in the water, I found myself running through it for several minutes as I immersed myself into the atmosphere and quality of the game and graphics. I will admit, however, that there were moments where the shimmering water caused awkward straiations around my character that I worried on how this would affect further game play. Those of you who disliked Sword and Shield’s awkward tree appearances in the wild area will undoubtedly notice the awkwardness of how the trees and grass look, but I am happy to note that they do not simply vanish or reappear within your path as you run along your journey. They are smoothly and simply there, swaying in the breeze. The most annoying aspect of the graphics is the awkward shimmering that appears around some trees, plants, rocks, or even your character. I also found moments where the trees and grass flashed on screen, clearly the glitch many expected. Though these shimmering and flashing moments are gone rather quickly and happen infrequently, I felt it diminished some of the immersive feelings I had as I progressed through the game.
Game Freak (Pokémon’s developer) clearly wanted players to get a sense that this is truly a completely different world to Pokémon. From the very beginning, the NPCs give constant reminders that this is not the typical Pokémon world. From the newest (or oldest?) Pokémon Professor, Laventon, to the villagers, there are constant reminders that people in this world are afraid of Pokémon and these are not the cute and cuddly friends we are accustomed to. Glowing red eyed Alpha Pokémon roam amongst the vast land, giving an eerie and mildly terrifying feel as you navigate the land trying to “catch ’em all.” Arceus gives a challenge to those who are familiar with RPGs in a way that the previous games could not deliver. Also, just a bit of a heads-up, if you are considering allowing young children to play or watch you play, there are moments where the game seems dark and foreboding which I found my 5 year old (who does not scare easily) had moments of hesitation as he watched me progress in the game. Neither of us were expecting the beginning Pokémon to lash out and attack the main character, but they did. It added a level of excitement I haven’t felt for quite some time to the Pokémon battles, causing me to be far more cautious and sneek around far more than I ever have before.
There are numerous new world gameplay mechanics that surprised and delighted me as I continued to explore for items and see what was available in shops. I discovered a field where you can request to have crops grown. I discovered that Pokémon are kept in pastures, not computers. You are able to access your Pokémon storage (so to speak) by visiting with select individuals throughout the game. It also appears that Jubilife, the main town you are working at, is continually being built further, alluding to additional game play in the future. Catching Pokémon is a challenge as the game progresses. I constantly found myself running away rather than the Pokémon I was attempting to catch running from me. These were new features that kept me coming back for more.
The mechanics of battles have also changed quite a bit and took some getting used to. There are far more options available than I have seen before. From different battle styles to choose from, to leveling up your Pokémon moves, to being able to simply toss any of your 6 team members at the opposing Pokémon. I also found myself struggling in the beginning to figure out how to utilize items within a battle. Also, it turns out, tossing your Pokémon at another Pokémon begins a wild Pokémon battle. I often found that my Pokémon were hidden behind trees or rocks to where I was unable to view the entire battle scene. This gave a more realistic feel that I was not expecting. Though the battles are turn based, they are not typically turn based as in the previous games. I often found my Pokémon or the opposing Pokémon not using a move immediately after the other. Certain types of moves did not work in exactly the same way as they had in the past. I found myself trying every type of move available to see what new and improved effects they produced. With all of the new additions to battles, there is always a great amount of work to do, changing a battle each and every time.
The mechanics of leveling up and training Pokémon has also changed drastically. Each and every Pokémon has a set list of moves to which you are able to unlock or change any time between battles. Leveling up moves and statistics of Pokémon happens while battling and there is a select NPC that can also help. Catching Alpha Pokémon gives you stronger Pokémon that know moves others of their kind do not know. Evolving Pokémon is by choice- removing the need for everstones, though there are other stones to assist in evolution still. Overall, I felt the new aspects of leveling up, training, and evolving Pokémon created a more challenging and rewarding experience.
The largest and most inviting game mechanic that has been added is a series of missions and requests. Missions are given from a military-like group known as the Galaxy Expedition Team (aka Galaxy Team). This was a bit of a shock to this player, considering everything from their logo to their name appears to be like the Team Galaxy (a Team Rocket like group, or the antagonists) from Diamond and Pearl. The only part I disliked from the missions and requests was the fast travel to your main base out in the field. Travelling to different areas is less open world than I would have preferred. There is a fast travel mechanism which automatically transports you to the area, or field, that you select rather than allowing you to simply walk into the vast wilderness from the town. I have been too used to simply walking out of a town into a field or area to catch Pokémon so this felt clunky and out of place. Even still, there is so much to do for every mission or request, that the fast travel was quickly erased from memory as I set off to explore. The, for lack of a better term, wild area feels very open world. You are able to climb up to most high up areas, jumping down from cliffs can injure your character, and there is always something to find around every corner. In additon to missions and requests, each individual Pokémon has a set of research tasks for you to complete, found in the Pokédex. I found myself running through the pages of this Pokédex far more than I ever needed to in the past.
I am also happy to report that there is still a trading mechanism, though diluted from past games. It seems as though the step forward that Game Freak made with Sword and Shield’s wild area and DLC was put on a back burner for this game. Players are still able to trade via the internet, but I have yet to discover anything further in the realm of multiplayer online options, like battles or even exploration (as Sword and Shield presented us). Still, with so much more to do in Arceus, I did not find that this diminished the quality of the game play.
Overall, there is so much more to explore and do within this new world, Hisui. I am honestly finding it exceptionally hard to stop playing to write this article. Game Freak has finally taken Pokémon into this century by taking us into the past. Anyone need a sword and shield for protection? Yes, pun intended. It is a beautifully written and well developed game. I would give this game a 9 out of 10 stars, only lessened due to the graphics glitches and the almost painful tutorial. In retrospect, I would guess that the tutorial is for young children new to the series, because this is anything but a typical Pokémon game. Without knowing how Pokémon works in general, I can see how the tutorial would be severely needed.
I hope those of you who choose to play this game enjoy it as much as I do.
Take care and have fun,