Wednesday, February 9

Pokémon Legends: Arceus Review

I played on: Switch
I paid: £49.99 (GAME)
Available on: Switch
Notes: N/A

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the biggest mix-up the Pokémon series has had since it started in 1996! Does this brave new direction pay off or are we left wishing for what used to be?

We begin with an introduction to the world of Pokémon by the creator of the universe itself, Arceus. After this, we’re dropped into the distant past of the Sinnoh region. The region isn’t known as Sinnoh at this point in history, instead, it’s called Hisui. The region is inhabited by 3 major factions. The Pearl clan. This tribe believes the ancient Pokémon, Sinnoh, that they worship rules over Space. Then you have the opposing, Diamond clan, that believes Sinnoh rules over Time. New to the Hisui region are the Galaxy Expedition Team. It’s this Galaxy Team that finds you after you fall through a rift in Space-Time during the opening of the game. The majority of these people fear Pokémon. This is rather different from what we’re used to in the series. Most of the time people and Pokémon coexist, helping each other out where possible. Trainers from ages 11 onwards set out with their team of Pokémon in order to become professional trainers. We learn that things are very different back during this period. Guards secure the entrances to the village, watching out for any dangerous Pokémon. Parents warn their children about the dangers of playing with Pokémon. Professor Laventon of Team Galaxy explains that they’re attempting to study and catalog every Pokémon in the region in the first-ever Pokédex. Since you’re from the future, you don’t fear Pokémon in the same way that most other people do. This makes you the ideal candidate to help with this research and so you join up with the Galaxy Team.

Unlike past Pokémon games, there are no Gyms to visit, Badges to collect, or Elite 4 to beat. You don’t even have a villainous gang of criminals to conquer. The game’s main plot is based around the Space-Time rift you came through. It’s been driving local Pokémon into frenzies. These have put both people and other Pokémon in danger. It’s up to you to work together with the Pearl and Diamond clans as well as the Galaxy Team to quell these Pokémon. I don’t want to say too much in fear of spoiling the late-game events. One thing is for sure, this has to be the best-told story in the entire history of the series. I particularly love how it connects with Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum. Outside of this investigation you will be helping out locals and studying Pokémon. Each Pokémon in the Pokédex has tasks that you have to do in order to raise the entry’s research level. These are simple things like “catch X amount” or “see it use x move x number of times” and so on. You don’t need to complete all of these which means you’re free to fill out the Pokédex however you wish. I love this more involved method of completing the Pokédex. Unlike older games, this really feels like you’re studying these creatures.

This is all made possible with the new semi-open world. Hisui is divided into 6 zones. Jublife Village, the first of these zones you encounter, acts as your hometown that you return to between excursions. It’s here that you’re able to accept new missions, switch out or train your Pokémon and shop for crafting materials, clothing, and new haircuts. After leaving town you’re brought into one of 5 wide-open areas filled with Pokémon, materials, and plenty of hidden secrets to find.

The Pokémon are what steal the show. For the first time in the series, they behave like real animals instead of just random events. Some Pokémon will be afraid of you and will try to run, fly or swim away if they see you. Others, like the lovable Magikarp, are more curious than scared of you. They will naturally gather around to see what you’re up to. Then you have the outright aggressive ones. These beasts will attack you on sight. This is where the new dodge roll mechanic comes into play. You can either try to run away, dodging any attacks while you do so, or send out your own Pokémon to fight back. Ever since Red and Blue we’ve been told about the dangers wild Pokémon pose to those traveling alone. Now we’re finally able to see this for ourselves. 

The Pokémon battles are where Arceus feels most familiar when compared to older titles. It's the same maximum team size of 6 with each Pokémon only able to have 4 moves available at a time. The skill comes in the ‘type system’ that works similar to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. If you’ve played the older games, then the minute-to-minute battle gameplay will feel very comfortable. What’s changed is the way rounds work. Certain moves such as the aptly named ‘quick attack’ will allow you to get off more than 1 action per turn. You also have the ability to master moves which will then let you use that move in either a ‘strong’ or ‘agile’ style. Strong attacks will take more time but will hit much harder. Agile attacks on the other hand will pack less of a punch but will allow you to act more than once during the round. This is a simple system that adds an extra layer of depth. Moves are also not forgotten anymore. If you learn a move, either via leveling up or by the new trainer in town, then you can equip or unequip it at any time outside of combat. This is a much better system that allows you to play around with moves more. You never have to worry about accidentally forgetting an important one. The combat feels familiar, keeping everything that made it great but just polishing it up.

The only thing that doesn’t hold up with Pokémon Arceus is the graphics. There are a lot of blurry, low-res textures around the environment and character models. Then you have the draw distance which has trees, rocks and other parts of the environment just disappear as they reach the middle distance. This is most obvious when you get your flying mount towards the latter end of the main story. None of this is to say I think this game looks bad, because I don’t. I actually love how this game looks. But that’s because of the art design, not the graphics. Arceus feels like it’s pushing the Switch right to its limits. This is strange because on a technical level it feels much less ambitious than ‘The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild’. Both games have a similar, watercolor, anime- esque style to them but Breath of the Wild has no obvious draw distance or low-quality texture issues.

All in all, Pokémon Legends Arceus is the Pokémon game I’ve wanted ever since I first watched the anime as a kid. The gameplay is amazing. Exploring these open spaces and studying the local wild Pokémon is so much fun! The battling system has been polished to a mirror shine. The story is well written and adds a lot to the existing lore and world of the series. The art design is strong enough to shine through the rather lacking graphics. Overall, this may just be one of my favorite games of all time. If you’ve played a previous Pokémon game and enjoyed it, then this will blow you away. Put simply, you need to play this!

Recommendation Rating: 10 out of 10

1 comment:

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