It’s been years since I have played any of the main Pokemon games, the last time I would say I was a fan there were 251 of the critters, since then I’ve dabbled here and there but aside from Pokemon Conquest none have really held my interest, will this new direction in Legends Arceus achieve that long-forgotten goal? Read on to find out.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus amusingly starts off more in line with Shin Megami Tensei in that you seem to be having a conversation with a god, don’t worry though it isn’t long until the Pokemon professor comes into play, just after an amnesia riddled walk to show you’re not in Kanto anymore.
You seem to have come to this world from the future, you’re clothes are modern and this feels more like a Feudal Japan situation, humans and Pokemon don’t quite live hand in hand and the land isn’t littered with cities and Pokemon gyms to get badges from, this ain’t your Mommas ‘Mon.
The region this game is set in is the Sinnoh region but currently known as Hisui, not a region I am familiar with but the Feudal look really appealed to me, and with the different style of opening I was more than ready to “be the very best”.
You’re given the chance to choose a “Starter” Pokemon out of the usual Grass, Fire, and Water types, I went with Rowlette which is a Flying/Grass-type. You’ll soon learn after, that the flow of this game is radically different than that of previous Pokemon games.
You venture out into the world which is actually more Open World than in previous titles I have played, very similar to Monster Hunter where there are giant open areas. You come to find out that this game wants you to hide in bushes, throw PokeBalls to capture Pokemon from the get-go and that the titular monsters, can and will inflict damage on you if you anger them.
As you’ll be spending a lot of time in the field this game has gone all-in on survival and has you picking up components to craft with, you’ll be creating everything from Potions to PokeBalls from the various berries, flowers, bits of wood, and various rocks you can collect or send your Pokemon to collect.
There is a heavy focus on exploration and discovery within this title and as such several iconic systems have had a little bit of a rehaul.
First off catching Pokemon can be as simple as just throwing a PokeBall, maybe tossing a fruit beforehand to distract them but you do not have to engage them in combat all the time which creates a brilliant flow and will have you chasing Pokemon around the map none stop.
Secondly the PokeDex is handled in a much different way, now it just won’t cut it seeing and capturing the ‘Mon, there is a list of objectives to complete to fill out the Pokemon’s entry into the Dex, these can range from how many times you have seen them use a move, captured X amount of them or even how many times you have fed them!. Once you fill up the bar under the entry with 10 points it completes the entry and leaves you usually with a mountain of the same Pokemon!.
Thirdly the above ties into your progression essentially replacing Gym Leaders from what I understand, you get points for your adventures and what you do on them such as filling out PokeDex entries, filling this particular meter, and you are given a star which allows you to earn more points in future AND control Pokemon of a higher level.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a general quest path to follow, there is quite an engaging story surrounding the lands Clans on the cusp of war, the giant portal over a mountain that you came through, and why Pokemon seem extra hostile towards humans since it appeared. It is a little more story-focused than I remember Pokemon but I generally enjoyed the change of pace.
The game is riddled with Quality of life improvements too since I last played the series, now Evolution is done via a menu rather than having to cancel it every time your ‘Mon levelled up, moves are also handled the same way now and allow you even more freedom to customize your moveset.
Battling has also seen a bit of a tweak, no longer is it set in a separate plain but instead right where you’re standing in the world, you can move your character around for a better view while you select your Pokemon’s attack from a menu like the older games.
New to this game are the Speed and Strong styles, one allows for multiple weaker attacks and the other is a devastating blow but leaves you open for a few turns after it.
Finally the inclusions of Alpha Pokemon and boss battles with rage induced ‘Mon also flipped the formula for me, dodging and throwing balms at them before a brief battle then repeat really brought in a sense of tension I haven’t experienced with the series yet!.
Graphically the game isn’t going to win any awards as the plethora of memes shows but the game does manage to look great at times, especially on the OLED screen where most of my time was spent.
I’m a strong supporter that a great art direction can trump cutting edge graphics and the whimsical land and Pokemon displayed do a great job in providing you with adventure and nostalgia induced wonder.
While the lack of online battles is a shame it’s still a fantastic time, even if it feels like a spin off title more than an “evolution” of the series. I can imagine hardcore fans of the main games may not quite enjoy the title as much as i have but I personally would love to see more done in this style.
A bold new step for a long worn franchise.
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