Review: ‘Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ brings Pokémon back into the spotlight

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Gaming:
Ryan Galloway

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On February 1, 2022
Last modified:February 1, 2022

Summary:

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the most daring title for the franchise in a long time. With its wide-open zones full of creatures to encounter, as well as an engaging story, this could be the game that reinvigorates your love for the series.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus

The Pokémon franchise has been a mainstay for gamers for more than 20 years. In this time, Nintendo and Game Freak have maintained a consistently high-quality product by sticking to a tried and tested formula. 2022 has become the year that things change, however, with the mainline Pokémon series getting its first drastic rework in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.

With no new generational release planned for this year, and coming hot off the heels of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl remakes, Legends: Arceus endeavors to take fans into the ancient Hisui region that would eventually come to be known as Sinnoh. Along with a change of scenery, the gameplay has received a huge switch up that ultimately pays off as the most Pokémon-centric game to date.

In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, your usual grind of earning Gym badges and taking out trainers as you travel the lands is gone, having been replaced with a star progress system that has players capturing, battling, and evolving Pokémon to log their data into a Pokédex.

There are still trainer battles that you’ll encounter during your adventures in Hisui — however, they’re all tied to the game’s story and are few and far between. This leaves the spotlight on Legends: Arceus’ best feature: its wide-open lands populated with wild Pokémon. Whether it’s land, sea, or sky, there are Pokémon everywhere, and it’s your job to catch them.

While you head out on your own and encounter new Pokémon, you’ll come across plenty of research missions that’ll net you some sweet rewards from the people of Hisui as you check them off your list. These missions are served alongside the game’s main story, which should take around 25 hours to complete with casual play.

With the focus on Pokémon, Legends: Arceus excels in bringing the game’s story to the forefront in a way that no previous mainline Pokémon game has been able to do before. As you’re thrust into this foreign, but familiar land, you’ll immediately begin to form connections with its locals and ultimately uncover its secrets.

Some of the cinematics that appear alongside Legends: Arceus’ story are visually stunning and do an impressive job at keeping you engaged, however, sadly most are just still text conversations. Even when the first credits roll and the main story is complete, you’ll have heaps of content to continue with, including a secret story boss fight, and a different secret ending that players can reach. Not to mention the string of Legendary and Mythical Pokémon that become available to encounter once the main story is over.

A key part of the story is the introduction of Noble Pokémon who have been frenzied and will require the player to test their own skills with limited help of Pokémon.

These frenzied Noble Pokémon are new to the franchise, and their inclusion helps make Legends: Arceus one of the most difficult Pokémon games in years. You’ll need to dodge out of the way as they hurl attacks towards you, while at the same time throwing balms back their way. Once you’ve done enough damage, you can potentially send one of your own Pokémon into battle to help, otherwise, you’ll need to tackle it solo until the fight is won.

The Pokémon battling system has also been shaken up with the addition of Strong and Agile attacks. Now, the battle structure won’t always consist of alternating turns — players could be attacked as they send a Pokémon into battle, or twice in a row, depending on how things play out. With the last decade seeing Pokémon games get easier, it’s refreshing to see a new take on the formula, with new mechanics spicing things up for longtime fans of the franchise.

Visually, the game is by no stretch poor, however, they are its weakest part. With an emphasis on the wild world of Pokémon, some areas feel empty and others lack the amount and variety of wildlife that you’d expect. During your playtime, you’ll likely notice some models and textures that don’t look nearly as polished as other games from the past couple of years, even taking into account the Switch’s limited power.

With these caveats, the game does a wonderful job at capturing the terrain and changing skies we’d expect from the Pokémon universe. Be it the shifting weather or the day-night cycle, you’ll feel like you’re in a very real, living breathing world while you explore, and these environmental changes affect what Pokémon species you can bump into.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the first game in the franchise to take that bold step into the unknown, and with its many successes and limited shortcomings, it could pave the way for the future of the franchise. The way it captures the Pokémon universe’s story and atmosphere is something that just hasn’t been possible within the confines of other mainline titles in the series. Perhaps we could see the two styles meet in the middle, with the wild open lands populated with more trainers, gyms, and more traditional gameplay mechanics.

Sure, it could use a little more polish on the visual side of things, but I can’t recall a single time during my playthrough where I wasn’t enjoying being in this world. If you’ve grown tired of the Pokémon experience with previous games, then Legends: Arceus is the perfect way to kick the slump and reinvigorate your joy for this iconic franchise once again.

This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Nintendo.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Great

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the most daring title for the franchise in a long time. With its wide-open zones full of creatures to encounter, as well as an engaging story, this could be the game that reinvigorates your love for the series.