If you are an old fart like me, you have probably been playing Pokémon for a couple of decades and have been craving change.
Unfortunately Pokémon has tended to do change excruciatingly slowly. This is understandable because there is a core mechanic to Pokémon that works, and sells, very well. Well Pokémon Legends: Arceus has taken a swing at being the Pokémon game we have all been craving.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus kicks off with your protagonist landing in a strange land. She has dropped through some strange portal where the people she meets seem primitive and of the danger of Pokémon. This is immediately a very different vibe to the Pokémon games to date.
The people of the world are very cynical of this stranger, and each other to be fair, but they switch your unsafe T shirt and shorts for a much safer massive kit that will protect you from the dangerous and scary Pokémon. The professor you meet sees your potential with Pokémon and helps get you started with some Pokéballs and asks for your help setting up the very first Pokédex.
Getting a feel for the game yet? Well the Pokéballs have little manual latches on them and the Pokédex is a handwritten notebook. It’s a very different time from the games we know.
The general gist of the plot is you are helping fill out the Pokédex by catching and fighting heaps of Pokémon lots of times, and observing things like certina moves. It’s a new take on an old formula. It is still repetitive as hell, more so because I caught an absurd number of Ghastly’s as opposed to one, but it is still familiar and fun to do. Gota catch em all…over and over again.
While all this is fine, and actually at least a slightly different feel to the whole game, what really makes the game excellent is the minute to minute gameplay. It is a nice little open world where you run around and see Pokémon doing their thing. Usually running back and forth in a pattern. You can then either avoid them, throw a Pokéball at them and try your luck, or throw a Pokémon and start a battle.
If you throw your Pokéball and you aren’t successful at catching it then it might charge you, or run off. Once the Pokémon is in this state you can only throw out a Pokémon or run, and if you get hit by attacks out in the wild enough, you will get knocked out.
To add to the pressure of the moment, you need to quickly switch your inventory to the pokeballs containing the Pokémon and then throw the appropriate ball. Fortunately you switch between an items list, and your Pokémon list with the flick of a button, so it is quick but it definitely adds to the pressure of the moment. Especially if you are looking to pass out and you accidentally throw your fire type out against the water type that is blasting you.
Once you throw that Pokémon out you continue to fight in the surroundings you were in. You can move around the battlefield and issue commands to your Pokémon. At this stage it is mostly the classic battle system with a minor tweak. When you have used an attack enough your Pokémon gets the ability to make the attack more agile or stronger. Stronger can be tempting, but if your opponent gets the opportunity to attack twice that could be your downfall.
To get Pokéballs and other items you can buy them from the shop, but money is a lot more sparingly dolled out than other games. Instead here you will find that collecting ingredients out in the wild and crafting them is your best way for the hundreds of balls and potions you will need. It isn’t an overly complicated crafting mechanic but it adds that little more depth to your time in the world,
It is these minor details that make Pokémon Legends: Arceus the game I wanted it to be. It really feels like you are out and about in the world of Pokémon in a way the series just hasn;t replicated before. The setting with collecting data for your Pokédex makes for some very repetitive catching but the whole experience is fun as hell.
The story is better than we have seen in a Pokémon game in a while as well.
Released: January 2022
Platform reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Game Freak