Pokemon Legends: Arceus is equal parts exhilarating and bland. It’s a game where both of these sentiments can be true, and stay true throughout my 50 hours with the game.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus Review: A Badge of Honor
Landing on Prelude Beach on waking up hundreds of years in the past to a goofy-looking professor in a purple pom beanie proved that even in the new setting, Legends hadn’t lost its charm.
You’re introduced to Jubilife Village, a newly constructed town on the outskirts of uncharted land. A town that is deathly afraid of Pokemon, mainly because they don’t understand them, but also because many of the townsfolk are uninterested in getting to know them, at least at first.
Completing side quests for townsfolk will create moments of them learning that maybe Pokemon are ok and aren’t something worth being afraid of. For instance, one quest will have you catch a Wurmple for a character, over the course of the game it will evolve into a Cascoon, the man thinks is a Silcoon, and it’s a valuable teaching moment for the character and learning to love its Pokemon despite coming to terms he knows nothing about it, but he’s willing to learn.
Over the course of the game, you’ll join the Survey Corps, a group dedicated to researching and learning more about the creatures that they are encroaching on. We’ve come a long way from the simpler stories of collecting eight badges, beating the Elite Four, and moving on.
So what are you actually doing in this world? Well, you’re completing research tasks for Professor Laventon, catching Pokemon in makeshift Poke Balls crafted with resources found around the different areas. Using your newly captured Pokemon to battle other creatures you’re trying to capture, all in the pursuit of higher learning, or at least that’s what it seems like at first.
A giant sky rift in the world proves to be troublesome by powering up the Noble Pokemon of each of the five areas. Which is the crux of the main campaign. You’ll set out to learn about the Noble Pokemon, the characters that watch over them, and eventually battle these Lords to quell them of the frenzy that has been put in.
These battles culminate into an MMO-styled fight where you are doing damage while avoiding the telegraphed area of effect circles and other stage hazards set forth. While not the most challenging fights you’ll have in the game, they offer something unique, something different and that’s the important sentiment for this game.
Legends is ok with being different, and for the first time in a long time the series doesn’t feel stagnant, it feels limitless. Catching, battling, and exploration has been reworked to be a seamless experience that speeds the pace up. Simply throwing a Poke Ball at a Pokemon without having to go into a lengthy transition or being able to throw one of your Pokemon to initiate battle is a welcomed addition.
This is a Pokemon game where you can control the camera with the right analog stick the entire time. It’s finally catching up to 2022, and even with these new additions, it still stumbles in key areas.
Look, we’ve had the graphics conversation for months now about Legends, and I’m not here to defend it, but I think this game commits a greater sin than not looking the best
It’s not that it doesn’t look the best, or that there is major pop in and texture loading when flying around an area, but that the areas themselves don’t feel like they fit together in a meaningful way.
Obsidian Fieldlands is a wide-open field of grass and trees with a river running through most of the map. It has points of interest, but nothing that fits together like a well-crafted jigsaw puzzle. They are mainly just bland landmasses that slot together for the sake of size, and they aren’t even that big.
Later biomes include a snow area that is largely empty with few points of interest. It feels like the entire area exists just to service the Snowpoint Temple at the top.
However, what the game does right, is it respects the setting of Hisui (Sinnoh) in major ways. Sinnoh is the origin point of the Pokemon Universe, and Legends knows that, embraces it, and doesn’t push it to the side to serve a different narrative as Diamond and Pearl do.
Removing the badges and Elite Four allows the history of the region shape the narrative and let its titular character and other legendaries shine. The last hour of Pokemon Legends: Arceus is some of the best storytelling in a Pokemon game to date. Add in the post-game content that further pushes the boundaries of what a game that takes place in a region with the most Pokemon history can do.
This game goes far beyond the credits, with a story that will require you to catch every pokemon in the game to see the resolution. It’s not a terribly hard task, but can at times be a frustrating one trying to hope that RNG is in your favor for a Pokemon showing up. Some only show during certain conditions like time of day, or a Space/Time rift which will randomly show up on the map throughout your playthrough.
Even for all of its flaws, it signals that Pokemon stories can be great when they examine the concepts of Pokemon, our relationships to them and that we need to live alongside Pokemon, not above them.
Legends respects everything that came before it while looking ahead at what the series can do with its story when it sheds the tried and true formula its wore like a badge of honor for years.
- A genuinely great Pokemon story
- catching, battling, and exploration have been revamped for the better
- Respects the Hisui region
- Excessive pop-in and texture loads when flying
- Environments are bland
- Some troublesome Pokemon to catch due to RNG
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.