After years of waiting, and much criticism towards the later generations, Game Freak has finally decided to shake up the good ol’ Pokémon formula a bit in Pokémon Arceus Legends.

Rather than just watching Pokémon fight, trainers can now move around freely – viewing the battle from any desired angle – or even partake as trainers themselves. Additionally the game introduces a crafting mechanic and a large semi-open world to explore, full of Pokémon and crafting ingredients.

Change and innovation are a necessity in any industry, but must be done properly in order to be effective. Is Game Freak able to (re-)capture our hearts, or have they failed to catch ours?

New Horizons

As per usual, Pokémon Arceus Legends takes place in its own unique region. As you fall from a rift in the sky you end up in the Hisui region, a large island filled with a variety of biomes.

After (somehow) surviving the fall unscatched, Professor Laventon will find you and explain that he needs help catching some Pokémon that escaped. Unlike what players are used to, one does not have to battle these, and will instead spot them running in the wild. They are caught by simply throwing a Pokéball at them, however there’s still the chance that one escapes from the ball.

This however merely serves as the introduction to catching Pokémon. Once you reach the open world area after the game’s introduction, there’ll be many types of Pokémon walking around, all of which can be battled. Battling Pokémon and depleting their health bar to a low level is still the most efficient way to ensure capture of the Pokémon in question.

Additionally, battling Pokémon will complete in-game objectives, which in turn earns the player money and EXP, allowing them to reach higher star ranks under the Galaxy Team. Star rankings are an essential part of the game, and required to progress through the story. This encourages the player to try out different Pokémon and complete their objectives – rather than stick to one team – as well as to thoroughly explore.

Lastly, there is the new crafting system. Instead of buying your items from the Pokémart, they must now be handcrafted at special crafting stations in camps, using the materials the player has gathered. Most of the materials aren’t hard to come by – such as the ones to craft basic goods like Pokéballs – but materials for rarer goods, such as revives are a bit harder to come by.

It is however still possible to buy items from merchants at camps, using the money earned by completing tasks. No ingredients are required for this.

Trainers can only store 20 different items (up to stacks of 999) in their satchel at a time (upgradable), with the rest having to be put into boxes. Be careful what you take with you however. If your trainer dies (blacks out) you’ll lose several of your satchel items. Trainers can only die upon being continually attacked by Pokémon, drowning, or falling from large heights.

Simplicity


Having all of your Pokémon faint in a battle no longer warrants a “game over”. The battle will simply end, and if it’s a trainer battle, your team will automatically be restored to full health – allowing the player to instantly try again. This obviously brings back the age old discussion about “Pokémon being too easy”.

So is Pokémon Arceus Legends too easy?

Well, it’s by no means a hard game. I found most of the trainer battles to be underwhelmingly easy, even with an underleveled team. And in the few cases I did lose, the game simply let me restart the battle without punishment. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but with that said, don’t expect the game to give you much of a challenge.

One battle aspect that Game Freak absolutely nailed however, are the boss battles. Bosses are now fought in small 3D arenas, where trainers can move around and attack Pokémon by throwing sacks at them. Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting way to attack, however the bosses are designed so that players have to dodge attacks a lot, still keeping the tension.

After throwing enough sacks at the boss, it’ll be down for a brief moment, allowing the player to start a Pokémon battle against them. These work just like every other Pokémon battle in the game, except that depleting the boss’ health bar does not defeat it, but rather stun it for longer (allowing for easy & fast attacks by the trainer). Note that this is not required, and all the bosses can be defeated by using just the trainer if so desired.

Although the bosses on their own can be somewhat challenging, the game offers a “continue” option over “restart battle”. With this players can continue with the boss HP starting at where one left off. Although this does make each boss a cakewalk, it’s a completely optional choice if you want a challenge.

A matter of quality

One aspect I’ve seen this game being criticized for a lot are the graphics (or lack thereof). Although it’s a valid criticism – and I agree that the graphics are a bit underwhelming compared to other Switch titles, such as Breath of the Wild – it’s certainly acceptable, and the game still looks great on an OLED screen.

That said, I believe there are more important aspects of the game to criticize, such as gameplay elements – one of these being the painfully slow EXP grind to increase your star ranking. It takes an excruciatingly long time to rank up, especially in the later levels. This wouldn’t be an issue if there was actually enough to do, however the game locks players to limited areas, with limited Pokémon before they complete the game.

Due to that, players will be grinding and battling the same Pokémon over and over just to level up and access the next area. This is especially notable in the first half of the game, where you don’t have much area access yet. The fact that players are encouraged to explore and interact with Pokémon is not a bad thing, but when it is done to such an extent I wish the game would’ve given players more to explore during that time. (i.e. more Pokémon, areas, etc.)

There are actually tons of side quests in the game, which definitely help to shake things up a bit. Sadly however, they do not reward in EXP, meaning players will still have to go through the star grind one way or another.

A lot of players may not mind this, but others, who are looking to simply experience the story most likely will. In my opinion this game did not manage to achieve a good balance between the two, and instead focuses too much on forcing player exploration.


Speaking of side quests, although there are certainly some fun ones in there, many of them feel bland and uninteresting. Some of my favorite quests were the minigame related ones, which were the only quests I actively sought out. Most other quests just follow similar patterns, such as completing a Pokédex page of a specific Pokémon, or finding specific items.

There are a total of 97 quests in the game, and although doing all of them is quite a chore, simply focusing on the ones you enjoy really adds a new layer to the gameplay.

Finishing Touches

As one would expect, the game comes with a fully fledged story with many characters along the journey. With this game taking place far in the past, many characters appear to be descendants of characters in other Pokémon titles. For example, Volo for Cynthia from Diamond and Pearl.

The characters are generally likeable, however I found the large amount of dialogue to be a bit annoying. There is a lot of dialogue in this game and most of it isn’t very interesting. The story is rather stale and uninteresting for the first half of the game, but picks up in the 2nd half, which – ironically – has less dialogue.

The game also features post-game as most of the Pokémon games do. Post-game is nothing special, but still pretty fun catching some legendaries. The final battle especially was a highlight for me, not only offering a fun classic Pokémon trainer battle, but also a much appreciated challenge.



Another aspect that Pokémon games are well known for are their good soundtracks. Although Legends Arceus certainly has some great tracks, the overall soundtrack isn’t all that memorable, but passable.

Lastly, if you wish to get the true ending in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, you must fully complete the Pokédex and catch all 241 Pokémon in the game to meet Arceus. This is a tremendous grind, but not all too tedious actually. Trading is not required for mons like Haunter, meaning this adventure can be completed purely on your own if so desired!

Verdict

Pokémon Arceus: Legends is a step in the right direction, and does a lot of things right, but at the same time has room to improve on some of its aspects. If you enjoy grinding for objectives then you’ll likely enjoy this game, otherwise prepare for a lot of filler. If you like Pokémon, I recommend giving the game a try, but otherwise hold off until a sale.

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