The Hisui area was a frightening place a century before it became the continent of Sinnoh, and people and Pokémon did not share the strong friendship that they do now. In fact, Pokémon were once thought to be deadly creatures to be avoided, and it’s up to you and the Galaxy Expedition Team in Pokémon Legends: Arceus to document and, yes, catch them all for the first-ever Pokédex.
This game is the first in the Pokémon series to offer a true open-world experience. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a spin-off from the mainline games that takes place in a ‘Ye Olde’ version of the Gen 4 area that was first explored in the Nintendo DS titles Pokémon Diamond and Pearl — and more recently in the Sinnoh remakes Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl on Switch. Hisui’s territory is divided into regions, each of which is home to Pokémon unique to that environment. You’ll have to catch them to add them to your Pokédex, but instead of weakening the Pokémon and then selecting ‘Poké Ball’ from a menu, you can toss it yourself this time.
This is by far the best portion of the game. The catching mechanics appear to be more skill-based than luck-based, however, luck does play a role. When following certain Pokémon, you’ll need to be stealthy since if they catch you gazing at them the wrong way, they’ll either battle you or flee. Nothing is more agonizing than patiently approaching a rare Pokémon only to have it see you and sprint away while you launch Poké Balls over, under, and to the side.
As a result, obtaining uncommon Pokémon seems like a huge accomplishment, and your team feels much more complete because you can recall how you obtained them. This also makes the experience of entering a new location and recognizing all the diverse species you haven’t yet encountered feel far more interesting than in the regular games.
This spin-story off’s goes into Pokémon legend in a captivating way that’s generally reserved for publications unearthed in remote parts of the globe. Unfortunately, there is no voice acting, which would seem to be the next logical step in the series, but the text conversation is nicely written, and the additional shades given to the lore of Legendary Pokémon you’ve already met are welcome.
With the exception of Gen 4, which gets too much love for obvious reasons, the general lineup of Pokémon is good here. It appears balanced, but also as if all of these Pokémon might dwell in these environments organically. Some of the Hisuian Pokédex’s omissions are very surprising, but we discovered that every type was well-represented, and there are plenty of ultra-rare monsters to hunt for until the credits have rolled.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus feels like the truest embodiment of the Pokémon imagination, which is a delightful surprise given that this is ostensibly a spin-off title. It’s a game about going out and catching them all, not just making thousands of dollars as a 10-year-old by annihilating every professional Pokémon trainer in the world in quick succession.
In fact, in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, there are no Gyms. Instead, you’ll find yourself being stymied by Noble Pokémon like Kleavor early on.
This is effectively a boss battle for the region, as well as an introduction to the previously undiscovered Pokémon.
The fight is a little clumsy mechanically, especially when it turns into a third-person shooter for a few minutes, but Kleavor looks fantastic.
Jubilife Village is your home base, as well as a place where you can change costumes, hairstyles, and visit a variety of stores.
You need to return here a little too much for our tastes, especially near the conclusion of the game, but it’s convenient to have everything in one spot rather than scattered around the globe. You can navigate the land of Hisui with the help of many rideable Pokémon. The Wyrdeer, a new version of the Stantler from Generation 2, will act as your bike, allowing you to accelerate through the terrain. Basculegion, a super-sized Basculin evolution, allows you to travel the aquatic expanse, among other things (which we won’t spoil here).
These Alpha Pokémon are fairly prevalent, and in the early stages, they’ll often be 20 to 30 levels higher than your greatest Pokémon.
Blacking out is a real danger, and because it might result in the loss of incredibly valuable objects, it’s something to be aware of.
You can choose to run away from battles or simply run away, which is a good touch.
EXP is shared among your party members, and you’ll get XP for collecting Pokémon without having to fight them.
The game does an excellent job of scaling against this; by the time we got to the final battle, our levels were pretty much the same as the last boss’s, but players that go all out to capture them all will almost certainly be higher.
In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, users can trade Pokémon but there are no multiplayer battles. We’re not sure if this is due to having to balance all of the game’s movements against the new Agile/Strong styles, but it will feel like a missed opportunity for devoted mainline series players. Shiny Pokémon, by the way, are in the game and may be found in the overworld.
We were even able to get a couple shots of our own.
The only serious flaw in Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the game’s technological flaws, which are difficult to overlook. When a character is too far away from you, the frame rate stutters, and the character models have a hazy fuzz surrounding them. Despite its distinct appearance, the series has never been a technical marvel (at least not beyond the incredible compression wizardry that crammed Kanto into Pokémon Gold and Silver), and that hasn’t changed here – textures, trees, and other aspects all appear to be outdated by today’s standards.
The Pokémon models, on the other hand, are stunning. Not just for some of the’mon, but also for a number of iconic moves, there are new animations. The improved camera angles for fight, as well as the semi-accurate scaling of Pokémon, make you feel like you’re genuinely in the environment rather than warping to and from segmented battle venues every time you have an encounter.
When the game was first shown off, it was said that it would be the “Breath Of The Wild of Pokémon games.”
People claimed so because it starts with a view of a massive mountain, accented by piano chords that seem like the prologue to an open, exploratory voyage.
What is the truth? Actually, Pokémon Legends Arceus is the Breath of the Wild of Pokémon games, but not for the reasons you may think.
It’s because the creators have managed to repackage characters and mechanisms that are quite recognizable to millions of players in a game that is vastly superior to anything that has come before. It’s the series’ most significant release since 1996, and it gives us hope for a franchise that we were scared was slipping away from us. Sure, there are some technical issues in the game, but they pale in comparison to the joy you’ll feel when you finally catch that rare Pokémon you’ve been chasing for an hour.