By Victoria Dejoy
“Pokémon Legends: Arceus” (2022) is the most distinctive and fulfilling Pokémon game to be released in about a decade. Selling over 6.5 million copies in the first week, the game has been met with positive reception from both fans and critics due to its engaging story and its long overdue revamp in mechanics and structure.
The story of “Legends” is unlike any other game in the franchise. It begins as a distortion in space and time sends the player hundreds of years in the past to the Hisui region, the predecessor of the beloved Sinnoh region from “Pokémon Diamond” (2006), “Pokémon Pearl” (2006) and “Pokémon Platinum” (2008). After meeting Professor Laventon, the player is given the task of making the first ever Pokédex for the region. During the journey to accomplish this, the player becomes involved with Hisui’s native Diamond and Pearl Clans, helping them quell Pokémon frenzied by space-time disruptions and interacting directly with Pokémon from their legends.
It is easy to feel immersed in the “Legends” story, especially with its fresh, open-world format. For the first time in the Pokémon core series, the player is not confined to rigid town and route structures, making exploring feel more realistic and wondrous. In fact, there is only one village in the game, the rest of the region is mostly uninhabited by people. The various areas offer many different types of terrain to discover and Pokémon to catch, which help prevent exploration from becoming stale.
“Legends” offers 242 total Pokémon species, all obtainable without trading. There are also a few new Pokémon evolutions introduced in this game, and similar to the past titles in the core series, several exciting Hisuian-specific forms of previously known Pokémon are available. These well-designed variants have been received well by most fans, Hisuian Growlithe and Hisuian Zoroark in particular becoming fan favorites very quickly.
Catching and battling mechanics have been updated to compliment the new open-world design. Wild Pokémon are visible in the overworld, able to run away or attack the player upon sight depending on the species’ personality. The player can choose to catch any Pokémon without confrontation or enter a battle with it, both of which occur seamlessly. Overall, gameplay feels much more fast-paced than it is in other Pokémon titles.
There are countless other changes introduced in “Legends” that improve the overall quality of the game. Instead of buying items, the player can collect materials from the wilderness and craft them. Pokémon stat mechanics were overhauled, making training much more simple and efficient for casual players. Side quests are now available for players who want to go above and beyond. For the first time, the player can interact directly with Pokémon and the environment, taking damage from Pokémon moves or drowning after trying to swim for too long, a lesson many fans learned the hard way. All of these changes and more make the world of “Legends” more immersive than any other Pokémon game previously released. This is the kind of Pokémon game many fans have been demanding since the Nintendo Switch was released in 2017.
While “Legends” has not faced much criticism about its content, most players agree that the graphics, which are limited by the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch and the Pokémon franchise’s inexperience in making a game of this nature, could be improved. Character and Pokémon models look polished, but the game’s low frame rate and shorter than desired draw distance are distracting. Due to these issues, environments sometimes seem emptier than they actually are, which, for some players, may detract from the immersion that the game’s story and features work so hard to build up.
However, looking past the visual shortcomings of the game, players of “Legends” are sure to have a fulfilling gaming experience. Ultimately, “Pokémon Legends: Arceus” is the most refreshing game the franchise has ever released. Its new direction opens a world of possibilities for future Pokémon games, encouraging future titles that may be more engaging and interactive than ever before.