Pokemon Legends Arceus – Good

Pokemon Legends Arceus is a spin-off from the usual Pokemon formula that takes players into the past of the Sinnoh region. Arceus performs more like a standard action game than a turn based RPG and could even be called a third person shooter given how the player moves, uses stealth and throws objects at Pokemon.

There’s a not quite open world to be explored. A hub village will let the player travel to a few different environments that can be explored fairly freely as players seek out all Pokemon in the area before facing the final boss of the zone. The boss isn’t fought with Pokemon though, the player must dodge attacks while throwing food to weaken the enemy (honestly it feels a bit Dark Souls), there is a good skill based difficulty choice in place to include all players. Pokemon roam the wilds like animals so the tall grass is more for the player to hide in than the Pokemon.

Arceus’ plot follows the idea that a chosen hero (the player) fell out of the sky and must quell the spirits of five lords (also a bit Dark Souls). This means aiding the Galaxy Team as they deal with both the Diamond and Pearl clans who’re all trying to understand the Pokemon that inhabit their world. Then it’s all about saving the world.

Side missions are mostly fetch quests for either items or specific Pokemon, sometimes it’s just forcing the player to interact more with specific Pokemon. The most interesting side quests are horseback course races where a predetermined number of balloons must be popped for victory and a target practice game that involves popping balloons with thrown poke balls, sadly there weren’t many of these missions.

The combat in Arceus is a bit of a letdown. We get the traditional turn based battles which all Pokemon games have, however everything seems to end in one attack which could be from level differences or types but more often than not battles come down to who has the first turn. It doesn’t help that there are Agile and Strong versions of attack moves which can alter turn order, or that there are some extra powerful Alpha Pokemon that gets stat boosts just because. There can also be multiple enemies in a single battle while the player can only send out one Pokemon, this causes an unfair disadvantage where the player can lose without taking a turn. Pokemon getting defeated doesn’t cause a reset to a safe zone as it’s the player’s health that matters (I died twice from fall damage but nothing else).

A key feature of Arceus is filling up the Pokédex which is more than just catching everything. Now players must witness a certain amount of uses of a move, as well as seeing Agile and Strong moves. There are new appearances for some Pokemon and evolution has changed in a variety of ways to suit how the game works.

As well as the collect-‘em-all Pokemon attitude, Arceus has collectible flame wisps scattered around its world. Twenty per area forces completionist players to see every area of the game. There’s also a good Pokédex tracker showing how many Pokemon have been caught from each area.

HMs are back. The special extra moves that were used in older Pokémon games that opened up the world for progression come in the form of rideable Pokemon that climb, dig, fly and swim. There’s even a dialogue reference to HMs that’s a nice touch.

Although Arceus works as intended, there are quality of life improvements that could be made such as fewer transitions when switching areas, being able to ride Pokemon in the hub village and even changing from text based dialogue to voice acting and proper cutscenes.

I have a Switch Lite and the way Arceus plays I think it would be better on a tv based console. This is the least “children’s game” Pokemon I’ve played because of gameplay difficulty at times, some slightly deep dialogue, and because of knowledge tests which suggests long time fans will get more from it. I started with Rowlet which evolves into grass/fighting which is an incredibly weak combination that probably made things harder for me.

Overall, Pokemon Arceus is trying to do something new with the Pokemon name. We’re getting growth into something more interesting and it’s a single release, rather than one of a pair which makes it feel more complete. However, the game does have a small Pokédex and the combat is lacking, although the boss fights are more exciting. I’ve seen complaints about the graphic style but I quite liked that it keeps the light, cartoony appearance. For true completionist players who do want to complete all research this game could provide hundreds of hours of fun. Although they’re onto something with Arceus, the Pokemon people still have room for improvement before it feels truly great but this is a step in the right direction.

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