Pokemon Legends Arceus Review (Nintendo Switch)
Pokemon Legends Arceus comes just two months after the release of the generation four remakes Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, meaning fans of the series have essentially gone straight from one entry to another, although many will say that isn’t a bad thing.
Although Pokemon Legends Arceus isn’t a mainline entry in the series and is instead a spin-off, it does share many similarities to the core titles, as opposed to trying to reinvent the wheel which many spin-off games attempt to do.
But, it does try and reinvent the wheel with some core mechanics, creating a rather confusing experience at times, let’s talk about it.
Here is our review of Pokemon Legends Arceus on the Nintendo Switch.
It is fair to assume now that the glory days of the Pokemon series have been and gone. As a player that began their journey to become the very best like no one ever was with Red and Blue in 1998, I have gotten to a point where I no longer expect a game to have that lightning in a bottle that the original games had.
Despite the franchise never living up to the same expectations that the original few generations set, pretty much everything up until generation four, the Pokemon IP has become the highest-grossing media franchise of all time, meaning that we have become so conditioned to just purchase the next game in the series regardless of whether it is good or not.
But, it is worth pointing out that it is very rare for a bad Pokemon game to be released, with some of the weaker entries in the series still being good games, however, it has largely gotten to a point where these games released are just good and satisfy the Pokemon itch for 50 hours or so before the casual fan moves on to whatever the next big release is.
Of course, if you are a huge Pokemon fan who gets enjoyment out of spending hundreds of hours shiny hunting and taking part in other optional extras, then you may find a lot more fun from some of the newer releases.
But, at their core, modern Pokemon games provide a good level of entertainment for a single playthrough before being pushed aside and almost forgotten about, with none of them making me want to spend hundreds of hours trying to catch them all.
This is exactly where Pokemon Legends Arceus falls, it doesn’t have the lightning in a bottle feel to it and will likely be largely forgotten about by both the casual and more hardcore Pokemon community in just a few weeks, with it just being mentioned every now and then on social media.
Pokemon Legends Arceus tries to do everything and doesn’t succeed at anything
Pokemon Legends Arceus certainly tries to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the core of what Pokemon is, by taking clear inspiration from other titles.
Games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Monster Hunter Rise, and titles such as Genshin Impact serve as a clear inspiration for Pokemon Legends Arceus.
While it takes plenty of inspiration from other titles, the game fails to succeed at the same level as any of the games that inspired it.
It fails to do Breath of the Wild as well as Breath of the Wild does things, it fails to do Monster Hunter as well as Monster Hunter does things, and it fails to be a Pokemon game as well as other titles in the series have.
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But, while it might seem like I’ve spent all of this review so far hating on the game, it is overall a very fun game to play, just be aware that Pokemon Legends Arceus has portrayed that it is reinventing the wheel, but instead all it has done is get four tires that are slightly different from each other, put them on a car and told you this is what the future of driving looks like.
Perhaps the breath of fresh air that was needed
It might have seemed like for the entirety of the review so far I have been fairly negative towards Pokemon Legends: Arceus, and while that may have some truth to it, it doesn’t mean that it is a bad game, far from it.
Although the game failed to reinvent the wheel, or take its inspiration and do things better, it is still a breath of fresh air that the series desperately needed.
Ever since Pokemon Red and Green was released in Japan back in 1996 the formula for Pokemon games has largely remained the same and it has rarely deviated away from it, with the exception of one or two titles not including spin-offs.
A typical Pokemon game starts with a character between the age of 10 and early teens, who decide that despite being a child they want to go and travel across the world, hang out with strangers, and live in the wilderness as they become the greatest Pokemon trainer of all time, and their parents seem to have no problem with their child doing this.
The player then sets out on their journey, meets a Pokemon Professor, gets given their first Pokemon, battles a bunch of Gym Leaders, takes down an evil organization, and becomes the Pokemon Champion.
It is very rare that a mainline Pokemon game deviates from this formula, but I guess if it isn’t broken then why fix it? And, quite often people forget that the Pokemon series is aimed at children, so complex narratives simply aren’t needed.
The last entry in the series to be released was Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl in November 2021, which has then been followed by Pokemon Legends Arceus in January 2022. Had Game Freak gone with another Pokemon game that follows the narrative above, then it would have been too much too soon, they needed to switch things up and they did, and it does work.
How you catch Pokemon is a much needed change
Catching a Pokemon has typically been the same across most games. The player wanders through tall grass or a cave and suddenly the screen flashes and the battle music plays. With Pokemon Legends Arceus things are completely shaken up and overhauled and it is something that was desperately needed, but I didn’t know I needed it until now.
Pokemon are visible in the world, similar to how they were in Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, but how they work in the game is completely different from anything we’ve seen previously.
There are numerous ways in which you can catch a Pokemon, from simply throwing a Pokeball at it, or by initiating a battle.
But, each Pokemon acts in its own unique way. Some Pokemon will be able to be caught without the need for a battle, while some will block any Pokeball thrown at it.
And some Pokemon will become aggressive and attack the player, which can eventually result in you fainting if you take too much damage.
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Certain Pokemon will also have their own distinctive personality traits that fit the lore of the creature, such as Sudowoodo freezing in a tree pose when it is spotted, or Nosepass always sleeping while facing north.
This helps to make the world feel more alive than other entries in the series and it helps the player to be able to imagine what living in a world filled with Pokemon would be. If it was real, Pokemon wouldn’t just spring up, in the same manner, every single time. They would be occupying the world with their own distinct personalities and traits, similar to animals in our own world.
Not your average Pokemon game
As I’ve already touched upon when it comes to encountering and catching Pokemon in Legends Arceus, almost every other aspect of the game is completely different from what we’ve come to expect from a typical entry in the series.
Every move that a Pokemon can learn is available immediately and can be purchased rather than just learned through leveling up.
The Pokedex is also very different than just the encyclopedia of Pokemon that it is in a standard Pokemon game. Instead, players are tasked with various quests from within the Pokedex in order to complete an entry, with them including catching a set amount, defeating a certain number, or performing over miscellaneous tasks relating to the Pokemon.
This adds another level of depth to the Pokedex rather than simply trying to catch one of each of the 242 Pokemon available in the game.
By completing Pokedex entries the player will also improve their rank in the expedition team, which is required for progressing through the game, with each leveling unlocking new milestones such as Pokemon of a certain level will now obey you, similar to how players need to earn Gym Badges in other titles.
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Pokemon Legends Arceus also takes a lot of inspiration from other open-world games by having the player takes on quests, both as part of the main story and also sidequests from various NPCs that are in the game, think of how quests work in a game such as Monster Hunter and it’ll give you a very good idea of what the developers were going for.
All in all, Game Freak has managed to shake things up in ways that work and I hope that many of these mechanics will be revisited and improved upon in future entries because, while I’ve sung the game’s praises in these last couple of sections, it is far from perfect.
Pokemon Legends Arceus, while a really fun experience, feels like a very confused game. It tries to blend the traditional Pokemon style of gameplay together with aspects of Breath of the Wild and Monster Hunter, yet unfortunately fails to do anything as good or better than any of them.
The game fails to do Pokemon worse than a traditional Pokemon game, although it does have plenty of great things going for it that sets it apart from the norm.
Pokemon Legends Arceus takes a lot of inspiration from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Monster Hunter, but fails to do it in a way that even comes close to matching those titles.
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While Pokemon Legends Arceus isn’t bad, in fact, it is very good and the score below reflects that, it feels like this will be a game that is a flash in the pan, with it being popular for a few weeks and then rarely being mentioned again by the general gaming community, and even the wider Pokemon community, and maybe that isn’t a bad thing.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus
- Gives a much needed overhaul to many mechanics
- The Pokedex Research Tasks add more reasons to care about completing it
- Each Pokemon has its own unique personality
- World can feel a bit lifeless
- Takes inspiration from other games but fails to live up to their standards
- The constant spamming of A to get through long dialogue sequences