The Legacy of “Legends Arceus”

The most innovative Pokémon game of the past decade is truly a spectacle


Photo courtesy of Nintendo

“Legends Arceus” takes place in the Hisui region hundreds of years before the events of “Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.” Hisui is the predecessor of the Sinnoh region.

Eddie Shi, Staff Reporter

The developer Game Freak has a track record of plugging the same ideas into the identical formula for every Pokémon game. I have been waiting for a modern recipe to manifest that would flip traditional Pokémon games on its head. 

On Jan. 28, my wait came to an end. After watching trailers and gameplay footage, I decided to buy the game and see if the hype was real. As I launched the game,  I met Arceus, the “God” of the Pokémon world. Arceus said to catch all the Pokémon and come back to him. In older games like “Pokémon Black” and “Pokémon Sword,” the player starts in their home, ready to go on a fun journey. In “Legends Arceus,” the player gets launched out of a space-time portal after meeting the creator of the universe. I have never seen an introduction like “Legends Arceus” ever in a mainline Pokémon game. And that’s just the beginning of the innovation.

After the player falls out of the sky, they see the bungling Professor Laventon. After finishing the professor’s tutorial by catching the three starters of choice, Rowlet, Cyndaquil and Oshawott, the player can choose one. I picked Oshawott because he evolves into a sword-wielding sea lion, the coolest thing ever. During the tutorial, I was blown away by the catching mechanic. The player now throws the actual ball similar to “Let’s Go Eevee” and “Pokémon Go.” There are a few differences, though. Players utilize stealth and other items to catch their pocket monsters. I usually sneak behind an unsuspecting Pokémon and chuck a heavy ball at their head. This aspect added a sense of realism to the game which I appreciated a lot. 

Pokémon can and will attack the player in “Legends Arceus.” I am entirely on board for Pokémon that could knock out an amateur; it adds realism. The little creatures react to the player in unique ways compared to other games. The smaller birds fly away at the sight of you, while other aggressive species like the Sphinx will try to attack. Each Pokémon is more intricate in “Legends Arceus” than in “Pokémon Sword.” I noticed that certain items like berries could be thrown as a distraction to make catching easier. The weight of the item also determines the throwing trajectory. Many of the small details make “Legends Arceus” feel authentic and more like an RPG (role-playing game).

I love the focus on catching Pokémon and less on random people trying to fight me. Other games had random people who would interrupt and challenge the player for no reason, and it’s not like they had a chance. My max-level Charizard would sweep their team of half evolved Pokémon. Luckily, there are far fewer annoyances in “Legends Arceus.”

Some new features include the boss fights, alpha Pokémon, and mounts. The boss fights were fun and fresh. I liked calming down the first boss by chucking calming incense at it. The alpha Pokémon are powerful and spawn naturally. They are at a much higher level for the region, adding a sense of danger to the area. Alphas also add a significant challenge. From what I’ve seen, “Legends Arceus” is noticeably more challenging than previous games like “Pokémon Sun and Moon.” Then there are mounts. Instead of bikes, we get special Pokémon that we can ride. There’s a bird that lets us fly, a bear that digs for treasure and many more mounts that serve different purposes. The player can unlock all the rideable beasts through the story. 

A game as ambitious as “Pokémon Legends: Arceus” could never be perfect. The biggest problem I have with the game is the graphics. The game looks like it was developed for the 3DS. Grainy images are common and loaded very poorly. The animation looks off at times. There’s not much to look at besides the dull, monotonous textures when looking at the horizon. Yet, none of what I said applies to the sky. I am not joking when I say that the sky in this game is one of the best looking atmospheres I have seen in a video game ever. It looks gorgeous, and then I see the ground. It seemed like all the graphical budget went into the sky. The rest was just kind of there. 

The world is quite the snoozefest at times. There are barren areas, dead zones scattered across the map. When I thought I found a dungeon, it was just a corridor to a dead end. There are so many boring side quests littered around the entire region, and it’s just not fun to do the side quests. There’s no substance anywhere besides the main areas. The areas on the path between the main areas feel hollow. It felt empty and devoid of content. However, the main areas are stellar. The first stroll I took through the forest was nostalgic. Everything brought me back to when I first played “Pokémon Diamond.” The soundtrack is heavenly. Long chords play softly, and the music isn’t overpowering. 

Specifically, one major flaw is the lack of PVP (player versus player). I loved battling with my friends. It gave me a reason to keep pushing the limits of my Pokémon. I put so many hours into “Pokémon Sword” just to beat two of my friends. My interest has gone down a bit with limited interaction with other players. Trading still exists, but trading isn’t a battle. I have faith that Game Freak might update the game with PVP in the future. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline presented on the table. The RPG elements made me feel like finishing the story and seeing the ending. However, there are serious flaws. The dialogue is lackluster, and I admit to skipping a few lines. The story is expressed through interaction in which the player is just standing next to the people talking, doing nothing. There are no cutscenes to make up for this flaw. On top of the tedious dialogue, the narrative didn’t feel satisfying. Everything I did felt purposeless. Dialogue should not be the only way to convey the story. It’s an outdated concept that I know Game Freak can fix.

Another outdated concept is the turn-based system. I believe fighting in turns is getting repetitive. Adding a new fad to each game, like gigantamaxing in “Pokémon Shield” and strong/agile style in “Legends Arceus,” isn’t going to change anything. I’m greedy; I want to see something so experimental that it won’t even be a Pokémon game. Arceus is an unprecedented step in a new direction by replacing the catching mechanics. I hope all mainline games will have the new catching systems here on out, but we need more. 

Coming from a guy who played Pokémon for well over a decade, I would say I’m overzealous about “Pokémon Legends: Arceus.” Every small innovation, I would say, is for the better. The catching system alone would have got me hooked. Yes, some spots still need to be polished and refined. Yet, not everything could change throughout one game. “Legends Arceus” is a legendary game that will leave a legacy for the needed change for the franchise. 4/5