Pokémon Legends: Arceus looks to be Nintendo’s long anticipated open-world answer for the Pokémon franchise. The far reaching plains, icy mountains and deserts are some of the biggest environments that we’ve ever seen in a mainline Pokémon game. However, it notably looks like a game that could have come out almost a decade ago. The game looks expansive at first glance, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot happening in the new Hisui region. The key to a successful open world game is having aspects that give players a sense of discovery.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is Nintendo’s newest endeavor in modernizing a classic franchise.
Releasing January 2022, Pokémon Legends: Arceus seeks to blend the mostly tried and true Pokémon RPG formula into an open world environment:
- Choose one of 3 starter Pokémon.
- Explore a rich world filled with a robust roster of catchable Pokémon (at least 150).
- Engage with a charmingly cheesy story with memorable characters.
A Pokémon game of this scale has been every fan’s dream for a long, long time. And, with decades of anticipation, there’s a lot to live up to in the expectations of Pokémon fans.
If you haven’t already, here are a couple of trailers to get you caught up…
Pokémon Legends Arceus Has Been A Long Time Coming
I remember exactly where I was when I first laid eyes on Pokémon Blue Version in the late nineties. On the sidewalk in front of my neighbor’s house, I was introduced to a world of mere black and white pixels on a 2.6- inch screen filled with seemingly infinite possibilities.
I was hooked.
I played Pokémon backwards and forwards on practically every road trip since I was 9, and as I got older, the gaming industry quickly evolved with me. The moment Mario, Zelda, and Donkey Kong inevitably took the jump into 3D space, the persisting question became:
Yeah…but when is it Pokémon’s turn?
To be fair, there were a few lackluster attempts to create 3D pokemon games– like Pokémon Stadium 1&2 on Nintendo 64 and Pokémon XD for Gamecube. While they tried to scratch our proverbial itches, these titles took much away from the mainline games and did nothing to satiate the hunger of Pokémon fans.
Years passed, and in 2017, Nintendo shocked the world by breaking from the tradition of linearity in both Zelda Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey. Which, similarly to Pokémon, historically stuck to strict gameplay formulas.
And finally, in 2022, it’s Pokémon’s turn.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus looks to be Nintendo’s long-anticipated open-world answer for the Pokémon franchise. As a huge Pokémon fan, I should be losing my mind. However, concerning questions are dampening my hype.
How Will Pokémon Legends Arceus Populate An Open World?
I couldn’t shake this word when I watched the first trailers for Pokémon Legends Arceus. In all fairness, the game looks expansive at first glance. The far-reaching plains, icy mountains, and deserts are some of the biggest environments that we’ve ever seen in a mainline Pokémon game.
Yet, it notably looks like a game that could have come out almost a decade ago. Besides some generic rocks, trees, and varying bodies of water, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot happening in the new Hisui region. Pokémon inhabit these ecosystems in abundance, but at some point, you need a lot more to pique an adventurer’s curiosity over the course of a full-length game.
We know that Jubilife City will be a vibrant hub for characters, shops, and activities. We also know that players will be able to build encampments where they can craft items and rest. However, based on what we’ve seen in the trailers, I’m confident I’ll discover much more than Pokémon in the Hisui region, which is a cause for concern.
The key to a successful open world game is having aspects that give players a sense of discovery.
Will there be any other cities? Or diversity in locales? I’m hoping there’s a lot more to this game behind the sparse curtain.
How Will the Development Team Approach Gameplay?
I’m dreaming of a day when a mainline pokemon game experiments with new gameplay, (Super Smash Bros. style combat? Eh?) but Pokémon Legends Arceus will be largely maintaining its turn-based structure revolving around 6 party members with 4 moves a piece…*sigh*… I’ll be fine.
While I have no qualms with a rerun of a gameplay system that has worked for generations, there are some curious changes being implemented into the Hisui region.
- Firstly, trainers will seemingly be able to select “Strong” and “Agile” styles for their Pokémon’s attacks–giving them the flexibility to favor speed or hit power on the fly. Which is cool, I suppose. However, this tactical tool doesn’t feel as empowering in a turn-based RPG, as opposed to an action RPG where your ability to attack and maneuver changes, (e.g. playing a heavy or light character in a fighting game). Nevertheless, I’m interested to see how useful Strong Style and Agile Style are in practice. And how satisfying they are to use.
- Surprisingly, Pokémon Legends Arceus is implementing real-time combat–but not for your Pokémon. Your trainer will have to engage in (terrifying) Dark Souls-style combat with feral Pokémon in the wild. Dodging and throwing Pokémon calming balms will help you escape these encounters unscathed, while nabbing you some special items or a new Pokémon. In boss battles with Noble Pokémon, you will need to switch between turn-based combat using your Pokémon and real-time combat as your trainer to tame these legendary creatures. I’m all for some dodge-rolls, but having two types of combat in one game is a recipe for one receiving less attention during development–meaning one is usually way less fun. From the looks of things, I think the novel real-time combat will feel like a bare-bones gimmick.
I get the sense that we are getting something similar to when Pokémon Let’s Go cookie-cut the pokeball throwing mechanic from Pokémon Go. What felt fun at first took a sour turn with inaccurate controls and the mechanic being used to level up your Pokémon, turning it into a mind-melting grind.
(Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee throw mechanic in action)
I’m hoping these new gameplay features will make the game more fun, but so far I’m not convinced they will substantially impact my enjoyment.
Can We Reallyy Catch ’em All?
There are 898 pokémon spanning 8 generations of Pokémon games included in the National Pokédex (as of 2021)… That’s bananas.
I can barely keep track after 2nd generation Pokémon (Gold/Silver versions for GBC), and when you start talking about Pokémon that are literally a set of keys, or Mr. Potatohead, I just roll my eyes and wonder if the creative team at Pokémon Company answers to anyone, or if they are just trolling everyone at this point. I digress…
Mr. Potatohead certainly made the cut to my dismay (Trailer #2. And, no, I will not learn its real name), but which Pokémon out of that extensive catalog will be usable in Pokémon Legends Arceus? Certainly not all 898.
There seems to be a grab bag of generations, illustrated in that the 3 starter Pokémon you can choose in Pokémon Legends Arceus were starters in generations 2, 5, and 7. Even though this game is a sort of prequel focusing on creating the very first Pokedex, every Pokémon generation is fair game.
Just please give me an Umbreon, or I’m not buying your damn game.
How Customizable Will the Game Be?
A key component to a successful open-world game is the ability to customize your character and play experience.
As seen in several trailers, trainer clothing and style looks to be a point of focus.
In Jubilife City, players can change clothing, hairstyle, and accessories. You can even take photos with your Pokémon, further flaunting your style (you old so-and-so). We’ve come a long way since the days of being shoehorned into being one gender, race, and style of trainer. Good on you, Nintendo. We’ll see how robust this customization ends up being.
What I’m really interested in, of course, is my Pokémon team.
As early as Pokémon Yellow and recently as Pokémon Sword and Shield: The Isle of Armor DLC, you could have a Pokémon follow you around. Don’t ask me why, but it’s a huge selling point to me.
I’m sure it’s a logistical nightmare for animators to tackle this feature for every potential Pokémon, but it provides a huge boost in immersion. This has not yet been confirmed for Pokémon Legends Arceus.
What has been confirmed are three types of rideable Pokémon: flying, swimming, and land mounts. So far, these featured Pokémon have appeared to be locked in. Braviary will be carrying you through the skies, Basculegion will let you surf across the water, and Wyrdeer will send you racing through the plains. These Pokémon generally look fun to use, but my immediate question became…yeah… but what about riding a Rapidash? Or flying with a Crobat? I suppose I’m never satisfied.
(Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu/Evee)
It doesn’t seem likely that you will be able to diversify your mount Pokémon; however, Nintendo hasn’t flat out said anything regarding follower or mount Pokémon, so I can still dream, can’t I?
How Fun Will the Wardens Be VS. Gym Leaders
I’ll admit it, going from one town to another in the same order to fight the same old gym leaders in the same old battles is getting lame. Especially when the television series portrayed Gym battles as diverse and nuanced–you could win a gym badge in far more ways than just fisticuffs.
In Pokémon Legends Arceus, Nintendo takes a huge swerve from tradition and introduces Wardens. These leaders don’t necessarily look for a fight with you (battling Pokémon is actually rare for trainers in this pre-Pokedex region of Hisui). Instead, they will more often than not need help taming Noble Pokémon. This implies that the challenges will be more interesting than previous mainline titles and maybe approached in non-linear order.
What a huge breath of fresh air to the Pokémon franchise. If they can make this fun.
The trailers have been playing their hand fairly close to the chest, implying that one challenge will be finding and battling Kleavor (a very cool new rock-type evolution of Scyther), which isn’t too different from the game loop used in previous games.
I would love to see Nintendo get creative with these Warden quests. Pokémon boasts such a cool world where anything can happen— getting some interesting missions and side quests would be a welcome sight.
However, I can definitely see how these Warden challenges could end up feeling just as same-y as fighting gym leaders.
Final Thoughts on Pokémon Legends: Arceus
Nintendo has been slow-dripping information to bloodthirsty Pokémon fans all year. Even though Pokémon Legends Arceus’ release date is fast approaching, there is still plenty of time for more revelations revolving around Pokémon’s big break into the open world.
Perhaps, by then, many of my questions and concerns will be addressed.
And, maybe I’ll end up pulling my hair out, asking how Nintendo came so close to making an incredible game but flirted with mediocrity and shit the bed like they often do with some of their lesser franchises.
But I’ll keep my hopes up that Nintendo has listened to fans — not too much, mind you — but enough to deliver an experience worthy of the Pokémon legacy.
We’ll know for sure come January 28, 2022…
More In Gaming:
- All The Pokémon Games in Chronological Order
- 10 Best Couch Co-op Games to Play With a Non-Gamer
- Pokémon Natures: Everything You Need To Know
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