The Pokemon formula has taken a wildly different turn with GameFreak’s latest title, Pokemon Legends: Arceus, released just last week for the Nintendo Switch. Taking what we already know and love of Pokemon titles, Legends: Arceus incorporates action RPG elements into the traditional Pokemon formula: now, you can explore the vast region of Hisui with your Pokemon pals at your side, traversing a grittier, less forgiving world that will require you to be just as much on your toes as your fighting partners.
The game itself is an “isekai,” a trope where a character gets transported to a new and different world; in the case of Legends: Arceus, you’ve been sent to the Hisui region by a mysterious entity, left in an exciting but cold land with people yet accustomed to the idea of catching and training Pokemon. The game doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to this; from the minute you fall from the sky into Hisui and find yourself meeting the people of Jubilife Village, they’re quick to tell you of the dangers of the vast wilderness that separates the village from others, going so far as to warn you of your probable death.
Pokemon in this game are wild and ready to attack at a moment’s notice, so much so that they might even try to target you. In true action RPG fashion, your character is given both a dodge roll and a crouch command, allowing you to go in blazing and dodge a Pokemon’s attacks, or hide from the safety of tall grass and try to catch them from behind.
Hisui is vast, albeit a little sparse, and though the game’s graphics can leave much to be desired, its technical prowess is quite impressive. Pokemon can be taken out of their Pokeballs during exploration in the wilderness and in Jubilife village, where you can interact with them and see their different animations. When engaging with Pokemon in the wilderness, fights work pretty seamlessly; the game diverges from the typical turn order of past Pokemon titles and allows for your Pokemon’s speed stats to come into play.
Sometimes, you’ll be able to attack twice before an opponent can act, other times, you’ll have to wait. Because of this, you’ll need to be wary of the Pokemon’s level you face and your current Pokemon at hand, taking into consideration type advantages; you might find yourself getting knocked out in one turn if you aren’t too careful. Though you are only allowed up to six Pokemon at your disposal while travelling, Pokemon you’ve caught are easily accessible through pastures they reside in, making the ability to swap out your team quick and painless.
With Jubilife village as your “hub” area, you’ll find a good amount of options for crafting items, character customization, and completing quests. Legends: Arceus allows for a range of skin tones to select from at the start of the game, and changing your hairstyle, eye colour, and clothing is a quick process (though, keep in mind it’ll cost you some in-game money).
The village residents, though at first wary of you and your intentions, will ask you to complete requests for them, including such tasks as bringing them items or giving them Pokemon for their own. Rewards most frequently come in the form of money and items, the latter of which may often include resources that will help you in wilderness zones. Certain berries can be thrown to distract Pokemon, giving you ample time to chuck a Pokeball, while other items like “tumblestones” and “apricorns” can be used to craft different types of Pokeballs.
While we’d like to refrain from giving any story spoilers, the first few hours of the game are off to a promising start narrative-wise. Some characters you come across might look a little familiar, and each has their own unique personality that, even in the opening moments of the game, come across quite well. While dialogue is still not voiced, the game’s writing is purposeful and to-the-point, and the hand-holding often complained about in past Pokemon titles isn’t nearly as heavy here. Additionally, the use of animations for both Pokemon and characters alike have seen quite an improvement, especially with you and your rival character, who emote much more in cutscenes than in previous games. While at times the animations might look a little goofy, it’s clear GameFreak has taken into consideration the critiques of past titles and have worked to give this Pokemon title the vivacity it deserves.
Overall, Pokemon Legends: Arceus is off to a promising start, begging the question of where Pokemon titles might go from here. Do you prefer the more traditional formula, or has Legends: Arceus sparked your interest? Be sure to let us know!
For more from Cara, read her review of the latest Rugrat’s adventure now!