Pokémon Legends: Arceus comes as a much-needed refresher for the franchise, with new gameplay mechanics that make capturing pocket monsters more fun than ever. The optional battles and crafting system makes the game feel less repetitive, with a massive storyline that you can get lost in for hours. This is a game you could recommend to anyone, even if they’ve never touched the franchise before.
- Most innovative Pokémon game to date
- So many side quests to get through
- Great new game mechanics mixed
- Pokémon and people look quirky
- The gameplay at the end gets repetitive
- Poor graphics quality
- The world looks remarkably boring
- Genre: Action RPGPokémon Legends: Arceus is in the same genre as the main series, only with revamped catching mechanics.
- Release date:Available from 28 January 2022
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is one of the most innovative titles the series has seen in years, as Game Freak has flipped the strict turn-based RPG gameplay on its head.
The world of Pokémon needs no introduction, though Arceus takes place in a time when pocket monsters are fearful creatures that roam free, giving players the main task of creating the very first Pokédex.
With multiple creatures to befriend, fight and capture, there are hours of fun to be had here, with the main storyline taking me 24 hours in total to complete, and that’s without even mentioning the side quests.
Keep reading to see what I thought of Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
- Up to 25 hours of main campagin to get through
- Dozens of sidequests for even more playtime
- A new take on an old tale
Pokémon Legends: Arceus starts as most Pokémon stories do, with a silent protagonist. Your journey begins with your character falling through a space-time rift, with an Arc Phone joining quickly after. Almost immediately, you meet the first professor not to be named after a tree, Professor Laventon.
Despite no one being able to recognise you, or your modern-day clothing, Laventon is very eager to help, since you are one of the few people in Arceus that isn’t completely terrified of Pokémon. You can easily approach, fight and capture Pokémon, which is very unusual for this time period.
The journey takes place in the Hisui region, which is overrun with wild Pokémon and more specifically frenzied nobles, which are essentially jacked-up golden Pokémon that are terrorising specific regions. Laventon gets you into the Galaxy Team camp, which ultimately leads to you being recruited into the Survey Corps, a branch of military soldiers that explore the lands to quell pocket monsters.
The first section of Arceus does commit a ridiculous amount of time to cutscenes, as it seems Game Freak doesn’t fully trust its audience to understand this new take on the Pokémon world, yet the story itself is still compelling.
Unlike the other games in the series, I had more time to explore and look around without being dragged into yet another random encounter with a Bidoof or a Parasec.
I also got to meet up and aid both the Diamond and Pearl clans, which was a fun wink to other games in the franchise. There are plenty of side quests and side characters to meet both in the main story and elsewhere, which made the world feel very full and evolved.
There are multiple endings available, which are influenced by how many Pokémon you’ve caught and how much of the Pokédex you have completed. I have not managed to catch ’em all just yet, though I still found my ending to be conclusive and satisfying, with the option to come back for more if I ever feel like it.
- Optional battles with wild Pokémon
- No Gyms or Trainers, but Alpha Pokémon
- Strong and Agile type moves
There are a few new features in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, with the main one being that you are the person responsible for creating the Pokédex. I love this, as every future Pokémon game I play, I will know that some version of myself went through and found each creature. It makes the Pokémon universe feel centred around you and your character, which is a little narcissistic, but what I believe the franchise is about.
Each time you catch a creature it is recorded in your little Pokédex book, but you only add your entry when you complete certain tasks. So, for my starter Pokémon Cyndaquil, some of his research tasks include the number you’ve caught, times you’ve seen it use Flame Wheel and the number you have evolved, among others. The idea is that you spend time with each Pokémon, either fighting with them or against them, so you can fill out those research tasks.
This part of the game is as important as you make it, with my dedication to the cause steadily decreasing as I progressed through the game. Your Pokédex progress directly correlates with your rank in the Galaxy Team, with a higher rank offering specific progression milestones and different rewards.
Arceus sets you up on a satisfying gameplay loop, which involves you going to a new area, capturing and fighting Pokémon, completing the main story task, and starting the process over again. I would also frequently stick around or go back to an old area to cover more ground and find new creatures, which adds to the open-world aspect.
Arceus makes it easier to traverse the world the longer you play, as you unlock special Pokémon that can fly, swim and climb. Depending on my mood, I would teleport from camp to camp for ease, but the ability to soar across the sky was still very much appreciated.
The other aspect of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which I personally love, is that you don’t need to go into a battle to capture a Pokémon. The idea that I could sneak up on a creature and capture it from behind within seconds, compared to being pulled into yet another battle, was really satisfying.
Once in battle, it’s business as usual, with six Pokémon of your choice. You can evolve your creatures to develop Agile and Strong moves, which adds more variety to the gameplay, with Agile moves being less powerful but upping the chances that your next move will come sooner, and the Strong move doing the opposite.
I’ve managed to capture a couple of Alpha Pokémon too, which are essentially bigger and stronger species of Pokémon, with ominous red glowing eyes. They are harder to capture and fight, with the Alpha Snorlax in Obsidian Fieldlands being specifically aggressive, but the feeling of accomplishment I got after my win made it all worth it.
I also enjoyed throwing the occasional mudball to distract an angry Geodude or throwing an Oran Berry to attract a Pichu. There are just so many options on how you can approach each battle, which keeps the game feeling fresh.
Speaking of feeling fresh, the multitude of side quests make the world feel full. The side quests vary in difficulty, with a few being completed by accident, but I love the excuses to keep visiting different areas of the world that the story doesn’t focus on as much.
However, there are some parts of the gameplay that I was not a fan of. Easily, the worst part is the infuriating small bag space you have. It can be upgraded for a frankly extortionate price, but since there are seemingly hundreds of items to find, I never seemed to have enough space.
My other gripe is that the battles often seem unfair, as I had several instances of throwing upwards of a dozen Ultra Pokéballs to evenly matched Pokémon to no avail. While I don’t know the specifics of the mechanics for the battles, oftentimes it felt like I had no chance of capturing a creature, with the aforementioned Alpha Snorlax taking out all six of my Pokémon as I was trying to force it into a ball.
Past these two annoyances, the gameplay for Arceus feels mostly even and satisfying, with the game consistently feeling new and entertaining, other than the last hour or so of the story, which I felt was dragged out for just a tad too long.
- Pokémon designs are quirky
- The world looks pretty bland
- Some graphical issues
Unfortunately, the graphics of Pokémon Legends: Arceus is where it falls flat, especially when you compare it to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the more recent Metroid Dread. Granted, I played this game on the original Nintendo Switch and not the Switch OLED, but even by those standards, the world is still bland and uninteresting.
The scenery can look great when you’re soaring through the sky, but the minute you get close it becomes overly simple with frankly boring colours. Trees would also flicker in and out of the background when you’re running.
There are also major frame rate issues here, which doesn’t necessarily affect the gameplay, but it’s frustrating when you consider what the Switch is capable of, and how much better other simple games look, like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which has bags more personality despite being one of the simplest games available on Switch.
The world also never seems to react to your presence, with the grass barely moving when you or a creature wanders through it. It was disappointing to unlock the entire map and realise that most of it consists of either long stretches of grass or empty mountains, and I’m genuinely confused as to why Game Freak kept its world so minimal.
The one expectation here is the sky, which looks great throughout the entire game, with the space time-rift a constant reminder of why you’re here.
I also docked my Switch and played on my TV, which I don’t think made much difference, if anything it made the glitching trees more noticeable, as it was on a 43-inch screen instead of a 6-inch screen.
That is also to say that this doesn’t necessarily make the game worse, and in no way would I not recommend it because of the boring world, I’m just perplexed at why it’s been an oversight when first-party Nintendo games are usually so polished.
The silver lining here is that the Pokémon themselves look great, with the models looking similar to New Pokémon Snap. They will roam around, with the temperament of the creature affecting how it moves. My character also looked cute, with options to go to the hairdressers or clothing shops to change your style being a nice add on.
Should you buy it?
You want a new Pokémon experience:
Anyone who wants a new gaming experience, whether you’ve played a Pokémon game before or not, should play Arceus. It blends old and new mechanics wonderfully and offers up a whole new experience for players.
You care about graphics:
If you want your games to look as good as Breath of the Wild and to be filled with vibrant colours and personality, Arceus falls short here, despite the interesting premise and characters.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is one of the most innovative titles the series has seen in a long time, with the new game mechanics and features making me wonder how I’ve ever played another Pokémon game. Game Freak created a great story that puts you in a position you’ve never been in before, with more quirky characters and hours of fun, with over one hundred side quests to boot.
The main thing that lets down Arceus are the graphics, which are overly simple and bland for a Pokémon game, and downright depressing when compared to any other Switch title.
But taking the disappointing graphics out, and the last hour of the campaign that drags on for a weird amount of time, this is one of the best Pokémon games out there that I think anyone can enjoy, whether you’re a seasoned player or you’ve never even seen a Pichu before.
How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Played through the entire storyline
Tested on the Nintendo Switch
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Arceus largely sticks to Pokémon that have already been revealed, although a few do have new designs.
Yes, new free content is now available for the game, and more is expected to follow.