The next in line for the Poke-throne, Pokemon Legends: Arceus, is peppered with change - but is this change for the better?
Perhaps the most anticipated game in the Electric Games office is the Nintendo Switch exclusive Pokémon Legends: Arceus, a convenient choice for it is one of the first games of 2022, seeing release on the 28th of January. Arceus is in many ways a step up from Sword/Shield/Sun/Moon, possessing a persuasive narrative revolving around 'The Original One', the creator of Sinnoh and perhaps even the entirety of the Pokemon Universe, the revered Arceus. The game is a blast from the past, returning to the roots of the Pokémon universe to commemorate 25 years of the fruitful series established in 1995. Though looking back, Game Freak returns to centre stage to ensure Arceus moves forward in a surprising but auspicious shift of direction, an action-RPG title acting as a (rather distant) prequel to Sinnoh-based 2006 Diamond and Pearl and the game’s subsequent 2021 remaster, Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl. We think Arceus is a welcome break from the norm, a product of ninth-gen tech used minimally to generate a simple, grass-roots game that hooks you from the outset. Let’s explore this for a second.
What is Arceus' context?
Arceus finds its feet in what is now Sinnoh, but at the time of events is a realm known as Hisui, a vast, charming, mostly untouched swathe wilderness – an antiquated time where civilisation was still merely a drop in the ocean. A small Japanese village named Jubilife, home to Galaxy Expedition Team, is the miniature hub of human civilisation bar a few outposts and base camps where wardens, who are early forms of trainers, lodge in and undertake research. Pokémon are yet documented; gameplay is rumoured to entail the fruition of this task, forming the Pokedex (sounds a little like Snap, doesn't it?) and setting the stage for all that is to come. The search for the elusive Arceus (whom I think hides secrets in the active volcano, Mt. Coronet) is also said to dominate the plot arc, but Game Freak are notorious for their brevity – much is left unsaid. We are certain, though, that the adorable bird-like Rowlet, pyromaniac Cyndaquil, and enthusiastic Oshawott are our starter Pokémon with the rest roaming the lands of Hisui as they please, and we know the game is lore-some, brimming with
How does Pokemon Legends: Arceus look?
As opposed to the arcade game graphics deployed in Diamond and Pearl and remade titles, Arceus reminds us of The Legend of Zelda aesthetic– enchanting, evergreen, ebullient - a pleasure to look at. It’s an art style that just makes you feel good as you play it, the hypnotising cinematic styles featured throughout are impossible to fault, they are about as heart-warming as you can get. Yet it is not just the graphic design that has received a makeover, the alteration in gameplay angle from the quintessential Pokémon overhead camera to the widely used third-person approach analogous to that used in Sword and Shield, though Arceus dons improved visuals and less focus on heavy animations, is also a bold but brilliant move from Game Freak. The look of Arceus on the other hand is as effortlessly simple yet mysterious as the unsullied natural world the game depicts; it is in my opinion the best-looking Pokémon game to date. I’ll be honest, it’s been a solid while since I have had my hopes up for a Pokémon title – most titles in the last six years or so have just not done it for me – but Arceus has appeal in almost every way imaginable.
Gameplay & Combat
The attitude towards combat is where fans of Pokémon will see Arceus really shift its focus, offering not traditional turn-based but live-action battle as you would in an open-world game, though the developers emphasise that Arceus is not an open-world title, at least not in the traditional sense. Some Wild Pokémon can be captured without combat, but Alpha Pokémon, for example, will seldom acquiesce into a Pokeball without a fight, not discriminating between you and your Pokémon, seeking to damage all – another first for the Pokémon series. Players encounter groups of Pokémon of the same species, some further evolved than others and a few solely enormous, as they wander the many biomes Hisui has to offer. When the need for combat arises – an aggressive creature fancies having it out – combat consists of two paths of action: Strong Style and Agile Style, each choice augmenting the potency of either attack or speed.
Our final thoughts on Arceus
At least so far as I can see it, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the game the vivid, curious child’s mind could conjure up and revel in during a daydream, finally gifting to fans what many have silently (or not) wished for since the Pokémon games first aired - the chance to utilise Special Pokémon as makeshift horses and jet skis at the whistle of the Celestica Flute, for example. We have our eyes set on the 28th of January, refusing to take our gaze off the (Poke) ball for a second until we have firmly caught Arceus. It’s a significant deviation from the trend for Game Freak, and new techniques require practise; Arceus may not be pristine from the get-go (though we think it will be), but at least this is a company willing to take a risk for the sake of fans. It is inappropriate to wholly compare Arceus to past titles for here we are amid a remoulding, albeit perhaps temporary - the land may look different, as will some Pokémon come to think of it, as will how we negotiate Hisui and its magical denizens. There is a lot of new aspects of Arceus to become accustomed to, but all changes are par for the course of galvanising constructively an established gaming formula. How exciting!
Images sourced from Pokemon.