By: Elliott Garske
The Pokemon series hasn’t exactly been the pinnacle of revolution in the gaming industry since its beginnings back in the 90’s. Where other games create stunning open worlds and complex game loops and mechanics, Pokemon has always stayed in it’s own lane as a fairly straightforward jrpg series about catching cute little monsters. Pokemon Legends: Arceus however is a huge jump in how the series plays out, and really shows just how different a Pokemon game can play while still holding the fundamentals of what makes Pokemon, Pokemon.
The huge jump in innovation is of course in the fact that Legends: Arceus is extremely open compared to past games. Instead of a set of linear routes filled with trainers and spots of tall grass to battle Pokemon in, there are 5 huge areas where Pokemon can pop up practically anywhere. While the game doesn’t feature anywhere near the huge amounts of Pokemon featured in other games (the Pokedex only has 242 Pokemon compared to the 493 in Diamond and Pearl, or even the 900 in Sword and Shield), but what it does have is unprecedented depth and variety between each Pokemon’s behaviors and actions. You can hang out with certain Pokemon that are completely chill with people’s presence, some Pokemon are skittish and will attempt to run away the second they realize you are there. Others will become hostile on sight and refuse to be captured unless battled first. You can also use berries and other items to distract or stun Pokemon in order to get to a better position to battle or catch them from.
Another thing that makes the open world of Legends: Arceus so amazing is the seamlessness between battles and roaming around. When you want to enter a battle, you can aim a Pokeball with whatever Pokemon you want to send in and throw it at whatever you want to battle. The Battle will immediately start without any loading screens and you can even run around each Pokemon as they battle. The seamlessness of how battling and catching wild Pokemon works is integral to the experience, as it just wouldn’t feel right if it wasn’t nailed perfectly, which fortunately it is.
The big motto for Pokemon of course is “Gotta catch em’ all”, and it has never been so apparent as it is here. The main objective over everything else in Legends: Arceus is to complete the Pokedex. Now you may think “Hey that’s not so bad, just catch one of every Pokemon and boom done.” But it’s a lot more involved than that. The Pokedex has been given a huge overhaul in terms of its completion. Completing the Hisui Region’s first ever Pokedex (now known as the Sinnoh Region) requires specific actions and observations about each of it’s 240 Pokemon. You need to watch them use certain moves, catch them under specific conditions, and even defeat them in battle multiple times. Completing the Pokedex rewards you with an encounter with and the opportunity to catch the literal Pokemon God, Arceus.
Pokemon Legends Arceus is overall the perfect modern take on a formula that frankly has been a bit stale since 2016. It’s open world while empty at points is a great starting point for future titles, and I can confidently say that Legends: Arceus is probably the best game in the series so far.