Thoughts on Pokemon Legends: Arceus

Pokemon Legends: Arceus was a fun enough game – fun enough for me to want to do a full playthrough, but honestly, I don’t think I would have played the game if it weren’t a Pokemon game.

I played a game from every set of Pokemon games from gen 1 to 4 and then 6 and 7, and gen 7 (Sun & Moon) was the one that really burned me out. When Sword & Shield were announced, I swore that I would never play another Pokemon game again.

And now enter Pokemon Legends: Arceus. PLA is drastically different than the usual Game Freak Pokemon game. It feels so different that I’ve noticed some reviewers calling it a “spin-off”, but I believe that officially it is in fact a mainline game, and that’s pretty exciting. I’m really hoping they keep exploring this style of game, at least for a little longer. (Scarlet and Violet look alright I guess, but I’m waiting for more videos and information).

Pokemon Legends: Arceus has a lot of potential, which is why I want them to keep going because future games could potentially be so much better. But for now, Pokemon Legends: Arceus is a bit rough around the edges, but still ultimately an enjoyable experience.

One thing I found really amusing in PLA is that it feels a lot more mature in a maybe overly heavy-handed way. Within the first missions of the game they flat out tell you that if you fail, they will leave you out to die in the wilderness. They also finally tackle the thought train of “hey, if you really think about it, the concept of Pokemon is sort of terrifying to the average person”. I actually enjoyed this theme a lot, even if they did beat me over the head with it.

He’s got a point.

The actual plot however is just sorta….there. Like there is a plot, but it’s sort of what you’d expect and not very memorable at all. It’s a Pokemon plot.

In all the other games, I was always the Pokemon player that had a planned out team before starting a game and then only went around catching just the Pokemon I needed for the team, HM slaves, legendaries, and maybe a couple more here and there. I think I finished Ultra Sun with a Pokedex of roughly 20 Pokemon caught. I felt like there wasn’t actually much incentive in finishing a Pokedex, and it was basically impossible anyway, so why bother?

Well, in PLA, there’s a huge incentive to catch as many Pokemon as you can, because you need to get the research points from completing your Pokedex to increase in rank. I found that I felt a nice hit of dopamine every time I found a new Pokemon in the wild. It felt fresh and exciting finding something new and going around catching it for the Pokedex.

I had a lot of fun trying to catch them all, but I don’t think I’m going to dive too deeply into the post game and actually catch them all because that’s a lot of time to spend and I have other games I want to play. There are also some Pokemon that require a lot more work to find than others.

I think I read in some reviews that certain story missions will only let you progress if you’re at a certain rank. Since I did attempt to catch every new Pokemon I found, I never ran into this at all. Also, until the final area of the game, I tried to use a team of six Pokemon that I hadn’t maxed out yet in the Pokedex. When I finished the Pokedex entry of a Pokemon I was using, I’d go and swap them out for someone new, so I ended up running around with a huge variety of Pokemon – a very different approach than my usual planned out team.

The graphics are…rough. It’s been said over and over again so I won’t complain about it too much, but I’m personally someone who doesn’t really care about graphics and even I think it’s bad. Though to be honest, I don’t think the issue is necessarily with the graphics, but rather with the aesthetic and art style. I really like having interesting and vibrant areas to explore (i.e. Monster Hunter and Genshin Impact have some really beautiful areas) and Pokemon does have some potential to look cool. This screenshot of a splash screen looks alright.

But for the most part, all the areas look pretty empty and boring. The color palettes are usually quite drab as well.

I think an issue is that the world itself is pretty empty. Other than new Pokemon, the wisps and Unowns (aka the collectables of the game hidden around), and maybe new crafting items, there’s not much to find out there when you’re just exploring. I guess you can also potentially find new side quests or satchels (basically an online function in which you can grab someone else’s loot that they dropped when dying, and then send the items back to them), but those aren’t very engaging either, and also those are marked on the map so you’ll never stumble upon them. Maybe the issue is that there are no chests to find in the world, no dungeons, and no puzzles. It’s just…empty.

Granted, you could maybe say that it wouldn’t make sense to find chests or puzzles in the wilderness. However, in one of the mid-game areas, I found a cave and was excited to go into it, but all I found was an empty room with a couple of Tentacools. My excitement for exploring in this game noticeably dropped after that.

There’s sometimes cool little things you can find around the world, but only a couple, and they don’t do anything as far as I know. Combine that with the lack of cool landscapes and yeah, I’m not super motivated to finish exploring small regions I missed.

I will say though, the space time rifts do look pretty cool, and it was really cool seeing them for the first time, going in, and feeling a legitimate sense of danger, cause you’ll just get ambushed in 3 vs 1 encounters if you just stand around doing nothing. I think there are also rare items you can find on the ground in those.

Finally, I noticed that there’s actually very little emphasis on battling. There are very few trainer fights in the game and they usually only have a couple Pokemon. If you play for trainer battling or competitive Pokemon, this not the game for you (also there is no online competitive play anyway).

Long story short: I enjoyed it, and I absolutely don’t regret getting it at full price and finishing it, but I think I’m ready to move on to someone else. I’d recommend the game to any Pokemon fan, but it’s still a bit of a hard sell for anyone who isn’t. Maybe I’m being too cynical, but I just really wish this game were better.

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