Pokemon Legends: Arceus - Review
In recent years, the Pokémon video game series have earned quite a bad reputation among the gaming community.
Self-copying and outright savings on the development of projects such as Pokémon Sword & Shield and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl to some extent hit the image of the Game Freak studio. Nevertheless, Pokémon Legends: Arceus has attracted public attention almost since its announcement in early 2021.
The developers finally decided to get out of their comfort zone and began experimenting with new ideas and mechanics, which could not but please the fans of pocket monsters hungry for novelties. Kazumasa Iwao, who was previously responsible for the development of Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon, was in the game director's chair this time.
The main plot narrative in Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes place in the Shinno region, a local variation on the second largest island of Japan — Hokkaido. Contrary to popular belief, the setting presented in the game is inspired not by the feudal era of the Land of the Rising Sun, but by the Meiji era, dating from the middle to the end of the XIX century.
For the protagonist of the story, this world is not native, because it is transferred to Sinno from our time by a mysterious deity named Arkeus. The local population is just beginning to establish contact with pocket monsters, and it is the hero of the story who should act as a link between people and bizarre creatures.
The plot part of Pokémon Legends: Arceus cannot be called a strong link of the game. The initial training, during which the hero is led by the handle and told the obvious things, lasts about two hours. As the campaign progresses, the coach will meet with a huge number of characters who appear and disappear from sight at an incredible speed. The project desperately lacks voicing - the characters only slap their lips against the background of the pop-up text. Voice accompaniment would significantly increase the dynamics and involvement in what is happening, making frequent dialog inserts less tedious.
The main feature of Pokemon Legends: Arceus is the changed gameplay. For the first time since Pokémon Red & Pokémon Green, the game of the main line of the series has completely changed the usual formula of a turn-based JRPG towards an adventure in the open world. This is the most radical change in the last 25 years, and it is perceived fresh.
The game space in Pokémon Legends: Arceus is divided into several massive biomes, from snow-capped mountain peaks to swampy lowlands, each of which is inhabited by its own representatives of flora and fauna. The main plot and gameplay measure of progress is filling in the first of its kind encyclopedia of Pokemon - Pokedex. Each individual monster has its own list of tasks that need to be completed before making an entry about a new creation in the Pokedex. These are usually quite trivial tasks.
Directly catching Pokemon is what the player has to do most of the time. Wild creatures no longer jump out of the bushes at the player, but swagger around the open space in the manner of the Wild Area from Pokémon Sword & Shield. It is not necessary to engage in a direct battle with monsters, it is enough just to throw a homemade pokeball and hope for success.
In addition to, in fact, Pokemon, local locations are teeming with a variety of consumables that need to be constantly collected in order to create pokeballs, medical poultices and other improvised tools. Balls for catching monsters are divided into several types and directly affect the gameplay. So, for example, weighted pokeballs have an increased chance of catching creatures that have not yet noticed the approach of the player, but because of the large weight they have to be thrown close, because the flight range of such a ball is relatively small.
Gradually, the player will get new ways to move around the world map. First of all, the riding deer of the Vairdir, which significantly increases the speed of the hero's movement on land. Different types of creatures react to the player in their own manner — some shamefacedly try to sneak around the nearest corner, others come close to examine the hero closer, and still others violently rush into battle. Aggressive representatives of the world attack the protagonist directly and may well send a negligent adventurer to a knockout, so it remains either to take the fight or run as fast as they can.
Strangely enough, catching Pokemon and fighting wild monsters is very interesting, especially in the first couple, while the feeling of novelty gives bright positive emotions. But what upset me was the low interactivity of wild monsters with the outside world. Pokemon just walk in circles, occasionally sleep or perform other basic animation, but do not interact in any way with each other or with other static objects, like trees with berries.
Instead of the usual battles with stadium leaders in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, coaches will have to clash with the most natural Pokemon bosses. Here, the creatures attack the hero with a variety of attacks, while the player dodges with the help of rolls and shoots back with bags of pollen. Such fights bring variety to the gameplay and open the game from a completely different side.
Among the advantages, we can note the updated combat system. Battles take place directly on the world map, without additional downloads, which has a positive effect on the overall dynamics of battles. The player's monster can stand alone against several enemies at once, and this definitely adds more tension to the fights. At the same time, you can easily escape from the battle, because the control of the character is not limited even in the moments of battles.
At first glance, it may seem that the new combat system has undergone only cosmetic changes, or even has become more tactical, but at the same time true to its roots, but in fact this is not the case at all.
The basis of the fights is the system of Conditional Turn-Based Battle (CTB), in which the order of the move is determined by the abstract parameter "Speed". The implementation of such a combat system could be seen, for example, in Final Fantasy X. The higher the Speed parameter of a monster, the faster it fills the invisible readiness scale, which means it attacks more often. Based on this, especially fast monsters can inflict several attacks in a row.
Each attacking move in the game consumes a readiness scale according to its value, which is hidden from the player's eyes. For example, after using the Sword Dance movement that increases the attacking stats of a creature, the scale will fill up faster than after using the Ice Punch movement that deals damage. All this is seasoned with Agile and Strong styles, which either manipulate the speed of gaining readiness points, or change the consumption of the same points.
As a result, creatures can walk four or five times in a row for reasons that are not obvious to the player. The auxiliary menu, which displays the next move, absolutely does not reflect reality, since it takes into account only the basic speed indicators without taking into account manipulations with the STV.
Probably because of the huge number of pitfalls in the combat system, Pokémon Legends: Arceus does not feature PvP battles between players over a local network or the Internet. Properly selected monsters may well simply smash the enemy team without letting the opponent walk even once.
In Pokemon Legends: Arceus, there was a place for numerous and long-overdue minor changes. Among the particularly useful innovations is the ability to change the set of attacks of your monsters at any time. At the same time, most of the useless and frankly weak attacking movements were removed from the game, which made the combat system more understandable and easy to learn.
The graphics of the game at the presentation stage did not have time to discuss only lazy. The models of monsters and non-player characters came out quite good, but the locations and surroundings leave much to be desired. Ladders, low drawing range and low quality textures are attached. However, what is worth praising separately is the new attack animations, some of which are made at a really high level — with an abundance of colorful effects.
Game Freak has repeatedly shown the ability to ignore successful implementations of its ideas, completely abandoning their evolution in the future, but it seems to us that Pokemon Legends: Arceus will set a new vector for the development of the series, especially given the warmest possible reception of this game around the world and high sales.
But you need to understand that the ”traditional" Pokemon role-playing games will not disappear anywhere. Junichi Masuda and Shigeru Omori were not heavily involved in the development of Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, so there is every reason to believe that the ninth generation of pocket monsters has been in development for a long time and may be announced within a year.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a long-awaited breath of fresh air and an important step in the evolution of the series about pocket monsters, whose main feature is the updated gameplay in the open world. This game, as it is clear from the text, cannot be called ideal, but for the decision to shake up the formula and the attempt of conservative developers to try something new, we gave Arkeus one extra point.
Players who appreciate collecting monsters and various kinds of completicism will easily disappear in Pokemon Legends: Arceus for several dozen hours, but the project does not offer an exciting plot. The novelty can definitely be recommended to those who are tired of the traditional "Pokemon" formula. This is definitely the best part of Pokemon on the Nintendo Switch.