Pokémon Legends: Arceus Review: If We Could Turn Back Time

Just as things were starting to feel a little stale in the Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Legends: Arceus comes along to shake things up. Bringing an entire new approach to everything we knew as 'Pokémon', we are tasked with going back to basics and beginning again. In the beautiful Hisui Region, the world is our cloyster. The secrets that lie within are ours to discover.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus Review: If We Could Turn Back TimeAfter its announcement in February 2021, Pokémon Legends: Arceus has been one of the most anticipated releases from the brand. Promising a whole new take on the franchise, players have been patiently waiting to see what resides in Hisui and which hidden secrets lie in life before Sinnoh for almost a year. 

Following closely from the release of the favorite Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, this title has given players the opportunity to continue their adventure. But there is more than meets the eye in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. There’s a whole world to explore, with several exciting regions to dive into – and encountering wild Pokémon has never felt so natural. 

So what makes Arceus such a notable title? Is it just riding the high of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl? Or is it worth dusting off your Pokédex and jumping back in time to where everything began. 

Pokemon Legends Arceus - Official Trailer

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is available on the Nintendo Switch e-Shop.

Story: Back to the Good Old Days

When a rift in space and time suddenly opens up, you quickly find yourself tumbling into an entirely new realm with nothing but an omnipresent guide to lead the way. Pokémon Legends: Arceus explores the land of Hisui and a time before Pokémon as we know it. With the title releasing a handful of months after the remake of fans favorite fourth gen installment, it feels as though it fits perfectly into the timeline. To anyone who played Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, it’s like this game picks up where you left off. From a modern world where people and Pokémon have befriended one another, you suddenly come into contact with people who are absolutely terrified of them. 

Whilst exploring the reasons behind this rift, one of the main tasks is to develop the friendship between people and Pokémon. Along the way players learn about the history and reasons behind certain evolution processes or adaptations. Legends touches on elements of history which have been lost in translation amongst previous titles. Despite the fact we travel back in time, we learn new things about our favorite companions. Learning about the history of the region and the inhabitants has never felt so interactive and fun. By completing Pokédex entries your knowledge of the species only expands – which you shouldn’t shy away from telling the village people about. 

A strange array of starters - but adorable nonetheless

A strange array of starters – but adorable nonetheless

The clash of clans

But it’s not all smooth sailing. Hisui is plagued by the rivalry of two clans – Diamond and Pearl. Sound familiar? Both of which are trying to serve a higher power which they refer to as ‘Sinnoh’. Along the way you develop a trust with both clan leaders. They help you explore the land whilst pushing you to your own limits. The amount of small references and Easter Eggs to previous Pokémon titles are uncountable. Even down to the way these two specific characters dress, any previous players will instantly recognize which critters they are in reference to. This title is an extremely clever representation of the history of Pokémon and invites both new and old players to fall in love with the franchise for the first time. 

Gameplay: Begin at the very beginning

For once, the sole purpose of a Pokémon title isn’t to battle and become the best. Instead it reverts back to it’s roots of catching them all. After the hassle of spending decades training to beat the elite four, and feeling the frustration of every trainer battle. Legends takes a step back. This title has taken what once felt like an extremely tedious and repetitive element of all Pokemon games and has made it really engaging. Catching several of the same Pokémon in a row isn’t a necessity. But players feel like they want to just because they can. Plus, not having to watch the same animation screen and sequence play out every time you bump into something accidentally is definitely a plus. 

With a new approach to the franchise has also introduced a whole new variety of mechanics. Which, a lot of players have been curious about. Rather than having a bag filled with Pokéballs which can only be used in combat, players are now free to attempt to catch Pokémon if and when they please in the wild. Gone are the days of wandering through tall grass and hoping for something new. Now the only thing lurking in tall grass is you, praying that a Psyduck doesn’t wander in and spot your not-so-hidden hiding place. It’s definitely a necessary change to the play style, and is undeniably refreshing after feeling as though all elements of gameplay in a Pokémon title have remained the same since the game was first released.

Get up close and personal with all your favorites

Get up close and personal with all your favorites

Gotta craft a ball

Your bag has been replaced with a satchel. Which is filled with a huge spectrum of throw-able items to encourage this new take on adventure. Crafting has also been introduced which has FINALLY removed the slug of having to spend every last coin you have on Pokéballs. But with the game encouraging catching Pokémon rather than battling them, being able to craft your own tools is needed. Plus, materials aren’t hard to come by and as you progress through the title you pick up more recipes to create new things and encourage your own success. 

A day in the life of a Pokémon

Additionally, wild encounters are notably less surprising but by far more enchanting with this style of game play. Sure, the element of surprise has been taken out. But seeing Pokémon in their natural habitat is nothing like we have seen before. In Let’s Go: Eevee and Let’s Go: Pikachu, we experienced Pokémon above ground for the first time. But they weren’t really natural. They just wandered freely around their designated area – which is the same for the Wild Area in Sword and Shield and The Grand Underground in BD & SP. In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, we finally get an insight to how Pokémon would really act. Hippopotas’ are bathing in mud, Eevee nap quietly under a shaded tree, monsters are jumping around and playing with one another. It’s precious. And also the insight to what the world would be like which players have been craving since the 90’s. 

Take on new threats with 'frenzied noble' Pokémon

Take on new threats with ‘frenzied noble’ Pokémon

Noble and alpha

A few of our favorites which you’ll encounter on your journey aren’t exactly as you remember them. Alpha Pokémon are a side effect of the rift, and are scattered across every region. These enraged enemies are significantly harder to catch and fight. Typically showcasing an extreme size compared to regular encounters and also being a much higher level. If you are lucky enough to catch one, there is something undeniably amusing about seeing them compared to the rest of your party. They tower over their regular companions. They’re also a great addition should you find yourself facing off with a frenzied alpha. 

Noble versions of Pokémon are essentially the ‘boss battles’ of the game. But rather than just fighting them, the game implements balms to calm them down. If you don’t fancy sacrificing your party, you can just stand back and trust your dodging techniques. Just make sure you are consistently throwing balms or these intense encounters will last a lifetime. Upon completion you get a little stamp on your player card, just to prove that you are the very best. 

Even though it's guaranteed, this shiny still feels so special

Even though it’s guaranteed, this shiny still feels so special

The story of shiny hunting

Being able to see which critters are in front of you has also encouraged a grind many players always end up facing. Except it’s made it significantly easier this time around. Shiny hunting and shiny Pokémon have been ‘trophies’ that many players have searched endlessly for since they first came about in the title. Whilst odds of encountering a shiny are the same as previously released titles, ridding the game of random encounters and being able to see the amount of same Pokémon on screen means that the odds of you walking into a shiny seem much more common. 

This hunt is also encouraged by a side quest pretty early on in the game, ‘A Peculiar Ponyta’. You are tasked to discover a Ponyta in the starting area which seems to have a different color to all the others. It doesn’t take a veteran to understand that this means it’s shiny. Obviously this quest feeds into the lore of the title. No one has seen a shiny Pokémon before, they don’t know that Pokémon can come in a different color scheme. By catching this beautiful variation, you learn more about the history of shiny Pokémon. From that point on it’s pretty smooth sailing. 

Assemble your indestructible team for adventure

Assemble your indestructible team for adventure

Let’s get serious about side quests

Side quests become readily available as you dive into the story and become an integral part of gameplay. Not only are they a main source of increasing both rank and level, but they also allow you to explore the entire expanse of the ‘new’ world at a gentle pace. When you begin your exploration of Hisui, the vast horizon is as overwhelming as it possibly could be. For once there is no linear journey from the beginning area to the elite four. You are in charge of your own journey for once. So you’re free to go wherever your heart (and feet) can take you. Much like the beginning of Breath of the Wild, you are free to take on your adventure however you fancy, but the plot is in place to stop you from speeding through it.

Being able to gently ease your way into exploration is necessary. Players are now able to really sit and enjoy the game as they proceed with the main story. Instead of feeling compelled to race through it. Plus, being tasked to find specific Pokémon with significant guidance makes the impossible seem completely feasible. There are SO many Pokémon to find in this release. Once you know where one spawns, being able to revisit that location and catch even just one when you can, is the best way to play this title.

Each area is also equipped with their own appropriate species. Like Spheals residing on the beach and Driftloons emerging from the shadows of night. Conveniently the Pokédex is divided into regions as well, so logging your encounters really has never been easier. The same can be said for swapping out your party, which can very easily be done at every single camp you pitch.

Hisuian Voltorb looks exactly like the original Pokéball

Hisuian Voltorb looks exactly like the original Pokéball

Audio and Graphics: Nostalgia in a new wave

Before the games release there was a huge amount of skepticism towards the games presentation. Thousands of players claimed that the gameplay footage looked awful. It seemed buggy and there were many notable errors. But upon the release of the game it’s clear that most of these wrongs have been changed. It has definitely made for a beautiful game. Although – there are still several bugs which are obvious throughout playing. For example, occasionally Pokémon will move in an incredibly unnatural way. Or just teleport around the map (that doesn’t go for you, Abra) and it seems really static. 

Due to the high spawn rate of all our favorite critters too the game faces a few issues with lag. This is definitely impacted by playing either handheld or docked. Whilst handheld appears to struggle with keeping up, playing docked definitely enhances gameplay and graphics. With the scale of everything, from Pokémon to the map itself, playing on a larger screen is definitely a beneficial option. 

Be careful... You never know what might come out at night

Be careful… You never know what might come out at night

Out with the old

The soundtrack is also worth noting. Whilst tunes from previous games are closely referenced, Pokémon Legends: Arceus has bought an entire new playlist of audio. Hearing familiar samples such as the music from Lake Verity applied to an enchanting new area just felt right. The difference in music compared to older games really encouraged the idea of it being a time before Sinnoh really came to fruition. 

Plus, what’s not to love about a new set of PokéTunes to bop along to? After cycling through the Diamond and Pearl soundtrack in the remakes, a few of them glittered with familiarity. Yet also felt new and refreshing. To any older fans of the franchise, you might experience the same heart-clenching nostalgia that many fans did during BD & SP, but to all new players this catchy soundtrack will no doubt follow you around and get stuck in your head much like previous titles. Something definitely occurs in the battle sequence to make it so catchy. So it’s something that I will definitely be singing for years to come.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a well-needed breath of fresh air into the Pokémon franchise. It's exciting and entirely brand new, and has introduced several elements players will want to see in future releases. There's enough content to see you through until the next big title, and a large enough world to find yourself not getting bored easily. It's a stunning game and stays true to everything gamers love about Pokémon.
  • A new, breathtaking world to explore
  • A refreshing take on the Pokémon franchise
  • More than enough content - including post game
  • Immersion shattering bugs and glitches
  • Frame rate drops when Pokémon are just out of eyeline

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