Nintendo's Open World Future of Pokémon Legends: Arceus
- Feb 02, 2022
- 4 Comment(s)
Pokémon Legends: Arceus recently released on Jan 28th for the Nintendo Switch followed by a lot of hype for gaming this 2022. An open-world adventure at the dawn of the Pokémon world, and the concept of symbiosis between humans and these wild creatures. The game starts off with a modern kid sent back in time, almost a “dream-like” state into the world of Sinnoh—hundreds of years from what it is today. Here’s my brief review of the title as I've completed about 50% of the story's plot (based on the progression screen).
Bear in mind, I’ve been more observant than involved with this title. My friend and I are playing through this game title together with our own concept of a Nuzlocke Challenge, which may change the review a tad. My friend has played about 99% of the time while I sat, watched, and took notes down for this review while getting the next Vyrus drop ready. Let’s break this down piece-by-piece and then follow up with the final score.
As mentioned before, you play as a kid that seemingly falls from the sky into the world of the Sinnoh region in its historic past. You start in a dream-like situation where you talk to Arceus, and he turns your modern-day phone into an archaic Arceus edition tablet. You join a group called the Survey Corps who essentially are the ones to create the OG PokéDex. This isn’t the same as prior titles where you catch a Pokémon and are supplied data. You assist in creating that data you see in the “modern world” of Pokémon today. You gain more information on these Pokémon based on how many of each you catch, watching them use their moves/attacks as well as defeating a number of each out in the wilderness. The premise of Pokémon Legends: Arceus is attached to completing this but also taking on the “bosses” that are basically possessed Pokémon that are aggressive towards people. There’s something going on with these Pokémon, as well as some in the wild that have red eyes, and you need to get to the bottom of it. Overall, I give the plot some credit because it’s different from the common Pokémon titles in the past, so let’s drop a solid 8.5/10 in this section.
Mechanics & Interface
Picking up the joycons for Pokémon Legends: Arceus on the Nintendo Switch feels a little clunky. This is how I’m starting the review of the mechanics as I feel they didn’t do the greatest in terms of ironing this out before the release date. Main mechanics like throwing Pokéballs at wild Pokémon feels loose, to a point where I’ve seen countless Pokéballs and throwable items literally wasted all because of its poor control and accuracy. Some level of aim-assist that works would be great.
Camera motion controls are needed in this video game, but it adds a little bit more lack of control with loose accuracy of where you need to move the camera. You do get used to it, however, it doesn’t feel fully fleshed out, especially when you’re trying to take on a wild Pokémon.
Interface is something I really dig in this game. The screen isn’t muddied up with all the mechanics, and you can use items mid-battle against bosses to heal Pokémon on the fly. It reminds me of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in terms of how everything “stops” while you open menu screens to navigate healing options before dying in a pinch. There are buttons to swap between the balls and other throwable items for your Pokémon to get into battle. You use the L and R controls to easily go between which Pokémon you want to put into battle or the items you throw at the wild ones running about.
The PokéDex and Menu screens come off a bit overwhelming at first, but eventually, you grow accustomed to them. Things like crafting items become easier as you do it and it saves you a bunch of time visiting rest stops or PokéCenters (which actually don’t even exist in Arceus). All the items you need to craft are out in the open world again similar to Breath of the Wild, and some things like berries are attained by throwing your Pokémon at trees to get for you with a basic attack. I thought it was a cool feature that showed just how helpful Pokémon can be in this world.
Lastly, Pokémon battles are SICK. I genuinely think this is going to be a huge step for the future of this franchise. Not only are they quick and to the point, but they seem super fluid in the way you can openly move around, step in the way of the battle (and yes, you will inflict damage to your character in the crossfire of a Pokémon move), and throw items and your Pokémon the same way you did in prior titles. The scenery doesn’t change per battle, and there are opportunities for other random Pokémon to gang up on you in the middle of the current battle if they decide to do so. We once lost our Shinx in a battle where he was sandwiched front and back by two Paras’s. This mechanic is unique compared to older titles.
As your Pokémon gains more experience and understanding of its move, you can apply more PP to change the way he/she uses their attacks. The moves can be used in Strong style or Agile style. The names are self-explanatory, and both give benefits to the fight as well as disadvantages. The battles allow for the ability to attack twice in a row or even need a turn to take a break if you attack in specific orders. It really feels like a battle of swiftness and logic versus a turn-by-turn-styled fight like it’s been since the ’90s. I’m very excited to see where they go with this for future titles.
All-in-all, mechanics and interface is the most impressive to me in terms of this game. I rate this a 9.5/10. Not a perfect score because I think there’s still room for improvement, but it did well to impress me.
Graphics & Scenery
Here’s a portion of the game I see the most complaints about. Before you get defensive and say all Pokémon games are like this, they’re not. Some of the simpler games like Let’s Go Pikachu did better to figure this out than Pokémon Legends: Arceus in my opinion. Foliage and textures in Arceus look terrible to me. From the clothing your character wears to the ground being flat with an Animal Crossing pattern applied to it, this did nothing to impress me. Keep in mind this is a AAA title worth billions of dollars, and this was the best they could do.
Don’t get me wrong, graphics aren’t everything; but when I see cleaner edges out of the mobile game, Pokémon Go, compared to this title, which is being sold for $60, there’s something wrong with that. The number of trees they place in the game maps reminds me of a deforestation project with poor placement of trees and foliage that looks like crumpled-up paper. It’s rough. I sort of get that they were going for an older age Japanese look with the game, so they wanted to make it look like the old historic art where the ink bled a bit between lines, but for this game, it just wasn’t it.
The Pokémon themselves may be the cleanest part, and my guess is because they are all in a folder from past games and they just apply new textures to them. I could be totally wrong here, but they do look pretty good, outside of Gastly, who looks more like a blob of slime than actual purple smoke that usually surrounds him.
One thing regarding graphics that’s cool is the moves the Pokémon use. They look well throughout and are high-action compared to the rest of the world, that part does truly excite me.
Overall, graphics and scenery are getting a low 2/10. I give it some credit as it looks better than some games, but I felt more from games like Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild with their color palette and all-around graphics.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus, as mentioned before, has some different feels to its features. Progression is something developers went about differently.
Battles are the one staple of this game that stood out to me. They just feel a lot smoother and faster, you can literally finish off a Pokémon and then run away while it’s mid-fainting and throw yourself into the next battle within seconds. This makes progression a lot faster than the cut scenes fade to black and the turn-based style of the old games. I am an advocate for this. Less text about how much money a trainer gives you when you beat them and more action that we all know and love.
With the game being open world, there is one thing I do find a little lame: the lack of freedom to just explore areas beyond what the plot allows. I get the concept of a Snorlax sleeping on a bridge requiring a PokéFlute to wake up, but this game has a skinny security guard blocking areas until you rank up rather than allowing you to take risks and learn things the hard way. I’m a lover of the idea that in an open-world game all doors are open, even if it’s not suggested that you take on a level-100 Magikarp. Let the player learn the area is dangerous and make them feel under-leveled for it rather than only allowing access after it's clear you can handle it.
All the Pokémon gain experience each battle, like the OG days of EXP Share. Now the entire team gains the wealth of XP. The instance where only one Pokémon gains is when you have them harvest resources from trees or crystals. That levels up the Pokémon you use in that instance and them alone. In relation to this, I wanted to talk about leveling because of evolutions and how they differ. The Pokémon doesn’t evolve at a “level” despite having them. They just get to a point where there’s an option to evolve them, and you’ll notice it in the menu screen under your Pokémon party. It’s a developed option rather than something where you get to a certain level. I think this brings back a bit of excitement in the days of wondering when your Pokémon will evolve. Props to the team for this creative approach.
To progress in this game, you simply collect data in the wild and slowly complete the PokéDex. You then bring it back to Professor Laventon for research, and he gives you credits for each study you’ve accomplished—whether it’s catching new Pokémon, or discovering something new about a particular one. This is also how you earn money to spend at the clothing store, item shops, etc. Once you gain enough points you go to the Survey Corps to rank up, you get stars that show your ranking in the Corps to progress to other areas of the Sinnoh map. There are also small side missions you can tackle if you want to stray from the path of the original plot and progression. They usually involve catching a Pokémon to share with villagers for their curious thoughts on specific ones.
All-in-all, the progression system impressed me as well. It’s not as groundbreaking as the mechanics because I feel after a while this gets repetitive and grindy, but it’s still unique! I give it a solid 8/10.
Item utility in Pokémon Legends: Arceus compared to others is honestly better. I think there’s a lot of fluff in the past titles where you have SO MANY items and they seem sort of pointless. This game has a little bit of that, but not when you consider crafting. You must make the Pokéballs and tools you throw at Pokémon, as well as heal items like revives and potions. All the random material you get from the wilderness applies to something, therefore creating an actual value for most things you pick up. I wanted to shine a light of respect on this.
I don’t want to spoil this too much, but you get to ride Pokémon in this game, and I believe they are all regional Pokémon and new evolutions for some past Pokémon. They help you do things like travel faster on land and in water, or even dig up buried treasure. If this wasn't included in the game, honestly, I feel it would feel even more grindy and long-winded. Because of these features, you get access to new elevations, areas, and can just spend time doing things other than catching wild Pokémon. I think it’s great for the title to include.
Overall, both utilities I find important to the general quality of the game. I give this area a 9/10.
I’m sure there will be plenty of other reviews that go more in-depth than mine, but I enjoyed Pokémon Legends: Arceus and jotted down these notes that I wanted to mention here in this piece. If we average the points from the above section, the game comes out a 7.4/10… not too shabby. The graphics and laziness are a reason I felt this game gets the rating it deserves. I really am excited, though, to see if some of this stuff is applied to the future of Pokémon video games. I think it’s giving the franchise a lot of new space with plans for the future. I hope you enjoyed the game review, and I hope it helps you with buying the title if you do plan to.
Please leave any thoughts on the article or the game itself in the comments below. Thanks for taking some time to read this!