An entirely new journey is about to begin with our Pokemon Legends: Arceus review. Yes Nintendo, we get it. We are about to spend countless hours of our lives searching for some of our favorite Pokemon. Then we will later replace these with their shiny and alpha variants with better stats.
After years of waiting and countless community requests, Nintendo has finally released a semi-open-world Pokemon Adventure. In Nintendo’s latest installment in the Pokemon franchise, Pokemon trainers will get to explore the Hisui region. With Breath of the Wild elements and the beloved world of Pokemon, what could go wrong? How does this isekai Pokemon adventure live up to other entries in the Pokemon franchise?
Before we dive into this review, readers need to be aware that this is not like the mainline Pokemon titles. Yes, trainers get to choose their starter Pokemon, but this game focuses more on studying Pokemon, catching them, and releasing them from an overarching entity than it does pure battling. Yes, battling can help you catch the Pokemon, but it also allows them to show off their moves.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Release Date: January 28th, 2022
Pokemon Legends: Arceus starts off in a familiar area for Pokemon fans. Trainers who have played through the original Gen 4 Pokemon games or the Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remakes, will get to explore the area around Jubilife Village (City). Similar to other isekai stories, the player is thrown into a foreign world where they must learn the rules of the new world.
With memory loss, the player must discover what is transpiring in the Hisui region. At first, the player is tasked with researching and catching local Pokemon to prove their worth. Once the player has proven their worth to the survey corps, the Hisui region opens up and reveals a darker side to the Arceus lore.
A new area opens up after the trainer is given the task of uncovering why that area’s Lord (Noble Pokemon) has become frenzied. In each area, a Diamond and Pearl clan member will give the player instructions on how to calm the frenzied Pokemon.
Before you can calm it, you will need to prove your worth to the local warden through the battle; these battles with the wardens can be unfair, with your one Pokemon taking on two or more. Once the battle is won, the warden will craft balms with the frenzied Pokemon’s favorite foods inside.
Once the trainer has calmed the frenzied Pokemon, they will revert to their former selves. The game’s main characters will then discuss if the light coming from the rift is a blessing or a curse for the Noble Pokemon.
Without spoiling the game’s endgame story, the tale goes from a lighthearted tale to one filled with darkness and despair. Pokemon Legends: Arceus lets trainers live out their fantasies of exploring part of the Pokemon universe in a 3D adventure but reminds them of some of life’s darker issues; it features multiple moments that feel straight out of Digimon rather than Pokemon.
Going in, I expected the story to take us through the history of Jubilife but did not expect it to go down the path it did. Unlike playing through a mainline Pokemon title, Pokemon Legends: Arceus immerses the player in its world. Although the main story can be completed in 18 to 23 hours, the game offers a lot more than what the main quest has to offer.
Like other open-world adventure games, players can choose to either pursue the main quest, focus on side quests, or explore the already unlocked areas. Unlike true open-world adventures, the player is limited in how much they can explore an area based on their progress with the main story.
Although completing the main quest will unlock new areas, surviving in those areas is another story. The player needs to catch and document Pokemon‘s moves to fill out the Pokedex; although battles can be a helpful way to level, catching a Pokemon without being spotted or quickly will make your life easier.
While exploring the world, trainers will come across wild Pokemon. Depending on the Pokemon‘s nature, these creatures will either run away, observe, ignore, or most commonly, attack you. By using berries or other items, trainers are able to distract Pokemon in order to try and catch it without being attacked. If a trainer is spotted, some Pokemon will attack.
If the trainer is hit too many times, they will black out, leaving their satchel behind. Unlike other Pokemon games, the trainer will not black out if all their Pokemon are defeated; instead, they will have to avoid nearby Pokemon and make it back to a base camp. Trainers can fast travel to the base camp if not detected.
The game features 242 Pokemon. Out of those 242, 17 of those Pokemon have Hisuian forms and there are seven brand-new Pokemon. Some of these Pokemon can only be found in Space-Time distortion fields that randomly pop up. With these fields being random, it can be difficult to complete a full Pokedex.
The game features two different types of battles, traditional and frenzied. Frenzied battles only occur with the story quest noble Pokemon. During these battles, the trainer must dodge attacks from the frenzied Pokemon while pelting it with balms. Once the Pokemon reaches a certain level, trainers can battle it making it susceptible to more balms; rinse and repeat.
Then the game features its take on traditional battles. What you previously knew about battling gets thrown out the window. Status effects work differently and there are different move styles. Pokemon Legends: Arceus features three styles, Agile, Normal, and Strong.
These three affect the attack order in which your Pokemon gets to attack. Agile will make your Pokemon attack quickly but lessen the damage dealt. Normal will have it use the regular move and finally, Strong will have the move hit harder but make you wait a while until it’s your turn.
The game’s combat system can be unfair at times. A level 31 Parasect can annihilate half of your level 40 party. Alpha Pokemon are even worse; they will weave the three different move styles together in order to win. The game makes you learn about its battle system and Pokemon‘s stats.
A Pokemon‘s grit stats are more important than you might expect, but the game barely covers it. Then there are status effects. In the past, a Pokemon afflicted by the sleep or frozen status effect would not be able to attack; now, they can attack even while afflicted by the status effect. This can take a while to get used to.
Then there is crafting, as crafting is a major part of the game. Throughout my playthrough, it was cheaper to buy components and craft an item than it is to buy it outright. Yes. you may need to scavenge but money can be tight. The game has an inventory system problem. Yes, you can upgrade your item’s pouch but it will cost you a fortune to do so.
There’s also the mass amount of summons in the summoning system. As players explore new areas and calm Pokemon, they will be able to summon new mounts. These new mounts allow the player to explore previously unreachable areas of the map. In order to fully experience what Pokemon Legends: Arceus has to offer you will need all the mounts.
Finally, some Pokemon no longer need to be traded in order to evolve. Instead, a shop in Jubilife offers the evolution items at the cost of merit points in order to evolve select Pokemon. Yes, trading is possible but it is no longer necessary. Merit Points on the other hand can be annoying to gather unless you like fetch quests.
When it comes to Pokemon Legends: Arceus, it is a tale of two sides. Pokemon are highly detailed and buildings look well put together. The game also features a shadow system depending on what way the sun or moon casts its light. On the other side is everything wrong with the game’s graphics.
Outside of characters’ faces, each piece of clothing looks grainy or low detail. The environment can look good from afar but as you are in it or close to it, it looks almost unrecognizable. On multiple occasions, the battle system had to move a Pokemon before the battle could resume.
I also noticed Pokemon would sometimes overlap and create very odd creations, visually at least. This ultimately detracts from the overall experience and snaps the player back to reality.
Similar to graphics, Pokemon Legends: Arceus audio and sound effects have some good and bad features. Pokemon‘s cries remain constant so you can tell what is around you. The game’s battle system keeps a similar style of tone as other Pokemon games. Then there is the Pokeflute system.
All summon songs are exactly the same. Yes, it allows for you to switch between mounts easily but it’s generic. Each summons sound is the same, but the game lets the player choose which mount to use. A little more detail could have been added to give a more unique feel to each summon’s song; maybe create something like the Ocarina of Time tunes.
The biggest offense is not having voice acting for Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Reading the character dialog can be rather boring and for an open-world 3D game, it is easy to lose interest in the story because of no voices. Yes, it keeps to the Pokemon franchise’s roots but in this type of game, it could have been acceptable.
Some would argue that Pokemon Legends: Arceus has the best Pokemon game storyline and it is easy to understand why. Yes, you can spend hours hunting shinies, Alphas, or completing side quests, but you can just enjoy seeing Pokemon in a living environment.
Watch how they interact with trainers and each other. While you are running around, you rarely have to wonder what mystery Pokemon will spawn next? Although the Pokemon character models and interactions are highly detailed, the rest of the game’s graphics are rather low grade in comparison.
If they took the time to flesh out the graphics, Pokemon Legends: Arceus would be considered a must-have. Excluding the game’s lack of voice acting, the story is still an enjoyable tale that gives a deeper look at certain Pokemon’s legends.
So is Pokemon Legends: Arceus worth picking up? At no point did I regret purchasing the game. The $60 price tag feels reasonable once you figure out everything you can do. If it was only the main quest, then the price tag would be unreasonable. If you can find this game for $40 to $52 dollars, then it is worth picking up.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch using a copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.