Guest Blog - Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the Best Pokémon Game Ever
Note from the Editor - Although he goes by Colonel on the blog, he is not in the military and should not be treated as such. He told me “I would like to steal as much valor as possible”
Hi, I’m Colonel, but you can just call me Colonel. My brother in Christ McLeod41 has allowed me to contribute to this blog of his. While I understand it makes zero sense to send a website dedicated to the Boston Red Sox a blog about a fucking Pokémon game, I’m not exactly a baseball analyst. He told me I could write about whatever the hell I wanted and the last time I had strong feelings for anything that wasn’t the Batman movie was Pokémon Legends: Arceus; a game which I believe to be the best product Game Freak has put out for a franchise that I love so dearly. I don’t know how often I’m going to be contributing to this blog, but I’ll probably be sticking to video games or talking about the NBA or maybe some Denver Broncos stuff as we approach football season. I also might write if I just have a funny story or if I want to get some shit off my chest. The possibilities for how I will ride McLeod’s coat tails on his new venture are truly endless.
I understand I’m about 2 months late to the party on writing about this game, especially considering the next games in the series have already been announced to release later this year.But I haven’t been able to really compile my thoughts on this gem of a game outside of tweets so here ya go.
Honestly one of the big reasons this game stands out among the rest is because the last two (three if you include those dog shit ultra games) main entry games in the series sucked balls. Sun and Moon were boring, but mostly tolerable entries that relied heavily on a weird and confusing gimmick. Then they made the same game again but managed to make it worse with the Ultra SM entries. Followed by a somehow even more gimmicky, hand-holdy, unmemorable shit show that was the 8thgeneration games. Oh yeah and then they made some extremely uninspired Diamond and Pearl remakes. However, the one positive thing Sword and Shield brought to the table were the wild areas. Seeing Pokémon move around and react to you in real time was fun, creative and made the Pokémon world feel more like an actual world. Which brings us to the newest entry, Pokémon Legends: Arceus(which I will refer to as PL A for the rest of this blog).
What immediately separates this game from its predecessors is the setting. We’re not in a new region, we’re taken to the Sinnoh region hundreds of years in the past to a time where Poke balls are a relatively new invention, and humans are still very afraid to even go near Pokémon. A fascinating concept that has never really been explored before. Except for Pokémon Conquest but no one really played that game (I LIKED IT!). There are no gym leaders, or PokémonLeague, hell there’s literally only one actual town in the game. Instead, our job is simple, complete the very first Pokedex ever compiled. I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive about the fact that that’s the only real objective, but things go much deeper than that as the game progresses (anything else would be a spoiler).
I figured I should start off with the absolute weakest aspect of this game: the plot. For Pokémon standards it’s not terrible, but its extremely frustrating how all over the place it can be. The game begins with the protagonist of the Diamond and Pearl games being greeted by Arceus, who is essentially God in the Pokémon universe. Arceus just tells you to collect all Pokémonand then he sends you back in time. You land on a beach where you’re greeted by the Hisui (Ancient Sinnoh’s) professor and your three starters Rowlet, Cyndaquil and Oshawott respectively. Arceus then turns himself into a cell phone (I never actually thought about how stupid this all sounds until I typed it out) to guide you on your journey. You’re brought to Jubilife Village which serves as your base of operation for the game and enlisted in the “Galaxy Corps” where your job is to observe Pokémon behaviors in different areas of the region to improve human to Pokémon relations.
Things get hairy when a giant rift in the sky starts making certain Pokémon that are considered sacred start going crazy and attacking things with ferocious power. What created this rift in the sky? Why is it releasing energy making a select few Pokémon act crazy? Why did the main character fall out of this rift in the sky? Literally none of these questions get answered, after you finish the main game or the post-game. Sick. This all leads to a more forced climax then a sandpaper hand job where random characters just turn on you for no discernable reason.
I am being very harsh on this plot, in all honesty it’s not that bad. One thing this games writing gets on the money is the lore that it adds to the series with the Diamond and Pearl Clans. Two clans of the Hisui region each holding differing beliefs on their representation of the God Pokémon. Diamond clan believing “The Almighty Sinnoh” is a lord of time and the Pearl clan believing the deity to be a creator of space. Pokémon has never showed people worshipping legendary Pokémon as deities, and its fascinating to see a legendary duo force a religious schism leading to hostilities between peoples, and Game Freak wrote an interesting side narrative surrounding that concept.
This is where the game shines the brightest. Pokémon gameplay has never been particularly gripping outside of battles. Hell, its mostly just clicking the A button to skip through dialogue. However, PL A has managed to flawlessly blend exploration, Pokémon hunting, and battling into one. Encountering Pokémon has never been more stressful as this is the first time in the series that particularly angry Pokémon can, and will, kill the player. Of course, the screen says “You blacked out” like usual but let’s be honest that wild Garchomp ripped your throat out and took a ground-typed Pokedump on your mauled corpse to assert dominance.
Catching Pokémon doesn’t require you to throw out a monster of your own, and instead encourages stealth. Stalking Pokémon, hiding in the tall grass and aiming the Pokeball at the Pokémon’s back grants you a better chance at catching your desired prey. Pokeballs also come in different variations, some balls are heavy and require you to get closer to the monster to be in range but grant a better catch rate. Some Pokeballs sail a lot further and are better for catching flying Pokémon. This is really the first time Game Freak has changed the way you catch Pokémon and they executed perfectly.
Battling has also been changed a fair amount. Honestly, it’s hard to explain, but one of the biggest and best changes is Agile and Strong style moves. Agile being a less powerful version of the move that allows your Pokémon to possibly strike twice in a row, and strong style being more powerful but can also cause the opposing Pokémon to have the advantage in the turn order. It’sdefinitely a new and interesting style of strategy, while still feeling like your usual Pokémon battle. It’s just… different, in a good way. There aren’t a crazy amount of trainer battles but the last battle in the game is easily the toughest challenge a battle has offered in the series’ history (Ultra Necrozma doesn’t count on account of it being stupid, unfair and lazy).
There are also a couple of boss battles that rely on the dodge mechanic. They were fine. That’s all I really have to say about them. They weren’t bad or poorly designed, and I wouldn’t say they took away from the game. They were just kind of unmemorable.
The Region and the Dex
The region itself is just Sinnoh, so if you liked that region,you’re going to like its ancient equivalent. What’s more important to talk about though is how you explore this region. When the game’s first trailers started to come out, I heard a lot of comparisons to Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild and don’t believe those for a second. It was an unfair comparison in the first place that people made solely from the visual style of the game and that’s just not what this game is. Not to say that’s a bad thing, though the areas you’re presented with are open, wide, full of things to explore, and encourage returning to them even after you’ve unlocked other locations. It’s a little bit like Pokémon Snap in the way you’re given an area to explore, and when you’ve accrued enough points, you move on to a new area rich with new Pokémon and discoveries. It all feels very natural in the way it progresses, and when you start to unlock summonable Pokémon that help you traverse the region, you truly begin to realize how large and expansive the Hisui region can be. Remember how fun it was to ride Mega Latios in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire? Well PL A offers opportunities like that tenfold.
Of course, the most important aspect of any Pokémon game is the Pokedex itself. With 242 catchable monsters, including 23 new Pokémon or Pokémon forms I think it’s just about the perfect batch of Pocket Monsters to be in a game like this. My biggest criticism of the Sinnoh games was how bad the Pokedex sucked ass, mostly relying on annoying methods of acquiring Pokémon worth catching. This game has almost entirely done away with that, unless you like Spiritomb in which case Game Freak gave you piping hot middle finger. Also, they finally fixed trade evolutions, which I’ve always looked as a stain on the franchise. 18 legendries are in this game and they all have interesting, dedicated quests to find them, which Game Freak hasn’t had a good track record of doing as of late. The legendary Pokemon all get the attention they deserve, whereas previous entries have just had a tendency of dumping them on you all at once and calling it a post-game. All in all, the devs finally did the Sinnoh region the justice it deserves.
This turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be, but that just goes to show how much I truly do love this game. For the first time in a long time, Pokémon gave us something fresh and exciting, without relying on shitty gimmicks. We got a game about Pokémon, which is really all these games should be about. These games shouldn’t be about energy crisis’, or estranged family problems, or fucking WAR, they should be about finding, catching and learning about cool creatures which PL A does perfectly. I hope Pokémon Violet and Scarlet look more like this game but that might just be wishful thinking. Maybe in the future we can get Pokémon Legends: Kyurem or Pokémon Legends: Zygarde? Hell, I know people are tired of the Kanto region but I’d play the shit out of a Legends game based around Mew. Anyway, if you are a fan of this series or were at one point a fan of this series, or if you’re a person who just so happens to own a Nintendo Switch, I could not recommend this game more. Thank you for reading.