Hardly any Pokémon game has been discussed as much as Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Since the announcement, which promised a Pokémon title with new gameplay mechanics and a more open game world, opinions about the potential of this game have been divided.
Some would like Pokémon to dare more new things and invest a reasonable amount of time in development. Others just want a classic Pokémon game, or at least one that’s as good as Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Either way, expectations were extremely high.
Since January 28th we can finally play Pokémon Legends: Arceus and decide for ourselves what kind of game Game Freak has developed. In the test, we reveal for whom the title is worthwhile and what needs to be improved.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus – The Story
In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, we not only find ourselves in the new Hisui region, but also in the past. It is actually the already well-known Sinnoh region before it was called that. At the beginning of the game, we are drawn from our normal life by a mysterious force and given the task of encountering all of the Pokémon in Hisui. The whole thing seems to be related to the legendary Pokemon Arceus and also to an anomaly in the sky.
So we end up in a world where Pokémon exist but aren’t really being tamed and trained by humans yet. Instead, they roam free while the Galactic Expedition team explores them. Rather than competing against other Pokémon Trainers in Gyms and becoming the very best, it’s more about establishing a peaceful coexistence with the Pokémon and learning more about them.
For this, by the way, we are also involved in the creation of the very first Pokédex, which we fill with information about all species of the Hisui region. There are a total of 242 species that we can encounter, including some new Pokémon as well as Hisui forms of familiar Pokémon.
We quite like the core idea of the game, as it feels like you’re doing something really important to both Pokémon and humans. It’s really nice to see how the village slowly fills up with Pokémon that help people in their everyday lives. Apart from that, the story is secondary, because the main focus is clearly on the gameplay.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus – The Gameplay
Some well-known features of the Pokémon games are integrated back into the game. At the beginning of the game, we choose a starter Pokémon (Rowlet, Cyndaquil or Oshawott), with the help of which we join the research team. Then it goes on the search for new Pokémon species that we should both catch and fight.
Catching combines several new mechanics. On the one hand, there is the free accessibility of the game world, which is divided into larger areas. There we encounter Pokémon that are sometimes neutral, sometimes fearful and sometimes aggressive. We can sneak up on neutral and fearful Pokémon and simply throw a Poké Ball at them to catch them.
However, we have to fight against the aggressive Pokémon, which also include dangerous elite Pokémon with glowing red eyes. In the turn-based battles, as usual, we choose different Pokémon, attacks and items to weaken the opposing Pokémon. Then we can defeat or capture it.
New are the speed and power techniques, which determine the strength of our attacks and the order of moves. With speed attacks, we deal less damage, but we have more turns, while the power technology has the opposite effect.
Part of the main story is placating special kings and queens. These are very rare Pokemon that should be watching over the Hisui region. For an inexplicable reason, however, they have become dangerous and can only be helped in a kind of boss fight. These are not very varied and after the third time at the latest, they become a tiresome gameplay element since we only have to dodge the particularly strong Pokémon and throw them off with food bags.
Apart from that, we still pursue side missions, some of which also help us to complete the Pokédex. The rewards are usually items or the completion of certain research tasks for Pokémon, which in turn give research points. With it we rise in rank and can enter new regions and catch stronger Pokémon.
All in all, the new gameplay mechanics fit very well into the usual Pokémon gameplay. The fights are easy, but the details are a bit more varied because of the new techniques – if you want to use them. Because it usually works without it.
The most fun is still the search for new Pokémon, some of which only appear in hidden places or at certain times of the day. Having the Pokédex as a core element is very motivating to explore the world and catch as many Pokémon as possible.
However, the tasks are very repetitive, which means that after a few hours of play there is already a lack of variety. Basically, that’s not a bad thing if the activities are still fun. In any case, most Pokémon fans should enjoy it, and the game is also well suited for beginners.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus – The Technique
Unfortunately, the technology is the biggest criticism of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Because even if the game world itself is nicely designed and has a few interesting corners, it’s not pretty for the most part. Most elements flicker unpleasantly, especially in the distance, or have rather low-resolution textures.
In addition, you not only encounter Pokémon on every corner, but also graphic errors such as incorrect shadows. That’s a shame, because with a little more fine-tuning you could have conjured up a really nice game world here. Pokemon Legends: Arceus doesn’t even come close to Breath of the Wild, which appeared on the same console almost five years ago.
So it’s not because of the Nintendo Switch that the look doesn’t look quite fresh. However, we can credit the game with the improved animations for the Pokémon, their attacks and developments as well as the well-done character models. The colors and lighting moods with the changing times of the day also look good, especially on the Nintendo Switch OLED.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus – Conclusion
For Nintendo and game freak alike, Pokémon Legends: Arceus was certainly a gamble as it upended many gameplay habits. In particular, the new catch system, which even got its own sneak mechanism, is very successful. Still, the title doesn’t dare enough to be a truly innovative Pokémon game.
Despite everything, there is one thing above all: the fun of the game. Both old hands and newcomers should have a lot of fun searching for Pokémon and exploring the game world after a very short time. Because despite the optics, which sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, Pokémon Legends: Arceus has become a nice game.