Time for some truth; I’ve never played a Pokémon game until now. Okay, I lie, I played maybe 30 minutes of one of those on Game Boy Color – but that was it. For some reason, I never got into the series, as it never appealed to me as a child; it was also a time when I wasn’t a fan of turn-based games. Luckily, I changed that mindset, enjoyed some turn-based games, and now I am a fan of the genre. But there was still one thing I had to correct. I had to play a Pokémon game. And with the new Pokémon Legends: Arceus I finally had a chance to do it.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes place in the Hisui region, in a time long before the events of Pokémon Pearl and Diamond. In fact, the events of this game happen during a time before the term Pokémon Trainer even existed. One day, a rift opens up in the sky above the Hisui region. From the rift, a young teen falls and lands on the beach, greeted by three Pokémon and a Professor.
The Professor tells this character what he had just seen, as well as the reason why he himself came to the beach – to catch his escaping Pokémon. The Pokémon then disperse, and, like a true Professor, he asks the stranger to collect them – which then leads to their capture. After that, the stranger arrives at the local village and becomes the first Pokémon Trainer and possibly Master.
Same, But Different
Now, before I go on about the gameplay, the first thing I need every Pokémon fan to do is throw everything you know about previous entries’ gameplay out the window. In this game, it’s all vastly different. While it is still, at its core, completely turn-based, there are many elements in it, that show a definite real-time action games’ influence.
In Pokémon Legends, the first task is to catch the three escaped Pokémon. A kind of tutorial, if you will, on how this game is different from the others – in that here Pokémon can be caught without battling them. All that the players need to do is throw a Pokeball at a Pokémon. And just by doing so, they get a chance to catch it. Of course, this depends on a few factors. Among these – whether the Pokémon has seen you, how strong they are, and whether the Pokeball itself is strong enough to contain it. Now, some Pokémon do require a battle, before catching them. For most, however, this won’t be necessary, provided the above-mentioned factors.
After catching the three Pokémon, our character is brought to the village – which is called Jubilife. There they can finally choose one of the three starter Pokémon. And just after this, the plot, of course, requires them to help with the Professor’s research. That research is on completing the Pokédex, in order to learn about all the Pokémon in the region.
One, Two, Three Pokémon ?
One of the main goals in Pokémon Legends is to quell Frenzied Pokémon, known as lords/protectors of the area they inhabit. Each of them also has a human, who looks after them by giving them food and other stuff. Those people are very uncooperative, in the beginning, which, in most cases, leads to a traditional Pokémon battle. Unlike in regular Pokémon battles, which the players are familiar with, these characters can have two or more Pokémon out at a time.
This definitely leads to some uneven fights. My Pokémon could be attacked three or more times before I was able to make a move. As such, they could be knocked out before they even had a chance to attack. Luckily, in most of these cases, the opponent only had one Pokémon that would be equivalent to the six I carried, which meant I would still win.
Sometimes, when the player tries to battle a single Pokémon in the open world, there are other ones in the attack range. These will subsequently join the fight, which could lead to undesirable consequences. For example, one time I ended up in a battle with all high-level Pokémon. Luckily, I ran for the hills, and never turned back. It’s good that the game allows the player to escape fights so easily. In fact, there are a few ways of doing so. I could either press B or, for the first time in a Pokémon game – actually run, by moving my character away from the battle. While I didn’t understand why I could move during combat, it was always fun running around, while the enemy attacked. Or, seeing me get hit by a Pokémon’s attack and fall over.
Speaking about Pokémon attacking the playing character – the game introduces another new mechanics to the series. Wild Pokémon can now attack you during world exploration. This change also means that, unlike in the previous entries, it isn’t game over when all the player’s Pokémon are knocked out. Instead, the player is still free to try and catch Pokémon – although without being able to battle them. Why anyone would run around without Pokémon is beyond me, but hey, this game lets you do this. The only way for the player to incur a game over is for their character to be knocked out by wild Pokémon. Technically, all that happens is the character getting rescued by their corps, losing some items on the way back to base.
As I’ve already mentioned, the main goal is to quell Frenzied Pokémon. In the old Pokémon games, players would enter a battle and then defeat these said Pokémon. In Legends, it is different. Instead of usual turn-based battles, players need to throw balms containing Pokémon’s favorite foods to quell them. For some weird reason, your character’s best asset is that they are a good thrower. In addition, these battles are in real-time, with my character dodging and throwing simultaneously.
In addition to throwing balms at the frenzied Pokémon myself, there was another way to fight those. During this additional phase, I could throw all I had at it – this time with my own Pokémon. If I was lucky enough to take down all its health, my balms would become stronger. If, for some reason, I lost the combat, the game would give me two options on how to restart. The first one allowed me to simply go back to the beginning of the battle. The other would let me reset my health to full, without losing my progress. In simpler terms, it meant that the frenzied Pokémon would start the battle with the health I took it down to. This made it more forgiving, for those players who are having trouble with the boss fights.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All
It wouldn’t be a Pokémon game if the players didn’t have to try to catch all the Pokémon. Therefore, the other goal in Pokémon Legends is to complete the Pokédex for the Professor and the Galaxy Expedition Team. This is where I see the majority of players spending their time – searching for every Pokémon available and creating the perfect party. The process of completing this Pokédex also differs from that of the previous entries. In this game, the players can’t just catch a Pokémon and that’s it; instead, they need to complete several tasks with that said Pokémon. Those can be: Catching a certain number of them; Battling them; Seeing certain attacks, and more. The tasks also go hand-in-hand with players unlocking new areas and levelling up through the Galaxy team.
Besides catching all the Pokémon, players can also try to complete requests. These are like side quests they can do here and there to add some diversity to the gameplay. Some of them are easy – like finding a Pokémon. Others, however, are harder – like searching for a person who keeps getting lost. These requests, while not that important, do give great rewards. Those certainly helped in my never-ending quest to catch them all.
So, in the end, what can I say about my first Pokémon game? I really enjoyed it. The combination of turn-based combat with real-time action is something I’d definitely love to see more of – especially in the Pokémon series. This is, without doubt, the most fun I’ve had in a long time with a game.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus should be fun to play for anyone, whether they are a fan of the old games or not; it may even turn the naysayers towards the series.