“Pokemon Legends: Arceus” Review

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Courtesy of Pokémon

“Pokémon Legends: Arceus” was released on the Nintendo Switch on Jan. 28, 2022.

Grant Soedler, Herald Reporter

It is nearly impossible these days to not know about Pokémon.
Between the television series, card game, merchandise and even a semi-recent Hollywood movie, what was once just a pair of video games has become a staple of pop culture and the highest-grossing media franchise in the world, with over $110 billion in total revenue. However, despite its massive success and profits, there is one part of the franchise that has struggled in quality in recent years: the games themselves. But the most recent release seems to have taken steps to change that.
“Pokémon Legends: Arceus” is the latest release of the Pokémon video games, coming out on the Nintendo Switch. This follows “Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee,” “Pokémon: Sword and Shield” and “Pokémon: Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl” on the same system. Each of these predecessors caused some controversy upon release in regards to their gameplay and graphics, which were considered to be pretty mundane and bare-bones in comparison to current-generation releases in other longtime series. To be fair, some of the controversies had some merit, but a lot of it was blown way out of proportion. Pokémon is a pretty static franchise, with the same basic gameplay and mechanics in every game, and that is not inherently a bad thing. However, without any big innovations in a long-running series, many longtime fans can end up feeling fatigued. I should know; I was one of them, so the release of “Legends: Arceus” is something I have been waiting for for a long time.
“Legends: Arceus” begins with your character floating in a black void, where a mysterious voice commands them to “seek out all Pokémon.” They are then dropped into the ancient Hisui region, the Sinnoh region from “Pokémon: Diamond, Pearl and Platinum” thousands of years in the past. After being taken in by a local village, the player is tasked with surveying the land and catching and documenting every Pokémon in hopes of finally meeting the legendary Arceus, the Pokémon said to have created the universe.
Undoubtedly the biggest departure of “Legends: Arceus” from previous Pokémon games is in the gameplay itself. Instead of being forced down linear routes in search of eight gym badges, running into Pokémon in random encounters in tall grass, the game instead sends you out into several different wide-open areas, full to the brim with Pokémon that you can see roaming around and interacting with their surroundings and other Pokémon. They can all be caught without battle as well; the player simply needs to equip and throw a Pokéball. But you have to be careful, as once you are spotted, some Pokémon will attempt to attack the player, and if you take too much damage you will blackout and lose many of your items. It gives a very solid reason why in previous games you were not allowed outside of the starting town without a Pokémon of your own: these creatures may be cute and friendly, but without a way of defending yourself they can be incredibly dangerous.
The game is not perfect, however. Its story is a tad on the bland side, and while the characters can be fun, they do not elevate the game much beyond that. The graphics are still rather weak as well. They do not look terrible, and the character models and faces are very well done, but textures are often very pixelated, and far-away models have a noticeable pop-in effect and a slower framerate. But these are ultimately all nitpicks: the new take on the gameplay is incredibly fun, and was even enough to bring someone who had fallen off of the Pokémon craze in recent years right back into the fold.