Last September, I wrote an editorial at RPGamer about Pokémon Legends Arceus, anticipating its open-world gameplay and reasoning how good it could be. Now I’m finally adventuring in the game and, after ten hours of playtime, I can say it’s impressive, fun, and delivers on my expectations. So, yeah, it’s good! My starter: Rowlet.
Let me address the game’s apparently lackluster visuals. There seems to be a solid consensus online that the graphic presentation is sub-par. Textures are simple, details suffer, and the open-world areas are sparse. There also seems to be mediocre shading and lighting. But in my view, the visuals are fine, if not good. Character models are well done, Pokémon look great, and the art style fits the anime genre. Also note that the animation is always very smooth – no dropped frames. It’s very important to see smooth gameplay, even if it means sacrificing some graphical details.
The audio is what’s to be expected of a Pokémon game, with sound effects common to the series. Ambient background music is not very memorable but it sets the tone. I quite like the quaint track within Jubilife Village at the outset.
Gameplay is where Arceus shines brightest. The thing I looked forward to most is where the game delivers best: exploring the large open-world areas and catching Pokémon is a delight. Terrain is varied with hills, water bodies, trees, canyons, and caves. It’s expansive in both horizontal and vertical directions. And the atmosphere changes with both weather and day/night cycles. This makes traversing the setting of the Hisui region full of fun and discovery.
And of course, there are Pokémon everywhere! They appear at different times of day, in different areas, and I think during different weather too. I’ve only scratched the first area so far, but I’ve already caught or defeated many creatures, including a few Alphas.
Catching Pokémon is fun without being too difficult, as the controls are executed well, so while sometimes it’s challenging, overall it’s enjoyable. Target Pokémon with ZL and throw a ball with ZR. It’s easy enough to change what balls you throw (to catch) or what Pokémon you throw (to battle). You can even crouch to quietly sneak up on them, which is fun. Other times, you will want to run and/or roll to evade encounters.
Battling Pokémon is about as easy and fun, yet challenging, as catching them. So far, you simply level up with experience and learn new moves to be more effective in battle. Use the right types of moves against the right types of Pokémon to increase efficiency in fighting and ensure your survival. The strong versus agile styles mechanic adds a bit of depth but seems simple so far. Agile style is good to increase your speed or move count in battle, so you can get more consecutive turns. Use one to attack and one to heal, for example, before the enemy gets a chance to drain hit points or incapacitate you with a status effect.
Having finished the first major area, the game’s story is straightforward, which is a far cry from the convoluted plots of a series like Final Fantasy. Your character is specially equipped for the task of catching, battling, and researching Pokémon to complete the Pokédex. There’s also a somewhat linear progression in the main story arc, which you can move forward anytime you’re ready to pause exploring an open area. There are occasional side quests too that seem mostly skippable, offering a few nice items but nothing you can’t live without.
Speaking of items, there are many to collect and use for luring Pokémon or crafting into other items. So far, I find most items unnecessary. They’re easy enough to collect, and I store them in crates since my satchel is small, limiting the items I can carry around the field. I’ve expanded slots in my satchel to carry more items at once, but it’s still easy to run out of space. Maybe items will become more useful later in the game. Menus are presented well enough to manage Pokémon and item inventory.
Arceus is an open-world action-adventure turn-based RPG. Your character doesn’t have a class, weapons, or armor. Instead, your “party” consists of six Pokémon at a time, each one a different type that can evolve into stronger forms, and each one having certain attack types. It’s very similar to Pokémon Sword or other mainline games in the series while being more open and flexible in the field and lacking the numerous gyms and towns.
I’m enjoying the game as much as I anticipated because the main draw – open-world exploration and catching Pokémon – is as well done and fun as I hoped. It’s simple and casual, offering a refreshingly easy RPG to enjoy. On top of that, I’m happy to finally meet new characters in the game as they also appear in the Trading Card Game, like the trainer Zisu and new Pokémon like Wyrdeer.
If you like Pokémon and video gaming, then I’m sure you would enjoy Pokémon Legends Arceus. I’m looking forward to completing the game’s main story and learning more about the legendary Arceus.
Have you played Arceus? Is it on your wishlist or backlog? Are you waiting for Pokémon Scarlet/Violet?