Pokémon Legends: Arceus (Review)

Pokémon is one of the largest franchises in the world, so there’s no denying that the game is going to sell well simply by name alone.  But I don’t have any fan-goggles on when it comes to Pokémon, and I’ve continually found as I dabbled along the way that it’s always felt archaic and dated.  Well they’ve definitely tried to show how Pokémon Legends: Arceus changes things up.  But does it truly modernize the franchise?


…modernizations that truly succeed…

If the stiff running animation is any indicator right off the bat, things don’t look pretty (more on actual looks, later!).  The overall movement mechanics are wonky and feel dated like they’ve come from the bygone era of the N64.  Conversely, what they so heavily advertise does show some attempt to modernize: the new methods of traversal all transition relatively well and make getting around each semi-open world area quite a breeze.  Yet, you won’t be breezing through areas because, well, you’re here to “catch ‘em all”.  And in that lies additional modernizations that truly succeed: not only is it far more engaging to actually try catching Pokémon, but so is battling them.  Finally, and I say FINALLY, there is proper physical interaction in the combat.  It’s not Monster Hunter Stories 2 good, but this is a quantifiable step in the right direction.  Granted, it’s come quite a bit late in the series, hence Stories 2 massively outdoing its combat, but better late than never.  Still, I enjoyed it enough to unfortunately end up being OP midway through the game and ended up just clobbering anything that stood in my way…


There’d be more, however, if they actually gave me a human reason to battle it out…

By the time I saw the credits roll, I was around 22-23 hours and a little over half a completed Pokédex. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of things to do including an entire endgame quest chain, and though I spent time specifically taking care of requests, I still had tons more… even if they’re a bit mundane and honestly not worth the time.  So if you love catching Pokémon, then know that there’s easily double the hours I spent in it for you.  It’s a decent length, and I never felt like the game was forcing any sort of padding or grind to slow me down.  There’d be more, however, if they actually gave me a human reason to battle it out… Yea, it’s 2022, LET ME SHOW YOU MY POKÉMONS!


Don’t try to defend it…

This game looks absolutely horrid.  Don’t try to defend it, you’ll only look blind.  From textures that could, and I shit you not, easily come from the N64 era which includes grass sprites that turn to face your camera like said era, to terrible draw distances and pop-in that are massively exacerbated by fast traversal methods, to horribly low-resolution shadows, to framerate dips and stutters despite being 30fps, the game does not pass the naked eye test unless you quite literally play with your eyes closed.  To make matters worse, production values are nearly rock-bottom: animations are all stiff and scripted, and there’s not even a spot of voiced dialogue (and I’m against everything being voiced, but this is a terribly silent experience!).  For being one of gaming’s most prolific and massive franchises, the presentation values absolutely needed another layer because the art style simply cannot save it.  If someone has no clue what Pokémon is (and I know that’s a slim chance), they’d likely think this is a low budget indie game.  These low production values also make the story suffer a bit in emotion.  While the story has its serviceable, tropey character arcs as well as its also tropey plot twists, the constant lack of “life” in the characters makes it all pretty damned painful.  And while I’m willing to accept the “classic” nature of the unappealingly robotic and synthetic screeches of the various Pokémon, the whole visual and audio package is just staggeringly dated.


…if it wasn’t called Pokémon, it would undoubtedly sell less…

It’s Pokémon.  It’s going to sell doorbusters.  The good news is that they’ve finally decided to modernize aspects that are important: namely catching and battling Pokémon as well as world traversal methods.  Additionally, you’ll be doing these things for a decent amount of time, barring no ability to do it against other humans.  But then things go downhill from there: it nails absolutely nothing in the presentation department, and I can guarantee you that if it wasn’t called Pokémon, it would undoubtedly sell less under today’s standards.  In summary, it’s still enjoyable because they’ve modernized the core gameplay loop and I’m all for it, but they did little else.

I give Pokémon Legends: Arceus

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