In 1999 my mind was blown by the introduction of Pokémon to our TV screens! From the instant that I watched it on SMTV, I was hooked. Soon after that, I was collecting trading cards and playing the video games, and my childhood was complete. 21 years later, Game Freak has launched an all-new Pokémon adventure on Nintendo Switch.! Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the first major change up within a Game Freak developed Pokémon game, but how have these changes faired in the modern gaming world? Find out for yourself as we explore the gameplay, story, graphics and audio of Pokémon Legends: Arceus here in our 3Bit review.
Gameplay: I Choose You
"These amazing additions make for such a fantastic and immersive Pokémon experience, and I personally haven't been hooked to a Pokémon game this much in a very long time"
Starting with what is thankfully the strongest part of this review, the gameplay for Pokémon Legends: Arceus is phenomenal, especially when you compare it to past Pokémon adventures. So much has been added to the game, and it is quite refreshing to see it all come together so fluidly. One of my favourite additions is how we actually go about catching them all. This is because it really does immerse you in an experience similar to what we used to see on TV. Rather than battling every Pokémon like we used to have to, we can now try to catch Pokémon without fighting, instead using stealth, finesse and a little bit of luck. Instead, we can try to sneak up and throw Pokéballs at the wild Pokémon. Not only does this save a lot of time when you just want to catch Pokémon, but it also adds a whole other layer of immersion for when you fail. Failure can lead to a wild Pokémon becoming irritated, which can go one of two ways, either they run away … or they attack you. You read that right you are attacked, meaning you can choose to engage wild Pokémon in the traditional turn-based battle system, or you can choose to run away yourself, dodging their attacks and breaking line of sight with them and other angered Pokémon that follow in their wake!
But that isn't all that makes the gameplay of Pokémon Legends: Arceus so different to its predecessors and also so great. There is also an abundance of new features included in the game to give more of a modern RPG feel to the new Pokémon title, including quests, crafting and even an online lost and found system which allows you personal gear that you lose when blacking out to be recoverable by other players. The crafting is one of my personal favourite systems, as money is pretty rare early on in the game, so having the option to grind for crafting ingredients to make my own Pokéballs was an absolute godsend, especially when I spent ages catching the early Pokémon to complete their "Pokédex entries". This, in turn, leads me onto quests within Pokémon Legends: Arceus. There are 3 main categories to the quests. Much like in the original style games, you will have your main story, which we will touch on later on in this review. Then you have your Pokédex quest, which is shaken up a bit by having a series of tasks to accomplish in order to make each entry complete. Finally, you have the side quests, which can be anything from fetch quests to research quests. The completion of each of these quests also comes with its own rewards. The Story quest rewards players with unique Items and opportunities, whilst the Pokédex quests are rewarded with financial and levelling progression. Side Quests, meanwhile, are rewarded with rare items and Pokémon EXP.
Of course, as with all RPG's comes the element of exploration. This is another factor that Pokémon Legends: Arceus has absolutely nailed. The story only covers a small part of each stage in many areas. There is a lot more to explore within these stages, with several different biomes serving as the home to a number of common, uncommon, and rare Pokémon. These areas are also filled with tonnes of secrets of their own. These range from other players satchels to hidden whisps, which will have you hunting high and low to collect. To make exploration easier and help you acquire some of the many hidden secrets, you have what I think is the coolest feature, rideable Pokémon. These Pokémon are not ones we capture but can summon with a flute. Each of the Pokémon we summon has a unique ability that can take us to areas that, without them, would be inaccessible or would across routes that have previously have taken a considerably longer amount of time and would be twice as dangerous. This is a feature that really did surprise me as I expected it to be like having a horse in other games where you just get to other locations faster, but instead, the team at Game Freak have really elevated the experience.
For a Pokémon game, a lot is going on, but we still haven't covered all the new features, as there is also the addition of Boss fights to the Pokémon world. Whilst in the past these might have come across as gyms, in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, these boss fights are now Pokémon that have been enhanced and sent into a frenzy by a story factor. These boss stages are completed by you, the trainer throwing a series of balms at the Pokémon to help calm it down. As you throw these balms, you will have to avoid the rampaging Pokémon's attack, timing your dodges perfectly to avoid blacking out before you can stun it yourself and either finish it off or send your team of Pokémon on it to stun it for even longer. Of course, normal battles exist within Pokémon Legends: Arceus too, as you will come across many friendly rivals, rogue trainers and of course another new addition, Alpha Pokémon, throughout your journey. These battles bring the classic turn-based system back to life and come with a number of improvements of their own, from the ability to make moves stronger or faster mid-battle at the cost of PP to the addition of a turn counter where you can see how these moves will affect future turns in the battle. These amazing additions make for such a fantastic and immersive Pokémon experience, and I personally haven't been hooked to a Pokémon game this much in a very long time, perhaps even since the original adventure on Sinnoh in Diamond and Pearl.
Audio: This is no Jigglypuff
"I especially love the small firework you get for capturing a Pokémon. It is something that fits so well with the ongoing feudal Japan theme whilst keeping that rather unique charm from all Pokémon games where every little win is celebrated."
When it comes to the soundtrack, Pokémon Legends: Arceus has yet another amazing set of pieces to accompany the gameplay. With this new game seems to be a subtle move away from the synthetic sounds of old and into much classical sense. The music sounds a lot more orchestrated throughout the game, especially with its use of Piano within Pokémon battles. This is further elevated by the synthetic sounds being a lot less invasive than previous titles. While the music pieces are not as aggressive or hype building, they bring a certain ambience that draws you in when exploring and does not serve as a distraction whilst you try to sneak up on unsuspecting wild Pokémon. The music can change up quite suddenly at times to indicate the danger of a wild Pokémon ready to strike or, like in previous Pokémon titles, to signify the battles and get us amped for the upcoming battle.
Moving away from the soundtrack and into other audio factors, it is unfortunate that Game Freak is still not adding any voice acting to the game despite having characters' mouths moving now. Whilst this is far less creepy than having the text scrolling and limited facial movement in Sword and Shield, I am still wishing for the day that Pokémon adds some voice acting. Another note to add to this is that Pokémon are also carrying over their original cries from previous games, which admittedly is far less annoying than having Pokémon repeat their names all the time. I am glad they are sticking to that, as it keeps things identifiable for quick reactions, especially when hunting rarer Pokémon that tend to disappear within a few moments.
Finally, there are the sound effects, and as always, this is something that Game Freak always excels at, from perfect audio timing to the sounds just making sense. I especially love the small firework you get for capturing a Pokémon. It is something that fits so well with the ongoing feudal Japan theme whilst keeping that rather unique charm from all Pokémon games where every little win is celebrated.
Graphics: painted by a Smeargle
"It would be an understatement to say that this is the most beautiful Pokémon game ever, especially when it comes to the overall environment. "
It would be an understatement to say that this is the most beautiful Pokémon game ever, especially when it comes to the overall environment. Each unique area has some incredible horizons and mid distances reminiscent of feudal Japan paintings and watercolours. They are seriously incredible looking on both the big and small screens. Unfortunately, the cracks show when you look closer, especially when the Switch is docked with the TV. For most, these "cracks" will probably not make much of a difference to the overall gameplay. They can be considered minor, especially as the Switch isn't exactly a high-end gaming PC or next-gen console. Still, it isn't to say they are noticeable. The cracks I am talking about are the small details from the occasional 2D tuft of grass contrasting next to a field of 3D grass to Pokéball animations and models not aligning, particularly with the great ball, which in both handheld mode and docked mode has failed to render or animate properly. Outside of these minor issues, it is really hard to fault the overall design of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and I am definitely on board with those saying this is the best-looking Pokémon game to date!
Another graphical aspect worth talking about is the character models. Much like in Sword and Shield, we have seen another step forward in character models, both in human and Pokémon characters. These changes aren't just a step forward in how they look but also moving and interacting. One great example is with Wydeer, the first ridable Pokémon you unlock. This horse style mount actually moves the way you would expect it to rather than bobbing around as I would have expected it to in previous Pokémon games. Overall these new character models and animations have really do reinforce my earlier comment about this being the best looking Pokémon game to date. Honestly, I hope that Game Freak continue where they left off with Arceus and bring this elevated level of gameplay to their next Pokémon game wherever it may be.
Story: As talkative as a Chatot
"The main story carries a lot of key character development as we help the human and Pokémon population come closer to living together ..."
When it comes to the story, I will not talk too much about it, as I do not want to dish out spoilers to those taking their time playing or who haven't yet started their new Pokémon adventure. What I will say is, what are you waiting for! This is without a doubt the most exciting Pokémon story they have done to date, as not only is it the fastest-paced Pokémon game, especially when paired with the new style of gameplay, it is also the most interesting, as there is so much backstory, law and mystery. The main plot point is that of a mystery vortex above Mt Cornet. Our protagonist has fallen through it and landed in the Sinnoh region in feudal times. The local area is inhabited by 3 clans, Team Galaxy, The Diamond Clan and The Pearl Clan. As an outsider to this world, we join Team Galactic. They strive to unite the human and Pokémon world whilst acting as peacekeepers to the two rival clans.
There is so much going on within Pokémon Legends: Arceus. The main story carries a lot of key character development as we help the human and Pokémon population come closer to living together in harmony as well as a majority of the trainer vs trainer Pokémon battles. However, there is also a great deal of stories in the side quests, where we meet other key players and follow their unique subplots, from facing the fear of a certain Pokémon to being embargoed by a different department in Team Galactic, which in turn is stopping supplies from being available in the stores.
The only downfall to Pokémon Legends: Arceus's story is how some of the dialogue sequences can be over the top. This annoyance is only really an issue in the early stages of the game when you want to get stuck in, but there was so much text-based dialogue during this opening chapter that I was genuinely concerned that I had brought a game where I was going to be battling walls of text rather than Pokémon. Thankfully after the intro, the text dialogue does calm down significantly, and we can actually get our teeth into the incredible gameplay that we mentioned earlier.
Gameplay: I Choose You
Audio: This is no Jigglypuff
Graphics: painted by a Smeargle
Story: As talkative as a Chatot
It is safe to say this is the best Pokémon game that I have played since I was a young fan, and to see this level of growth, even if it is 20 plus years later, is amazing! This is undoubtedly an amazing adventure into the Pokémon Universe. Honestly, the faults I did find, for the most part, can be overlooked when it comes to just how much fun the game is in the grander scheme of it all. Whilst it isn't what I would call a masterpiece in the gaming world, you will certainly lose many hours getting stuck into a Pokémon game that isn't just a nostalgia trip, but also the Pokémon game I wish I had as a child. For me, the new rideable Pokémon and the Pokédex system where you have to complete tasks to update it are what makes this adventure so worthwhile. These two features add so much more to the game to the point where you feel a lot more immersed within your game and will actually have you going through your Pokédex a lot more than in any other Pokémon title. Do you agree with our review and scoring? Let us know by joining us on our Facebook and Twitter pages by comenting on this reviews post!
Beautiful level design
No Voice Acting
Close up graphics can disappoint
Dialogue can drag on