GAME: Pokémon Legends: Arceus
PLATFORM: Nintendo Switch
PRICE: €59,99 (eshop)
REVIEW: I’ve been playing this game after finishing Brilliant Diamond (see previous review). If you’re not familiar with those games, then I’d recommend checking that out as I do make comparisons between the two. Arceus or アルセウス was my first game I started in Japanese without any prior playthrough before. Was pretty excited to see what changes they made to the main games, what they kept and how that reflects in the writing.
The first change is that there is no distinct kana or kanji mode when you select Japanese as your language, you’ll still be locked to that language when you decide on one, additionally all kanji gets furigana in dialogue. That does make the dialogue look a bit more involved when more complicated vocabulary is used, although it is a bit easier to look up stuff in a dictionary. So it’s not a large step from previous games, but there is a noticeable difference. I would put the grammar used between N3 and N2, so it’s a little more complex. Additionally you’re juggling a larger amount of lines per character, I’d probably recommend it to intermediate learners. That said everyone can hop right in and see how far they can get and still get something out of it.
Which brings me to the second change and that’s the main gameplay and setting. The game starts with the main character being transported to another time, before pokémon and humans lived together in harmony. You land right in the middle of the Hisui region, a large unexplored area where wild pokémon still roam freely. An expedition team named Team Galaxy recently came to this region in order to survey the land, bringing with them people across different regions that wish to live here. The village of Jubilife (コトブキムラ) is where their HQ is located. This is the main hub of the game where you keep returning to, it has shops and NPC’s to give you quests, you can do some minigames, trading, learn your pokémon techniques and do crafting. As they’ve just developed tools to capture pokémon, you’ll be able to join team galaxy pretty fast by showing off your skills. You’re then tasked to capture and study pokémon in order to complete the first pokédex (図鑑). Sounds familiar, but it is a bit closer to the original meaning as it looks like a field guide of pictures of wild animals. You complete each page by completing certain tasks related to the pokémon’s behavior and habits, which differs per pokémon. I do like this aspect of the game as you’re closer to a researcher. To act out these surveys (調査), all you gotta do is leave town select an area and a base camp to start from. You have limited amount of inventory and you’ll have to make do with the materials you find in the wild. I definitely enjoy the exploration the most in this game, it’s just so easy to kill time and get completely lost in the surroundings. There’s a variety of creatures from different regions, there’s new forms and also some pokémon you ride. It’s a lot of fun.
The last change I want to adress is about the story and the battle system. These are my least favorite elements of the game, but I do think it’s good to mention them seperately like this. So while exploring the different areas it’s possible to capture pokémon without battling them, although you can’t always avoid that plus the story has you fight as well. You still are in the field and you have again 4 attacks to choose from the command menu, although the trainer can also get hit, so there’s a bit more action to it. Additionally you can use two different styles, quick and strong style to gain an advantage in battle. Quick style will allow you to deal less damage but your next turn will come up sooner, so you could attack twice in a row. With strong style you’ll deal more damage, but you gotta wait for your next turn if you didn’t finish off your opponent and then you may risk getting attacked twice. Another difference is that you can assign moves from the list of learned techniques you want in battle in the field. So you don’t have to delete moves to make room for new ones, you just gotta assign them at the right time for you. My problem with the battle system is that it feels less engaging and less rewarding. You either get nearly wiped out or you wipe out your opponent in a single move. This is to an extent also true in main games with super effective moves, but here normal effective moves can also do way too much damage, plus you factor in the styles you might not get a turn. There’s also some funky thing with switching pokémon where they either lose or gain a turn. It somehow feels more unfair and more unbalanced than regular pokémon, which is a pretty impressive feat on its own. I’ll also say something about the story. Strange lightning makes a special class of pokémon rampage and you have to calm them down by hitting them with satchets. Makes for a bit of clunky gameplay and each area works its way up to one of these. Each new character feeling more at home in a high school comedy anime rather than in the wilderness. It kinda felt like they wanted to chase the isekai crowd. While pokémon has always been kinda goofy, I never felt such a disconnect between the gameplay, story and characters. I guess I wanted them to do something more interesting with a historical setting, but it’s a bit of hodgepodge that doesn’t come together well. So my interest in it kept decreasing the more I played of it, which is a bit of a shame because there’s definitely something in there. I added in some of my screenshots below of dialogue in the game.
I didn’t get into all the details, because there’s quite a lot of it to explain and I think the game does a great job on itself. Each element is introduced nicely and as exploration is key there is plenty of freedom. There is also a manual and the map is very helpful. All the objectives are very clear, barring some sidequests. The music I think is great and there’s definitely some classical Japanese with the brushstrokes. Game doesn’t look half bad and some of the character designs are pretty great. I enjoyed my time with the game and beat the story in about 30 hours. There was plenty more to do as well with post-game content, but I had my fill with it and moved on to something else. Arceus is still a fine game and does do some new (welcome) things in this large franchise. Ultimately I like the main games more and there is more of that coming this year, which I’m grateful for and looking forward to.