This game got a ton of hype when it was first announced. After all, Pokemon was finally entering the open world genre! That’s a really huge deal no matter how you slice it. I was definitely excited to see how this would go and I would say the game absolutely succeeds. I think there are a few small things that keep me from putting this at a 9 but either way it’s a big success and I want to see a sequel at some point. There’s just so much that you can do with this game.
The adventure starts off with Terry falling out of a portal and landing in Hsui. In this land, people are scared of Pokemon. There are two main factions, Diamond and Pearl. They both worship the all mighty Sinnoh but disagree on if that being is all about space or time. Terry ends up joining the Galactic Patrol which is a group that has recently moved into Hsui and doesn’t want to anger either group. As a result they do their best to help out whenever possible and now Terry will assist in this mission. Still, why has Terry arrived here? Is it possible that he’s a villain just here to stir up trouble for everyone? He will have to prove himself by completing missions which will raise his star rank. If he raises it enough then good things may happen.
There is a good deal of story here which is nice. I wouldn’t say it’s the most ambitious Pokemon story as that has to be Pokemon Black but a great deal of effort was put into this one without a doubt. For starters, there is a lot of good world building in Hsui and it all ties up nicely at the end. The supporting cast is also solid. Most of them may turn chicken at the end when the going gets tough but they’re all entertaining enough. A few characters get off real easy by the end though. So trust nobody and just keep developing your skills because not all of these guys are Terry’s allies. The game has quite a few twists and turns within it. Some you will likely see coming and others you won’t. There’s a good balance of things happening here and so you’re always kept on guard.
Arceus is also one of the more challenging Pokemon games by the end. You’re not necessarily playing Pokemon for the challenge but it does make the whole climax feel that much more rewarding since you really need to earn it. There are effectively 3 endings to the game here. The base ending, the post game ending, and then the true ending. I went for the first two and may go for the third at some point. The last one isn’t so much difficult as it is very time consuming. Although it’s fair to say that this is difficult in its own way since it’s hard to make up that much time.
The post game ending will put you through your paces though. I had to grind for a few hours to get my guys strong enough for the challenge and let me tell you…grinding is not exactly normal for a Pokemon game. It is very rare indeed that you will ever have to do it. This game embraces its RPG roots though as there are multiple phases to the final boss. I was rather impressed. I didn’t beat the boss in one shot but I certainly gave it a good shot right from the jump.
Now going back to the gameplay, there’s a lot to it here. For the free roam part, you run around the map with your items and Pokemon. You can throw Pokeballs at Pokemon before they spot you to try and catch them. Most Pokemon can be caught straight up like this. For the ones that are higher leveled and keep breaking out, you can throw your Pokemon out to weaken them and then throw your Pokeball. You can also use berries to get their guard down. Sometimes you’ll even want to beat Pokemon instead of catching them to improve your Pokedex.
See, there is a big difference here compared to other Pokemon games. Catching a Pokemon doesn’t end their Pokedex entry. You have to complete 10 tasks relating to a Pokemon to get it to completed status within your Pokedex. This will include tasks that range from catching that Pokemon to beating it, to feeding it, or even watching a move. Each Pokemon seems to have close to 50 tasks so choosing 10 out of those isn’t so bar. Of course 10 for each Pokemon means that you will have to complete over 2300 tasks. If you want a truly complete Pokedex (Not necessary for the true ending) then the number will be over 10,000. Quite the journey eh?
I don’t expect you will get very far in completing the Dex by the time you complete the game. That said, it is always fun to add a few more entries to your list. You can examine Pokemon from afar to see the status of all their missions so you know right away if engaging them is even worth it. Catching or defeating a Pokemon will always give EXP but in the latter parts of the game it is low enough where you’ll probably want to skip them if you’ve already completed the entry. The best place to farm exp is certainly by beating a wild Blissey over and over again. Nothing else is even close if you ask me.
You can also go around completing missions and finding lost items. The lost items seem to be infinite so you may not want to bother with that one. It increases your “merit” score though but I’m not even sure what that does. I got our score to over 1000 but didn’t notice any changes within the game. Completing missions is always a good idea though as it can help generate new missions plus there is a finite amount of these. So once you finish all of the missions that’s it. They give really good rewards too like rare candy. I managed to beat a good chunk of the missions, I want to say over half but if not, it was close to that amount. Some of the missions are simple like catching a Pokemon while others will require a lot of leg work.
As the game goes on you will be able to fly and swim in the water which are really handy. The sections of the world are rather big after all. Then you have the combat gameplay which is a bit weaker than the average Pokemon game. I suspect this is because most of the budget went into the open world part and this was just the bonus. It still works and the rules are pretty much the same but it feels like almost every attack takes the other out in one hit thanks to the new strong style feature. So if my opponent goes first then I lose a fighter and if I go first then I take one out. It feels like the attacks are just a bit too overpowered here.
I do appreciate how switching Pokemon doesn’t cost you a turn though. That is incredibly useful in the final battles as those could have been difficult without that feature. This way it’s like you get a free turn every now and again. You’ve also got crafting which is a way to build items out of resources. It’s a handy little feature but I never really used it much. In the early parts of the game you don’t have enough materials and by late game it’s easier to just buy whatever you need. I highly recommend completing the shop side quests whenever possible so you can upgrade his wares. Once you do this 3-4 times he will start selling Ultra Balls and Max Revives which are absolutely necessary. Earning money can be difficult here until you’re in the end game but then beating Blissey will get you a good amount of money through the item drops.
Now I do have some issues with the game. Mainly they are quality of life features or lack thereof which is what keeps this from being a 9. First off, the bag is way too small. You’ll get constant messages that your bag is full when you try to pick something up. I even went to the one guy who gives you more bag space and bought a ton of slots but it’s not enough. (Also it’s crazy how you’re charged big money for a single slot) There are way more kinds of items in the game than item spots to grab. The issue here is that you then have to throw stuff out which could be handy later on.
I didn’t think it was necessary to make the bag so small. Also, going back to the money angle, since it’s hard to earn money at times, that means you will often be running low on Pokeballs which can be a bit annoying when you are trying to catch a lot of Pokemon. You’ve then got to leave and return. There is no way to leave and then quick travel to a different location either. You always have to go back to home base and then set out again. It’s a small thing but that mans you have to click through the various text boxes every time you want to switch areas which adds up.
It’s little areas like that which feel like they could have been more polished. A few more months may have helped the game with a few of these features. Some missions give the compass some trouble and things like that. Still, these are all what I would consider minor quality of life improvements. The important thing here is that you will still be having fun the whole time. I could barely put the game down as I played through the whole campaign. The game’s length is also pretty good at around 20-22 hours. That’s a solid length and of course there is a ton of replay value.
I don’t see how you can catch all of the Pokemon to unlock the true ending in under 30-40 hours. If you want to complete all tasks for all Pokemon then that’s probably even longer. So you’re not going to run out of content here, that’s for sure. I still consider this to be a Pokemon spinoff game and not the next in the main line series but it’s got enough content to be one, that’s for sure. You can play this for a very long time and with all the missions around as well, you’re likely looking at 50-60 hours total.
The graphics were a big deal leading up to the game since everyone pointed out how they don’t look so great. Yes, it’s true that this doesn’t compare to any of the big Switch games. It’s GameFreak though and they’re known for being as cheap as possible while still coming out with the game. I can’t say that I’m surprised they did not spend the extra budget to make this title look amazing. Even with that being said, this is still a good looking game. Just because it’s not top tier doesn’t mean that it is bad. There are a lot of nice sceneries and effects thrown in here.
Trust me when I say that you won’t have any issues when playing through the game. It still looks good and I would play a sequel that looks just like this one in a heartbeat. The soundtrack is quite good though. I like all of the remixes here. The wild Pokemon theme and the trainer theme are both a lot of fun. The absolute best theme in the game is definitely the Giratina remix though. The most powerful moment in the whole game and the theme is very fitting. It really fills you with energy and after beating the game this was the first track from the title that I looked up. It’ll be hard to go back to the normal tune after this.
Overall, Pokemon Legends: Arceus is a very solid game. I think the lack of Arceus in a game named after him can be disappointing for some but I’m not particularly a big fan of his so I was cool with that. The game is great and I liked the story around it. We got some real villains here and a ton of lore. All of the final scenes are really serious and make you feel the danger surrounding the characters. Some quality of life updates would be greatly appreciated so maybe they could put in some free DLC. Like trying to find Pokemon when you have to deal with the usuals each time can be a bit tedious. If there was a way to filter out Pokemon that you have mastered the entry for, that would be awesome. With some Pokemon only showing up at night or in the day, I’m glad you can change the time at any camp but that also takes some time. With a little more polish this game would be near perfect but either way I would recommend picking it up right away. There’s just to much to do here that you almost don’t know where to start when talking about it. There’s plenty of stuff I haven’t even touched upon myself in this review so when you start the game you’ll be in for some surprises!