Pokemon Legends Arceus takes an interesting approach to the Pokemon franchise. This approach not only works really well, but is also really refreshing.
Being based off of the generation four games, Pokemon Legends Arceus is considered a side game of the franchise. Despite this, I would argue it’s one of the best games in the series. I would put it up there with the likes of Pokemon Emerald, Platinum, Black and White, and the Mystery Dungeon games.
Since this game is based off of generation four’s diamond, pearl and platinum, most of the pokemon are not new. I will not go over these since I want to focus on the new additions introduced in this game.
Kicking it off with the starters, you have alternate forms of Typhlosion, Samurott, and Decidueye. These starters were my favorites out of their respective generations so seeing all three make it back with new forms was a pleasant surprise.
While normal Typhlosion is pure fire, Hisuian Typhlosion adds in the spooky ghost type. This was my go to since I absolutely love ghost types. My biggest gripe with the design is that it did not change enough from the original. I would have liked to see the new design stand out from the original a little more. Despite this, the phantom-like flames around its neck really help it stand out.
I always felt as though normal Samurott needed a second typing like fighting or steel since it’s based off of a samurai. Hisuian Samurott granted my wish, turning Samurott into an evil samurai and adding on the dark type. I still would have preferred fighting, but I’ll take what I can get. The design, like Typhlosion, is pretty similar. Pokemon just slapped on a beard and changed the shell on its head.
Finally, and probably the most drastic of changes, is Decidueye. For me, the original Decidueye is perfect. An owl that also is an archer and a ghost type. With that being said, they took a perfect design and made it a little less perfect. While I think the grass-fighting type is still probably the best of the new ones, it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. Instead of firing off feathers as arrows, Hisuian Decidueye fights using its feet. It also has a cool new hat.
One of my new favorite pokemon was also introduced in this game: Hisuain Zoroark. I was never a fan of the original Zoroark, but making it a ghost normal type gives it a new life, or rather death because it’s a ghost type now? Either way, I love its long, flowing white hair and menacing appearance.
Some other notable mentions for me include Basculegion, Ursaluna, Hisuian Liligant and Hisuian Braviary.
The water-ghost type Basculegion is so big and majestic, even being large enough to carry you on its back. It has two different colors it can be depending on its gender, which adds to the design.
Ursaring never felt like it needed an evolution. At least until I saw Ursaluna. This is what a bear pokemon should look like. Going from two legs to four, Ursaluna looks like a beast.
Liligant was one of those pokemon that needed some love and it got exactly that by slapping on a fighting type and giving it legs. The way Hisuian Liligant dances is hypnotic and works really well.
Braviary was not a pokemon I expected to see in Legends Arceus. However, its new Hisuian form gives this eagle pokemon a brand new type in the form of psychic. On top of that, being able to ride on top of this raptor is one of the best things to come from the franchise. If only they kept the flight mechanics of Legends Arceus for Pokemon Violet, but that’s a topic for another day.
Most of the other designs introduced in this game are all fire. The only three that come to mind that don’t meet the same criteria that the others do are Hisuian Goodra, Hisuian Electrode and Hisuian Avalugg. Don’t get me wrong, these designs are not flops by any means. They just can’t compete with the others in my opinion.
The last handful of new pokemon and designs I want to cover are the legendaries. Dialga and Palkia both get brand new forms this go around. In the original games, I preferred Dialga over Palkia. However, the neck gun thing that the new Dialga has is just derpy and ruins the design. Palkia’s new form on the other hand is perfect. I don’t think I have much else to say about Palkia.
The only new legendary pokemon added was Enamorous. The fourth member to the generation five genies, this fairy-flying type is said to be the herald of spring. If you liked the original three genies, you would probably like Enamorous and its turtle form.
This score could easily have gone to at least an eight if only they added more new Pokemon. I get it, it is a side game so it’s to be expected that they won’t add a hundred new designs. It’s just that they nailed these designs and I want to see Pokemon do more in a similar fashion.
Creature Designs = 7 / 10
The story for Pokemon Legends Arceus is much better than many of the main games. You start off falling from a portal in the sky only to discover that you are in the past version of the Sinnoh region. A strange man named Professor Laventen appears and saves you.
From there, you pick your starter and join the Galaxy Expedition Team. This team is tasked with exploring the lands of ancient Sinnoh, also called Hisui. As you complete tasks and adventure throughout the region, you begin to meet with the locals of Hisui.
In this game, you have two clans. The first being the diamond clan while the second being the pearl clan. They quarrel over who their true deity is, the deity being called “the great Sinnoh”. The diamond clan believed that the deity controlled time while the pearl clan believed that the deity controlled space.
As you get to know the members of each clan, they begin to ask for your help. A strange phenomenon known as the space-time rift was causing certain pokemon to go berserk. These pokemon are extremely important to the diamond and pearl clans.
Each of the five areas has one of these Noble Pokemon you must fight and calm down. On top of that, each of the Noble Pokemon has a warden from one of the clans. By calming down each Noble Pokemon, you gradually gain the trust of the two clans. This comes into play later as you are kicked out of the Galaxy Expedition team unjustly.
Despite being a formulaic story, it works really well. Each one of the characters, from the commander of the expedition team to the members of the two clans, are crammed with personality. All in all, it came out as a very enjoyable experience to an otherwise stale franchise.
Last thing I want to mention is that the story does not end when you first complete it. It continues into the post game and the final twist is so good. I’m not going to spoil it but it’s definitely a good change from the usual pokemon storylines.
Story = 7 / 10
The battle system is pretty similar to the main games with a few important changes. Instead of each pokemon getting a turn to attack, the attack order is based on a couple factors that may allow one pokemon to have multiple turns in a row.
First off, we have the speed stat. Nothing new from the main games. However, this game also introduces a new mechanic in the form of strong and agile style moves. Every move has a strong and agile style variant.
If a pokemon uses an agile style move, it gains more turn order priority at the cost of damage. On the other hand, strong style moves are the opposite. Strong style moves have increased damage but decrease the turn order priority.
The battles are much quicker than the main games and take some getting used to. Despite this, it is extremely refreshing!
Before I wrap up this section, there is one other battle system this game has. That is the boss battles, also known as the noble pokemon.
There are two stages to these boss battles. The first involves you throwing the pokemon’s favorite balm at the target to lower his health while dodging the boss pokemon’s attacks. If you get hit five times, you are knocked out.
If you manage to dodge the attacks and get the boss’s hp low enough, you enter the normal battle. At certain health thresholds, you get to battle it with your own pokemon. If you manage to beat it in this battle, you get a couple seconds to throw the balms to your heart’s content.
Battle System = 7 / 10
When this game came out, I was excited to see the graphics improve. Personally, I think this game was a huge step in the right direction. Each zone was beautiful and fantastic.
The graphics definitely helped with immersion. If all future pokemon games followed this format, I would not complain. As long as it does not impact the other aspects of the game, like the number of pokemon or bugs and glitches.
As for the cut scenes, I think each one stands out. I really loved seeing each of the nobel pokemon enter the scene. From Cleavor chopping down nearby trees to Lilligant doing her little dance, each scene was filled with loads of personality.
I personally really like the graphics of Pokemon Legends Arceus. There have only been a couple of times where I’ve seen graphical glitches like floating rocks. Overall, pretty solid graphics.
Graphics = 7 / 10
One of the mechanics that makes Pokemon Legends Arceus such a unique game in the franchise is the survival game feel. Your character can be knocked out at any time by wild pokemon or fall damage. While the penalties aren’t that severe, it’s still impressive they added this to a Pokemon game. I think this mechanic is a net positive.
Another mechanic that Pokemon Legends Arceus introduces is crafting. You are able to take random ingredients you find on your adventure and turn them into more useful items. From pokeballs to medicine, it adds an extra layer to the survival aspect.
Crafting done right can bring the overall enjoyment of a game up. With that being said, I would argue that Legends Arceus’ crafting is pretty average. I’ve seen better and I’ve seen worse.
Moving onto the throwing mechanic, this new feature took me some getting used to. I play most of my games that require aiming on the computer, so I was not accustomed to aiming with the switch controls. Once I got the hang of it though, I had a blast.
In the main series games, all you have to do is click a button and the pokeball is thrown for you, but not in Legends Arceus. You actually have to aim. If you don’t get a back strike in, you will not be able to catch the pokemon. So not only do you have to aim, you have to sneak around to get a back hit.
In generation seven, Pokemon introduced ride mechanics. In Legends Arceus, they take this mechanic and run with it. Not only did they keep all the good things from the previous iterations of riding, they improved it. There are five ride pokemon in the game in the forms of Wyrdeer, Ursaluna, Basculegion, Sneasler and Bravairy.
Starting off with Wyrdeer, it’s a pretty typical mount. It’s cool, majestic, and you can jump. Nothing too special.
When you reach the second zone, you unlock Ursaluna. This is probably my second least favorite of the riding Pokemon. It is slower than Wyrdeer, but lets you find items hidden in the ground. The mechanic is weird and I never really used it.
As you reach the third zone, you get to unlock Basculegion. This ride is my second favorite as it lets you surf the high seas at incredible speeds. For some reason, they also gave it a double jump. Don’t get me wrong, the double jump is awesome but it never really needed it.
Then we have Sneasler. Oh, Sneasler, one of the derpiest of the new pokemon. It’s ride mechanic does not really help it either. There are times where it just starts climbing a tree when you had no intention of doing so. I should also probably mention you are trapped inside a little basket on its back when you ride it. It’s like a different version of Hypno, going around and stealing kids. Only this time, the Hypno can climb trees.
Finally, we have the best ride mechanic in the game: Bravairy. Being able to soar the skies and look down on all the peasants below is such an amazing feeling. The final zone is where you unlock this sky beast which is a real shame. I would have loved to ride it since zone one, but it is what it is.
The last mechanic I want to cover are the space-time rifts. These in game events spawn rare pokemon and items that usually cannot be found anywhere else. Farming these rifts can lead to a ton of experience and money. Upon hitting the post game, you can even find the starters in the rifts. I can also appreciate how challenging these can get, another net positive.
Mechanics = 7 / 10
There have been many different Pokemon side games throughout the years. Some of these titles include the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games, Pokemon Ranger games and the Pokemon Snap games. I would even argue that some of the side games are better than the main games.
I will argue that Pokemon Legends Arceus is going to go down as one of the better side games. It’s up there with the likes of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon and Pokemon Snap. It already is better than most of the main games.
The brand new Pokemon designs are amazing. On top of the amazing designs, I personally love it when they give old pokemon some love. Seeing new evolutions for Stantler, Scyther, Qwilfish, and Basculin is a welcomed addition. While I prefer new evolutions over forms, I think Pokemon mostly hits the new forms out of the park.
Despite the story being formulaic and predictable, I think it works. Pokemon has always been known for their formulaic and predictable stories, most of which fall flat nowadays. Legends Arceus does change it enough to make the story feel refreshing despite this.
When it comes to the battle system, part of me wants to see this translated into the main games. It would be interesting to see how the competitive scene would change with the addition of strong and agile style moves.
As for the graphics, it is definitely a step in the right direction. It is extremely important for me that they do not sacrifice the other features for the sake of graphics, however. I would take the generation three through five graphics any day if it meant having something like the battle frontier making its return.
Finally, the mechanics. Most of the new mechanics hit it out of the park. It truly is amazing how immersive throwing a ball at a little beaver can be. They implemented that perfectly. I would like to see Pokemon work with the crafting mechanic a little more to see if they can perfect it. As for the ride pokemon, I need more Braviary now. Lastly, the space-time distortions are a cool idea and event that I would love to see more of.
All in all, a really solid game. One of the better to come from the largest monster tamer franchise in the world. I would absolutely recommend this game to anyone who is even remotely interested in the franchise.
OVERALL SCORE: 7 / 10
This article (Pokemon Legends Arceus Review – Pokemon How it was Meant to Be) originally appeared at Phillip Schneider and may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author credit, and this copyright statement.