‘Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ introduces open-world experiences to beloved game series

Angela Lim, Life & Arts Reporter

As players begin their adventure in the first accessible area of “Pokémon Legends: Arceus,” a giant, fire-eyed level 40 Rapidash will charge at them and instantly hyper beam their team to a pulp. Welcome to the Hisui region. Here, the possibilities are endless.

“Pokémon Legends: Arceus,” which was released on Nintendo Switch systems Jan. 28, takes place in Hisui, an ancient version of the Sinnoh region. Through an open-world experience never explored before by the franchise, the latest installment goes back in time to bring their signature “gotta catch ‘em all” slogan to another level.

As a Survey Corps member, the player is tasked with completing the first Pokédex, a grand encyclopedia that details information about the Pokémon living in the region. However, unlike main series games, such as “Diamond” and “Pearl,” where a Pokémon’s Pokédex entry can be filled by simply catching it once, “Legends: Arceus” makes players complete various tasks — like catching multiple of the same kind, defeating a certain amount in battle and seeing them use a specific move — to gather research for a single species. This new, multi-faceted approach gives players more reasons to explore every corner of the region, in addition to doing missions and side quests.

“Legends: Arceus” brings characters and Pokémon to life, giving them the personality they lacked in previous titles. Within the first 10 minutes of the game, players can already see a wide range of facial expressions in conversations between them and Professor Laventon. While traversing Hisui’s five distinct biomes, players also encounter Pokémon that possess their own characteristics. For example, a Starly may run away if a player moves too close or a Buizel might become agitated and attack. The game also introduces numerous mechanics, from “strong” and “agile” styles that change a battle’s dynamic to crafting with materials from explorations. These details show developer Game Freak’s thoughtful care towards creating a world both comfortable and unfamiliar to players.

Still, every first experiment leaves room for improvement. Although the game’s graphics don’t ruin the experience, the overworld falls short considering its genre akin to “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and “Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin.” Parts of the environment can feel empty with textures that lack depth and resolution. As the best-selling video game franchise of all time, The Pokémon Company holds the potential to refine the graphics to a much greater degree.

While telling the origins of Sinnoh in another light and embellishing familiar motifs throughout, “Pokémon Legends: Arceus” elevates the franchise into a brighter future with newfound freedom, delivering an unparalleled experience away from its more structured predecessors. Now, after almost 26 years, Game Freak finally offered fans the open-world adventure they always dreamt of.

4.5 tumblestones out of 5