Pokémon Legends: Is Arceus the Right Path for Game Freak?

Pokémon Legends: Is Arceus the Right Path for Game Freak?

Pokémon Legends

With over 1.5 million copies sold in the first three days in Japan alone, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is set to become one of this year's most successful games. Why Pokémon, no matter what anyone may say, always sells: ratings, reviews, influencers and streamers will never change this simple truth. Who was interested before, probably had booked it for months, and who was not interested ... maybe in the end bought it anyway.

Pokémon is a very powerful brand, on everyone's lips, and that means it has become enormously divisive. Let's say that Game Freak, however, has put the load of one hundred to become one of the most criticized companies in recent years. The new course, which kicked off with Pokémon Legends, aimed to turn the tide, but the game raised huge fuss nonetheless.

Who played it - and didn't just watch a few streams before or after the release - has recognized its value at least on the innovation front: it is the first chapter in many years to actually do something new and to lay important foundations for the future of the series. Whether this is really the right way to go in the next few years, however, remains to be seen. In the next few lines we will try to better frame the strengths of the game, remembering that you can always read our review of Pokémon Legends: Arceus and let us know what you would like to see in a possible sequel and how Game Freak - which maybe could read you and maybe not. - could improve the new formula.

Just avoid repeating that it has bad graphics. We know it, everyone says it, you have probably already said it and we have written it too, and in this regard we want to return to the matter immediately, so we get rid of our thoughts.

Graphics are not everything ...

Pokémon legends: Arceus, the Seal on the shore of the Overseas Coast But even the eye wants its part and denying it would be hypocritical. Everyone gives this aspect the weight it deems appropriate and we, while recognizing a fairly mediocre technical realization, during the review we did not feel like rejecting Pokémon Legends only for its graphics. Because if it is true that on the Switch it has been seen much better, it is equally true that it has also seen worse.

That said, it is undeniable that Nintendo hardware can and should have done more. It is understandable that Game Freak has compromised to achieve and maintain a certain fluidity - which was not at all obvious, especially after the first trailers of the game - but on the hybrid console we played open-world titles of the caliber of The Legend of Zelda : Breath of the Wild, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Monster Hunter Rise and The Witcher 3, so we know for sure that the Nintendo console could have given us less embarrassing images.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Professor Laven will be ours mentor However, it must also be admitted that every player has a different level of tolerance, and if there is someone who is horrified at the first low-res texture and just can't get it out of their heads, there are also those who look at the half glass full. We at Pokémon Legends have not only recognized the marked defects - which can be a low polygon count, repetitive interiors or aliasing at the limits of the complaint - but also the merits such as the well-kept lighting in the day / night cycle, the aforementioned fluidity which guarantees a smooth and frenetic exploration, the effects, the artistic direction and modeling of the pokémon and many other small details that underline one thing: yes, there is an underlying inability of Game Freak and maybe even a concrete dose of laziness, but also a lot of affection, a lot of passion, and we cannot and want to believe that all the men who programmed the game are ruthless unscrupulous mercenaries.

So, yes, you are right to be angry because Pokémon Legends it could have been much more, especially since it is a brand with almost infinite resources and, although the actual budget behind the development is not known, it is difficult if not absurd to believe c h the problem was economic. On the other hand, the game is fun and involves as very few Pokémon have done in recent years.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Starly and Bidoof strolling around the Obsidian Rift It awakened the passion for the series in those who had neglected or just abandoned it, trying to do something new and certainly more faithful to the original concept - "Gonna catch'em all!", Remember? - and played in the right conditions, that is to say in portability and possibly with a Switch OLED that brings out the bright colors, many graphics problems take a back seat.

However, those problems are there, and Game Freak will have to be careful about his next moves. Pokémon Legends passed our test because it is a valid game, net of the edges we described in the review, and because it is a compelling experiment, a new beginning to build on. In a year or two, when we see a sequel, a saving process will no longer be tolerable.

The new foundations

Pokémon Legends: Arceus, if a pokémon notices you it will be more difficult to catch Pokémon Legends is a restart. Game Freak is back to the original concept, the one that is expressed in a cartoon of over a thousand episodes that is probably better known than the video game itself: catch them all. The formula translated into a Japanese RPG with turn-based combat on rails, so to speak, and up to Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield it remained true to itself, even fueling that competitive scenario that also attracted the attention of gamers. adults.

Pokémon Legends completely reverses this formula and, using an open world approach or almost, focuses the whole experience on exploration, collecting and diving. In open-air scenarios where the player can interact with wild pokémon in real time, the idea that Satoshi Tajiri had initially had of Pokémon and which he had not yet managed to realize is realized.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Cyndaquil vs. Munchlax Pokémon Legends thrives on this interpretation to such an extent that it sacrifices much of what Pokémon has been so far. And it works. It is difficult to explain how this spring is triggered, and it probably depends on a number of subjective circumstances. Pokémon Legends: Arceus works if you appreciate the Pokémon universe, including its wacky characters and childlike dialogue. And it works if you love to explore and spend time researching and observing the scenery and monsters. It works particularly well if you try different approaches - the game offers a plethora of tools and mechanics that are not always transparent for controlling and capturing pokémon - and you don't get stuck on the goal as if it were a homework assignment.

Maybe Pokémon Legends are wrong in communicating this philosophy to the player. It offers a rudimentary PokéDex to be completed by fulfilling a series of tasks for each card, but it does not suggest a rhythm or a path to follow: by granting this freedom, it also penalizes players with a more rigid mindset.

Legends Pokémon: Arceus, at the Giubilo Village you will find a general store, a hairdresser and other services Let's say it's a question of sensitivity, if not of feelings. Pokémon Legends should be played like this: okay, I caught Pikachu and now I have a series of assignments to complete, but for now I don't care and I do them when I happen or when I feel like it. If, on the other hand, the player approaches in a more mechanical way - I have captured Pikachu, wait for me to stop and "grind" his level of analysis before continuing - the Game Freak title exhausts its escapist potential and becomes an "ordinary video game". The problem is that Pokémon Legends not only allows for this completely legitimate angle, but in a way encourages it with the stakes it sets for progression: if you don't reach a certain degree, you can't continue exploring.

The problem is that some players "consume" the content without taking a breath and hit that wall simply because they can, when instead it would be enough to face the adventure with greater relaxation to always get ready for the next stake.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus, Wyrdeer will be your first mount In short, the foundations are very important and make Pokémon Legends a new, more immersive and engaging course for those who want to get lost in the world of pocket monsters, but Game Freak must find a greater balance in the structure and, above all, must find a specific target. Because Pokémon Legends, in these conditions, cannot supplant the flagship series. It leans too much on one side - exploration - and too little on the other - the struggle - to reposition itself in the eyes of a fanbase that has become addicted to certain mechanisms.

The streamlining of the combat system is appreciable and guarantee intuitive access to those approaching the game for the first time or, quite simply, more interested in the collector component than in the strategic one. However, we are not sure that suddenly getting rid of all those sophistications that have embellished and distinguished that part of Pokémon for decades is the right way to go, especially since the mechanics of the Quick / Powerful Technique implemented to replace them did not fully convince us.

Even more legends

Pokémon legends: Arceus, shoot pokémon at trees to get XP, berries and maybe some Burmys. On this foundation Game Freak can only build. It has an excellent basis: a concretization of the original concept that uses a banal but cunning trick - time travel that takes us back to an era where monsters still represent a danger - to prepare more ambitious gameplay and narrative than in the past. The graphics and combat system, on the other hand, need a heavy update. The technical sector, if improved, could offer much more, reflecting on the gameplay. And although Pokémon Legends is a mainly single player experience, the possibility of having your pokémon fight against those of friends, in the face of the great freedom that the game allows in the formation of teams less subject to meta and rankings, would be very welcome. And to be honest, we don't feel like ruling out that it could become a DLC over the next few months.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus, the three starting pokémon It remains to solve the PokéDex problem or, rather, to say, some collectible pokémon. Pokémon Legends: Arceus has 242. They are a bit 'small if we consider the total to 2022: about 900 monsters, not counting the regional variants, the Mega Evolutions and the Gigantamax forms. The new game is set in Hisui, which would later be Sinnoh in the past. So Game Freak still has so many pokémon available that it can continue the series for at least three or four releases. The distribution of the legendaries, who are now about sixty now, will have to juggle, and in Arceus' narrative they play a fairly important role, but the content, so to speak, is there. The only problem is that presumably we will have to continue to exploit time travel to justify most of the gameplay mechanics, but Arceus establishes a pretext there too: our alter ego - who would then be the ancestor of Lucas and Dawn of Diamond and Pearl - eventually remains in the past and can travel to other regions to complete the PokéDex.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus, the Quick Technique allows you to perform less deadly but faster moves In this sense, Pokémon Legends are could almost define a "reboot" like those seen lately at the cinema. Game Freak has boundless imagery to draw upon to craft new storylines that tell us about the origins of the regions we met in the original games and the ancestors of so many iconic characters in the series. Will we get to meet Red and Blue's ancestor or Misty and Brock's ancestors? Not to mention that AZ may already be somewhere in the world. Pokémon Legends does not shine for narrative, but is characterized by tons of goodies, quotes and references that have made fans of the series more attentive to its mythology go crazy.

The perfect (Legends) Pokémon will never be there, of course. After all these years, we realized that Game Freak doesn't have what it takes to make the leap that sets genius developers apart from everyone else. But the future of the new course looks bright to us. The foundations are there, and they are solid. Whether they can build something great remains to be seen.

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