Pokémon Legends: Arceus – Nintendo’s cult game franchise drops the battle arenas for a more open-world, spiritual experience

A more agile, spiritual Pokémon? That’s what Pokémon Legends: Arceus delivers.It’s a game for Nintendo Switch that treats a mania with cutesy-odd creatures as the religion that it is

A more agile, spiritual Pokémon? That’s what Pokémon Legends: Arceus delivers.

It’s a game for Nintendo Switch that treats a mania with cutesy-odd creatures as the religion that it is – fitting play for a deeply passionate, multigenerational fan base that worships, debates and argues over the brand with cultish intensity.

If not a complete upending of the Pokémon brand, consider it a solid reinvention that lightly mixes Western and Eastern philosophies. The aim is to tighten the congenial relationship between players and their collection of feral but mystical animals.

Gone are battle arenas and in their place are vast forests and feudal-inspired trappings. This is a core Pokémon world where the animals are admired for battle prowess, their beauty and ability to harmonise with nature, as well as more divine realms.

The highly anticipated Pokémon Legends: Arceus teased a game that would provide a bold reimagining of the franchise, a series that, while venerable and dependable, is also borderline stale.

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The game mostly succeeds, serving as a reintroduction, or entry point, depending on your familiarity with the brand, for new and long-time players.

The staples for veterans are here, and the core game – fill up a Pokémon-like Rolodex – won’t throw anyone for a loop. Yet there are enough adjustments to make the game feel faster, more streamlined and more worthy of exploration. There should be plenty to dig into.

At about 20 hours into the game, I’m nowhere near filling my Pokédex, still learning details about the various clans and their tenuous peace agreements.

As early as three hours into the game, I had a half-dozen side missions, which are essentially requests from villagers to answer questions regarding their Pokémon curiosity. We meet two tribes early, one that worships time, and one that pledges allegiance to space, and they don’t appear too interested in meeting in the middle.

That’s where the player comes in.

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But it’s those characters, namely their devotion to the such companions as the pony-like Glaxeon, the big blue-eared Luxio and the glacier-sharp Lord Kleavor, among many others, that results in a Pokémon story that extends a hand to the player.

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We meet a colourful cast – Irida seems even younger than our teen hero with bubble-like bracelets and a suspicious stubbornness, and Adaman’s obsession over time results in him being the only character in the game who blissfully seems to value a short dialogue box.

Set significantly in a lore-filled past, long before other modern Pokémon games, here Pokémon are treated as deities rather than companions for sport.

Even our main character, a teenager the players will define at the outset of the game, is heralded throughout much of the game as a messenger of a godlike character, having fallen out of the sky from a land “beyond both time and space”.

Set in more of an open world, a go-anywhere landscape of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild but with training wheels and limits, we can generally pick or avoid Pokémon conflicts as we see fit. Sometimes they’ll chase us, but a few dodges often do the trick if we want to avoid a clash.

Additionally, if we’re able to sneak up on a Pokémon, we can capture them outright with a well-timed toss of a Poké Ball and often avoid a fight (some Pokémon need a fight to be caught, however). It’s a Pokémon game that thankfully wants to capture the free-flowing ability of Pokémon Go to simply walk.

One of the underlying themes of the game is curing Pokémon who have apparently been stricken with a mysterious lightning bolt and are going mad.

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While some in the clans wonder if this is bullying a Pokémon, the game tries to take a friendly tone. We can subdue them, for instance, by pummeling them with treats rather than Poké Balls.

These scenes give Pokémon Legends: Arceus more of a straightforward action game feel. We run and dodge giant Pokémon while also taking aim at them in an effort to help rid them of whatever it is that’s inflicting them. But these moments, as well as our missions that have us hunting for ancient artefacts, add a sense of mystery to the game.

There are, throughout the game, random stones and pieces of caverns that hold hidden secrets or powers. At long last the Pokémon world of the games feels relatively fleshed out beyond capturing and fighting and training with critters.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus makes it clear the creatures had a past and a culture, even inspiring a religious devotion, long before humans realised they’re entertaining to fight with. In this sense, it’s not just the Pokémon that are otherworldly here; it’s the general feel of the entire game.

Source: South China Morning Post

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