HomeReviewsPokémon Legends: Arceus Review

Pokémon Legends: Arceus Review

Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 – Available Here | $79.95 – Available Here


When I was young and playing my Pokémon Game Boy titles, I would imagine the games in a bigger scope than what they were. I think all kids at that time did, as thinking of a large Pokémon game that mirrored the anime allowed us to fill gaps within the experiences with our own imagination. Game Freak have obviously tried to deliver a bit of that in prior generations with the 3DS’ X and Y, as well as Sword and Shield for the Switch, but many felt like the franchise played it safe and stuck to basics a bit too much. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the next in line on the Pokémon proving ground, which changes things up by removing technology so fans can go knee deep into some Sinnoh lore. Does it deliver a satisfying immersion, or does this detour from the norm prove to be a rocky one? Let’s find out. 


The plot in Pokémon Legends: Arceus is familiar, but still very different from what we are used to. Players take control of a protagonist that falls from the skies in the Hisui region due to a mysterious force. After meeting a new Pokémon professor and a few new friends, you set out on a journey to fill a Pokédex, while taking on missions for the Galactic Team as a member of the Survey Corps. Yeah, it really does throw you into it that fast, but due to it still being Pokémon, it is not very hard to get associated with this world quickly. 

The narrative is interesting, and the deepest Game Freak has ever plunged into their own lore. That is because we are now back in time before modern technology existed within the Pokémon universe. This is a period where discovery is above competition, where players must deal with the nuances of crafting to obtain their tools for their own adventures and advancement. For the first few hours, I will admit, I was a bit taken back as I missed that age-old formula. Part of me really enjoyed the different pace here as the standard set of tropes for even spin-off titles are gone, but once the game reaches a point, that becomes forgivable as the game expands and gets its own legs through its over-arching narrative involving the legendary Arceus, who is intertwined into the fabric of the experience in every way.  

There is a lot of care in in the plot and setting here, as any seasoned Diamond and Pearl player will be able to have a ton of those little “ah-ha!” moments as NPCs speak of the many myths and legends of their current time, which were once pieces of one-line dialogue where locals would ramble about when they spoke about the history of Sinnoh. That makes the discovery portion of things feel important and, what Pokémon Legends: Arceus is all about. 


There was a moment where I knew I had fallen for Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ gameplay. I just started my journey, and was provided with some Pokéballs, along with my Rowlet. I saw a Bidoof and chucked a ball at it, managing to capture it instantly. That was cool enough, but within a couple of minutes I came upon a common Shinx, who seemed ready to attack. I couldn’t catch him, as he was too irritated to capture. I swapped to my Pokémon, and tossed out my Rowlet. A battle sequence immediately ensued. No pre-battle animation or loading, just right into the battle, ready to go. I was already in awe of the seamless flow, and then noticed I could move and call commands to Rowlet while my own movement was occurring. I smiled in glee and continued the battle until weakening the Shinx, before capturing it and continuing forward. It’s kind of silly that this was where Arceus had me hooked, but that little sequence felt bigger than that. It was the first time I felt Pokémon had finally evolved and moved one step closer to that vision we have always had for it for the past 25 years. This wasn’t just some random addition to a game; this is how my friends and I played Pokémon on the playground with toys when we were kids. Yes, the gameplay here is great. 

I mentioned earlier that the tropes are not the same for Pokémon Legends: Arceus compared to your usual main entry that we see annually. I think I should clarify that as despite what prior hype may have made it out as, this title is a spin-off, as even though you pick a starter and hear the usual spiel from a professor, this is not that type of Pokémon game. I would honestly line up Arceus closer to the likes of Pokémon Colosseum or XD than I would something more traditional, as it falls just enough outside of that line to be a completely different experience than what most would be accustomed to. Sure, the mechanics of battles and leveling are still enough to make it feel familiar, but I feel that setting your expectations correctly with this one is needed before going in, especially with all the hype that has surrounded it since its announcement last year. 

The term spin-off shouldn’t deter anyone from understanding the massive scope here, as even though it isn’t as free as one could imagine, the areas within the Hisui region are large and vast, brought to life by the species of Pokémon that inhabit it. The main objectives are based around the Pokédex, with the player having to go out and capture Pokémon for the professor. To do this, you now need to keep an eye out for materials to craft into tools, as keeping a stock of Pokéballs is almost mandatory. Luckily, farming rocks, acorns, gems, and so on comes easy to any explorer as there is plenty to find as you search each area. Items can also be obtained for healing and stat boosts as well, adding a way to keep a well-balanced team – even if you may not be utilizing your Pokémon for frequent battles. 

Players now must gain ranks instead of badges by basically filling a meter that kind seems slow to fill at first. Each Pokémon you catch increases this and completing a Pokédex entry (which usually comes with three of the same species) means you can feel to catch repeats without wasting time, as you are rewarded with more “Star Rank” experience for doing so. Side quests are also found almost everywhere, with NPCs asking you to fetch or craft them an item, or even a Pokémon that may end up helping you later. For example, one villager may need a Geodude to start gardening. After he gets that ability, he will slowly be able to build up his own space – which will be able to be utilized for greater goods down the road. It’s an effective ecosystem that makes exploration satisfying, even if there may be a bit of repetition and tedium tied into the wait for the progression to occur.   

Outside of exploration and quests for side or story purposes, two other objectives act as a great reason to press forward and unlock more areas. Alpha Pokémon are simply stronger versions of their species, and usually come at a much higher level than anything else within the area. This means that you may have to use up your entire team to conquer one, but they are worth it with the bounty they bring. These Pokémon have moves that only are available to themselves, so capturing an Alpha will give you a great advantage on the field. Defeating one in battle also brings a ton of rare loot as well, which can greatly shift the game’s difficulty in your favor if you are struggling in a more advanced playing field. Noble Pokémon are based more around the narrative, with these Pokémon acting as actual bosses that must be purified before conquering. You can do this by battling them in a challenging format, throwing balms at the target when they are stunned or weak. Sure, it isn’t exactly the most creative boss encounters, but they do add a lot of reason to grind for the sake of progression. 

If I had any issues with Pokémon Legends, it wouldn’t be the gameplay or general mechanics. I do think that sometimes the game can drag a bit at periods, but that also may be more of a preference issue for the quests available. My main snags came in the form of the game’s odd menu layout and button mapping. I think for years, we have gotten used to running with “B” and opening menus in specific ways, so maybe this is just me – but having the character crouch with that said button and each bag and menu having different layouts to do almost the same options became a headache quickly. In this bag, you use R to go through the top tabs and Y to open missions. The map you need to use B to open this portion and go through tabs with A. I just never got used to it and found it to be an unnecessary annoyance. There is a lot of game here so that isn’t a deal breaker, but for a game with so much leaning on familiarity, the menu navigation choices just came off as a little odd. 

This is a Pokémon game at the end of the day, and one could probably get an infinite amount of time with the game and still have plenty to do as that core concept of “Gotta Catch ‘em All” still is present. With online missions, mystery gifting, and discovery of everything else riddled within, replay value here and be endless if you let it as Pokémon Legends feels like a project built with a long future in mind. 


Pokémon Legends may be the newest game of the franchise to date, but it certainly doesn’t look like it. In ways, the game looks darker and maybe even muddier than prior titles. Most character models resemble that of a mix of what we saw within Pokémon Sword and Shield and even the 3DS titles. Framerates can also be a bit messy with the environment, as grass and water clips in and out of existence commonly. That said, it still holds steady where it matters as I never noticed the Pokémon themselves with slowdown or choppiness when in battle as animations were always consistent and fluid. Would I have liked to see something closer to what we received with New Pokémon Snap? Sure, as those visuals were bright and warm. Sinnoh is a cold land, however – and with all this content you just must accept that what you see here is serviceable enough for this adventure. 


I really dug the soundtrack. Sure, it sounds like general fare at first, but as you explore, music changes dramatically from area to area, with atmospheric tunes that capture the mood of the creatures around you. Pokémon have their typical cries and voice acting isn’t really a thing, but again – I don’t think the audience this was intended for will mind that all too much due to the focus on the core experience. 


Pokémon Legends: Arceus is truly something unique for this franchise. This world is a history lesson Pokémon style, with new mechanics and innovations that are ready to move the namesake forward for the better. In a game built around discovery and exploration, it manages to open new windows to what was once background lore, adding innovative mechanics and features that makes Pokémon feel fresh and exciting. Despite some shortcomings, Pokémon Legends has enough content to keep players busy for hundreds of hours, all while paving the way for what is sure to evolve into its own series with endless possibilities. 

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.


Pokémon Legends: Arceus gives new reason to catch them all, with the first in what is surely to be a series with unlimited potential.
<i>Pokémon Legends: Arceus</i> gives new reason to catch them all, with the first in what is surely to be a series with unlimited potential.Pokémon Legends: Arceus Review