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Exploring Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Lush grass swaying in the gentle breeze, sun beaming down on shining waters, it’s a good day for adventure and exploration in the Obsidian Fieldlands. Until I saunter around a boulder and come face to face with a great fiery beast. I stare into the glowing red eyes of an alpha Rapidash, at least 30 levels superior to me, and I experience actual terror. Before the monster is able to engage with me in battle (of which it would surely make quick work of me with no effort), I sidle back around the boulder, knees shaking, sweat on my brow. My first excursion to the Fieldlands would have met its end then and there, and I am struck anew with the awe of seeing Pokémon such as the alpha Rapidash in their natural habitat. Of one thing I am certain: I want it. I want them all.

Game Freak’s latest establishment, Pokémon Legends: Arceus, has broken the mold and reinvented the Pokémon franchise as we know it. I have only just dipped my toes into the water with this one, but my experience so far has exceeded expectations tremendously. (That says a lot, because I was woefully bereft of interest in pursuing completion of Pokémon Shield.) I got a late start, but I plan to delve deeper into gameplay–as long as I don’t stay distracted by the sheer joy of exploration and gathering. I will highlight just a few of the characteristics that intrigue me thus far:

1.) Story often makes or breaks a game, and in Pokémon titles past it has been a non-entity, following the familiar formula of gaining, training, and triumphing with your Pokémon companions to overcome the Elite Four and become the new reigning Champion. Legends:Arceus shakes things up a bit by thrusting 15-year-old you from a modern world into ancient Hisui. Preceding Pokémon Diamond and Pearl’s Sinnoh region, Hisui is reminiscent of feudal Japan, and as expected your character’s presence is a point of wonderment and mystery amongst the locals. You don’t yet know really why you are there, but you are recruited by the Galaxy Team’s Survey Corps and embrace the challenge of learning about Pokémon right off the bat. In this world, Pokémon are not fully understood and are perceived in a more threatening light, dangerous and powerful creatures that they are. This factor is made apparent by the fact that you can receive damage, indicated by flashing around the edge of your screen, and can even be knocked out by wild Pokémon. As you gain research for the world’s first Pokédex, you dive deeper into the mysteries of the Pokémon universe. This game deviates from its predecessors by having you pick up missions to progress the plot, and subsequently there are side missions as well, called “requests.”

2.) The implementation of a crafting and gathering system is just one facet making this game more dynamic than titles in the past. Legends: Arceus is semi-open world, kind of reminiscent of the Wild Area in Pokémon Sword and Shield, except split into different zones. In the overworld, there are herbs that can be picked, as well as other materials acquired by throwing your Pokémon. For example, if I see a tree full of apricorns or a mineral cluster, I simply throw my Pokémon at it and the Pokémon gathers the materials for me. The Pokémon used also gains a small bit of experience from the action. Early on, you learn how to craft poké balls and potions–so you know what means? I can battle and capture wild Pokémon to my heart’s content without breaking the bank!

3.) The battle system is unique for a Pokémon game, featuring a revamp to the traditional turn-based system. Rather than each opponent making one action per turn in a set order, Pokémon stats and other factors can influence the number of actions per turn, as well as the order of attack. Also introduced are Strong Style and Agile Style attacks, which can be toggled in the attack menu. This advancement to the battle system embellishes the staging of an element against its weakness, and requires more strategy to utilize.

4.) Hand in hand with the advanced battle system, approach is highly important when it comes to engaging with wild Pokémon. Initializing a back strike while a wild Pokémon is facing away from you will give you preemptive priority. You can throw a number of things at wild Pokémon to strategically attempt a capture. For example, throwing berries provides distraction; throwing a ball of mud can stun a wild Pokémon momentarily; throwing a smoke ball provides cover from being seen; etc…

5.) The final thing I want to highlight is the Pokédex research. In past games, all that was required to fulfill a Pokédex entry was capturing a Pokémon, wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. In Legends: Arceus, the Survey Corps really puts you to work. Each Pokémon has a different set of requirements to check off, ultimately ending with a goal of hitting research level ten per Pokémon. These conditions vary from obtaining so many of a certain Pokémon, to seeing a Pokémon use a certain move so many times, to capturing the Pokémon at a certain time of day. Along with some of the story missions, this new factor gives a whole new meaning to the word “grind.” So it’s not surprising if by the end of the day you have a whole throng of one type of Pokémon in your pasture.

I am overly eager to explore more of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, but I am loving what I’ve experienced so far. As I stated earlier, I’ve only just scratched the surface of the game, and I cannot wait to dive deeper, become more adept at the mechanics, and unravel the mysteries of the game. Oh, and capture shinies!

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