Today (Friday 28th January 2022) a brand new main-series Pokèmon game was released for the Nintendo Switch. I thought it might be a nice idea to discuss my impressions of the game, after just a few hours of gameplay. It’s very rare that I pre-order or get a new game on its actual release day, but in this instance, I did! The only other game I remember pre-ordering was Animal Crossing: New Horizons when that was released for the Switch back in March 2020.
This post will be structured in the following way, to hopefully ensure clarity:
- My Experience with Pokèmon & Pokèmon Games – (read: backstory!)
- About Pokèmon Legands: Arceus
- My Impressions
Obviously, this is the first post I’ve written like this, but I’m hoping it’ll work!
My Experience with Pokèmon & Pokèmon Games
Pokèmon and I go way back, ever since I was quite young. I don’t remember how or when I first discovered Pokèmon, but I do remember my older cousins liking it and I actually inherited a bunch of their Pokèmon toys, books, and games!
For those who don’t know, Pokèmon is a huge franchise originating in Japan sometime in the 1990s. It describes you, a human being, interacting, raising, and working alongside these interesting creatures known as Pokèmon (which loosely translates to Pocket Monsters from Japanese). There’s a Manga and Anime series telling the story of Pokèmon, most of which revolves around a 10-year-old boy named Ash Ketchum and his adventure to become a Pokèmon champion (which is essentially who can raise the strongest Pokèmon and make it to the top). I’ve watched quite a lot, but not all the anime, and I’ve never read the manga. Perhaps I should.
The Pokèmon main-stream games are organised by generation, and each generation usually takes place in a different ‘region’ of the Pokèmon world. Most of this world is based on different regions of Japan, however, there are now also regions based on France, New York (USA), and Great Britain (specifically England, Scotland, and the Isle of Man). The style of the games is what’s known as an RPG, a role-playing game because unsurprisingly Pokèmon is not real and I’m very sad about it. I’ll give a quick breakdown of the games per generation, I’ll try not to make it too long and boring (and I apologise if I do):
- Generation One: Pokèmon Red, Blue & Yellow released in 1998 (outside Japan) for the GameBoy and the GameBoy Colour (Yellow). There were several spin-off games this series, I believe there are for every generation. I have played Blue & Yellow. Yellow is a special Pikachu Edition.
- Generation Two: Pokèmon Gold & Silver were released in 1999 for the GameBoy Colour. Pokèmon Crystal was released in 2000. The three games are almost identical in gameplay, bar Crystal having some improvements and there may be version-specific Pokèmon (usually the rarer ones). This goes for most regions where multiple mainstream games have been released. I have played Crystal.
- Generation Three: Pokèmon Ruby & Sapphire were released in 2002 for the GameBoy Advance. Pokèmon FireRed and LeafGreen (Red and ‘Blue’ (Green in Japan) Remakes) were also released for the GameBoy Advance in 2004 alongside Pokèmon Emerald, an enhanced version of Ruby & Sapphire. I have briefly played Pokèmon LeafGreen.
- Generation Four: Pokèmon Diamond & Pearl (2006) and Pokèmon Platinum (2008) are the first main-stream Pokèmon games to be released on the Nintendo DS. Within this generation Pokèmon HeartGold & SoulSilver (2009, Gold & Silver Remakes) were also released, however they take place in a different region of that of Diamond & Pearl. I have played all of them, however Platinium, HG & SS only very briefly as they were slightly not-legal copies of the game ( *Cue the 2004 Anti-Piracy Ad, You Wouldn’t Steal A Car*)
- Generation Five: Pokèmon Black & White are released for the DS in 2010, followed by Black 2 & White 2 in 2012. I have played these only a tiny bit because, again, they weren’t exactly legit and they began breaking my DS system from the inside-out – as with the other ~ dodgy ~ games. (don’t buy your games on eBay kids)
- Generation Six: Pokèmon X & Y are released in 2013, and are the first main-stream Pokèmon games to support the Nintendo 3DS Family of consoles. I did play a bit of Y, this time it was legit! In 2014, Pokèmon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire (Ruby and Sapphire Remakes) were released for the 3DS. I had Alpha Sapphire, I remember my dad buying it for me.
- Generation Seven: Pokèmon Sun & Moon (2016) and Pokèmon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon (2017) were released on the 3DS Family Consoles, for the last time. My dad bought me Moon and I played it a lot, but it frustrated me that the ‘time’ was in reverse (it was ‘night’ in the game if you played during the day and vise-versa). So I got Ultra Sun which was much less confusing! Pokèmon Let’s Go Eevee & Let’s Go Pikachu are the first to be released on the Nintendo Switch in late 2019, and I have both!
- Generation Eight (Current): Pokèmon Sword & Shield were released on Switch in 2019. I have Pokèmon Shield, plus the expanded content that goes with it (known as DLC, Downloadable Content). In 2021, remakes of Diamond & Pearl called Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were released for the Switch and I play Brilliant Diamond! The latest Gen VIII game came out today, Pokèmon Legands: Arceus!
The first mainstream game I remember fully engaging in was Pokèmon Pearl for the DS. I’ve gone through and completed that game several times now. I was also collecting a lot of Pokèmon cards at the time! Then after I remember Alpha Sapphire and Moon, then I had some dodgy copies. I currently don’t have a DS (I am saving though!) so all my current games are on the Switch!
About Pokèmon Legends: Arceus
This game is set much further back in Pokèmon history than every other game, in fact, the region it is set in is an ancient region based on the one used in the first set of fourth generation games called the Sinnoh Region. But it isn’t called the Sinnoh region yet, it’s the Hisui region. It’s essentially a prequal to the entire series, especially in terms of technology within the game. For example, in every game, you have access to a computer but computers haven’t been invented yet so that concept of the game is taken up in a completely different way. Just like the other games, it’s an action/adventure RPG game that can be played in docked, tabletop or handheld mode on the Nintendo Switch/Switch Lite systems. It was revealed in February 2021, but I don’t know exactly how long it has been in development for.
So, what do I think of it?
My First Impressions
From the off, I knew this game was going to be a little bit different than the previous games, simply because of when it is set but also it was advertised in such a way that you knew it was meant to be different.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘it’s a Pokèmon game, what else can they do with it?’, but honestly it’s like no other Pokèmon game I’ve played before – and that isn’t a bad thing. I knew it was going to be an open-world game where you’re free to roam wherever you like and I just assumed that the others were open-world as well. They’re certainly not as open-world as this! I have full 360º camera control using my right joystick, and that’s something I’ve only ever seen in a tiny part of the previous game (when it comes to Pokèmon). I, of course, also have complete control over the movement of my character using the other Joystick. This isn’t new though as every 3D Pokèmon game has had this form of movement.
The artwork is clever and detailed, but not too detailed. It sets the scene well and the open-world feels huge! The character design is loosely based on 4th Generation characters, which makes sense seeing as they are probably their ancestors. The Pokèmon have lifelike, and likeable, movements. I’m not a gadgety-techy graphics person, so I’m not sure I can really know or appreciate whether the graphics are up to scratch or not. They seem alright for me!
The gameplay is great, similar but different. So far it appears that everything happens in the ‘overworld‘ (main set bit where you run around) including Pokèmon battles that before now have always taken place on its own stage. The process of catching Pokèmon in this game is completely new to me, but it’s also quite fun! Instead of meeting ‘random encounters’ of Pokèmon by walking in certain areas of the overworld (such as grass), Wild Pokèmon roam free in areas outside of the central ‘village’ I’m currently based in (namely Jublife Village, based on Diamond & Pearl’s Jublife City). As there is no secondary stage to encounter and catch them in, they must be caught in the overworld. Yes, that does mean chasing a Pokèmon down with a Pokè Ball! It’s quite tense actually, yet exciting. You have to aim the Pokè Ball directly at the Pokèmon in order to attempt catching it, which can be difficult when you’re running after them!
As for battling wild Pokèmon, some are quite aggressive and will chase you until you’ve run far enough away, or you set your own Pokèmon on them. To provoke a battle, you simply have to throw a Pokè Ball containing your Pokèmon towards the target. Sometimes it will hit the Pokèmon, but that’s ok! The ability to have full control over the movement of your character during battles is also a new thing for me, and I think that it makes the whole experience feel more immersive and realistic. In previous games, the battles were using quite static and boring. Repetitive pick a move, perform the move using just one button. Here, you even have to dodge Pokèmon moves to prevent damage being caused to yourself. That’s VERY new, never have I played a Pokèmon game where damage could be inflicted on a trainer. It does add to the realism value! I actually learnt the hard way about damage being inflicted on the trainer; I ran up towards the edge of a cliff, and usually you would be blocked from going any further, the game would physically stop you. But no, my poor character jumped, landed in a river, and briefly drowned. That’s new!
There are a lot of ‘new’ things in this game, and one of them is crafting! Major Animal Crossing vibes if you ask me! I suppose it makes sense though because back then they wouldn’t have machines to manufacture everything for you! So far I have learned how to craft a Pokè Ball, and I’m sure there’re a lot more things to come!
A final thing I noticed so far is the NPC (non-playable character) attitudes towards Pokèmon. In every game up until now, people have loved working and living alongside Pokèmon – they go hand in hand. In this game it’s clear that they don’t understand much about Pokèmon yet, many of them were telling my character that Pokèmon are dangerous and that they’re scared to ever leave the safety of their village. It’s actually really quite interesting!
I have not progressed very far as of yet, but I am excited to! I’m only an hour, maybe two tops, into the game and already I’ve encountered so many new concepts and gameplay tactics already. I’m excited to see what else is to come and what Pokèmon I will meet. There’s not a lot more I can really say as I haven’t fully experienced everything yet but I have a feeling it’s going to be an enjoyable game!
I hope that wasn’t too long, boring, or rambly! I just wanted to share some initial views on the game! If you need me, I shall be filling my Pokedex!