Pokémon Legends: Arceus has been a blast. I may be a bit biased since all I really want out of a Pokémon game is the opportunity to catch more Pokémon and explore a newish world, but this game definitely delivers both of those things and more. The game’s basic plot is that you’ve fallen through a warp in space and time to the Hisui region, a place that would eventually become known as Sinnoh (where the Diamond and Pearl games take place), and are charged by Pokémon God with discovering all of the Pokémon in the region. You’re set up with an exploratory team meant to research the local Pokémon and protect the people who wish to live in the region from the aggressive local Pokémon, and you prove yourself as not only capable but highly skilled to the locals who treat the idea of encountering wild Pokémon with trepidation and fear.
At first, I struggled to reconcile my experiences with Pokémon and even the depictions of wild Pokémon in the anime as fearsome beasts with the level of fear the people of this world showed towards the local wild Pokémon. After all, the local Pokémon were all basic, low-leveled sorts that were dealt with quite quickly. Once I started doing my usual “run over every hill instead of following the story” thing, I quickly discovered why everyone was afraid. There, not far from a little copse of trees full of Wurmple that would run as soon as they saw me, I found a simply massive Snorlax with glowing red eyes that would settle for nothing but my blood. I managed to escape with my life thanks to my earlier recognition that red eyes meant it was some kind of monster Pokémon and the preparations I did in case it was more than I could handle (aka, finding a route the AI’s pathing wouldn’t let it take, thereby forcing it to give me the space I needed to break aggro).
These “Alpha” Pokémon–larger and meaner versions of normal Pokémon–apparently wander the world, showing up in specific locations and chasing away any interlopers. Even as I’m quickly becoming one of the most powerful trainers in the region and with a lifetime of experience playing Pokémon in my hands, I’m still struggling to overcome them. One-shotting a Pokémon of nearly the same level (plus or minus 5 levels) is rare thing in this game since they changed the way stats progress and are allocated based on level and their grit system (that replaces IVs and EVs with a single number you can increase with an item).
Now, all the pokemon have more HP than usual, higher stats than usual, and probably some new method of calculating damage. All this to say that a level 15 Geodude using rollout has a decent chance of not taking down a level 5 Bidoof in a single attack. But these Alphas have their stats boosted so much (most of which disappear once you capture then, of course) that they can probably take out your first pokemon before you can even move unless that pokemon is incredibly tough, incredibly fast, or isn’t good against them at all (since Alpha Pokémon seem to always have moves that are just perfect for taking down any pokemon type that would be good against them). Even when my Pokémon are the same level, I’ll still go through two or three to take down one Alpha. Sometimes I can take down a higher-level one, so long as I get a type advantage and have a fast Pokémon, but even the lower-leveled ones can present a challenge if I’m not on my game.
All of which is to say that this is the first time I’ve felt like I actually have to take a Pokémon game somewhat seriously. Sure, I can probably grind my way up to some high levels and eventually power my way through any situation, but one of the main aspects of this game is filling out your Pokédex by capturing Pokémon multiple times, seeing them use certain moves, defeating them with certain types of moves, and so on. If you just grind for levels, you won’t get anywhere. Throw in the crafting system since you wind up making most of your supplies (this game happens in the past, so Pokéballs are fairly new, Pokémon Centers aren’t a thing in this region yet, and commerce is pretty limited since only a few places have capitalism). It’s really a fun, different take on the Pokémon franchise and I’ve been enjoying it immensely, even if I have lost a bunch of potential play time to being sick over the past weekend.
There’s lots more to write about this game, but I’ll save that for future blog posts since I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this game so far and I want to experience more of the game before I write further about it. I will say that I’ve caught 3 shiny Pokémon so far (only one of which was quest-based) and my shiny-luck has held true: all the random shinies are Pokémon whose shiny form is just “gold.” Which isn’t bad, necessarily, it’s just a bit boring.