Victor has been playing video games for a long time, and enjoys sharing his knowledge and experiences to help other players.
As I crept in the tall grass to get close to a Starly, I loaded up a Poke Ball and waited for the right moment. When the Starly stopped moving, I threw the Poke Ball and managed to successfully catch Starly without alerting it to my presence.
Making the preparations to catch Starly in the wild made me feel like an actual Pokemon trainer. I'm supposed to be researching Pokemon, but I couldn't wait to catch more Pokemon and be the very best in my own way.
I was excited. The adrenaline was pumping. This felt like the Pokemon experience I had always imagined after seeing it on the TV shows. It may not be perfect, but it is the most immersive Pokemon experience I've ever had.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus puts you in the role of a boy/girl who has been thrown into the past, landing in the Hisui region before it became known as the Sinnoh region from Pokemon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl.
You are found by Professor Laventon, who brings you to Jubilife Village to get your bearings and contribute to the Galaxy Survey Corps, who are in the Hisui region to learn more about Pokemon. You join the Survey Corps with only one real task that you know you have to complete: catch all the Pokemon.
The story feels similar to some of the earlier Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. You are thrown into a new world, brought by a powerful being who wants you to try and solve the problems of the world you are in.
Fortunately, it doesn't take too long for you to get to the heart of the game, which is Pokemon research in the field. You are quickly introduced to catching Pokemon, gaining your first Pokemon partner and understanding what research tasks need to be completed.
Just like Pokemon Sword & Shield, you are able to encounter Pokemon in the environment and see them. Unlike traditional Pokemon games, you aren't just walking straight into a battle.
You are actively planning methods to capture Pokemon, laying out ideas and contingencies in case your original plan doesn't succeed. This is what Pokemon Legends: Arceus does best.
Catching Pokemon Is An Immersive Experience
In the standard line of games, as well as spin-offs like Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu/Eevee, you are encountering Pokemon, weakening them and then throwing a Poke Ball, capturing them to add them to your team or just to add them to your Pokedex.
It's a process that many players are used to, but the addition of interacting with Pokemon in an open-world setting brings a level of strategy that wasn't there in previous games, and really makes you feel like catching Pokemon is a difficult endeavor.
You can't always run up to Pokemon, some of them will run away. If some Pokemon spot you, they will attack. You have to make use of the environment to hide yourself and catch Pokemon, or use Berries as a distraction to get out of trouble.
While the tried-and-true Pokemon battling formula is still present (as a way to deal with particularly aggressive Pokemon), it's not the only option available to you, nor is it always the best option.
You also have some responsibility of your own while researching. Wild Pokemon attacks are capable of hurting you, and you can encounter strong Pokemon which you are not ready to deal with.
You will learn to dodge Pokemon attacks, run away and distract aggressive Pokemon when things get too dangerous.
If you take too much damage, you will faint and lose items, though you are brought back to the Village safely. But it really drives home the reality of actually meeting Pokemon in the wild, and adds a level of immersion about being careful as you would if you were encountering wild animals in real life.
It isn't just the immersive feeling of being an actual Pokemon professional that makes the game fantastic. It's also the focus on research, as well as making good use of the setting in the past.
You Have A Stronger Sense Of Community
Not being a Pokemon trainer actually works to Pokemon Legends: Arceus's advantage. In previous games, you were trying to be the very best (like no one ever was). This often meant sorting through Pokemon for the strongest, or not interacting with many NPCs because they didn't have much to offer.
As a researcher working to learn more about the Hisui region, you're not actively looking for power. Every Pokemon can help you complete research tasks, and no one is completely useless. While everyone has their favorite set of Pokemon, your party composition will never be filled with anyone considered "useless".
You still have to think about proper type match-ups (using a Bug/Flying Pokemon against a Rock Pokemon is always a bad idea) but you aren't bound by "which Pokemon is the strongest" if you don't want to be. You can use some of your favorites or even get attached to Pokemon you normally wouldn't take a second look at in the standard games.
Working in the past before Sinnoh was developed also works in terms of the story and characters. There aren't nearly as many people, but everyone is largely working towards the same goal.
Everyone wants to learn more about Pokemon and the Hisui region, and the lack of characters also means you get to know about the people who you do encounter. It's not just the Galaxy Survey Corps, but also wardens from the Diamond and Pearl Clans.
You also get to talk to people who moved to Hisui with the Galaxy Survey Corps and get to know their attitudes towards Pokemon through helping them out with requests or just regular conversation.
The story isn't anything extraordinary, but it's one of the rare times that everyone is working towards the same goal, and you feel that you are contributing towards that effort, rather than doing your own thing and fighting to be the Champion. That adds to the immersion and makes you feel like you're in this for the long haul.
What also contributes to the immersion is the appearance of the Hisui region. Without the lack of development that was present in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl, you really feel like an explorer walking into uncharted territory.
The Environments Are Beautiful, But There Are Issues
The Hisui region looks amazing. While the Switch isn't known for being a technical powerhouse, when you step into an area you can feel like you are walking through nature, traveling with your Pokemon to explore the beautiful new world.
You can see Pokemon living in their natural habitats, natural resources that you can harvest and simple paths that show a little bit of technology is present to let people get around.
Unfortunately, there are some graphical issues that pop up every now and then. NPCs can randomly disappear, getting close to some environmental textures can make them look a bit pixelated/out of place, and sometimes you don't always know when a Pokemon is aggressive or has noticed you because some details haven't loaded yet.
It can be frustrating encountering these issues, because it can break the immersion at times. Walking into a beautiful part of an area but seeing some texture loading issues does remind you that you're in a game and that the Switch can struggle in those areas.
Fortunately, this isn't nearly enough to detract from the wonder of the Hisui region, or ruin a great deal of the fun. Hisui may not be displayed on a technological powerhouse, but for the most part it is still a joy to explore and Pokemon are still great to interact with.
A Wonderful Pokemon Experience You Won't Easily Forget
Pokemon Legends: Arceus feels like a step in the right direction for the series despite being a spin-off. While there are some graphical missteps, it feels like they took some of the best elements of titles like Sword & Shield's Wild Areas and turned it into a fantastic concept that captures the essence of the Pokemon experience.
It may not bring anything revolutionary in terms of story and it isn't perfect. But you would be hard-pressed to find a Pokemon experience that is as enjoyable as immersive as this.
© 2022 Victor Tan