[REVIEW] Pokémon Legends: Arceus – New balls, please?

To some, Pokémon games sound like venereal diseases. You gotta catch ’em all. To others, Pokémon games are a religion on their own. You really gotta catch ’em all. Me, I consider myself the latter, even though life got in the way of playing them to full completion. After taking my sweet time to play Pokémon Legends: Arceus, I can safely say that it’s a blast from the past where you go on a quest to build the first Pokédex ever. Hardcopy. On paper (no pun intended), this shapes up to be a Pokémon game to fondle ye old Pokéballs over, but is it really?

Before I start throwing my balls around, it has come to my attention that not everyone grasps the concept of Pokémon. People like my esteemed colleague Patrick, who I deeply respect because of his genius, but who obviously spent the last few decades under a rock. Especially for like-minded geniuses, a very, very short summary.

Pokémon is all about finding strange critters and aggravating them by flinging a ball at them for the purpose of catching ’em. Hence the catchphrase. Not all of ’em are willing to enter your balls willingly. In that case, you summon one of your submitted, docile Pocket Monsters to beat the crap out of the non-confirmative one. While most of ’em are known to have a very limited vocabulary – their own name, to be exact – they do understand your commands when you tell them to use certain attacks.

Being successful in this will grant you XP and a nice data-filled Pokédex. What’s a Pokédex? Jeez… think of it as a data-gathering device similar to a smartphone. I want to add that this was designed when all our phones were still plugged into wall sockets and made of bakelite. So, they were heavy enough to commit “accidental” murders with if you were to drop it on your cat….or child. No expenses spared to become the best around, nothing’s ever gonna keep you down… Got it? Sweet.

So, the biggest question to answer: Why would you ever say “I choose you” to Pokémon Legends: Arceus? Short answer: it’s pretty great. Long answer: Pokémon Legends: Arceus feels like a trusted Pokémon game without resorting to copy/paste shenanigans. In fact, Pokémon Legends: Arceus does plenty of things different to separate itself from the pack.

One of these changes – and it’s a major one – is a new approach to capturing Pokémon. The trusty duking it out, followed by the trusty ball-tossing is still an option, but a more pacifistic way can be considered. Just feed them some tasty berries to get them nice and cooperative if that’s your preferred approach. It’s your party.

Hey… psst… can I interest you in my balls?

But that’s not all. Battles don’t take place in cutscenes anymore. The open world stays …well… open I guess. In the old days, the game was pretty much scripted and you had to go town to town to clear ’em, now? Not so much anymore! When and if you want to rush through the story, you can do just that. It is possible to catch strong wild Pokémon and follow the story missions, completing the game in about 20 hours.

Then again, if you really want to stretch things out, nobody’s stopping you. It is even possible before the first boss battle to have pokemon above level 60 in your party. See, the absence of gym leaders changes more than just the absence of gym battles and badges. The ability to grow in your Pokémon trainer’s capabilities is linked to the amount of research performed. Filling up and completing Pokédex entries will earn you stars. These stars are linked to the level of Pokémon that will listen to you (like the badges in other games). That said know you can do this all without progressing the story.

The thing is, I can go on and on about Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Sure, some things are slightly off, like the outdated feel of the graphics and the Dragonball Z: Kakarot vibe during boss battles (which I’m not complaining about). But when push comes to shove, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a solid entry that deserves your undivided attention. But hey, I can’t make you. Not even with berries or a direct hit to the face with my balls.

Hits you in the face like a Pokéball
The Pikas
Fondling and tossing your balls never fails to amuse
If you like things to be wide open, this world is for you
Both ye ol' aggresive balltossers and passive berry flingers are being served
The Chus
2019 wants its graphics back
Boss battles might feel a little unfamiliar to some
8.5