2022 is underway, and gaming fans are hardly getting a moment to breathe, with some of the most anticipated titles of the year dropping in January.
Since both the advent of 3D gaming and the introduction of the series in the 90s, fans have been fantasising over a fully-3D adventure set within the world of Pokémon.
2019’s Pokémon Sword and Shield gave us an approximation of what that might be like, but camera controls were still limited, and the games gave players more of a “2.5D” take on the series.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes things one step further, re-imagining the design and direction of the long-running franchise, while retaining the core gameplay that has allowed the games to endure in fans’ hearts for nearly 30 years.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is Pokémon Legends: Arceus?
Described as a “premake” by Game Freak - who have long handled development of the Pokémon series’ core games - Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes place in the same fictional Sinnoh region as 2006’s Pokémon Diamond and Pearl and their 2021 remakes.
However, the new game is set long before the events of those titles, in a bygone era of the region's history.
Then known as the Hisui region, the new setting (based on 19th century Japan), gives the game a more old-fashioned, almost steampunk aesthetic, breaking from the series’ traditionally semi-futuristic look.
The main objective of the game is to compile Hisui's first Pokédex for the region’s Survey Corps by capturing and studying the wild creatures that inhabit the region.
The game takes place in a more open-world than previous titles, and puts an emphasis on exploration as you’re free to wander around completing objectives and learning more about the Pokémon that inhabit Hisui at your own pace.
What happens in Pokémon Legends: Arceus?
If you always found Pokémon on Pokémon battles a little too intense, Pokémon Legends: Arceus allows players to capture Pokémon directly.
Though some Pokémon will require weakening through battle, many can be obtained through studying their behaviours, sneaking up to them and throwing Poké Balls, which in this era of the series are made of wood and delightfully puff steam when Pokémon are caught.
According to the developers, the new game was developed with “the desire to deliver an experience infused with new action and RPG elements” that “go beyond” the established framework of the series.
Early on in the adventure, players will get a device called the Arc Phone, a device that seems to contain some sort of strange power, and will help guide players on their journey.
During their expeditions, players may run into Pokémon that are larger than normal and have glowing red eyes, known as alpha Pokémon.
They’re stronger than their regular counterparts, and they’ll be quite aggressive in chasing and attacking players that stray too close.
There are also special Pokémon in the region that have received some kind of mysterious blessing. Some are particularly powerful and have come to be known as nobles, while others assist the people of the region.
As part of the Survey Corps, your character is called upon to rein in noble Pokémon sent into a frenzy by a strange phenomenon.
Will it be any good?
Will Pokémon Legends: Arceus live up to the standards of some of the classic games in the long-running franchise?
Only time will tell, but already some fans have expressed concern at the game’s graphical style, and the quality of some of the in-game animation.
While some have drawn comparisons of the game's open-world setting to Nintendo’s critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, others have criticised Pokémon Legends: Arceus for an inconsistent visual quality.
“The game looks incredibly rough,” wrote CBR.com’s Abram Buehner. “The environments are open, but they look vapid. Pokémon are moving at glacial frame rates. Texture work, models and lighting drastically swing in quality with every sequence of the trailer.”
While it’s likely footage captured for those first trailers was from an early, unfinished build of the game, at this point, the Nintendo Switch is approaching its fifth birthday.
The hardware was scaled back in comparison to its PlayStation 4 and Xbox One counterparts of the time to allow for the machine’s portability, and with such an ambitious, open game, could Game Freak struggle to get Pokémon Legends: Arceus running smoothly on the ageing machine?
“Graphical fidelity and technical performance don’t make or break a game inherently,” said Buehner, “but they’re emblematic of larger issues.
“Game Freak works on notoriously rushed timelines, and that is already being felt here,” they added.
Some commentators have even noted that Nintendo may be better off waiting until the long-rumoured “Nintendo Switch Pro” (an upgraded, more powerful version of the console) is available to run the game.
“The first trailer says a lot about the condition of the game on the limited hardware of the Nintendo Switch,” said ScreenRant’s Chris Chenard. “An upgraded Nintendo Switch would go a long way in solving some of these problems.”
When can I play it?
Pokémon Legends: Arceus will be released worldwide on Friday 28 January 2022.
It will be available exclusively for Nintendo’s Switch console, though some fans are secretly hoping for a delayed release date, which would give Game Freak more time to work on polishing up the game.
We’ll update this article if anything changes, but could we see Pokémon Legends: Arceus pushed back to late 2022?
Where can I pre-order it?
The game is currently available to pre-order through Amazon for £44.99.
There is an early-purchase bonus of both a Hisuian Growlithe Kimono Set and a Baneful Fox Mask, will be gifted to early purchasers of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and can be worn in-game by the player’s character.
Players who have played Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield will also be able to take on a research request in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, in which they’ll have a chance to add the Mythical Pokémon Shaymin to their team.
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