​What are the highlights of Pokémon Legends: Arceus?

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is coming to Nintendo Switch on January 28th, but the ban on media who received the game's code prior to release was lifted today - and so far, these assessments have raved about the latest monster collectors. Many call it the best in the series.

Set in the past, in a bygone era in the Sinnoh region, Pokémon Legends: Arceus sees you exploring the unexplored region of Hisui. You do familiar Pokémon things like fighting and catching monsters, but in a more open-world structure that's closer to Capcom's Monster Hunter stories. The goal here? It's easy: fill out Hisui's first pictorial.

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Some of the new ideas in Arceus have rough edges, and it's slow to start up until you hit a lot of environments and mounts. It was an awkward first step, and a big adjustment for my longtime fan of the series. However, once Pokémon Legends: Arceus hits its stride, it's the most daring and inventive entry in the series in years, breaking down the staid core and creating something new and exciting from its work.

Performance issues are the one thing that keeps Pokémon Legends: Arceus back from perfection. But when you've had such a good time during the actual gameplay, it's not enough to simply build on the past with exciting new mechanics, more open structures and efforts to stop this impressive shift . Designed to address every element that becomes stale. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a must-play game for any potential trainer who wants to spend time enjoying Pokemon rather than putting them on the battlefield.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a bit of a mess - but all first drafts are. It often stumbles on the road to innovation and brings the same brilliance and frustration in its updated system. But the pros outweigh the cons in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, the first successful attempt at an action-centric Pokémon game.

Too much of the difference lies in the hidden pre-release. Pokémon Legends: Arceus threading the needle, somehow finding a wonderful balance between old and new, tradition and upheaval. It was a 3D Pokémon adventure I imagined in the 90s, but it never came. very fresh. It feels new and exciting, like a powerful new beginning for the series.

You can also capture Pokémon without fighting them. You do this by sneaking around in the area, waiting for the unsuspecting monster to grab the monster, then aiming and throwing the ball. This turns Pokémon into a stealth game; I spend most of my time lurking in tall grass or hiding behind trees, waiting for my target to turn around so I can pounce from behind. Another important addition is crafting. There's a general store where you can buy Poké Balls and potions, but you can also gather the necessary ingredients in the wild to craft your own gear, and you'll get new recipes as you progress through the game. I rarely buy anything (except for new clothes, of course) while playing the game, and I focus on a more self-sufficient route where I collect and craft pretty much everything I need.

This creates a fun rhythm like playing a monster hunter game. Most of the time, I'll be in town and get ready and head to one of those areas with a specific goal in mind. This could be completing some side quests for villagers, taking on the next big story quest, collecting specific Pokémon, or sometimes just taking a short trip to collect crafting materials. I'll accomplish whatever goals I set for myself (and usually get distracted by doing something else), then go back to town to refresh my gear, talk to some people, and plan my next excursion. Rinse and repeat. All of these activities add some very welcome changes to the experience, as the combat is so much less of an effect; I could spend an entire game time sneaking around. There are also boss fights that differ from Pokémon, with an almost action game-like feel.

There are two things worth noting about this structure. One, it's very cohesive. The premise of Arceus and what you do in the game are in harmony with each other. For example, in order to buy new medicines at the grocery store or clothes at the fashion store, you need to take on tasks that involve going out and finding necessary items or Pokémon in the wild. Likewise, you gain experience by catching and defeating Pokémon, which is exactly what you need to do to fill in Pokémon. There's always a narrative reason for what you do, whether it's helping villagers who are afraid of Drifloons, or trying to learn everything about water Pokémon. It's not just a series of annoying acquisition tasks with no explanation.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the fresh air the series has long needed. It might not be obvious from the trailer, but this is one of the funniest, most engaging, and engaging games in the entire history of the Pokémon franchise.