Is this the moment we've all been waiting for -- or is it simply a step in that direction?
Every Pokemon fan has dreamed of the perfect Pokemon game. Shit, three or so years ago in the early stages of this website we did a podcast all about what that game looked like in our own heads – sprawling landscapes, Pokemon in the overworld – essentially, it’s the Breath of the Wild of Pokemon games. And ever since BOTW was released back in 2017 we’ve all pointed directly at it as the groundwork for what we desired – if they can take Zelda to that level, why not Pokemon?
Well, the answer to that question has actually always been pretty clear – Game Freak simply didn’t need to. The product they were selling to us each year was essentially “good enough” and we all bought it because we were desperate for something new, regardless of how unimpressive it was. And on top of that, Game Freak is still a relatively small company – so we all understood that it was a bit out of reach for them to spin out something as massive and ambitious as we had always been hoping for.
And then today happened.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus has just been announced via a Pokemon Presents presentation and at it’s surface level it seems to be everything we’ve ever wanted. I am absolutely guilty of audibly letting out an “oh fuck” when that first visual hit the screen – this mfer was running around, doing a god damn forward roll into a bush, throwing a Pokeball out of his hand in real time and catching one of those pocket monsters off in the distance and it was *chefs kiss*. We saw this giant world, extremely reminiscent of what we saw in Breath of the Wild and immediately we all rejoiced in a collective “they did it, they really did it”.
I’m excited – I have questions, sure, and I may be a little skeptical, but despite that, I’m excited.
One thing that I do need to stress is that this is not a mainline Pokemon game – which isn’t a bad thing or a good thing – just a observation. This isn’t the next generation of Pokemon that we’d expect to get after Sword and Shield and it’s not releasing during the Holidays like those games always have – it’s releasing in early 2022. For that reason, I don’t expect this game to play by the same rules of the other Pokemon games – they are going to change and take out a lot of things that made those games what they have grown to be over the course of the last 25 years. It won’t have every Pokemon, I think that’s clear, but I also don’t think it’s going to follow the same type of structure as those prior titles – I’m not sure if we’ll be collecting gym badges and going on the journey that we always have – I’m getting the impression this is more-so a story based prequel. They said in the trailer that it’s an action RPG and that our goal is to complete “the very first Pokedex” so this game may focus more on exploration than anything else – and honestly, if that’s the case, I’m absolutely down for it. My favorite part of BOTW is exploring that world nonchalantly so the more we get of that, the better.
But the thing that’s making my mind wander in circles right now is wondering about what happens to the mainline series. To me, this “Legends” title means the same thing that “Let’s Go” did – it’s its own thing. It exists separately from the main series and opens up doors for more games like this in the future – looking to the past and telling origin stories rather than always moving toward the future and what happens next – expanding these worlds. But if this isn’t the next generation, this gives Game Freak the ability to approach this game much differently than the Pokemon games that came prior – there are no rules they need to follow and no expectations they feel that they need to live up to.
So what about Gen 9 – personally, I’d like to think that if they spent all of this time making this new, open world Pokemon game, that they did so to push their mainline series in that same direction. Surely, with such a small team, Game Freak has not broken up into two groups and one is working on Legends and another is building off of Sword & Shield and working on Gen 9.
So I’m going to make an assumption here and state that this style, this open world, this new approach is here to stay – which is incredible news, but with that, there is a caveat.
Pokemon Legends will not be the ultimate Pokemon game we have been waiting for – not yet.
I think it is simply a step in that direction – a great one, but a pit stop none-the-less to tell a different story, introduce us to what the future holds and showcase the groundwork they’ve laid out while they complete their magnum opus in the background. I think this detour is also influenced by the fact that the rumored Nintendo Switch Pro could possibly be coming in early 2022 as well – and a game like this would pair perfectly with the increased power we can assume this enhanced console would be capable of.
Now, I understand that it’s a year out and all we have is a short trailer and we will get more information as we move forward but one feature they could decide to leave out is anything multiplayer. If this is going to be pushed as a single player, story based experience, then will they even need to worry about being able to match up with friends and battle each other? And not only that, but the world did appear a little empty as well. Like I stated earlier, Game Freak is not a big studio so we shouldn’t realistically expect there to be secrets around every corner and tons of hidden areas and towns with multiple side quests, etc. I think the focus of this game will be on the Pokemon – if 300 of those little guys make it into this game then your job is to find all 300 of them. I know, that’s always been the “ultimate” goal of any Pokemon game, but I think for this game specifically, that’s a necessity to complete the story – especially considering how easy it seems to be to catch some of these guys.
This is all fine – it really is. I’m not complaining about the fact that not every system from this game’s predecessors will be included, I’m simply acknowledging it ahead of time so we can all level our expectations and just be happy that Game Freak is listening to us and making those steps in the exact direction we want the series to go in, but at the same time we must understand that this is not the endgame – but instead, it’s a new beginning and a promising look at the next 25 years.