Everyone and their grandmothers know about Pokemon. The franchise has become such a staple in gaming that it’s no wonder it’s one of the most profitable names out there, having generated a net income of 169 million U.S. dollars in 2020 alone. Thanks to a household name, endless streams of merchandise, animated adaptations, card games and video games, the Pokemon name has one of the sturdiest foundations out there.
And yet, why does the newest game – Pokemon Legends Arceus – matter so much for Pokémon’s future?
The Hand Holding in Pokemon
Gotta Catch ‘Em All… right?
That’s the motto we associate with Pokemon, and it’s one of many constants throughout the game series. We are welcomed to a new world, with new Pokemon. We start our adventure by picking one of three starter Pokemon and then we’re free to explore the Pokemon infested regions. By all means, this sounds great, right? You’re free to do what you want, you can catch whichever Pokemon you want and progress at your own pace.
Or rather, that’s what it used to be like. Early Pokemon games would let you pick your starter and show you the ropes and then you really were on your own. Trainers wouldn’t hold back, their Pokemon were smart and clever. They would adjust their tactics and strategy against you. Gym battles were genuinely hard and felt fantastic once you beat them. You grew more attached to your Pokemon because you needed to use all of them. XP Share forced you to use Pokemon you might not have usually wanted to see much, and yet… As you both grind through Pokemon, getting it strong enough to take on the next challenge, you find yourself more attached to it.
The Beginning of Simplification
Long-term Pokemon fans will know that the moment things shifted was in Pokemon X and Y. A new era of Pokemon. Featuring 3D models, a new region, countless new Pokemon and a new console to play on. All in all, it was a new and fun experience, and yet… Here is where the simplification came.
Players were often faced with encounters with NPC friends, friendly rivals. Before every single one of these battles, and after, your team is healed to full health. A relatively harmless feature, right? Well… It seemed so. And gradually, you start to realise that the game doesn’t want you to lose. The game is giving you everything you need to win. Your team is being healed, you have XP share so all your Pokemon are a similar level and strength and you’re even shown whether a move will be effective or not.
Granted, we’re not playing Dark Souls. We’re playing Pokemon, of course we don’t want to struggle against the game. And yet… The challenge disappeared. The game was no longer a challenge, so those fights against rivals, gym leaders of team members, all victories against them felt empty. If I could go into an encounter with a fully balanced party of Pokemon, all of which are level 20, and be simply tap on the move that tells me will be super effective. Then am I really playing the game?
An Unchanging Formula
Simplification aside, the game, since Pokemon Red and Blue’s release in 1998, the game has barely changed.
We open on our Professor, we hear the ‘Pokemon World’ spiel and we then slip into our character’s shoes. We start anticipating our new Pokemon adventure, we go and pick our starters, then we go from town to town, beating gyms, defeating the game’s enemy Team and eventually go on to fight the Elite Four and Champion. Roll credits, that’s all there is to it. The only difference between each game is the skin they’re wearing. Whether it’s Kanto or Galar, these games are essentially the same. Sometimes it’ll trick you with something new, Mega Evolutions, Z-Moves, Gigantamax, Wild Areas. The core gameplay never changes. And people are starting to get bored of it.
Pokemon fans will continue to pick up the latest game, and although a naïve optimism has us hope that something new will happen, in some cases we’re disappointed even more. The magic of Pokemon slowly but surely starts to dwindle away.
Pokemon Legends Arceus: A Change?
Here’s where Pokemon Legends Arceus comes in. The new addition to the Pokemon franchise might spell change. At least many of us are hoping it does. Although upon first glance, we see the same elements of the same formula. We get to choose one of three starters, we’re unleashed upon a world to ‘catch them all’. But other than that? Legends Arceus largely remains a mystery.
Your adventure is set in the expansive natural majesty of the Hisui region, in an age long ago when it was rare for people and Pokémon to live in close harmony. In time, this land of Hisui will come to be called Sinnoh—a region you may know well.
The Hopes for a new Pokemon Era
What can we hope Legends Arceus does? For a start, players are tired of having their hand held during their playthrough. They want a challenge, just as much as they want a story. It’s easy to go from Pokemon to Pokemon, catching them. This all becomes tedious and monotonous. What players want is a new story, one that takes advantage of the wonderful world of Pokemon.
Another request and desire from fans are updated graphics and animations that feel like they belong in 2021. The older Pokemon Games battle animations have become a joke among the community. And yet, from gameplay trailers of Pokemon Legends Arceus, we have a newfound hope that we’ll see how visually stunning some Pokemon can be!
There are hopes, but there are also worries among fans. Especially the fans who’ve grown more and more tired of the old formula. Could Arceus reignite the love and adoration Pokemon fans might have lost along the way? Or is this game going to be the nail in the coffin for fans? Something they’ll leave behind among their happier childhood memories of the game.
Let’s see… What do you think? Leave a comment bellow!