Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a 2022 RPG developed by Game Freak and published by Nintendo exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. The game served as the final game in Generation VIII of the Pokémon franchise, before Generation IX kicked off with Scarlet & Violet.
Although Pokémon Legends: Arceus took a few risks with its gameplay compared to mainline entries into the series, critics received the title well. It currently stands at a score of 83 on Metacritic, indicating widely positive reviews. Game Freak and Nintendo were rewarded with strong sales overall, although at this point, it seems like any title bearing the Pokémon name is destined to sell like hotcakes.
1. It’s Open World (Sort Of)
Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. Pokémon Legends: Arceus doesn’t quite fully commit to the open world in the way that Pokemon Scarlet & Violet do, but it dabbles with the idea. The game takes place in five different biomes, which you can travel to freely at any time. Before this, no Pokémon game had allowed players such freedom, with the rest of the series sending players down a linear path of progression.
It wasn’t perfect, but the open(ish) world of Pokémon Legends: Arceus was a necessary experiment to ensure it’s a viable route for the franchise’s future.
2. It’s The Lowest-Selling Mainline Pokémon Game on Switch
Despite the extremely solid reviews, Pokémon Legends: Arceus stands as the lowest-selling mainline title in the series on the Nintendo Switch. As of the most recently available data, the game sold a total of 14.8m copies, just under the 15.06m of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl.
Overall, some Nintendo Switch Pokémon titles sold fewer copies, but these are all spinoffs such as Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX and New Pokémon Snap. The reason for these lower sales can probably be attributed to it not following the traditional formula for a Pokémon game, taking more risks than most entries into the series.
3. Pokémon Can Master Moves Now
One of the biggest new features in Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the ability to master moves. When your Pokémon level up, there’s a chance that they will master one of the moves from the moveset, which opens up a few options for them going forward.
After a move has been mastered, they gain the ability to use it in two new styles. The first is the strong style, which gives it more power and accuracy but drastically reduces its action speed. The other is the agile style. This move style decreases the power, but increases the action speed, meaning you’ll almost always move first with it. If you do decide to use a mastered move, it will use up two PP instead of one.
We like this change. It’s a simple addition that doesn’t massively shake up the meta of battles, yet still adds enough complexity to make you think about your decisions during combat.
4. It Takes Place In The Distant Past
While no timeline is usually given for the mainline Pokémon games, it’s safe to assume that most of them take place around a similar period in time. Pokémon Legends: Arceus throws this out of the window completely, instead taking place in the distant past.
The game adapts to this change in some interesting ways. For example, the Poké Ball is given a primitive makeover, especially when compared to the sleek modern design we’ve become accustomed to over the years. It takes place in the Hisui region, which would go on to become Generation IV’s Sinnoh, and the game makes hint to that fact. You can explore Jubilife Village, which fans of Pokémon Diamond & Pearl will know becomes the massive Jubilife City later down the line.
Overall, it’s just interesting to explore another era of the Pokémon universe. If this period does ever make a return in the future, we imagine it’ll be under a similar banner to Pokémon Legends.
5. You Can Be Attacked Out Of Battle
One of the signature features of Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the Pokémon roaming the overworld, always visible to players. This completely changed how wild encounters worked – no longer were you running through tall grass, hoping to avoid a Pokémon. If you don’t want to battle in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, you can simply stay away from them!
However, some Pokémon in the overworld are aggressive to you regardless. They can actually attack you without starting a battle, eating away at your own hitpoints. If you take too much damage from a wild Pokémon, you’ll be rescued and dragged away from the situation. Roam with caution!
6. There Are Several Hidden Outfits to Unlock
With many of the Nintendo Switch Pokémon games, you can earn rewards just by having save data of other titles on your console. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is no different. In this game, you can unlock a few different outfits to customize your protagonist by playing some of the other Switch Pokémon titles. Here are the outfits and how to unlock them:
- Pikachu Festival Mask and Eevee Festival Mask (if you have save data for Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu or Let’s Go Eevee)
- Shaymin Fancy Kimono and Shaymin Fancy Bottoms (if you have save data for Pokémon Sword or Shield)
- Modern Jacket, Modern Trousers, and Modern Shoes (if you have save data for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl)
7. Evolution Isn’t Automatic
If you think you know everything about evolution in the Pokémon series, Legends: Arceus makes you think again. Previously, when a Pokémon was ready to evolve, they did it automatically. You could stop it while it was happening, but they would keep trying to evolve until you eventually let it happen. There were certain Pokémon that required a certain item to evolve, like when you exposed Pikachu to a Thunder Stone to evolve into Raichu.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes a new approach to evolution. Now, Pokémon become ready to evolve, but only follow through with the process when you tell them to. This is actually a positive change, as it can stop you from losing your favorite Pokémon through an accidental evolution. After all, evolution in Pokémon games is an irreversible change.
8. You’ve Got to Manage Your Resources
In previous Pokémon games, your bag was an infinite hole where you could store as many items as possible. This was convenient, but definitely not immersive, and made every single game much easier.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus tackles this by replacing the bag with a satchel. This gives you a finite amount of space for items, so you can’t just stock up on 99 potions and easily win every battle. It makes you consider every situation, and figure out what the best items are to carry with you. While we don’t expect this feature to stick around for many Pokémon titles, it’s certainly an interesting idea for Game Freak to experiment with.
9. You Can’t Breed Pokémon
First introduced in Generation II’s Pokémon Gold & Silver, the ability to breed Pokémon has become a core mechanic of the series. For many gamers, it’s actually one of the more interesting parts of the games.
Despite this, Pokémon Legends: Arceus made the decision to exclude the breeding mechanic completely. It’s unknown why Game Freak went down this route, especially considering it remained present in later releases Pokémon Scarlet & Violet. If you’re a fan of the breeding mechanic in Pokémon games, we wouldn’t worry too much. We’d attribute this more to it not being a mainline title than any long-term plan to remove the feature.
10. It’s The Only Pokémon Game To Not Feature a Rival
Another staple of previous Pokémon games was the removal of the rival. In almost every title in the series, you had a rival who leveled up alongside you as the game progressed. This was often used as a benchmark for you to understand how your team was coming along, and if it was where it needed to be at certain points in the game. If you were under-leveled, your rival would destroy you. This was a sign that you needed to participate in a few more battles where possible.
Yet the rival is completely missing in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. While their exclusion does change up the narrative, we felt like it served a solid gameplay purpose, and it’s a shame to see it go.