Pokémon Legends: Arceus Review

Brilliant as a diamond, shining like a stone.
By saving the past, a grand future is sewn.

Over the past few years, I have been very vocal about my thoughts on the Pokémon series. While I ultimately enjoyed most of the recent titles, the saturation of releases, combined with the persistence of many long-standing issues with the mainline games made it difficult for me to focus on the finer aspects of each title. Which is a nice way of saying that I became obsessed with the idea that the series HAD to be changed in significant ways. This culminated in last year’s Pokémon Brilliant Diamond. A direct remake of the 2006 installment whose lack of innovation, ambition, or creative energy left me drained both emotionally and mentally. 

Three months after this not-good experience, Pokémon Legends: Arceus came out, and the title was met with a glowing commercial, critical, and communal reception. All for two reasons. One, it’s Pokémon. And two, the title did more and changed more than any predecessor, and created a game better aligned with what many vocal fans, myself included, wanted from the series. This comes as something of a surprise considering the two-year mid-pandemic development timeline of this title, but… they did it. Game Freak finally made a Pokémon game that bucked a deluge of established conventions, streamlined the experience, presentation, and gameplay, while evolving the series in a direction that people have been requesting for years.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus Review
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Game Freak and its many support studios
Publisher: Nintendo

What immediately sets Pokémon Legends: Arceus apart from its predecessors is how it clearly aims and aspires to do something different with the formula of a mainline Pokémon game. It is a title that retains the core of catching and battling Pokémon while amassing powerful parties and collections, but chooses to give the player a lot more freedom and agency in how they play.

Instead of being directed through a series of towns, routes, and scripted events, PLA is a far more open and freeform experience, one that, after a slightly-too-long tutorial, dumps the player into a large biome, gives them the task to explore this world, and tells them to go nuts as they learn the ropes of a gameplay loop driven by catching Pokémon, battling Pokémon, and accumulating resources. Technically, this gameplay loop has been persistent in the series since its very inception, but everything about this particular rendition is made faster and more flexible.

In previous games, Pokémon wandered throughout the wilderness, and once the player bumped into them, an encounter would be initiated. But that is not the case with PLA. Battles only begin when the player manually throws a Pokémon out of their Pokéball, and before the battle begins, players can interact with wild Pokémon through other methods. They could simply run away from them, never starting an encounter or going through the tired process of fleeing a fight via a menu. They could hide in bushes and tall grass, using it as cover to sneak past or toward a Pokémon. They could throw an item to distract or stun the wild Pokémon. Or, most importantly, they could throw an empty Pokéball to catch the Pokémon outright.

While this might sound foolish, based on the traditions of old, the catch rate is higher than it was in prior games, the Pokéballs literally grow on trees, and the process of throwing a Pokéball at a Pokémon is immediately rewarding thanks to the audiovisual cues. But most of all, it is fast, and it is active. It takes a few seconds, instead of upwards of a minute, and it is not something you trigger through a menu (at least outside of battle). You manually aim, judge the distance, and throw the Pokéball, which does a lot to make the catch feel both earned and deserved. Also, the Pokéball animations are half as long. Again, a minor change… but it leaves a massive impact.

By comparison, the structure of battles remain largely familiar, but they are similarly faster and more active. This begins right as the battle starts, where the camera zooms in on the opponent Pokémon, pulls back, and the battle UI is added along with some (honestly distracting) black bars.

Battles no longer take place in an abstract battlefield or a plot of land based on the environment, like in… every prior game. Instead, battles take place in the world, with Pokémon dynamically adjusting themselves based on the terrain and their position from one another. It does a lot to make the battles feel more connected, in addition to shaving the battle transition by several seconds, making the game feel moderately fast by JRPG standards.

However, the human protagonist can also move during battle, walking around a decent-sized radius, getting in the middle of the action, and moving the camera around as the battle plays out. It is a minor addition that has no mechanical relevance and does little to obfuscate how battles are still driven by attacks, Pokémon switching, and item use. But it does wonders to make the game’s world feel cohesive and ease the repetition. Because even when watching animations play out, you can still move around and make your character do a twirl.

On that note, Pokémon attack animations were redone, and the end result strikes this lovely balance between spectacle and speed. Thanks to some universal stat adjustments, battles manage to feel more impactful. With Pokémon bashing into each other like dump trucks, dealing big damage starting in the first few hours and carrying this trend all the way to the endgame. And from a ‘move’ perspective, there were a lot of changes, most of which I quite like.

Most fluff moves, aside from starter/legendary signature moves, were omitted, resulting in a cleaner series of attack moves that can be generally divided up into clear tiers, barring some curious omissions like surf and earthquake. Non-attack moves were given simpler functions, such as how calm mind now boosts all attack and defense stats. Status conditions were overhauled, removing confusion, frozen, and sleep for frostbite and drowsy, which I think makes combat feel more forgiving and balanced. And combat was given an extra layer of complexity with the introduction of a turn order bar that can be manipulated through the use of strong and agile variants of attacks. 

Agile moves deal less damage, but can allow a Pokémon to attack multiple times during the turn order, while strong moves do the opposite, letting the opponent get more hits in, while boosting the damage, and effectiveness, of the user’s attack. It is an interesting system that makes one-on-one turn-based combat more engaging and strategic, as players need to balance dealing damage and avoiding it using this new system. Because the wild Pokémon are just as capable of using strong/agile moves. Thereby allowing them to take the initiative with an agile move, gain a second move, and then follow up with a strong move, dealing massive damage in the process.

I think it is a great change, yet I did not use this system as much as I felt I should, simply because the strong and agile moves use 2 PP instead of 1 PP like regular moves. Considering how I only had 10 PP per move for most of the game, I had to frequently retreat to rest areas to heal up my Pokémon’s PP. While this process is not bad due to the fast travel and speed of the player’s mounts (more on those later), it is also so easy and has so few disadvantages that I had to routinely ask myself why this process is necessary. Why doesn’t the game at least have an option to save the player backtracking time by having them auto-heal after ‘routine’ battles? Hell, the game does auto-heal after some, but only some, story battles, so why not embrace auto-healing? The player character auto-heals from cripe’s sake!

It could be slow, passive healing outside of battles. Instant-use health items found after battle, instead of dirt-birthed trinkets that can be crafted into healing items for Pokémon. A healing item that replenishes whenever the player visits a rest area, a la estus flasks from Dark Souls— Or something that lets me battle freely without worry about HP or PP. 

The approach to healing all feels especially ‘outdated’ given how the player now has the ability to change moves for Pokémon within a menu. While the UX for this could use some refinement, it is a massive quality-of-life addition that makes the game more enjoyable as a whole, and makes your team more versatile. Though, you can no longer swiftly view or switch in a wild Pokémon you just caught via accessing the PC. You, once again, need to visit an NPC to do that. I could call this a step back, but this is an era before telephones, let alone technology that lets players summon Pokémon from the digiverse, so I’m not gonna fret it.

Speaking of quality-of-life features, let’s talk about the newly introduced effort levels. Effort levels are a combination and evolution of the individual values and effort values from all games since 2002, and the awakening values from Let’s Go. They supplement a Pokémon’s six stats and are raised through the use of multiple tiers of ‘grit’ items, which are primarily obtained by catching or defeating wild Pokémon.

While I have some qualms about how they are implemented here, namely how much farming it takes to make a ‘perfect’ Pokémon, I find them infinitely preferable to IVs and EVs, as they are something that the player can manipulate. Effort levels, combined with mints (which players can slowly amass via a farm in the village) effectively replace the doldrum of Pokémon breeding, which is not included this time around. While the distribution of grit and mint resources is still too slow for my liking, it is a quantifiable improvement over the old ways.

There might be an argument that effort levels might be a bit too powerful, as I did manage to steamroll most battles during the latter half of my playthrough thanks, in part, to effort levels. But I doubt that most players share this experience, as this game can definitely get the player caught in tight spots, especially with the red-eyed alpha Pokémon that partol each environment. Alpha Pokémon are a subset of Pokémon remarkable for their endearingly large size and access to move tutor moves (which replace TMs and cost money, not goodies), despite being wild Pokémon. 

Alpha Pokémon function as an interesting challenge in the game, given how they are so much stronger than nearby Pokémon, a challenge for teams at the proper level, except you’re weirdly discouraged from battling them, as you can always catch them without engaging them in battle. I found this a bit curious, but whatever. It works. Seriously, you could easily find a level 40 Rapidash in the first two hours of play and catch it if you have enough bait and Pokeballs. It’s sloppy, but in the best way.

…Okay, so I just realized I spent 1,400 words talking about catching and battling Pokémon without clearly laying out the incentives, which are as follows: Catching and battling rewards the party with EXP, as expected by now. Catching and battling rewards the player with mostly unremarkable wild drop items determined by the species. Battling and releasing Pokémon provides the player with grit items used to increase the effort levels of Pokémon. Catching Pokémon supplies the player with money they can use to buy items or a frustratingly limited collection of clothes (making catching more valuable than battling). And both are quintessential parts of creating the Pokédex. 

Recent Pokémon games have largely de-emphasized the completion of the Pokédex, but PLA makes it a constant goal for the player. Pokédex completion is required for progression, rewards the player with new crafting recipes and additional money, and if you want to meet the titular Arceus, you need to fill out the entries for 237 other Pokémon. However, it is not as simple as catching ‘em all. Oh no

With the PLA Pokédex, the player needs to complete a series of tasks a set number of times. Said tasks vary depending on the specific Pokémon, and they generally involve some variation of the following: Catching the Pokémon, defeating it, defeating it with a move of a specific type, throwing food at it and watching it eat, seeing it use a move, seeing it use a strong/agile move, or evolving it. The player is expected to complete these tasks X number of times until they get to research level 10. After that, they can stop engaging with that Pokémon, as they learned all they need to learn.

On one hand, I enjoy how the developers dole out tasks to players and provide an additional incentive to battle or catch Pokémon. It makes what the player is doing feel like genuine research, but there are certain things that feel a bit too arbitrary. Such as only rewarding points for seeing a Pokémon use a specific move, only giving points for defeating them using a specific type, and having them, or doing something wildly repetitive, like defeating 40 Drifloons.

However, the game does not really encourage the player to do every task for every Pokémon, since the only reward for 100% completing a Pokémon’s Pokédex entry is a 2x modifier to the shiny Pokémon spawn rate… Meaning that while some of these tasks are crazy and poorly designed, they are designed for crazy people.

Well, I call them ‘crazy,’ but I would not blame anyone for wanting to spend hundreds of hours with PLA, as it is easily the most enjoyable Pokémon game to do… anything in, really. The entire game is, to an extent, designed to nudge the player to go on ‘runs’ throughout an area. Sessions where the player pillages the colorful interactable items that are scattered across the ground, amassing a collection of craftables. Dodge roll into and crouch walk through the underbrush to sneak up on Pokémon, auto-aiming and tossing Pokeballs in their directions, or sending their eyes elsewhere by throwing a freshly picked foodstuff. 

Alternatively, if the Pokémon is the more aggressive sort, the player can just catch them the ‘old fashion way.’ Meaning engage them in battle, use ineffective or agile moves to get them to yellow or red health, and then throw the ball at them. All of which are spiced up with the space-time distortions. A series of sporadically appearing challenge events where the player can catch and battle elusive Pokémon, and plunder loads of rare/valuable items. 

It all makes for a gameplay loop that I found myself getting lost within during my playthrough, spending dozens of hours just wandering, exploring, and growing intimate with its directed yet freely explorable worlds (aside from the slightly aggressive walls of impenetrable fog). It got to the point where I had to organize myself and clarify both my goals and my boxes of hundreds of collected Pokémon… which is something the game does not really help you with.

The boxes, or pastures, in this game do not let players cleanly sort their Pokémon into groups, and I would strongly advise any player to do the work for themselves and create a living Pokédex from the outset. You can collect hundreds of Pokémon in a single visit to an area, and it is easy to get overwhelmed or confused by what you have. I personally decided to keep three copies of most Pokémon, because I’m crazy like that, and I found that to be a generally comfortable way to organize things, but it took me hours to create and later update this. It got to the point where I think that the box-less inventory of Let’s Go might be better than this older, more regimented, storage system. Because at least that would make it easier to find things.

Jumping back to the more action elements, the game likes to make a big to-do about wild Pokémon being dangerous, but I personally never found this to be the case. Most wild Pokémon telegraph their moves well, can easily be avoided, are pretty much non-threats, and you can technically avoid them just by initiating another battle and moving out of the designated battle radius. Plus, if you’re not jonesing for a scuffle, you can always run out of their aggro range, or hop on a Ride Pokémon to skedaddle out of there.

Yes, Ride Pokémon return from Sun and Moon, and while I think they add a lot to the movement and freedom of this game, I also consider them to be an unoptimized collection of good traversal ideas. 

  • Wyrdeer is the primary mount for ground traversal thanks to their tall hop, quick dash, and proficiency at climbing up level geometry to get to places you’re not supposed to visit quite yet. 
  • Ursaluna is a worse Wyrdeer with no dash or hop, but they can find buried treasure by running toward it when in the right direction. …Which could have been implemented into another Pokémon’s kit, so why even have this fat bear dad? 
  • Sneaseler has the ability to climb up walls, which is useful, but she can neither jump nor run, making her a solution to a single traversal problem, and an nonoptimal one. 
  • Basculegion is the go-to Pokémon for water, and is the most equipped out of all the Ride Pokémon with its dash, double jump, and ability to throw Pokéballs and items while riding. 
  • Braviary is a curious fight-based Pokémon, as they do not have the ability to ascend beyond an initial updraft when summoned. Though, they do move quickly, and are able to get from one area to another with minimal fuss.

This all strikes me as an avenue for refinement in future titles, or possibly an all-terrain version of the Rotom Bike from Sword and Shield. However, I do need to praise the game for making these Ride Pokémon so easy to use, and giving them such powerful traversal tools. They allow the player to truly explore every nook and cranny of this world without feeling limited by pesky things like walls. Good movement is a cornerstone of an open world game like this, and between both the ride Pokémon and the general controls of the player character, I’d say that they nailed it.

Did they nail the real time action boss battles against Pokémon though? No. Those… those are a bit tough actually. New to the series are battles where the player must fend off a frenzied or legendary Pokémon by dodging their attacks, throwing balms at them, and dragging them into battle when they are stunned.

Conceptually, it is a great way to interweave the action elements of world traversal into a boss battle. And from a design standpoint, these bosses all have solid staple patterns that, while nothing too original, do make for engaging encounters of dodging and attacking with a short-range projectile. But the perspective of these encounters really started to irk me during the final boss fight of the main campaign. A predictable legnedary who has this nasty habit of initiating a ground-based wave attack that is difficult to see while aiming or when damaged. 

When aiming, the camera zooms in and the player cannot see their character’s feet, making it harder to notice attacks from the ground, as there is so much less screen space dedicated to the floor. This is made worse while damaged, as an inky vignette filter appears on the screen until the player character gradually heals their HP over time. It honestly makes the latter fights feel like they were designed from an overhead or fixed camera perspective, as the camera was so often my enemy during these battles. 

Considering how passive Pokémon has been in the past, the decision to veer this hard into action elements is questionable. I have to wonder how many 6-year-olds would have the gusto to beat the final boss, as they took me a good 10 tries before I learned to stop being reactive and start being mechanical. However, I suppose that’s why the game offers ways to double the player HP via charms. To create an easy mode for players who want twice the health. Also, the less said about the battle against the sole new legendary Pokémon, the better. 

Questionable boss design aside, I still loved the core gameplay of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and much of the core reason why ultimately has to do with myriad little things. Even after catching thousands of Pokémon, I still love the way they all react when the battle begins. Going “WHAT ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE?!” when engaging them normally and “oh mercy, I need a moment, my rheumatism is acting up again” when you land a back strike. It’s a physical comedy, but I found it hilarious to see how each critter reacted to getting smacked in the face and back with a ball. It’s a testament to how good animations and framing can ease what would otherwise be repetitive, because it is! Like most open world games, PLA is super repetitive, but it’s the fun kind of repetitive!

…That being said, some of the things the game gives you to do are garbage. Collecting 107 wisps scattered throughout all regions, which you cannot track via a detection or numbering system. Finding 28 Unown hidden in plain sight across the world. The 20 buried parchments with lore on them that… you don’t get anything for collecting. Finding certain Pokémon, such as Cherubi and most baby Pokémon, can be a ripe needle in the tuchus. Some evolutionary items are needlessly rare. And the menu button layout… still confused me even after 100 hours of play, despite being the best conceivable control scheme they could have gone with

There are oodles of things that are not perfect in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, but as a core package, as a title whose primary job was to make something different and better? This still gets full points from me. Truly excellent work here, Game Freak. If you’re able to put out experiences like this every two years, with maybe a few dozen hours of DLC in the interim, I’ll keep coming back until my hands stop working. …So long as they do not introduce or exacerbate problems and continue refining the overall experience.

…Okay, so I spent 3,000 words talking about the gameplay, because of course I did, and I’m sure you noticed that I skimmed over the story to jump into the gameplay. The reason I did that is because I wanted to start with the good, as the story is okay at best. 

To the surprise of… basically everyone, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is an isekai story, with the protagonist being a character transplanted from the modern day and sent back in time by Arceus, the progenitor of the Pokémon universe. Once isekai’d via skyfall, the protagonist cobbles together the three-pronged objective of completing the first Pokédex, quelling Pokémon frenzied by a disturbance in spacetime, and aiding humanity in forging this untamed land into the Sinnoh region. With Sinnoh being the setting for 2006’s Diamond and Pearl, 2008’s remaster, Platinum, and 2021’s lesser remake Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

Plainly, it is a chosen one narrative where the player is the destined savior of this land, using their modern skills to better the ignorant masses of yore. It is familiar, functional, and makes the player’s goals fairly clear from the onset, and I have no qualms with that. Plus, it’s a good excuse to sideline the story and task the player with playing the game their own way… Unfortunately, that’s not quite how things play out.

In a gameplay-driven open world game like this, it is typically best to keep the story both lean and focused. Players are urged to go on journeys and vicariously craft their own emergent player-driven narratives, instead of passively watching other characters explain the machinations of the story, which they do a bit too often here. The plot from the is largely simple, your goals are defined, but the game insists on introducing a deluge of characters between the wardens, faction leaders, Galaxy Team members, and the miscellaneous predecessors of characters from Diamond and Pearl. Predecessors who are less their own characters and more preemptive echos of other characters, with personalities muddled under the pretense that the player is familiar with the original incarnations. 

There are simply too many characters for me to care about them, and most are so skin-deep in their personae that I found them to more resemble tools than creatures. This goes doubly for the tertiary cast of Jubilife Village, the primary hub, as it is populated with named NPCs that lack both distinct designs and distinct personalities. Which is more important here because there is only one hub area, and the game clearly wants you to get to know these NPCs

As a whole, the plot has a distinct ‘cobbled together’ feel to it, giving me the impression that something went wrong during development, and the story had to be changed for any number of reasons. There is not any one specific element that gives me this impression, but they added up as I continued my playthrough. The disproportionate treatment of secondary characters throughout the story and in the postgame. The needlessly arbitrary fetch quest before the end of the main campaign. The entire ‘fall from grace’ arc that the developers really should have lifted from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX.

Though, I think the biggest sign that the story underwent some last minute cuts or changes is when the ultimate antagonist is introduced. As expected, they are a megalomaniac who wants to reshape the world using the power of Pokémon. But their sudden selfishness and grandiose villainous postering feel so out of place given the character’s prior experiences that I have to ask if this was even planned in the first place. Mechanically, this is a high point in the game, as it presents the player with what is probably among the most imposing challenges in the entire Pokémon series, and something that is a league beyond any other battle in the game. Narratively, it’s a cool idea… just poorly executed.

On that note, I was quite fond of the decision to shift the game’s setting back in time, but there is something dissonant about the era they chose. This game, at least to an extent, is about the founding and origin of the Sinnoh region… and by the time the protagonist arrives, the region’s already established. There’s already a multicultural coalition creating a prosperous community with the goal of settling the entire island. There’s already a pair of nomadic tribes who have existed for centuries. And while Pokéballs are a relatively new invention, the region is established enough to have numerous legends of its own.

It all sets the precedent that the player character, despite being the chosen one, is themselves living up to a legacy, and that simply does not sit well with me. If you are going to send the player character back in time, then shouldn’t they become THE hero of legend? It’s like if there was a prequel to Dragon Quest I. Except instead of playing as the legendary hero, Erdrick, you played as some other hero who just so happened to defeat the Dragonlord after Erdrick, but before the Dragon Quest I protagonist. Just… why do things this way? You are already playing with time travel, Pokémon is an established multiverse, so… go big or go home. Go all in on time travel and reference everything that Diamond and Pearl established about the past. You have cool ideas laid out for you. Embrace them!

Regardless, the story is largely underwhelming, but of all its faults, the actual biggest one is the presentation. Some have chided this game for not having full or partial voice acting— which I get, as voice acting is ‘something that’s part of modern games’— but my problem is with the dialog box. The dialog box in PLA only occupies roughly half the screen horizontally and is only ever two lines tall. For the Japanese script, this is a non-issue, as Japanese is a compact language due to its number of distinct characters. For the English script, this means that lines are constantly getting cut off by a break, making it harder for the player to get invested in what characters are saying, all because of the formatting. So, please Game Freak, make your text boxes bigger.

On that tangential note, let’s veer over to the audiovisual presentation, shall we? When viewing the presentation of the Pokémon series, I try to keep the developmental details in perspective. Game Freak switched to tile-based 3D games in 2013, moved away from a tile structure in 2016, went HD in 2018, created their first wide open 3D environment in 2019. And now, in early 2022— basically 2021— they decided to create an open world game with 5 large biomes, 242 creatures with their own animation cycles and movement patterns, dynamic weather and time systems, and a level of interactivity well beyond anything seen in prior games.

…Yeah, putting it all into perspective, I find it hard to look at PLA and ascertain that it should look better, especially when I think the game looks great as is. I’m definitely more mild when it comes to my graphical expectations from games, so I try to appreciate the smaller details. The nimble movements of each Pokémon with their own skeleton, how the UI manages to be slick without clashing with the 19th Century Japan aesthetics, and how nearly every interactable manages to pop against its backdrop

Though, my favorite element of this game’s presentation is easily the environments. They are small compared to the standard open world, but this gives them a level of intimacy that is lost when exploring larger landmasses, while still being sizeable enough to make traversal from one side to another feel like a journey. Going from forests to fields to a lovely beachcoast with Pokémon chilling in the sun or rain. Trekking up a mountain up past a series of waterfalls all before reaching the snow-swept and ruin-filled peak. Or even the slightly frustrating voyages through the murky swamps that look like they are filled with blood, urine, or honey depending on the time of day. It is a game with enough going on that you start to form a mental map of each locale. Which is pretty impressive, given the lack of a minimap.

That being said, there are definitely some improvements that could be made to navigation. For one, I would have liked to see markers for side quests rendered on the map, regardless of which one I have activated. A Super Mario Odyssey-like compass would have been helpful for me, as I sometimes got disoriented when going on trinket hunts. And an extra fast travel point or two per area would have eased some repetition.

As for the technical end of things… the game can be a bit rough at times. I noticed more than a few frame rate dips during my playthrough. Some of the textures are a blurry mess— which always confused me. Do textures need to blur, or can you just make them blocky without impacting performance? Because pixelated textures look way better than blurred ones. Flying looks genuinely bad in most areas given the low draw distance for grass and how mountains terraform themselves as you draw closer to them. There is this awful artifacting effect that comes up when in caves. And some human animations were lifted from Sun and Moon, and could stand to be replaced. They’re serviceable, but they look robotic and are easy to spot.

You could definitely criticize this game’s presentation. But for a title that was clearly built off of existing technology, made in basically two years, and is made for a 5-year-old proprietary gaming tablet? I was dazzled by how much Game Freak did here. …And even if I discard this pretense of expectations, I still think this game looks good. Plus, most of its shortcomings will most likely be addressed in an HD texture and graphical modification patch for a Switch emulator. 

Auditorily, I would say that PLA takes a Breath of the Wild approach with a soundtrack of minimalistic ambiance, and I think that’s not quite accurate. While the game has both a good and robust soundtrack, the music is mixed at such a low volume that it took me a few hours before I started noticing the music outside of battles and the hub area. At first I thought this was an issue with my wackadoo Bluetooth to PC to wired headphones audio set-up, but that was not the case. The battle theme was always bombastic and loud, and the sound effects were always a bit too loud, no matter how I changed my in-game settings. As far as I can tell, and based on what my ears are telling me, the audio design does not mix the music at a high enough volume.

It is all such a shame, given how good the soundtrack is and can be. I have been listening to it throughout the writing process for this review, and it’s genuinely frustrating how poor audio balancing can completely bury and suppress the hard work of so many people. I understand the argument that this lack of prominent music forces the player to pay attention to the ‘breath of the wild’ rummaging throughout this world, but that’s not true. You can actually have both. If anything, hearing a pumping theme helps encourage me to explore this world, catch some Pokémon, and rack up Pokédex points. 

Seriously, I would have been ecstatic if this theme played constantly while I explored the Cobalt Coastlands region. It is perfect for doing sick tricks on my fish friend, smacking Spheals in the face with heavy balls, and catching up fish Pokémon by the dozen, because I can and because it lets me make mad cash, mad fast! Your game is not as calm and atmospheric as you think it is, and your composers knew this! 

In conclusion, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a game that’s so good, that does so much, that I think it will be genuinely hard for me to go back to the older games in the series. Which, by extension, I suppose makes it my favorite Pokémon game of all time. While it is littered with a litany of flaws and points of contention, its innovations, streamlining, and overall evolution of what Pokémon is and can be, have all helped me reclaim my interest and love with this series. PLA makes me hopeful for the future and confident that the Pokémon series will only get better as the developers iterate, refine, and expand upon the excellent foundation they established here.

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