Pokémon Legends: Arceus arrives on Nintendo Switch on January 28, but the embargo for press outlets who receive game code ahead of release lifts today–and so far, these assessments are raving about the latest monster collector. Many are calling it the best in the series.
Taking place in the past, in the bygone era of the Sinnoh region, Pokémon Legends: Arceus sees you exploring the unexplored Hisui area. You do familiar Pokémon things, like battle and catch monsters, but in a more open-world structure that’s closer to Capcom’s Monster Hunter Stories. The goal here? It’s simple: fill out Hisui’s first Pokédex. Oh, and the legendary creature Arceus will make an appearance or two. So, be on the lookout.
You might have already seen gameplay, though. There were a lot of mostly smaller Twitch streamers who got their hands on alleged emulated versions of the game, if not early release copies, and we learned all kinds of things about Arceus alongside the leaks. Like the new Pokémon types hanging out in the Hisui region, or how the monsters are giants and everyone wants to be stepped on by them, Lady Dimitrescu style. Video games are weird, but so are players, and that’s what makes them great.
Putting the leaks aside, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is still receiving glowing praise from the press. Sites like GameSpot and The Verge echo the same sentiment, agreeing that though this new entry is a bit messy at times, the gameplay and design is the most ambitious Pokémon has been in years. That’s really something for a franchise that’s been around since the ‘90s.
Here’s a look at what folks are saying around the internet:
Some of the new ideas in Arceus have rough edges, and it’s slow to start before you get access to many environments and mounts. This is an awkward first step, and it was a big adjustment for me, a longtime fan of the series, to make. Once Pokémon Legends: Arceus finds its stride, though, it’s the most daring and inventive the series has been in years, breaking apart the staid core and creating something new and exciting from its pieces.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus feels like the result of Game Freak learning lessons for 25 years, refining the formula, and finally taking the franchise in a new, incredible, exciting direction. With its emphasis on extremely rewarding exploration, addictive catching mechanics, a fine roster of Pokémon, and a genuine sense of scale that’s unlike anything in the series, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is quite simply one of the greatest Pokémon games ever made.
Either way, this is a game crafted by subtractive sculpture. And how weirdly refreshing that is, compared to our artform’s current, insatiable appetite for only adding more and more. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is either this series’ bare minimum, or its purest form. I think it’s both at once.
Problems with the performance are the one thing holding Pokémon Legends: Arceus back from perfection. But when you’re having such a great time with the actual gameplay, it’s not enough to hold back this otherwise impressive swing into a new Pokémon generation, building on the foundations of the past with exciting new mechanics, a more open structure, and efforts made to address each of the elements that were becoming stale. Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a must-play game for any would-be trainers who prefer to spend their time appreciating Pokemon rather than putting them to battle.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a bit of a mess—but all first drafts are. It stumbles often on its way to innovation (it’s trying to evolve a nearly 24-year-old series, after all) and brings equal parts brilliance and frustration in its updated systems. But the good bits in Pokémon Legends: Arceus outweigh the bad, rounding out a successful first attempt at an action-centric Pokémon game.
Far too much of what it was doing differently was hidden pre-release. Pokémon Legends: Arceus threads the needle and somehow finds a brilliant balance between old and new, between tradition and upheaval. It’s the 3D Pokémon adventure that I imagined back in the 90s that never came. It’s fresh. It feels new, exciting, and like a powerful new beginning for the series. Technical shortcomings and minor frustrations can’t take away what this game achieves elsewhere; it’s the best main-series Pokémon game in a long, long time.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the breath of fresh air the series has needed for so long. It may not have been apparent from the trailers, but this is one of the most entertaining, engaging, and engrossing games in the entire history of the Pokémon series, and is highly recommended to both long-time fans and complete newcomers.
The most important thing I can say about Arceus is that it’s a place I want to be in. As much as I loved previous Pokémon games, the worlds were very static and linear. I never really felt like I was exploring a vibrant world while walking back and forth in tall grass, trying to level up my squad. Here, though—while it’s not exactly a realistic simulation of nature—it at least gives off the feeling of a real place full of danger and secrets and all of the joy and excitement those things can bring. And it does all of that while retaining most of the best qualities of its predecessors. It’s still a Pokémon game. But with a changed perspective, it’s also something new.
So, it seems Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a new jumping-off point for the series. Its open structure is more akin to Monster Hunter Stories than Breath of the Wild, but exploration appears to be a favorite among critics. Be careful in the Hisui region, though. I’ve heard the monsters are very aggressive, and there are plenty of horrors to see. Keep your eyes open.