I have a confession to make. I have never completed a Pokemon game. Though I’ve dabbled in a few of the popular titles over the years, I’ve never once managed to make it down Victory Road. Despite this, the world of Pokemon has always fascinated me. All these vibrant creatures with different types and personalities roaming around vast fantasy lands fighting with each other? Sign me up!
My first introduction to Pokemon was through the original trading cards. I would collect the cards to trade with my friends at school, keeping the shiny ones because my older brother told me they were important. It didn’t take long for the Pokemon trading floor at my primary school to grow a little too boisterous for the teacher‘s liking, and the cards were soon banned. Since I didn’t know how to play the card game, I quickly abandoned my Pokemon cards in favor of the Beyblades, Shag Bands, and Scoobie Strings that I could trade in.
Now, you might wonder why I would collect these cards if I didn’t play the card game. The truth is, I had recently discovered the anime TV show featuring Ash and his Pikachu, and I was hooked. My mum didn’t like the violence of the battles, so she banned the show in my house, making it all the more captivating. I used to sneak down early every day before school so I could watch as much of that morning’s episode as possible before she’d come down and turn it off, usually making me miss the ending.
My journey into the world of Pokemon
Despite not allowing us to watch the anime, my mum had no problem with my brothers playing Pokemon Diamond on their DS’ for hours on end. Once I could sneak the cartridge away from them, I had a wonderful time running through the tall grass and exploring the cities. Since I didn’t really understand the types of battle moves, I never got past the Grass gym in the second city. Ultimately, my terrible skill level and the resulting confusion meant I didn’t really enjoy playing these games, so I avoided them altogether until the Pokemon Go craze of 2016. My brothers and I walked for miles trying to catch those pesky Pokemon, begging our parents to drive us to the next town over, where we’d heard rumors of a shiny Pikachu.
I didn’t pick up another Pokemon game until Sword in 2019. I had recently bought myself a Nintendo Switch so I could play couch co-op games with my partner. He’s been an avid Pokemon fan as long as he’s been able to, so he was keen to teach me everything I didn’t understand previously. Since the region for this game was based on my native England, I decided to give it another go. However, for reasons unknown, I made the mistake of attempting to complete this by doing a ‘Nuzlocke Run’, which means any Pokemon that faint during battle are considered ‘dead’ and cannot be revived. Unsurprisingly, I only made it as far as the fifth gym, where the ghost leader promptly annihilated my entire party, and I deleted the game from my Switch altogether.
Despite my apparent lack of skill, when I saw the trailers for the newest game in the series, Pokemon Legends: Arceus, I was still intrigued. An open-world experience akin to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild where I can run around catching Pokemon endlessly to my heart’s content? No gyms?! The concept was too enticing to ignore, so I scoured several game shops before finding a copy with next-day delivery that didn’t break the bank. I gave my partner a few days to get familiar with the new controls in case I had any questions or got stuck before I embarked on my quest into the new Hisui region.
I chose Cyndaquil as my starter Pokemon instead of Oshawott or Rowlett since I was familiar with him from the anime, and off I went throwing Poké Balls at whatever I could see. The methods for catching Pokemon in this game work similarly to Pokemon Go allowing you to see them wandering around the landscape in front of you rather than being ambushed in the tall grass. It’s set at a time before humans and Pokemon have learned to co-exist, although the people in Jubilife Village are still a little too keen to send a strange teenage girl off to her death in the wilderness, if you ask me. After becoming a member of the Galaxy Team Survey Corps, I began to travel the length and breadth of Hisui, tasked with learning everything there is to know about Pokemon to complete the physical Pokedex book in my very deep pockets and to move up the ranks of the Corps.
So far, I’ve managed to reach Rank Four, allowing me access to the mountains and the power of flight, so I’m told. The open-world feels very similar to The Sims 4, with pockets of vast sections joined by loading screens. Each area is pretty big, so the game never feels small. While the cliche “Save the World” narrative isn’t that interesting, the wildernesses of Hisui feel alive. They’re vibrant and teeming with life as Pokemon of all shapes and sizes go about their business. The hub world of Jubilife Village feels very stale in comparison since all the people are always standing still next to their houses. I found the controls nice and easy to remember, and the Noble Pokemon provided as mounts allow me to quickly run, swim, or fly away from any aggressive creatures that may be lurking. For me, the ranking system is a welcome move away from the gyms that I hope continues in the newly announced 9th generation games, Scarlet and Violet.
The only real downside to Pokemon Legends: Arceus I’ve found thus far is that I can’t recover any of my lost items without a Nintendo Online membership. The new recovery system relies on an internet connection so other players can find and recover your lost satchels. Since I don’t have the required subscription to get online, my items are left lost to the ether until I hand more of my money over to Nintendo — may my missing Leaf Stone rest in peace.
I haven’t found any reasons not to complete this game so far, and it seems unlikely that I will. I’ve had so much enjoyment from wandering around the wilds chucking Poké Balls at every Pokemon I’ve encountered that it doesn’t even matter to me that the story isn’t that well written. No matter how many times those Eevees escape my clutches, I’m still desperate to keep trying over and over again.
I’m keeping all my fingers crossed that Arceus is the one Pokemon game I actually manage to complete. Hopefully, we’ll have a second part to this journey soon. Only time will tell.
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