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'Pokemon Legends: Arceus' ratchets up depth, intellect level of franchise

Pokémon Legends: Arceus will be available on January 28. (Graphic: Business Wire)
Posted at 7:47 AM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 09:48:36-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Typically, it's you who've got to catch all the Pokemon. But in the new, full-blooded role-playing game iteration of the series, it's — thematically speaking — the Pokemon that catch you.

Developer Game Freak has been stepping out of its comfort zone in recent years, testing the boundaries of what a Pokemon game can be. "Pokemon Legends: Arceus" is not only a natural extension of the light RPG elements present in standard Pokemon games, but a bold new direction for the franchise as a whole.

Digging deep into the story's wonky lore — and doing an admirable job of making sense of a world in which giant creatures magically shrink and explode from pocket-sized balls to do battle — the game thrives on its narrative rather than resting on its gameplay loop.

Exploring the Sinnoh region, which is the setting for the recent remakes "Brilliant Diamond" and "Shining Pearl," the story explores an era of yore before Pokemon trainers or gyms existed. Characters lived in an uneasy harmony with the Pokemon, catching them in crude Poke Balls.

You roam the wilderness with gentle direction from quest givers and an onscreen compass, building what amounts to be the first Pokemon economy.

Tying together loose threads and unanswered questions that have long lingered in the Pokemon fan-fic realm, while also introducing a slew of new topics on which to ruminate, the RPG guides you through a fascinating and often funny tale that serves as the bedrock on which all other Pokemon games rest. The storyline doesn't shy away from darker, more intense themes, but that sense of curiosity never dampens the upbeat tone.

Above all, developer GameFreak retains the sense of momentum and bursts of joy that have always peppered Pokemon games. "Arceus" is nothing like any previous game in the series, while feeling as though it perfectly fits the Pokemon flow and feel. It could also act as something of a gateway for Pokemon players who crave a more meaty, in-depth experience that the standard games have never offered.

The slew of characters and creatures introduced are adorable, innovative and tinged with nostalgia. This is a game that only could have been created after decades of previous entries paved the way. Bursting with fan service, the game never panders, and manages to give you little reason to put it down, along with steady encouragement to pick it up again for another session.

That's, after all, the Pokemon way.

Publisher provided review code.

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