Pokémon Legends: Arceus was one of the more surprising announcements to ever come from the popular franchise. A 3D open-world RPG? Fans had been asking for this forever, but it was one of those wishes that felt like it was never going to be answered. This is a franchise that has a formula, and they’ve been making only small changes since the first game came out in the ’90s, so why change it now? Perhaps it was a desire to give fans what they had been asking for, or maybe it was just a desire to do something new with a spin-off.
Now that we finally got to see more of the game on Wednesday thanks to the Pokémon Presents presentation, we were able to get a little more of a glimpse into why they would go this direction. Looking at the game, and based on what they told us during the presentation, it feels like Pokémon Legends: Arceus is trying to bring the game back to its roots — not just in setting, but in the overall goal of the player. These games have basically, since their inception, been about collecting a team of favorites, going on an adventure, and becoming the ultimate Pokémon trainer. However, as more Pokémon joined the games, an additional goal became completing the Pokédex so we could learn more about them.
In the original Pokémon Red and Blue, or Green for players in Japan, the goal wasn’t just about defeating the Elite Four. It was about catching all 151 Pokémon so we could learn as much about them as possible. Of course, with almost 900 Pokémon today, that goal is far more daunting. Most new games have lessened the importance of completing the Pokédex. Pokémon Legends: Arceus, however, is a game set in a time before humans and Pokémon started working together. They’re wild animals and multiple characters mention how they’re terrifying creatures. They’ll attack humans when they’re skittish around them and there is less known about them than in other games. This is a fun return to form for the franchise, with the goal once again being learning and understanding Pokémon.
This potentially new direction is perfect for the open-world setting that Pokémon Legends: Arceus wants. There is an exploration and learning aspect to every open-world game, from Breath of the Wild to Skyrim. This potentially new direction for Pokémon is really exciting, because the driving force of open worlds is the desire to learn and see what’s up ahead. Who doesn’t want to go out there and learn as much as they can about Pokémon? It’s the reason most of us played the games in the first place, and with Pokémon Legends: Arceus, we now have the game’s entire design backing up that desire to learn.
Of course, some of the usual goals of the series are still here. There are Pokémon to be captured, to battle, and there is a story to push everything forward. When Pokémon Legends: Arceus launches, maybe what appeared to be a game about exploration and learning is just the usual game with a different look to it, but the early signs point to something different. It’s a potential return to form for the franchise, one that goes back to throwing the player into an open world they know nothing about and telling them to go learn as much as they can. That’s a feeling that the mainline games don’t focus on creating anymore, so maybe Pokémon Legends: Arceus can be the one that does.