Pokemon and Game Freak struck gold on the first time of asking when they created and launched Pokemon Red & Blue 25 years ago. They then struck Pokemon Gold the second time of asking. The first pair of games proved to be so popular and so successful that the formula has remained more or less the same ever since. Travel around each new region beating other trainers, collecting badges, and most importantly of all, catching 'em all. There have been tweaks along the way of course, but the foundation has remained the same.
That's not to say The Pokemon Company hasn't been afraid to try out other things. Pokemon Snap, Unite, and Stadium are all spinoffs that have performed incredibly well. However, the launch of Legends: Arceus later this month may well mark the beginning of a new era for Pokemon games. If successful, the way we play Pokemon games could change forever.
There have been a number of Pokemon professors over the years who have handed me my Pokedex and asked me to catalogue everything I find, as if they don't already know. In Legends: Arceus, that will actually be the case. Even though most of the Pokemon who call the Hisui region home will be familiar to us, it's set so far in Pokemon's past that we will literally be discovering them for the first time. That was demonstrated via the weird Blair Witch-style teaser shown off last year.
Other trailers have also showcased an entirely new way to battle. You'll be expected to effectively track Pokemon, sneaking through tall grass in order to catch them, similar to Horizon Zero Dawn. Some of the game's bigger and more powerful Pokemon will fight back and effectively be boss battles that you and your Pokemon will have to take down together. All pretty exciting stuff and elements we could see in Pokemon games for years to come if executed well in Legends: Arceus.
The leaks hinting at what won't be in Legends: Arceus have some fans of the series worried, though. Apparently, unique abilities, breeding, and held items won't be a part of the new Pokemon game. Features that haven't been a part of the series since the first games, but ones that have been around for so long that players just expect them to be there at this point.
I hope the leaks are correct, and the three things mentioned above aren't in Legends: Arceus – for a couple of reasons. The bigger a shake-up the main series gets, the better. This is supposed to be a completely different way to play Pokemon, so some of the things familiar to me shouldn't be there. Otherwise it'll be too much like every other Pokemon game I've played for the past 25 years. However, more than that, the main reason those features should be omitted from Legends: Arceus is because the game is set hundreds of years in Pokemon's past.
It stands to reason that the trainers of the since-forgotten Hisui region didn't know much about the Pokemon with which they shared it. Unique abilities are moves only a particular Pokemon or evolutionary line can learn, and since the norm for us has been to teach Pokemon moves when prompted to do so, or by using TMs, it makes sense that the trainers of centuries ago wouldn't know there are moves unique to a single Pokemon. That being said, they had better know Pokemon can do more than tackle and growl or it's going to be a long old slog.
The same thing goes for held items. Why would a trainer who still knows very little about Pokemon and what they're capable of give a Fire-type a piece of charcoal to hold? As for breeding, if it really is absent from Legends: Arceus then that might be the most interesting omission of all. Unlike held items and unique abilities, you would hope the good people of Hisui would know animals, and hence Pokemon, need to breed to create offspring and survive.
Doing that successfully, on the other hand, would be something else entirely. Trainers in Legends: Arceus might not breed Pokemon at all and just leave them to it. A lack of Pokemon breeding back then could also be used to explain why new Pokemon introduced through Legends: Arceus aren't around anymore. A breeding program of some sort might have helped the Hisuian forms of Growlithe and Voltorb survive but sadly, those forms were either left to go extinct or the dominant genes of the Voltorb and Growlithe we have known for the past two and a half decades led to the Hisuian forms eventually disappearing. The only other explanation is that Legends: Arceus takes place in an alternate universe and I think we have enough of that going on elsewhere, thanks.
Whether you're excited about everything mentioned above, cautious about it, or think I'm talking a load of rubbish, there is one thing we can probably all agree on. This is an exciting time for Pokemon fans. Yes, the formula used for every other core Pokemon game is a successful one we all likely take comfort in, and probably one that will continue to be used, even if it's just through remakes. Legends: Arceus is an exciting new frontier for the series though, and one that might well teach us more about Pokemon than any other game since Red & Blue.
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