Big changes have already been seen in trailers for Pokémon Legends: Arceus, reimagining Pokémon gameplay set in place through decades of main series titles. While the switch to open-world-inspired gameplay may have long-time fans of the series nervous, the changes could be an opportunity for Game Freak and Nintendo to modernize Pokémon as a series. Most importantly, it could update mechanics that have become dated thanks to new technology and playstyles, and open future titles to a broader audience of players.
When Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow were released for the Game Boy in 1998, technology was vastly different from the home and portable consoles of today. Adventures were limited to small, pixelated screens with minimal color, and almost every new mechanic was a process of trial and error for game developers pioneering the RPG genre. Pokémon kept to a linear style of play, taking players on a guided journey from one town to the next, collecting badges, and eventually challenging the Elite Four. Post-game content was almost non-existent, as there simply wasn’t the room or capacity for extended gameplay after the main objectives of the story were finished.
However, as technology grew and changed, Pokémon began to adapt with updated graphics and twists to the gameplay. Post-game content was introduced and expanded on in every new generation of games, 3D graphics replaced pixelated visuals, and battle mechanics were updated to add new strategies alongside new Pokémon species and types. Despite this, the core story stayed basically unchanged, greatly hindering the Pokémon franchise’s ability to grow and adapt to modern playstyles and interests. Players continued to travel from town to town, fight a rival, battle Gym Leaders, and become Champions of each new region, but the journey feels less and less satisfying with every iteration. However, Pokémon Legends: Arceus could be the fresh adventure the series needs to revitalize the series.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus Appears To Be Less Linear Than Past Games
Open-world exploration and autonomy in narrative progression have become increasingly popular among gamers in recent years. Titles like Dragon Age and Skyrim allow players to pick their own goals and work through quests in different ways, offering a unique and immersive experience. Nintendo has already taken the risk of injecting open-world-style gameplay in The Legend of Zelda series with the release of Breath of the Wild in 2017. Linear narrative progression and limited map exploration were replaced with a sprawling map and free-standing objectives, allowing players to save Hyrule in any order and manner they wished.
While Pokémon Legends: Arceus won’t be a true open-world game, it does appear players will be able to enter and explore large open-world-inspired map locations and work through certain objectives at their own pace. The change would allow Pokémon Legends: Arceus to compete with other popular RPG titles on the Nintendo Switch, and potentially create more replay value for players. It has also been shown in recent trailers released on Nintendo‘s YouTube channel, that travel will be more immersive and seamless than past titles in the series.
Players will be able to travel over Hisui’s map on the back of a Wyrdeer, a new Hisuian evolution of Stantler, surf bodies of water on a Hisuian Basulegion, and soar through the air with the help of a Hisuian Braviary. While players could use special moves in the right spots in past Pokémon titles, cutting down trees, or surfing across oceans, this new method of travel is geared specifically at the exploration of the region and isn’t done with the use of special moves. It also appears the ability to travel with these Pokémon will be available early in the game, where past titles reserved moves like Surf and Fly for late-game exploration and puzzle-solving. These changes will help pull away from linear, objective-locked adventures.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus Could Include Choice-Based Narrative Options
While nothing has been confirmed by Game Freak or Nintendo regarding narrative direction, it does seem possible players may have the ability to influence outcomes in Pokémon Legends: Arceus through narrative or plot choices. Players appear to start the game as a member of the Galaxy Team, which suspiciously resembles the antagonist group from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl – Team Galactic. However, in a recent trailer, it was revealed there will be a Diamond and a Pearl Clan also included in the narrative, run by two Clan Leaders. It appears that players will have the ability to interact with these leaders, helping them with the rampaging Noble Pokémon they care for.
The ability to influence the direction of gameplay is currently very popular, with many RPG-style games using player choices to determine major moments in a game’s narrative. It is possible Pokémon Legends: Arceus could allow players to leave Team Galaxy and join one of the other two Clans instead, completely changing the potential outcome of the story. Players could encounter Arceus differently depending on which leader they work alongside, or even cause the destruction of the region with a “bad ending”.
The Pokémon series has been including more narrative-rich storylines in recent titles, with Sun and Moon and Sword and Shield both boasting colorful NPCs with rich backgrounds and personalities. This change away from characters based on simple stereotypes has made engaging in the storyline a more rewarding experience. By adding further player influence over the storyline, Pokémon Legends: Arceus‘ gameplay could truly tailor to each player’s choices, instead of relying on the goals and personalities prewritten for the main characters.
While there are still plenty of mysteries surrounding Pokémon Legends: Arceus and what players will be able to expect, the wait for the title is almost over. Hopefully, Pokémon Legends: Arceus will include just the right balance of past gameplay mechanics with new opportunities, allowing players to enjoy a fresh and challenging journey through the ancient Hisui region. However, it is still possible these changes won’t set the precedent for upcoming titles in the Pokémon series, with a Gen 9 announcement and new region possible in the coming year. It could be that Game Freak will visit other regions using Pokémon Legends: Arceus as a side series, while traditional adventures continue in other new games.
Source: Nintendo/ YouTube
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