Last week Pokémon celebrated its 25th anniversary. Expectations for this holiday – commonly known as Pokémon Day – were, as always, sky-high. But where a big disappointment seemed imminent, even a massive leak couldn’t stop Game Freak from making a deep impression.
The Pokémon community regularly has issues with itself. If this isn’t talk of developer Game Freak’s controversial choices, it’s the rabbit hole of rumors and speculation. Daily posts appear on forums like 4Chan from anonymous users claiming to know what The Pokémon Company is doing. Thus, there are countless large and small content creators who make it their duty to treat them all. Not only because it performs very well – even the undersigned often cannot resist the temptation – but also because one in a thousand turns out to be true.
Almost all of the major recent Pokémon games leaked sooner or later before the announcement: Sun and Moon via a web domain, Let’s go Pikachu and Eevee via a screenshot and Sword and Shield, including all major features, on 4Chan. Also the upcoming games, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl and Pokémon Legends: Arceus, escape at different stages on the Internet. Three hours before Pokémon Presents was presented, almost everything was on the streets, including a trailer. It’s not the best way to start a presentation, especially with the consistently high expectations of passionate fans. More than once a Pokémon presentation has disappointed, and this information was too good to be true.
The next step
Still, The Pokémon Company and developer Game Freak have managed to create a real buzz around new games for the first time in years. The new Pokémon Snap looks good and finally the fantastic Sinnoh games are getting a remake. Besides the rose-colored glasses that Snap fans have – and the curious looks of the Brilliant Diamond and Pearl characters – these are two solid titles. However, the two are overshadowed by a much bolder project that represents a surprisingly big milestone for the franchise: Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
The open world dream has been around almost as long as the Pokémon franchise has been around. Exploring a Pokémon region without borders, or online with friends, has been at the top of many enthusiasts’ wishlists for years. Unfortunately, Pokémon is a franchise of marginal improvements and since the fourth generation of games the franchise has only taken small steps. Sword and Shield has made a valiant effort to give players more freedom by freeing them into the wilderness. These pretty empty areas of pokemon and maybe other players online are nice for what they are, but are just a harbinger of a long-awaited next step for the series. Considering the quality of sales of Pokémon games, Game Freak didn’t need to do much more to be financially successful.
Breath of the Pokémon Wilde
Therefore, the news that the franchise is taking a new direction was quite unexpected. Legends: Arceus is a side project set in feudal Sinnoh, the Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum region. Players are given the task of assembling the first Pokédex and therefore are free to explore the natural spaces and hunt monsters on their heels. Catching Pokémon is now done in real time by actively aiming and throwing the Wooden Pokéball, and battles are played out seamlessly. All in a big world with Mount Coronet as the focal point.
Sounds familiar? That’s right, the parables in Zelda: Breath of the Wild are almost shameless. But it is also the goal of this title: everything shines that Game Freak – despite its financial success – finally gives in to criticism of the ingrained formula. Poor graphics, lack of voice acting, and linear routes with loading screens show the age of Pokémon, where RPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles, Dragon Quest 11S, and Breath of the Wild do a lot more with Switch hardware. We’ve finally gotten to a point where even the creators recognize that the franchise needs an overhaul, despite Sword and Shield being the second-best-selling installment.
Of course, Legends: Arceus isn’t guaranteed to fix all issues. On the contrary, there are plenty of pitfalls the game should avoid, some of which have already surfaced during the trailer. For example, the world seems pretty empty even for Breath of the Wild concepts and the frame rate was certainly not optimal everywhere – although of course we keep in mind that the game is far from over. Plus, it looks like Legends is actually a side project, not a whole new region with towns, gyms, and new Pokémon.
Will the game be the next step for full-fledged ninth generation open-world Pokémon games? Supposedly, but by far the most interesting test balloon in years. If that succeeds, the Ninth Generation may well open the doors to an audience that had once lost sight of Pokémon.
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