Pokémon is the highest-grossing media franchise of all time. Its products have impacted the masses for over two decades, from television series to trading cards. The video games have a slightly more conflicting history, however.
The release of “Pokémon Red and Blue” in 1998 introduced a masterful spin on the role-playing game (RPG) genre, with critics praising its mastery in multiplayer such as battling and trading. They were graphically atrocious, but luckily the highly addictive gameplay allowed for our imaginations to run wild and create an immersive experience. They set the precedent for what was about to become a behemoth in the gaming industry. The following generations of games are sources of controversy, however. Although still critically acclaimed, for the most part, fans have criticized them for their redundancy and inability to innovate the tried and true ‘catch ’em all’ formula. In short, the potential was clear from the get-go, but the execution was lacking in quality.
The latest generation of Pokémon games, “Sword and Shield”, is an accurate depiction of the company’s reluctance to modernize the series. The games have a poor User Score of 4.6/10 on Metacritic based on around 3,000 player reviews. They’re the eighth generation of Pokémon games and they still play strikingly similar to how they did since the start of the franchise. Fans have worried that since they always sell incredibly well regardless, developers would not make the effort to innovate gameplay in any way.
In a February 2021 presentation, however, the company announced a new title by the name of “Pokémon: Legends Arceus”, filling fans with both apprehension and excitement. It depicted an open-world style game that fans have been eager to experience since the 90s.
The game was released on Jan. 28 this year, and fans and critics alike have let out a sigh of relief.
“Legends: Arceus” takes place in a time prior to the modern Pokémon games, where the creatures were still feared by all. It is up to the player to then collect data on as many Pokémon as possible while traversing the land known as Hisui. Visually, the game is an absolute letdown, yet Nintendo and Pokémon are not known for their graphical prowess, rather their ability to create captivating universes and let our imaginations do the rest.
It shatters the linearity the series is infamous for and introduces a bright future for the series. Most importantly, it shows that the developers were willing to take a risk and understand the direction that fans want the beloved series to go in.
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