Pokémon Legends: Arceus raises the question: How important are Janky graphics?

I must confess a secret. I’m a little bored pokemon. To be completely honest with myself, I bye.

I played almost every major game but started losing pace around the time of Sun and Moon. It seemed so overloaded and complicated, with the introduction of Regional Forms, Ultra Beasts and Z Moves, and the addition of X & Y Mega Evolutions layered on top of the same old plot (a team of grunts led by a charismatic megalomaniac maniac is trying to do great evil, two legendary Pokémon are involved, etc.).

Then came the Sword and Shield and added even more things like Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing and their unique moves. Sometimes there can be a hopeful appeal to nostalgia by repeating the same patterns, but sometimes it’s just boring, confusing, and needlessly confusing. Of course, you may completely disagree with me, and that’s okay! Looking forward to healthy and respectful discussions in the comments! But this is my soapbox, and you can only talk when I’m done, so bye shh.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus

Thanks to Arceus for bringing new Pokémon legends back to simpler things, removing a lot of new stuff from the main games and starting over. But there’s one complaint echoing through the pipes of the Internet: it doesn’t look good.

Actually, that’s why I was not going to buy it. The trailers struck me as downright dumb, with low frame rates, blurry, repetitive textures, and weird, harsh lighting over everything. Oh, and the trees looked bad. I know it’s a big deal for some people.

I don’t usually care too much about “bad graphics” as long as the game looks interesting, but I felt like the trailers didn’t show us much about the game itself. Having been playing games for a few years now, I know what that usually means: the game is bad and they try to cover it up so people don’t cancel their pre-orders. They must be in a hurry, I thought, and my opinion was reinforced by the fact that the graphics really didn’t improve much compared to this. first disappointing trailer.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus

And then I read our review. It was luminous. But like many of you, I am often wary of reviews, especially blockbuster reviews written by longtime fans. It’s worth being a little cynical and looking into the review’s origins, so I chatted with the reviewer, Jordan, who assured me that it’s actually as good as the whole thing.

Well, I had one of those Nintendo Switch eShop vouchers, so… what was the harm? In addition, we expected that we would have to write lot about this major new Pokémon release, so it made sense to play it. So I pre-ordered the game (should get the Growlithe kimono pre-order bonus, right). And then, after all the chaos of lifting the review embargo, I downloaded it at midnight.

I’ll get that out of the way: I’m genuinely surprised at how crappy the Pokémon Legends: Arceus graphics are, given the heaps of money Game Freak built their studio with. I know how gamedev works and I’m sure there’s a good reason for that, but still.

The bottomless draw distance makes the world seem empty, with Pokémon, plants, and people appearing just a few meters away from my character. For some reason, grass jumps in battles, and the sky stutters in cutscenes. The lighting on the trees and characters is oddly harsh, casting dark, harsh shadows all around, making the world look like it’s under an unflattering Instagram filter.

It doesn’t seem like a rush; seems stripped down, as if some sort of superiors only gave Game Freak’s artists and designers a certain amount of leeway. The buildings are sparse and empty, like everyone just moved in, and the world itself is relatively simple too – so I wonder if this was a proof of concept with hard limits on how much time could be spent building it.

As Jordan’s review says, the game is not without beauty, and I really like the expressiveness of the characters and the charm of the untouched wilderness. There are even moments when it looks a bit like an old Japanese painting – which is probably what they were aiming for – but I can’t help feeling that I wish they had even leaned over. more into something stylized—not quite in Okami territory, but somewhere in between. User interface elements are a great example – they used big strokes, interesting shapes and colors to create something dynamic and interesting with a vintage feel; It’s a pity the world doesn’t quite fit this.

If the whole game was made in this style, I would be happy
If the whole game was made in this style, I would be happy

But! Like I said… crappy graphics just not everything is so important to my enjoyment of the game. Some of my favorite games actually look like ass. I have a whole bunch of chatter about how much the art of Slay The Spire bothers me, but that doesn’t affect the fact that I think it’s fantasy.

Obviously, the ideal result would be a game like Hades: visually stunning, narratively compelling, and perfectly balanced: every aspect of the game is polished to create a cohesive, compelling whole. But sometimes the game idea is strong enough to overcome the initial frustration of a crappy game, and so far—I’m not that far off yet—Pokémon Legends: Arceus has managed to hold its own.

Character drawing is still good!
Character drawing is still good!

It’s about trying new things and that’s important to me. This is an exciting revival of the somewhat stagnant series that invites players to experience a familiar, nostalgic game from a new perspective. Personally, I’d rather have five ugly but intriguing games than one great but boring one.

Let me preface your thoughts: I’m not a Pokemon megafan. Sure, I have a lot of Pikachu plushies and have played almost every major game, but I think the formula is pretty outdated now. I probably wouldn’t even be playing Sword and Shield if it wasn’t set in (fake) Britain because I Indeed wanted my homeland to be represented in pokemon form. I love weird little creatures, but I don’t care too much about collecting and fighting them, and I certainly don’t expect to have to iterate over a billion text fields with information in each. Single. combat.

I promise I’m not just jumping on the phrase “Pokémon Legends is the best game of all time!!!!” step. I am genuinely disappointed in the graphics because I know Game Freak is capable of more (they made Pocket Card Jockey! Which is definitely an example of great graphics). But… if that’s what it takes to lead Pokemon in a direction that really interests me, I’ll take it.

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