Extraordinary freedom turned out to lead to exceptional creativity when it came to Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Thanks to being a spinoff, the game wasn't weighed down by the sometimes stale formula of previous entries and was allowed to experiment to a much, much greater degree, creating a refreshingly unique chapter in the Pokémon series.
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While far from the first spinoff of the franchise, Arceus struck out on its own by still keeping plenty of trappings from the main-series games while also trying out a wide range of new mechanics and ideas. Some may stand out more or less than others, but the game still has plenty of lessons to teach future Pokémon games.
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10/10 The Photo Studio Offers An In-World Way To Take Great Screenshots
Sometimes a player wants more than just a screenshot of them running through the wilds of Hisui. And for those times, the Photo Studio is here. Offering a more customizable alternative to taking a screenshot in the wild, a trainer can choose between a variety of props and poses alongside their favorite Pokémon.
Some features can be unlocked by sidequests as well, such as one from "The Pokémon in the Woodland Photo," which sets the player on a mission to locate a Buneary. Historically, a photo studio fits well into the era the game replicates. Even color photos date back surprisingly far, with Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky having revolutionized the process in the early 1900s. More modern Pokémon games could have even more options in their photo studios.
9/10 The Faster Night And Day System Allows For More Variety
Night and day systems have a very long history in JRPGs, but are a much, much more recent addition to the Pokémon series. Some have experimented with it in the past, especially Sun and Moon, but until Arceus they were always locked in some way to the player's local time, rather than being a faster, in-game cycle.
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While having the real-world time reflected in-game isn't itself a bad idea, it could often limit players to only ever seeing one side of what the games had to offer or even lock them out of Pokémon that could only be caught or fought during a time that they were sleeping, at work, or otherwise too busy to play.
8/10 Crafting Items Makes Them Feel More Significant
Crafting is a simple enough mechanic but can be hard to execute well. While it might not be the most detailed system, Pokémon Legends: Arceus's take is a lot more than previous Pokémon games have had to offer, and the feeling of crafting your own Pokéballs is much more engaging than just buying them in bulk from a Pokémart.
While the Pokémon series has had an overall lack of crafting, a few generations have experimented with cooking minigames. Pokéblocks and poffins both offered some customizability, as well as a minor test to skill to create a truly perfect dish. Both systems also encouraged the player to pay more attention to their berry collection than other games in the series have.
7/10 The Lost And Found System Is A Fun Form Of Light Multiplayer Content
Pokémon has featured competitive multiplayer since its start, and the ability to trade pokémon not long after, but co-op play has generally fallen by the wayside. Sword and Shield experimented with its Max Raid battles, but the passive multiplayer-light "Lost and Found" feature is a refreshing take on the idea.
Lost and Found allows not only players to reclaim items lost on defeat, but also to help other players recover their own gear and get rewarded while doing so. This feature provides the feeling of a larger world that many single-player games fail to accomplish and also offers a nice way to get otherwise rare items such as evolution stones in the process.
6/10 Boss "Monsters" Are A Staple Of RPGs For A Reason
Big scary boss monsters are a staple of RPGs, but until recently have been mostly absent from the main-series Pokémon games. Totem Pokémon and Gigantamaxing were a decent attempt, but it's Hisui's Guardian Pokémon that finally feel like bosses, serving as an intimidating foe to Pokémon and trainer alike.
While the main-series Pokémon games have seen fairly few bosses, many spinoffs have featured them more regularly. Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness and the Pokémon Ranger series both saw powerful boss pokémon serving as obstacles, and even Pokémon Go has made use of the concept in its raid battles.
5/10 Being Able To Swap Moves Freely Should Have Come A Lot Sooner
Move learning has seen a lot of revisions over the years, but Arceus has taken one of the largest steps forward. While previous games saw the player having to choose moves as their Pokémon leveled up, Pokémon Legends: Arceus lets them select and change them freely out of combat, allowing for a much greater freedom of choice.
A newer player might not realize just how far the series has come over the years. Calling in a Pokémon to cut a tree just wasn't a thing, and players were often forced to dedicate a team member to purely learning "HM" moves, to say nothing of the troubles that single-use TMs caused.
4/10 The Game Is Jam-Packed With Secrets And Side Content
Filled to the brim with side activities, Pokémon Legends: Arceus offers challenges ranging from hunting down 107 mysterious wisps to decoding the whereabouts of the Unknown, or even just participating in races throughout the majestic landscape of Hisui. Some minor minigames have featured in Pokémon games before, but never to this extent.
While a wisp might be a relatively passive goal, it does still give a player that just wants to explore something to do. Likewise, having brief bits of action or a bevy of puzzles to solve can greatly lengthen the lifespan of the game, as it helps to break up the experience and prevent it from getting stale as fast as a more one-note game might.
3/10 Side Quests Finally Provide A Real Reason To "Catch 'Em All"
Side quests are ubiquitous in RPGs of all sorts, and it is surprising how few the Pokémon series has featured until now, especially given its roots in games like Dragon Quest. Some might be simple "find the matching Pokémon" tasks or mysteries to solve, but many do encourage the player to capture Pokémon they might otherwise overlook.
While fully optional side quests like Arceus offers are a new feature, some previous games have had a decent amount of post-game for the avid trainer to explore and conquer. Sword and Shield also offered further adventures in the form of The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra DLC.
2/10 Freedom Of Movement Is Refreshing
After being able to jump, swim, climb, fly, and more around the Hisui region, it feels downright disappointing to go back to the limited mobility of a main-series Pokémon game. The freedom of movement not only makes the world feel more whole and alive but also lets developers be more creative when rewarding exploration.
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Field moves and ride Pokémon have been a reoccurring mechanic throughout the series, but all the games up until Arceus still limited the player to the same 2D movement they had on foot, just on new terrain. Small exceptions have existed, like "flying" in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, but even then it was far more limited than its Hisuian incarnation.
1/10 The Battle System Has Been In Desperate Need Of A Rework
Moves that adjust priority like Quick Attack and Vital Throw are well known in the main series, but Arceus takes the concept a step further. Now not only is there a choice between Strong Style and Agile Style, but a big enough speed difference can even allow for multiple turns in a row.
This concept may be new to Pokémon, but has been seen in plenty of more traditional JRPGs over the years. The Final Fantasy series and Hyperdimension Neptunia have both used the concept in various ways, and the desire for fast characters to "lap" slower ones is what led to the famous "active time battle" system of the former.