Pokemon Legends: Arceus has been a massive success for Game Freak. For tons of fans, Arceus is considered a breath of fresh air for the now 25-year-old franchise in terms of its mechanics. Yet, one aspect of Arceus that has been swept under the rug is the overall meta-narrative that is forming around the Pokemon franchise.
Though not as debated or even revered as the timeline of franchises like The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon has carved out a full timeline all of its own that has slowly morphed into a complex web of alternate mythologies. Pokemon Legends: Arceus is clearly set in the past for Sinnoh, but even through that, there is more to it than meets the eye thanks in part to several allusions to previous games.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus - The Multiverse Theory
Pokemon Legends: Arceus doesn't even try to hide it from you; the player character is from an alternate universe who fell through a wormhole. The opening cutscene, where the player speaks with Arceus and they are falling through negative space, is a treasure trove of evidence that, for a long time, has only been theorized by the fans: Each Pokemon game and franchise has the potential to be in alternate universes.
The concept really took shape during generation VII, with Pokemon Sun and Moon and the introduction of the Ultra Wormholes. In generation VII, Ultra Wormholes were gateways to another world and would see unusual Pokemon coming through them, alien monsters known as the Ultra Beasts. Their inclusion into generation VII's plot has several characters attempting to find or control the Ultra Wormholes, fight off Ultra Beasts, and even explore multiple universes and worlds beyond each of the wormholes.
Due to the inclusion of Ultra Wormholes in generation VII, it is widely believed that Pokemon can be broken up into different "universes" from each other, forming the Pokemon multiverse theory. Pokemon Legends: Arceus adds to this theory heavily by making the player from the start take on a key role as someone who "fell" from their universe to the Hisui region.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus - Fallers
Your outsider status is a major plot point (and sometimes an annoying reminder) throughout Pokemon Legends: Arceus, but it is also a status that several NPC characters share throughout the Pokemon franchise. Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon established a group of people called "Fallers," individuals who literally fall from the sky because it is believed that they slipped through an Ultra Wormhole.
Fallers often share some characteristics. We know Fallers suffer from amnesia initially and can't remember much of their previous life. They also possess an aura that often attracts Ultra Beasts, perhaps because of the close proximity to Ultra Wormholes. These two qualities have been seen throughout the games with NPCs in the Pokemon series.
Along with the player character of Arceus, five NPCs in the Pokemon series are confirmed to have been Fallers. This also includes two named NPCs from previous Pokemon games, Anabel and Ingo. Anabel was a former frontier brain in Pokemon Emerald, who is confirmed to have fallen between an Ultra Wormhole when she is seen next in Pokemon Sun and Moon. Ingo is a Subway battler from Pokemon Black and White, who shows up as a guardian of the Pearl Clan in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. It is also widely believed that the recurring detective Looker is a Faller in Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, as he shows up with amnesia, washed up on the shores of the Battle Resort.
These characters are ultimately fish out of water who have stumbled into Ultra Wormholes, being brought through time into multiple locations across the known Pokemon world. From a gameplay standpoint, this is a brilliant way to interconnect the Pokemon games, even tangentially, with characters and Pokemon alike. From a narrative standpoint, it adds further layers to the multiverse theory; that any character appearance can be one that sees a re-imagining for a future game.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus - Where Does it Stand?
This also influences the mechanics of the Pokemon series, often giving us evidence to help differentiate the different universes found in Pokemon. Keep in mind that the multiverse theory does take into account all aspects of Pokemon media, including the anime, card game, and spin-off games.
I argue there are at least five confirmed universes based on the main Pokemon games.
Universe A - The main Pokemon Timeline, which includes most of the original games all the way to Pokemon Black 2 and White 2, and Pokemon Sword and Shield. Some consider games like Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum to not be included in this universe and even divide it further into two timelines: the "original" timeline for generations I and II, and the advanced timeline for generations III to V.
Universe M - The "mega" universe. The Pokemon games that include Mega Evolution are included here, so all of generation VI and Pokemon Sun and Moon.
Universe U - The "ultra" universe represents Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, which are confirmed to be a different universe from Sun and Moon. It is unknown if it is connected with any other game in the series.
Universe R - The "remake" universe, which represents games like Fire Red, Leaf Green, Heart Gold, Soul Silver, Brilliant Diamond, and Shining Pearl.
Universe Y - The "anime" or "yellow" universe, which represents Pokemon Yellow and Let's Go! Pikachu and Eevee.
So where does that leave Pokemon Legends: Arceus? I don't believe it fits into the mega or anime universes, and there is no evidence that it fits anywhere else, or even if it is the start of a new timeline. The marketing of Pokemon Legends: Arceus focused on it being in the past of the Sinnoh region, so it does make the most sense to be considered part of the main universe timeline.
While I am comfortable with it being in the main universe, the question now is does it really fit there, or will we see changes down the road that make us rethink its placement in the Pokemon multiverse? Only time will tell really on that one.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus is a game that has granted us more than just a fresh Pokemon experience in the end. The implications and general placement of it within Pokemon's grander narrative have just given further confirmation to the multiverse of Pokemon. Now, it is simply a question of where in that multiverse it will sit.