If you've been playing the most recent release in the Pokemon saga (and have managed to ignore the near non-stop debates about graphical fidelity), it's likely you've been having an overall enjoyable experience. Where other Pokemon games focus on you battling to become the Pokemon League Champion, Pokemon Legends: Arceus is all about taking your time with Pokemon research. For the first time, instead of filling out a Pokedex that someone else put together, you're building a Pokedex for the first time. This creates an incredibly satisfying and relaxing gameplay loop of exploring, catching, battling, and checking your research points to see what else you have to focus on. Though the main story is relatively short, there's so much packed into Pokemon Legends: Arceus that makes it the ideal companion for playing in bed, on long plane trips, at a rooftop party in the city, and anywhere else you can think of. When you just want things to slow down a little and relieve the stress of daily life, pick up Pokemon Legends: Arceus and get lost in this beautiful world.
This piece contains spoilers for Pokemon Legends: Arceus.
So Many Pokemon, So Much Time
The main story of Pokemon Legends: Arceus heavily revolves around researching and catching various Pokemon you come across in the Hisui region. While you do have the option to do the minimal research required to progress the plot, so many players are taking their time and getting lost in even just the first region. With so many Pokemon spread across the land, including some that only spawn at certain times of day or during certain weather events, there's a lot to discover before you even ever unlock later areas.
This creates a gameplay loop that's incredibly satisfying by creating countless micro progressions that don't take all that long to satisfy. It's the perfect game to endlessly create that "just five more minutes" feeling. Where other games can lead to frustration due to their difficulty or repetitiveness, Pokemon Legends: Arceus manages to keep itself fresh by changing things up ever so slightly to keep you engaged. This helps create a sense of accomplishment that doesn't become stale, encouraging you to come back for more and more.
With 242 researchable Pokemon in the Hisui region (currently), the game will keep you busy researching them all for quite some time. There are even areas that are inaccessible without the assistance of certain ride Pokemon, giving you a reason to return to older areas once you've made progress. Whether you're only able to play for 10 minutes at a time or 10 hours, you'll quickly fall into the role of Pokemon researcher and become familiar with every inch of this incredible world. Take your time helping out the Jubilife villagers with any number of side quests, pursuing and researching Pokemon across the region, hunting down shinys, or just admiring the sunset. Pokemon Legends: Arceus is the perfect game for just relaxing and enjoying your time with your Switch.
Underneath It All, Pokemon Legends: Arceus Is a Very Pretty Game
There have been many, many, many debates over the graphical fidelity of Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Pop-in continues to be a huge problem, the frame rate is abysmal at times, and up-close details of trees, grass, and mountainsides don't look as well polished as they could. All of that aside, there are moments where Pokemon Legends: Arceus is genuinely stunning.
Sunrises and sunsets paint the landscape a gorgeous tapestry of watercolors. At night, the sky comes alive with hundreds of stars, and in the frozen tundra, the cold, quiet landscape seems to spread out in a snowy sea in all directions. Even Pokemon animations in battle don't look half bad, especially when you compare them to nearly any of the mainline Pokemon games, including the most recent releases of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.
Admittedly, the first region in the game, the Obsidian Fieldlands, looks the best, and appears to be where the design team spent most of their time. But portions of the Crimson Mirelands, Cobalt Coastlands, Coronet Highlands, and Alabaster Icelands also look fantastic when viewed from the right angle at the right time of day. The game isn't as well polished as, say, Breath of the Wild, a title that it often gets compared to (either fairly or unfairly is a separate debate), but it does provide longtime fans with a fresh, new take to enjoy every time they turn on their Switch.
You can get lost running around a region for hours, tossing Pokeballs at various creatures, collecting resources, and exploring caves. You can choose to challenge yourself by taking on Alpha Pokemon, or you can train your team and collect research points by more thoroughly exploring the map. Even when pursuing the main story, there is rarely a sense of urgency to anything that you do, giving you more control over the pace of the game and how you play. Even after several dozen hours, there can still be more to do and uncover so long as you still have the drive to play. And given how much fun this game actually is, that's very likely.
Being a Pokemon Researcher Is Incredibly Fun
As a lifetime Pokemon player who never really enjoyed the core mechanics of Pokemon (mostly battling/grinding), Pokemon Legends: Arceus is a brilliant change of pace. In the early stages of the game, I caught so many Pokemon by just running past and tossing Pokeballs from a distance like I was some kind of Game Freak-inspired quarterback. When I was stressed from work, I'd take a break to fill out my Pokedex a little bit more, or level up my Piplup while holding off on evolving until I got his research level maxed out. Can't sleep at night? Wake up the Switch and accomplish a few side quests. There's little stress, no time limits, and a growing sense of accomplishment with each passing hour.
Though the game has only been out for a couple weeks, being a member of the Survey Corps in Pokemon Legends: Arceus has been an incredibly satisfying experience. Instead of rivals, gym leaders, a Pokemon League, and a criminal organization, your primary role is to research and learn about Pokemon. There are also many satisfying references and easter eggs to the Pokemon Diamond and Pearl games that make this iteration feel connected while keeping things feeling new. This isn't a game where you have to grind for hours to level up, or bash your head against a wall as you continuously lose to more powerful opponents. Even when you lose, the game is pretty forgiving, respawning you right at the battle so you can take it on again, or hold off until you can come back with a stronger team.
All in all, Pokemon Legends: Arceus is a very chill and relaxing experience that is both welcoming to newcomers to the series while giving seasoned veterans plenty to enjoy. Whether you want to commit to the grind to build the strongest team imaginable or simply enjoy running around this open world for hours at a time to discover its secrets, you'll find Pokemon Legends: Arceus is the perfect chill-out game.
Have you had the chance to play Pokemon Legends: Arceus? Have you found it to be a relaxing experience? What other games do you love to return to when you just need to chill out? Let us know in the comments!