We’re getting a few new Pokemon games in the near future, and while I do have a soft spot for New Pokemon Snap, by far the most exciting is Pokemon Legends Arceus. The open world game we’ve always wanted seems like it’ll be the first Pokemon game to dare to be different, much like Rogue One was for Star Wars. I hope that in reinventing the Pokemon wheel, it remembers to make room for misfits.
Legends Arceus will see us returning to the Sinnoh region – we’ll also be heading back there soon for the Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl remakes – but rather than in the modern day, it will be during the feudal era. This could mean new regional variants from before human industrialisation in the region, and will almost certainly mean a more open game with exploration at the forefront; though probably one closer to Genshin Impact’s world design rather than Breath of the Wild’s.
It should also mean new Pokemon migration. Whether we’ll get any completely new Pokemon aside from regional variants, I’m not so sure, but I don’t expect the Sinnoh Dex of today to be a like for like with that of Pokemon Legends Arceus. We already know we’re getting starters from different generations (Cyndaquil, Piplup, and Rowlett), but it seems like these have been brought over by the Professor, rather than being native to Sinnoh. Aside from that, we’ve looked at the trailer and written up a full list of every confirmed Pokemon in the game, and there are reasons to be cheerful and to be wary to be found.
As is to be expected in a trailer, we saw a lot of the most popular Pokemon on show. Lucario, Shinx, and Garchop all made an appearance, and as three of Sinnoh’s most beloved ‘mons, that’s all as you’d expect. However, we also saw Bidoof – a cult meme but not truly beloved – as well as Sealeo, Chingling, and Bronzong. I wouldn’t ask for (nor would I want) everyone’s favourite characters to be cut, but it’s nice to see some nobodies in the mix too.
We know there is a hierarchy of Pokemon. Charizard, Greninja, Pikachu… these are above Toxicroak, Claydol, and Roserade in the overall Pokemon rankings. It doesn’t really matter what your personal preference is, The Pokemon Company clearly favours certain Pokemon over others, usually because they’re seen as more marketable. This means the same few Pokemon get a major spotlight in the anime, get included in spin-offs or merchandise, or get more prominent roles in the games themselves. Leon, the Galar Champion, doesn’t rep a native Pokemon in Sword & Shield, but instead the much more reliable Charizard.
Of course, this is a vicious Voltorb. The ‘mons that are constantly pushed forward get more spotlight and exposure, so more people come to love them, so The Pokemon Company has even further reason to celebrate them. The opposite is true for the ones that never get a spotlight, and are doomed to fade into obscurity. Leon could have given somebody like Toxricity a shot in the arm, but instead The Pokemon Company played it safe and made sure people bought the game for Charizard. Pokemon Legends Arceus needs to be more bold, and offer the neglected Pokemon a redemption arc.
This is not just some alt-girl, way-too-cool-for-Charizard stance either. It just seems like some Pokemon have been explored every which way, and others we know next to nothing about. Charizard has one of the best shinies, it’s the only non-Legendary Pokemon to have two Mega Forms, it has a Gigantamax Form, and it’s a flying mount in Let’s Go. There are loads of other special features that Charizard gets in various main series games or spin-offs, as well as having a starring role in the anime and a few of the movies; it even has one of Detective Pikachu’s best set pieces. I know what Charizard is and I know what it can do. By all means, put it in Legends Arceus, but maybe offer the spotlight to someone in dire need of it? Metagross, Salamence, Gliscor, Ludicolo… these are all incredibly cool Pokemon that are very popular with any trainer familiar with them, but the Pokemon games in general have not given them enough chance to shine.
I know there are a helluva lot of Pokemon these days, but Pokémon’s first foray into the open world can’t be half hearted. We need as many of them as we can in there, to let people discover new favourites in this new format – will we even still have six slots in our party? This open world isn’t going to feel particularly realistic if it’s just all of Pokemon’s greatest hits thrown together. It will never feel like a fresh, new game if anyone ends up building a team from the same ten big guns because the misfits were all cut to give Gengar yet more screen time.
There have been a few false dawns with Pokemon promising new experiences, although it does feel like this open world adventure is something the franchise has been building to for years. To truly breakaway from what has come before, Pokemon Legends Arceus needs to be bold enough to let us love the misfits.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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