When I was a kid, I can remember wishing with every fiber of my being that Pokemon were real. Every game in the series added to the picture of a world I desperately wanted to be a part of, with wondrous creatures that live side by side with people. I always felt like I was forming real friendships with Pokemon, and it's a feeling I still get today when I jump into a new adventure. So, when I step into Pokemon Legends: Arceus for the very first time and start to interact with the locals, I can't help but be surprised by the Jubilife village residents' feelings towards Pokemon.
By taking us back to a time before it was commonplace to see Pokemon and people working together and living side-by-side, Pokemon Legends: Arceus offers a new perspective. It breaks away from tradition – there are no gyms, badges, or tournaments – and drops us into a world where Pokemon are feared, rather than admired. It provides fresh and fascinating insight into the world of Pokemon, quite unlike anything you've ever seen before.
This feature will be exploring some of the early story elements and requests in Pokemon Legends: Arceus - if you want to avoid spoilers, turn back now.
Right from the start, Pokemon Legends: Arceus establishes that you're in a world that is different from the one we've come to know in previous Pokemon games. This is first apparent when you meet Professor Laventon, but it becomes all the clearer when you arrive at Jubilife village - which acts as your home base. The residents aren't accustomed to living or working closely with Pokemon, and, for the most part, Pokemon are viewed as terrifying creatures because not much is known about them. As Laventon tells you, "since we know so little of the local Pokemon, people hesitate to set foot outside the village." While there's always been a bit of a dark side when it comes to the world of Pokemon and there are certainly some critters that are more intimidating than others, it still feels alien to me to be in a world that's afraid of every Pokemon.
Instead of the classic young trainer leaves home scenario that so often starts off the adventure, Arceus begins with you mysteriously falling out of the sky into another time for reasons you don't fully understand to start with. While the opening is fresh and new, it also manages to feel familiar. Pokemon Legends: Arceus still stays true to some of the classic opening moments of Pokemon games past – like choosing your starter and being greeted by a professor. But during your first meeting with professor Laventon, you quickly start to understand that the people of this time view things differently.
Pokeballs, for example, are a new invention, and people aren't used to the idea of catching Pokemon. It's so novel to see what Pokeballs first looked like before they developed into the designs we're so well acquainted with, but it's also the first instance that I start to realize that Pokemon trainers, a role I've come to know so well, are unheard of in Hisui. When my adventure first begins, I can't help but think that this new perspective is going to take some getting used to. As I go on to discover, though, the villagers' initial view of Pokemon as a whole adds more depth and meaning to the work I do in the Survey Corps.
Since little is known about Pokemon and you have a knack for catching them, you take on the role of helping the Survey Corps gain a better understanding of those that inhabit the land. Along with filling up your Pokedex entries by completing set objectives, you also take on requests from the villagers themselves. These highlight the different perceptions that people have about Pokemon – more often than not, they show fear or apprehension about them or the idea of getting close to them. One of the first Requests I complete, for example, has me catching a Starly for a resident called Marli, who wants to see the adorable bird Pokemon up close. Despite thinking that Starly is the "cutest thing in the world", Marli is too scared to touch it.
When I venture out into the wild areas to catch and battle Pokemon, I see where some of this fear stems from. Not unlike the wild area in Pokemon Sword and Shield, you can physically see the Pokemon as they roam the land in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Lots of them will attack you on sight, and you can even blackout if you're not careful. The world is also inhabited by giant Alpha variants that make you feel very small in comparison. When spotted, these Alphas will come barrelling towards you in a rather terrifying fashion - encountering a massive Tangrowth, for example, really is the stuff of nightmares. The Hisui Region is dangerous for the everyday person who doesn't have Pokemon to protect them, but it's still interesting to see people are fearful of even the cutest and smallest critters of the land.
Little by little, as I perform more requests, I start to see first-hand how my actions are having an effect. Resident's perspectives begin to shift when I show them that Pokemon can be helpful and friendly companions. Some troublesome Bidoofs, for example, end up helping out with the construction efforts of the village, and Ground and Water Pokemon make life easier for the local farmers. With every person I help, more and more Pokemon begin to be introduced to Jubilife, and the village begins to develop and grow into a place that is becoming more accustomed to having them around. For the first time, I feel like my adventures are shaping the world around me and not just my own quest to be the best trainer.
As much as I wished for it as a kid, Pokemon never did become a reality for my childhood self. Happily, though, Pokemon Legends: Arcues makes me feel like I'm closer to the real thing than ever before. It's fascinating to gain insight into a different time in the history of Pokemon and see first-hand how it shaped into the world I've come to know so well. And while I've always dreamed of being a trainer, the new role in the Survey Corps is so much more rewarding than I ever expected it to be. I feel like I'm really a part of something bigger than my own ambitions to be the very best, and I can hardly wait to find out where my adventures will take me next.
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