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Pokémon Legends: Arceus drops on Friday, launching the franchise into uncharted, open world territory for the first time. While some fans are excited, others are tempering expectations based on graphics and the unknown level of depth. However, the team at Upcomer is excited to dive into the game, so they sat down to discuss their early opinions about the wealth of changes coming to the latest entry in the Pokémon franchise.

Most importantly, who will you pick for your starter?

Nick Ray: Typhlosion has been one of my favorite Pokémon since I was a kid, so I’ll absolutely be going with Cyndaquil. I don’t even care what the new Typhlosion variant looks like.

Michael Czarnowski: Silver was the first Pokémon game I ever beat, so out of the three, I’d have to choose Cyndaquil for nostalgic reasons. Plus, I never chose him as a starter in that generation, so I have to make up for that now.

Dylan Tate: In general, I’m honestly not a huge fan of the starter Pokémon line-up we’re getting in Legends: Arceus. That said, I’m leaning toward picking Rowlett.

Kenny Utama: I am a grass-enjoyer, so I will be picking Rowlett. I also never got to play the seventh generation games, so it will be fun to try out one of the starters from it.

What part of Pokémon Legends: Arceus are you most excited about?

Ray: Anyone who’s been deep in the Pokémon fandom for years has seen all of the rumblings of open-world RPG mods of the franchise, and this is probably the closest we’ll get to that for a while. I’m genuinely just excited to immerse myself in it all. The new variants and forms, the catching system and especially the new takes on familiar characters (I’m a sucker for character design). I’ve been absorbing tons of lore content theorizing about the Hisui region’s various influences and characteristics and I’m just itching to dive in.

Czarnowski: The new capture system. Ever since the dawn of the franchise, Game Freak has stuck to what’s worked in their main series games. But, after the release of the Let’s Go! games, fans talked about wanting a more serious Pokémon entry for the longtime fans as opposed to ones made specifically for new Pokémon fans.

Everything we’ve seen so far points to that in Arceus. As someone aging now and realizing they’re part of one of the older Pokémon fan groups, I can’t help but be excited for a big gameplay shift.

Tate: I’m particularly excited to see how the Noble Pokémon boss battles shape up in comparison to previous boss battles, like the Totem Pokémon in Sun and Moon. The open-world nature of the game also opens the Pokémon series up to completely new kinds of entertainment. The fact that my character could just get murdered by a wild Garchomp is really funny, and I’m excited to see other unique ways characters and Pokémon can interact in the game’s environment.

Utama: I’m personally excited for everything new coming in Legends: Arceus, but mostly the fact that it is an open-world Pokémon game, something that I’ve personally wanted for a long time. I want to explore the world and get hit by Garchomp, too. I’m really excited to feel like wild Pokémon are a threat, and that the Pokémon world I love so much has become a real living, breathing environment.

Based on trailers and preview info, what do you feel is missing from Pokémon Legends: Arceus?

Ray: I don’t have anything against Pokémon games that try something new, but introducing new takes on old mechanics. We saw it in Alola with the lack of gyms, and in Galar with Dynamax as well. Legends: Arceus is more akin to the Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! games; new mechanics are introduced and old ones are taken away.

I promise I’m not a hater, but I am worried that being so different from the mainline games could end up biting Legends: Arceus. Sure, creeping behind a Pokémon to catch them and battling raid boss-style Pokémon is fun and definitely immersive, but there’s a certain charm to Pokémon’s predictability that I haven’t been able to get from the trailers (mostly because there’s still so much more we haven’t seen). I guess we’ll wait and see!

Czarnowski: It might be a bit too nitpicky, but I still feel like the graphics look underdeveloped. The comparison to the graphics in Sword and Shield are weirdly similar for a game that came out just two years ago.

The Pokémon themselves look great, but the environment they’re in doesn’t look as good as other games on the Switch, like Breath of the Wild or Splatoon. Obviously, the games are different, but Pokémon is one of the highest-selling game franchises of all time, and the quality the game shows in its environments doesn’t reflect that.

Tate: My favorite part of Pokémon games by far is participating in trainer battles. The fact that these seem to play a minimal role in Legends: Arceus, especially with the removal of gym battles, is admittedly pretty disappointing. I’m cautiously optimistic that the addition of Battle Styles will add the extra layer of strategy needed to keep wild Pokémon battles interesting, but as it stands, I have a hard time seeing myself enjoying them more than trainer battles in older games.

Along those same ends, the apparent lack of online functionality and competitive battles is unfortunate. Sword and Shield made huge strides in increasing the accessibility of the Video Game Championship series, and my biggest hope for the future of competitive Pokémon is that newer games will continue to make competitive battling easier and easier. As a result, it’s a shame to see another new main series Pokémon game that makes no progress in that regard.

Utama: My ultimate dream for any new Pokémon game is to bring back Mega Evolutions. But other than that, I think the graphics do look slightly underdeveloped. It is not a surprise considering this is a large step in a new direction for the Pokémon company. However, I would love to see Legends: Arceus as a stepping stone for more open-world Pokémon games in the future. With more investment, the Legends series could be a large success for the Pokémon company.

What do you think of the new Pokémon so far?

Hisuian Growlithe brings a new regional variant to a long time favorite. | Provided by the Pokémon Company

Ray: Pretty unimpressed with the new Pokémon so far, but Hisuian Growlithe is obviously a big cutie. They’re warm, and also calm and soft. At the same time, they have a distinguished and intelligent look about them that radiates confidence. They’re thriving, and we love that for them.

Czarnowski: I like the styles of the new Pokémon in this so far, both the new Hisuian variants and the new Pokémon. They’ve used the aspect of this being almost prehistoric as the style for both the variants and the new Pokémon, which is a cool way of using a “remake” of a region to its fullest.

Tate: The new Pokémon run the gambit from neat to stupid-looking, as is typically the case for every batch of new Pokémon. That said, I like the decision to focus on regional variants and new evolutions rather than outright new Pokémon. It prevents the addition of a bunch of new creatures mid-generation while also putting a fresh spin on what we already have.

Utama: Other than the two origin forms for the legendary Pokémon, I’ve enjoyed most of the other new introductions. Hisuian Growlithe, Braviary and Voltorb in particular have caught my eye. Reimagining Voltorb as a Grass-type was an interesting decision that I fully support, and I just love the designs of both Braviary and Growlite.

I am fully ready to have every other Pokémon game ruined for me because I can’t hang glide off of a Braviary.

How do you hope this game will impact the franchise going forward?

Ray: As I said before, I like when Game Freak mixes things up, but I hope it doesn’t rock the boat too much. Some people have theorized that this is a test for the ninth generation games, but things are too early to tell.

To be honest, I also think Pokémon fans are getting tired of so much change, but we’ve seen from Sword and Shield that Pokémon fans aren’t the best authority on what’s good for the game (or good for them as consumers, for that matter). I hope, at the very least, that this enables Game Freak to get a good hard look at what “works” and what doesn’t, and that information makes the next set of games that much better.

Czarnowski: If this game sells well or is generally liked or loved by the fans, I think this shows the people in charge of Pokémon that they can take risks in the main series. They know they can do the original Pokémon formula well and sell well, but maybe this starts the trend of two main series games a year, with more risks and more innovation in the world of Pokémon.

Tate: Truthfully? I hope the impact is minimal. I’m the kind of customer Game Freak loves because I’m a sucker for the traditional Pokémon format. Give me the same formula with a different set of Pokémon to use and different trainers to fight, and I promise you I’ll eat it up every time. My least favorite main series games up to this point were Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! You know why? They were too different.

That said, there’s no harm in adding this kind of game to the regular rotation, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of more standard Pokémon games. Additionally, I do think Game Freak has gotten lazy in recent years because it knows people like me will buy a new Pokémon game almost no matter what. So, I think the effort required to experiment with games like Legends: Arceus is at the very least a good sign for the quality of future games.

Utama: I am personally very happy with the new direction Pokémon Legends Arceus is taking. While the competitive scene is important, I think that the casual Pokémon audience is just as large. I had an amazing time with the new Pokémon Snap game released last year, and the opportunity to further expand the wide world of Pokémon is always something I will support.

That being said, Pokémon should not forget its deeply competitive community. I think a great compromise would be to go back to the days of Pokémon: Battle Revolution for the Wii. Make a game specifically used for competition, with all of the new quality of life changes added in Sword and Shield. There is a future where Pokémon is able to satisfy both sides of its community and continue to grow Pokémon’s great legacy.