A star rating of 4 out of 5.

The Pokémon Legends: Arceus reviews are pouring in now, and fans of Nintendo and Game Freak’s critter-catching franchise are being treated to one of the most unique games the series has ever produced. If the Pokémon Legends: Arceus Metacritic score is anything to go by (it has an 85 from critics and a 7.7 from users), people generally seemed to be pleased this time out.


One thing that fans of the Pokémon role-playing games have learned over the years is that the developers tend to move the franchise forward at a gradual, almost glacial pace. But now, after years of minor upgrades, you’re finally able to see the whole picture coming together. It’s all been building to Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which represents a bold new frontier for the franchise at large.

Ever since the Pokémon series transitioned into 3D graphics with 2013’s X and Y, fans have been wondering what an open-world exploratory game would look like in this franchise. In 2019, the Wild Area at the heart of Pokémon Sword and Shield’s map gave us a glimpse of what that could like. And now, in the year 2021, we’ve finally got a Pokémon RPG that features a wide-open world and a focus on discovery as opposed to the usual eight-gym grind. But how well does it work? Keep on reading the full RadioTimes.com review to find out!

From the very first moment you boot up the game, Pokémon Legends: Arceus feels different. For one thing, it’s not a professor who’s asking your name, but instead, an ancient all-powerful Pokémon delivers the introductory bumf. You’re soon sent through a space-time rift to the olden days of the Sinnoh region from Diamond and Pearl, although it looks very different at this point of history - civilisation is still developing, with those usual landmarks of Pokémon Centres, Marts and Gyms being nowhere to be found.

Read more on Pokémon:

More like this

That being said, there are still some familiar elements at play. It’s not long before you do meet a Professor, and he does give you a choice of three starter Pokémon to choose from. But from that point on, you’ll realise that your adventure this time out will be very different to your previous ones.

Although there are still Pokémon battles at semi-regular intervals, your goal here does not revolve around becoming the region’s Pokémon champion. Instead, you’re tasked with helping the local Survey Corps put together the very first Pokédex for this region. And this being an ancient, Feudal Japan-inspired society you’re working within, it’s a pen and paper Pokédex as opposed to a digital-era gadget. (You do have a phone with you for plot reasons, though.)

When you first venture out into the open-world area that takes up the bulk of your playtime, it’s easy to feel a sense of awe. Clearly, Game Freak has been listening to fans’ long-held desire for a Pokémon game that’s a less on-rails experience, and this game really delivers on that promise. Although the world is split up into a few different regions, the overall experience of wandering this untamed wilderness is nothing short of joyous for long-term fans.

There are lots of critters to catch in Pokémon Legends Arceus.
There are lots of critters to catch in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Nintendo

There are heaps of wild Pokémon just wandering about - some that you can catch with just a ball-throw (Pokémon Go-style), and others that will require a battle to tame them. There are even ‘alpha’ Pokémon with glowing red eyes that will take a great deal of might to bring to heel. This region feels alive and real, and there is even a range of different biomes (from grassy areas to swampy ones and even great big lakes). It is, put simply, the greatest Pokémon world that we’ve ever got the chance to explore in video-game form.

Every good open-world game needs a variety of tasks for players to chip away at, and ​​Pokémon Legends: Arceus delivers on that front too. Your Pokédex contains a selection of Research Tasks for each creature (another carryover from Pokémon Go), which will egg you on to catch the same critters multiple times, battle with them and see their moves in action. It takes the boring old grind of encountering wild Pokémon and turns it into a compelling gameplay loop that can suck you in for hours on end.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus also has side missions (another element that was tested out somewhat in Sword and Shield), which usually revolve around a local villager needing your help with something - it could be anything from rounding up some bothersome Bidoof to catching a specific creature that someone is desperate to lay eyes on. These little tasks are good fun, and they ensure that you’ve always got a few different activities on your docket. They stop things from getting dull, basically.

And then there’s the main plot of the game, which we won’t spoil too much here. Suffice to say, a number of Pokémon have been going into intense ‘fervour’ states due to the mysterious space-time rift that you came through. It’s down to you to tame them in a series of increasingly tough boss battles, kind of like what you’d experience in the Monster Hunter franchise or even The Witcher games, where you’ll need to bring a few different skills together in order to successfully nullify each new monster-sized threat.

These different challenges gel together nicely, creating an overall experience that is varied and full of surprises. We expect that many long-term Pokémon fans will be impressed, and some newcomers might be tempted in as well. The only problems really are the graphics and the overall production values, which don’t feel like they’ve jumped forward in the same way as the gameplay and world design.

Pokémon Legends Arceus opens up the world live never before.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus opens up the world live never before. Nintendo

Although there are some new Pokémon to be caught here (and even some you can ride around on), many of the character/creature models look the same as they have done for years. And although battling is a bit more dynamic now (you can try moves with different ‘styles’, and your human character can run around during bouts instead of being rooted in one place), these matches are still turn-based and fairly easy to outwit (unless you go up against an alpha or fervour Pokémon that you’re not ready for).

Plus, there are a few little things that niggle. When someone gives you an item, for example, you still don’t see anything physical changing hands. And when you’re exploring the village rather than the open-world area, if you try to open a door to someone’s house, there is a brief beat while that next area loads up. It’s a small element, but it does break your immersion. Both of these tiny details, along with the graphics that do feel a little outdated, make the overall feel a little less premium than you might expect.

All in all, though, Pokémon Legends: Arceus does feel like a breath of fresh air for this franchise, just as Breath of the Wild did for Zelda. It is a leap forward and a brave evolution of what this series can do. Even though it’s still a long way off ‘realistic’ graphics or total seamless immersion, exploring a far freer environment and tackling varied tasks feels consistently fun. Here’s hoping that Game Freak’s next slice of gradual, almost glacial improvement focuses in on the visual and technical side. If the developers can master that, they could make a game even greater than Pokémon Legends: Arceus. And that’s saying something.

Pokémon Legends Arceus is out now on Nintendo Switch and you can read more here:

Pokémon fan? Don't miss our guide to the best Pokémon gifts.

Follow Radio Times Gaming on Twitter for all the latest insights. Or if you're looking for something to watch, see our TV Guide.


Visit our video game release schedule for all upcoming games on consoles. Swing by our hubs for more Gaming and Technology news.