The Pokémon community has been asking for an open-world Pokémon game for years. We did see glimmers of these ideas forming with Go and Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee. But, other than spin-offs or the inclusion of gimmick mechanics, the core gameplay of mainline Pokémon entries hadn't done much evolving.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a huge game that can get overwhelming quite quickly. After 60+ hours, I thought I’d impart some knowledge on how to get the most out of it. Here are a few things that the game doesn’t tell you. Ranging from the absolute musts of gameplay to some of the more… unown.
Spoilers abound for gameplay. Minimal plot spoilers.
#5: Mark Spots of Interest Early On
‘How do I get up that hill to grab that shiny item?’ ‘There's an area of the map fogged out but I can’t cross the river; what a pain.’ ‘Is that a flying Gyarados?! How do I throw a ball all the way up there?’
Put a pin in it for later.
There are 7 marker entries available to you. The flag at the top is a custom marker, which you can place to then follow as you’re running around the world. There can only be one at a time, so this is for your more pressing destinations.
You can only see the other 6 symbols on the map, and you can place up to 20 in each area. I had the cunning to place an angry face symbol where giant Alpha Pokémon stomped around, too tough for me to battle or catch right away. However, I soon regretted not marking Wisp locations every time I saw one. One sidequest demands you find 107 Wisps around Hisui. Start marking ones that are mocking you just out of reach. You’ll have an incredibly frustrating time figuring out which ones you’ve touched and those you still need to find. If you’re a completionist like me, that is.
Basically, if your map isn’t littered with yellow stars and gems, have you even seen the whole of Hisui?
#4: Don’t Get Burned by New Conditions
You turn your heel towards the nearest Pokémon Center, worried about your party. But before you can take three steps, you feel Torchic flinch. Poisoned. It was already close to collapsing after that relentless barrage from the enemy Croagunk. You feel its pain as if it were your own. Your vision flickers, and your stride falters. Time is suddenly precious. Even though you know Torchic will be okay once Nurse Joy sees to it, you can’t let it faint. You want it to trust you.
In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, this isn’t a problem. That is, unless you get poisoned -then you have to cure yourself or watch your HP drop in a race against the clock.
This isn’t the only way status effects have changed. While many conditions have similar effects to previous games, Drowsy and Frostbite replace Sleep and Frozen. Instead of falling asleep, my Pokémon missed while attacking and took more damage.
There are also hidden status conditions that the game leaves you to figure out for yourself. For example, if a Pokémon has Obscured itself, it gets an evasion boost. If it has Wild Might, all its stats rise.
While previously you could have equipped your Linoone with a Cheri Berry to cure its Paralysis, in Pokémon Legends: Arceus we don’t have that Luxray. To add another layer of stress, Pokémon can no longer hold items. All I can say is make sure to keep lots of Lum Berries and Full Heals with you when venturing into the wild expanse. You never know when even the least intimidating looking Pokémon will give you a hard time.
#3: Fantastic Forms and Where to Find Them
Hisuian variants, like Alolan forms in Sun and Moon, change the Pokémon’s typings.
Used to your Fire-type Typhlosion from your adventures in Johto? Well, now it’s a Fire/Ghost-type, which surprised me no end when it evolved from Quilava. It’s a fantastic typing, giving it a whole new range of type advantages and moves. I also love its design, with its ghostly purple fire necklace and its chilled expression.
There are a total of 18 new variants, from Noble Pokémon that you need to quell, to Ride Pokémon that help you traverse the region. You’ll even see some in the wild, and sometimes you have to catch both normal and Hisuian forms to fill out their Pokédex entries.
Collecting all the new forms can be a difficult undertaking, as each one has a distinct means of doing so. Pokémon Legends: Arceus doesn’t tell you how to evolve them, and while some are as simple as levelling up or learning particular attacks, some ways are not intuitive. Ursaring’s new evolution, Ursaluna, needs to evolve with a new item under a full moon—actions that are unlikely you’d try out on purpose. It reminds me of having to turn your DS upside down to evolve Inkay into Malamar in Generation 6. Who could figure that out without a guide or Bulbapedia to save the day? I’m sure you could discover some methods by accident, but only after playing for hundreds of hours.
My favourite variant is Zoroark. Just look at its cool and creepy aesthetic. Plus, it’s frustratingly powerful with its Normal/Ghost typing - a first for any Pokemon. It means you can't hit it with any moves of its own types.
My least favourite variant was Kleavor. I didn’t even realise it was a Scyther evolution until I looked it up for myself. Compared to Scizor, it’s lacklustre.
#2: Space-Time is Growing Unstable Here…
I’m a sucker for a time travel story. After the first Noble Pokémon, space-time distortions start to occur, continuously reminding you that the Hisuian region eventually becomes Sinnoh. It also reminds you that you are from the future where people are used to Pokémon, which is why you’re so much better at catching and battling than everyone else. Finally, a game that has a good reason why you’re destined to save the world!
But I digress. Inside the giant shimmering circle, Pokémon start to spawn. What Pokémon Legends: Arceus doesn’t tell you is how to make the best use of these events. Each area will have regular and rare spawns, so stick around and see what pops up. Rare ones do not despawn after 30 seconds, unlike their counterparts, but even the ‘regular’ encounters are exciting: I was floored by Steelix and Leafeon in my first distortion. Like in Snap and Go, there’s a childlike excitement in seeing a new Pokémon and prodding a loved one to show them what you’ve found.
The distortions manifest every 10-40 minutes, last around 3-5 minutes (though this pauses when in combat), and are littered with treasures. Make sure to collect the coloured shards to craft into star pieces and sell for a high price. However, the true prizes are evolutionary items like stones, Upgrades, Magmarizers, and Dubious Discs. If you want to catch every Pokémon in the game, you need these.
Bring the best of your best with you (as well as plenty of revives and healing items) as some Pokémon could be high level or even Alpha. My top tip is to hide in the tall grass before a group spawn so you can avoid combat and throw balls to your heart’s content.
#1: Into the Unown
Is there any Pokémon more mysterious than the Unown? I love that this is the case in any game they are found in. I remember the wonder of going to the Ruins of Alph in the Johto region, sliding slabs to form mosaics of rare and legendary Pokémon and triggering Unown to spawn in the underground hall below.
In Pokémon Legends: Arceus, my first experience with an Unown was turning around and spotting an unblinking eye peering at me from within a hollow log. I threw a Pokéball and boom, caught. And just like that, a new Unown mystery was born.
If you look in the Research Notes, you will see which letters of the alphabet you still need to find, plus clues hinting at the locations of each. There are 28 around Hisui, often found flush against cliffs or hanging from trees. Once you’ve found all of them, they will spawn inside the Solaceon Ruins of the Crimson Mirelands—including Alpha and Shiny versions.
Perhaps it’s the collector in me, or maybe it was the burst of delight that arose in me every time I spotted one, that kept me hunting. You’ve got to catch ‘em all, after all.
Bonus: No Party Like a Pokémon Party
This isn’t really a gameplay tip, but did you know that you can interact with your Pokémon outside of their Pokéballs?
For me, this was part of the magic of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Grab a Pokéball, throw it at the ground (away from wild Pokémon!) and your Crobat will come out and scream a greeting at you. You can then go up to them and have a chat. Want to make it a party? Take 5 other balls and throw them all at your Crobat, and your companions will turn to each other and interact!
This is what Pokémon has always been missing. From Red and Blue, we have been told that Pokémon are our friends and partners, and it’s your journey together that shapes you and makes it all worthwhile. But other than in games where you can interact with follower Pokémon to see how happy they are, this idea hadn’t truly been brought to life.
This extra level of interaction, where you can immerse yourself fully in the adventure, needs to stay. Make every kid’s dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer come true.