After months of questions and anticipation, we finally got a closer look at Pokémon Legends: Arceus during today’s Pokémon Presents stream. A new trailer went into way more detail about how the game actually works. It’s essentially a nature surveying game where players head out into the wild to complete research assignments. They’ll have to find a Pokémon, study its behavior, and figure out the proper way to catch it.
Sound familiar? It’s basically a wholesome spin on Monster Hunter. The structure is basically identical, except players won’t be slashing monsters and carving off their body parts. It also doesn’t seem like we’re going to have to fight gargantuan monsters. The trailer shows giants like Gyrados, who have been shrunk down to nearly human size. It doesn’t seem like we’ll be doing battle against a horizon-spanning Wailord in this game.
That’s created a small problem. I now want something I never knew I needed: Give me a full-on Monster Hunter Pokémon game.
Okay, it’s a morbid concept. The Monster Hunter series is much more violent than the kid-friendly world of Pokemon, even if the latter is based around animal fighting. I don’t imagine we’ll ever see a Pokémon game where players can hack off Dragonite’s tail and turn it into pants, as you can with Monster Hunter’s creatures. A fully realized Monster Hunter Pokémon game would likely have to sanitize some elements of the series, replacing “monster parts” with a more vague material that allows players to craft armor based on their favorite monsters.
Still, Pokémon Legends: Arceus opens up a lot of possibilities. It introduces some new concepts, like players needing to learn Pokémon behaviors to properly catch them. Just whittling down a creature’s health and tossing a ball won’t always cut it. It’s not clear how in-depth that system will be, but it’s an exciting idea that calls back to one of Monster Hunter’s best strengths. In something like Monster Hunter Rise, players need to watch their prey carefully to learn its erratic attack patterns. A successful hunt involves reacting to a creature’s every move and striking at the right time.
Arceus’ combat system is still based on turn-based mechanics, so it doesn’t seem like we’ll get that full experience here. But imagine a game where players can see a Venusaur start to charge up energy for a solar beam blast and dodge out of the way at the last second. There’s a ton of potential for visual combat tells like that, which could bring a sequel more in line with Monster Hunter.
More than anything, it’s Monster Hunter’s sense of scale that I really want to see in a Pokémon game. Like real animals, Pokémon come in all shapes and sizes. Some are minuscule little worms, while others tower over humans. The legendary Eternatus is over 65 feet tall, but you wouldn’t know it from playing the games it’s in. The Pokémon series often struggles to communicate how big monsters are. The mainline RPGs tend to shrink creatures down to make for a legible battle screen. As a result, Steelix can look not much taller than a Rhydon, despite the former being a 34-foot behemoth.
I’d love to jump into a battle with Dialga that feels every bit as epic as taking down a Rathalos. I’m picturing an 18-foot giant towering over me and my 1-foot-4-inch Pikachu. It would make these legendary monsters feel as fierce and awe-inspiring as the mainline games tell us they are.
This is all a bit of fantasy booking, but that’s what’s powerful about what we saw in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. In the past, ideas like this have been a pipe dream. The series has always stuck firmly to its RPG formula with little variation. Arceus presents a genuinely new vision for the franchise, and that’s helping me see a future where Pokémon can finally evolve.
Even if we don’t see the series get a full Monster Hunter treatment, it’s clear that Pokémon is finally starting to look outside itself for inspiration. For 25 years, it’s been its own self-contained world that’s inspired countless other games. Now it’s time for the series to take a step back and learn from its peers to become the very best, like no game ever was.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus launches on Nintendo Switch on January 28, 2022.
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