I’m a minimalist. *looks around at the stacks of books and physical media* Ok I like to think of myself as a minimalist. Ideally my environment has minimal clutter and things sorted nicely and put away neatly. My brain likes the organization even if the organizational skills are lacking. For example, I don’t mind stacks of papers as long as they’re stacked neatly. Should they just be in a stack on my desk? Is that actually an effective way to organize? Absolutely not, but the fact that they aren’t spread out works for my brain. I’m also not afraid to get rid of things that are taking up space. I love a minimal email inbox and to that end I keep lots of small folders that things get filed into or otherwise they are deleted. My work inbox currently has 20 emails and I’m already making a plan to get that number cut in half.
What the hell does this have anything to do with Pokémon? The same rules apply to catching and keeping Pokémon. I don’t want a cluttered box full of duplicates that I’m probably never going to use. Ideally I catch a Pokémon once, fulfill their slot in my Pokédex and then battle any additional duplicates of this Pokémon. Traditionally I haven’t been into breeding Pokémon or hunting for IVs or Shinys, mostly because I didn’t know about the latter things until the arrival of Sword and Shield. I’m also not playing to catch all the Pokémon and play the series as a more traditional RPG. I assemble a team, enhance them as best I can, and plow forward through the story and battles. I’m here for the type match ups and turn based battling and usually dump the games after I finish that story. Even as a kid I would continue to power up my team so I would continually steamroll the Elite Four over and over. I just never had a need to have multiple Pokémon and liked the look of a clean PC inbox.
That is until Pokémon Legends Arceus. Arceus shifts the Pokémon formula by making catching and collecting Pokémon just as important as battling Pokémon. You’re part of a research initiative run by Tram Galaxy to catalog and understand the Pokémon of Sinnoh region. Arceus takes place in an early era of Pokémon, based on Hokkaido during the Muromachi period, before the industrialization of Pokemon cities, gyms and leagues. Team Galaxy are new colonists to the region and come with advanced technology (Pokeballs and other tech conveniences) as a way to capture and study Pokemon. They have made a peaceful alliance with the region’s tribes, the Diamond and Pearl clans, who have coexisted with Pokémon in the wild and have never before used devices to capture them (more on this later). Your protagonist, who’s from our present and sent back mysteriously into the past (????), will partner with members from all the groups to go out into the wild settings to fulfill Galaxy’s requirements of studying Pokémon and settling great Pokémon that have gone berserk.
This overarching mission is given to the player as tracked activities in your old school Pokédex. To fully understand each Pokémon you’ll have to fulfill a unique set of tasks that range from capturing x amount, battling x amount, catching x number of varieties and sizes, catching them at certain times of day and much more. This means that you can tackle these tasks however you want. Prefer to go the more passive route? Complete the catching checklist tasks. Would rather not bother with all the Pokeball throwing? Pull out your Pokémon and battle. It doesn’t matter what tasks you choose from the Pokémon as they all work to raise your Pokédex level and also translate to exp for all the Pokemon in your party. That means if you’re like me you’ve been sticking to the catching route and bringing home ridiculous amounts of Pokémon.
It helps that catching is the best part of the game. The more open world areas allow you to explore and sneak around to capture any Pokémon you’re looking for. Arceus rewards you for sneaking up on a Pokémon and catching them unawares, a horrific move as the creature realizes that it’s being abducted from its home (more on this later). Regardless I’ve had a great time finding the right paths and Pokeballs to use when trying to complete my Pokédex. That also means I’ve captured multiples of 5 for just about every Pokemon I’ve come across. Every time I go to switch up my party I get freaked out at the unordered menu that appears before me. Which Ponyta did I want to take out again? Was that the Haunter that was with me before? My usually tidy inbox has become overrun with multiples and also rans of some of my favorite Pokémon. They’re all nicely displayed at the town stable where the Pokémon run around together in a fenced area. I’m getting concerned that I might be pouring too much Pokemon into one place and that maybe we haven’t thought through how this storage might scale.
Arceus also surfaces a lot of the weird ethical issues that are inherent to the series. There’s the weird setup of the story (no not the time travel) of the colonists essentially introducing captivity to the indigenous people. The two clans have done just fine with Pokémon before and have even befriended them without the use of Pokeballs. You would think this would cause concern from the tribes but instead they seem to think it’s just a neat new technique. There’s a lot of “o thank you new colonists for your insight” rather than questioning just what the ramifications of their mission might be. I can only question what the impact of me removing all the natural animal life for a given area would do. My Pokeballs and I are devastating the ecosystem one Great ball at a time.
I’m still having a great time with it despite the weirdness of the story and my OCD around my Pokémon inbox. The new open world and mission based template is an exciting addition to the Pokémon template that requires you to engage with its systems in a whole new way. I’m having an amazing time capturing and collecting Pokémon where before it was merely a formality to create a battling team. It’ll be interesting to see what pieces the next mainline games, Scarlet and Violet, take from Arceus. Sword and Shield experimented with condensed open fields whereas Arceus has created an entire game around them. Running around the open world and completing my missions almost makes me forget about all my other irritations.