Pokémon Legends: Arceus — What makes it different from the rest of the series?

Pokemon Legends Arceus Screenshot
Pokemon Legends Arceus Screenshot (Image credit: Nintendo)

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is now available, bringing with it a huge shake-up to a lot of what players know about Pokémon. While the setting is clearly different — as it is with most Pokémon games — the very flow of the gameplay has been altered, with changes that may prove integral to the future of the franchise. Here's the differences between Pokémon Legends: Arceus and core Pokémon games.

The Pokemon Legends: Arceus setting takes us back

Pokemon Legends Arceus Lopunny Shaking Tree

Pokemon Legends Arceus Lopunny Shaking Tree (Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

One of the biggest differences between Pokémon Legends: Arceus and past Pokémon games is the setting. This time, players are transported to the ancient Hisui region, which will later become known as Sinnoh. Instead of gathering more data for an established society of Pokémon traders, you're tasking with building the very first Pokédex.

Beyond this, players can simply choose to go nearly anywhere. Legends: Arceus has an open-world setting, one that has been somewhat understandably compared to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It frees players up from the narrow, short paths from past games, allowing them to head for the hills instead of wandering through grass, wondering when they'll be jumped by the fifth Ponyta in a row.

The Pokemon Legends: Arceus gameplay is no longer turn-based

Pokemon Legends Arcues Hisuian Growlithe

Pokemon Legends Arcues Hisuian Growlithe (Image credit: The Pokemon Company (screenshot))

Another big change comes with the gameplay. The turn-based battle system that's defined practically every core Pokémon game is gone. Instead, things happen in real time, which has dramatic changes on you catch and battle Pokémon. If you find a Bidoof in the wilderness, you're not wasting time waiting for turns to end so you can catch it, you can just throw your Pokéball and try immediately.

There are also additional factors you have to take into account when catching Pokémon. For example, the Pokémon's tempermants come into play. Some might be calm and let you walk up and throw a Poké Ball while others might put up a fight or require you to stealth up to them. There's also a new move system that unlocks after you've mastered a move, and allows you to switch between Agile and Strong.

These changes are arguably the biggest and could have huge repercussions in the future, perhaps even altering how mainline Pokémon games are designed.

There's only one Pokemon Legends: Arceus version

Pokemon Legends Arceus Starters And Avatars

Pokemon Legends Arceus Starters And Avatars (Image credit: iMore)

Unlike other Pokémon games such as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, there's only one version of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. In the past, these games had a handful of version-exclusive Pokémon, meaning that anybody who wanted to catch 'em all had to trade with a friend or buy two copies of what was otherwise the same game. That's not the case with Pokémon Legends: Arceus and the ramifications for future titles will be interesting to watch.

What does the future hold?

It's hard to say how all these changes will affect future Pokémon games, but the success (or failure) of Pokémon Legends: Arceus will absolutely impact things to come. So far, we've seen positive reception to most of the changes, especially the gameplay, which allows players to use much more creative strategies when trying to fill out their roster. Either way, it's looking like one of the best Nintendo Switch games available.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus is currently available on Nintendo Switch.

Samuel Tolbert

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance gaming writer who started working for iMore and its sister sites Windows Central and Android Central in July 2019. He handles news, previews, reviews, and exclusive original reporting, and has also been featured on TechRadar.

With a background studying engineering before he shifted his focus to gaming journalism, he's skilled at identifying technical advantages and disadvantages provided by different hardware. If he’s not writing something, he’s off playing video games, spending time with his pets, exercising, or reading. He's also fond of trying to draw things with his iPad.