Weeks, if not days, away from its release, Pokémon Legends: Arceus continues to raise many questions from fans. After a debate on the open-world nature of the title, the technique is certainly the other element that has caused the most ink to flow.
The opportunity for us to come back to what actually bothers many players as well as the reasons that could explain this divisive visual aspect.
As soon as it was announced in February 2021, Pokémon Legends: Arceus is a title that has been talked about a lot. First of all, it embodies a true fan dream by offering an open-world Pokémon game for the first time in the franchise.
In addition, the title also has the originality of placing its action in a setting reminiscent of feudal Japan, while the episodes of the main series took place rather in a contemporary setting, even futuristic on certain points.
However, once the enthusiasm for the announcement wore off, some players raised several points that brought a wind of disillusionment in part of the community.
For example, we can cite the fact that, following numerous solicitations, The Pokémon Company has confirmed that Pokémon Legends: Arceus will not offer a single open world, but rather a set of semi-open areas in which players will go to perform missions.
However, the other element that immediately made most players wince remains the visual rendering of the title which has since caused a lot of ink to flow.
A technique that divides for many reasons
Beyond simply saying that the title technically seems below other productions, it is worth explaining concretely why many players have had this feeling.
Attention, let us specify right away that all these remarks are above all taken from the trailers and various videos broadcast until then and that they therefore do not necessarily reflect the quality of the final game.
So, from the first trailer, several fans have found the world of Pokémon Legends: Arceus empty for different reasons. First of all, this is due to a low density of grass on the ground and trees which gives the feeling of being in front of an arid environment.
Also, at the moment, we haven’t yet seen any extracts that present us with areas with many Pokémon present on the screen simultaneously, which does not help to give a feeling of life to the whole. And by the way, some passages also show us Pokémon with jerky animation when considered too far in the background.
Finally, this lack of decorative elements also makes it possible to observe the textures, in particular those of the ground, which seem not very detailed because of a lighting which does not seem to emphasize them.
If we can explain that the visual aspect of the title is in particular due to the technical capacities of the Switch, many players have countered this argument by evoking the case of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Indeed, as soon as it was announced, Pokémon Legends: Arceus suffered from the comparison with the launch title of the Switch from which it seems to be partly inspired, both in its approach and its atmosphere, which created a lot of hopes among Pokémon fans.
However, while this is a 2017 game, the latest installment in the Zelda saga seems to be doing better technically than this new Pokemon slated for release five years later. M
oreover, a post on the Reddit devoted to Pokémon particularly caused a reaction since the latter had the title “Arceus is held back by its hardware (Pokémon Legends: Arceus is held back by the technical capabilities of its medium, the Switch), comparing fairly similar images from the two games side-by-side.
However, if Breath of the Wild does as well technically on the same medium despite some framerate problems in dense regions such as forests, it is also thanks to the support provided by Monolith Studio.
If this name means nothing to you, it is nevertheless a studio which has belonged to Nintendo since 2007 and which is used to doing open-worlds on the manufacturer’s consoles since we owe them in particular the series of Xenoblade Chronicles.
As a reminder, these are RPGs that take place in vast open environments that have made the saga famous.
A limited team with tight production time
To try to understand the visual aspect of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, it may be necessary to look at the side of its historical developer: Game Freak.
Indeed, since the debut of Pokémon in Japan in 1996 with Pokémon Red and Green Version, the studio has developed all the main episodes as well as their remakes since 2004 with Pokémon FireRed Version.
But while the studio is behind the most profitable franchise of all time (just that), it’s pretty amazing to discover that Game Freak currently employs only 167 people. For games of such magnitude as Pokémon, this is an excessively small team, far from current standards for a AAA title for example.
So, to finish games on time, Game Freak must constantly call on freelance developers hired only for the duration of a project. A decision that can be explained by the studio’s desire to remain on a small scale despite the success of Pokémon, which still forces them to recruit, as the journalist points out.
In addition to this small structure, the other element that can explain the technical rendering of Pokémon Legends: Arceus concerns the development time. You surely know it, but the more the years pass, the more the development time necessary for large productions is important and is now counted in several years.
Gold, despite the fact that it is a small structure, Game Freak is a studio that goes from project to project, often with one episode of Pokémon per year and sometimes another game outside the franchise.
Indeed, Game Freak is keen to make games other than Pokémon on a regular basis, as evidenced by the release of Little Town Hero in 2019, for example.
But when it comes to Pokémon game releases, this is a particularly fast pace supported because no postponement of the release date is possible given all the derivative products that derive from it such as anime, playing cards, toys etc.
Nevertheless, it can be pointed out that 2021 was an important year for the franchise as for the first time, the remake of a main episode, Pokémon Sparkling Diamond / Sparkling Pearl, was not developed by Game Freak, but by ILCA, studio to which we already owed the Pokémon HOME service. Enough to give Game Freak more time to focus on another project.
To realize the development time of a Pokémon game, let’s take the last episode of the main series as an example. Thanks to the website Pokekalos, we learn that the production of Pokémon Sword / Shield would have started in September 2017, which means that the title would have been developed for two years.
Again, in the second half of the 2010s, this is a really, really short production time for a title of such magnitude. In the case of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, we can calculate that two years and four months separate it from the release of Pokémon Sword / Shield, and only a year and three months from the last DLC of the title, Pokémon Sword / Shield: The Snowy Lands of the Crown, released in October 2020.
If we cannot say that this is the exact development time of the project lack of sources, we can still note that the time between these two important titles for the franchise is relatively short.
If we don’t know all the ins and outs of the development of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, we can try to explain its disappointing technique in the eyes of some fans by the very short production times that Game Freak has to face, while the studio has only a small development team.
In the meantime, remember that you will have to get your hands on the title before having a definitive and clear-cut opinion on your technique. Answer therefore on January 28th!
Brent Dubin, known as the Gaming Giant among Globe Live Media staff, is the chief Gaming Reporter for Globe Live Media. Having attended all the major events of Gaming around the World, he is sure to give you exactly the update related to gaming World you are looking for.