Do the bad graphics in Pokemon Legends Arceus really matter?

A screenshot of Pokemon legends Arceus graphicsThe Pokemon Company

With just days to go until Pokemon Legends Arceus arrives, the community is still divided over its graphics, with some arguing they should be much better, and others believing they don’t really matter. We’re going to try and settle that debate.

Pokemon Legends Arceus takes place in an era before people and pocket monsters lived together in harmony, where players must fill the first-ever Sinnoh Pokedex with wild creatures who attack Trainers, not just their Pokemon (yes, it’s terrifying).

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It looks like an exciting shake-up of the traditional Pokemon formula, and it’s already received plenty of comparisons to Switch highlight, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – although one area it’s not quite up to those standards in is the graphics.

Here, two of Dexerto’s writers, Daniel Megarry and Brent Koepp, go head-to-head to try and provide an answer to the burning question: Do the graphics even matter in a Pokemon game?

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catching bidoof in pokemon legends arceusGame Freak / The Pokemon Company
Just look at that luscious grass.

There’s no excuse for Pokemon Legends Arceus to look this bad

Pokemon Blue was the first video game I ever played, and back then, I really didn’t care about the way it looked – I was more bothered about exploiting that infamous rare candy glitch and beating the Elite Four before my brother. But that was more than two decades ago, and technology (as well as our expectations of what it can deliver) has changed drastically.

To put it simply, Pokemon Legends Arceus just isn’t up to scratch.

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All the footage we’ve seen so far has featured questionable graphics, with grass and water especially looking like it belongs in the Nintendo Wii era at best. A recent gameplay trailer promises multiple areas that are “rich in natural features”, but most of the locations shown are just… empty. That’s not just worrying from a visual point of view, but also for gameplay.

Most of these things could be forgiven when we got our first look at Legends Arceus at the start of 2021, as many fans assumed the graphics would be touched up over time. But a year later, with just days to go until the game comes out, it still looks as muddy and unappealing as it did back then. Even Pokemon themselves have lost some of their charm.

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A screenshot of the bad graphics in Pokemon Legends ArceusThe Pokemon Company
This certainly isn’t the most appealing location we’ve seen in a Pokemon game.

Some people have defended Pokemon Legend Arceus’ graphics by pointing towards the limited capabilities of the Nintendo Switch, which is a fair point – it struggled to compete with the competition even when it first dropped five years ago – but there have been plenty of games that have proven impressive graphics are a possibility on the console.

The most obvious example is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which made up for a lack of console power with visually stunning art direction – so much so that it’s now considered one of the most gorgeous games ever made. And there are countless other Switch titles, like Immortals Fenyx Rising and Monster Hunter Rise, that also surpass Legends Arceus in the visual department.

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Will I play Pokemon Legends Arceus? Of course. Will I enjoy it? Probably! Call it blind loyalty if you want, but I’m firmly in the camp of fans that will buy anything the franchise pumps out – always have been, always will be. But even as the most ardent Pokemon fan, I can recognize that the franchise deserves better than this. Let’s hope Gen 9 delivers the goods.

Words: Daniel Megarry

As long as it’s fun, graphics don’t matter in a Pokemon game

A screenshot of battle graphics in Pokemon Legends ArceusThe Pokemon Company
There are loads of new features that make up for the average graphics.

While Pokemon Legends Arceus has a gorgeous art style, it undeniably has bad graphics. For a AAA title in 2022, it greatly lags behind other games in the same genre. Despite its shortcomings though, its lackluster graphics ultimately do not matter.

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At the end of the day, players love Pokemon for its formula. If you go back and look at previous releases in the franchise, those too lagged behind their contemporaries at the time. Yet for all the criticisms the Game Freak RPGs have faced over the years, they always end up selling eye-popping numbers. They may not look like the best titles released in a given year, but they sure outsell them.

Take 2019’s Pokemon Sword & Shield for example. Leading up to release, many online critics were whipped up in a frenzy over its lackluster textures, reused animations, and pathetic-looking trees (yes, that was actually a major point of contention). In 2022, the Nintendo Switch RPGs are now on track to become the second highest-selling title in the entire franchise. So the general public does not seem to care about graphics when it comes to Pokemon releases – or at least they don’t care enough to stop playing them.

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Pokemon Legends Arceus screenshot of JubilifeGame Freak / The Pokemon Company
Pokemon has always been fun first, graphics second.

Most players just want to experience the wonderful world that Game Freak has created. The game’s addictive catching mechanics and the series’ loveable cast of characters are ultimately the stars of the show. Pokemon Legends Arceus is taking a bit of a risk by putting more of an emphasis on exploration than ever before, but at the end of the day most fans just want to catch their favorite ‘mon and poor graphics are not going to deter that.

It is a shame, though, that for as incredible as the Pokemon franchise is, its vibrant cast of characters and its colorful world are not allowed to fully shine due to being held back by graphical limitations. But for many fans of the series, just getting to spend time with a new game is worth the price of admission alone. Pokemon Legends Arceus will certainly follow that trajectory.

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Words: Brent Koepp