Pokemon Legends Arceus, The Feudal Sinnoh Spin-Off, Could Be Pokemon’s Rogue One – AKA The Best Star Wars Movie
Pokemon has been doing the same thing for far too long and has somehow managed to get away with it. I know we all complain when unadventurous sequels are turned out and nonsense like #BoycottPokemon trends for a few days whenever we get a ‘meh’ reveal, but we all go and buy it anyway. New Pokemon games always top the charts and make bucket loads of money, so why would Nintendo bother changing its tried-and-tested formula? Until recently, I think you could have said the same thing about Star Wars, desperately clawing at its former glory, failing to live up to it but raking in the dough anyway. With Legends Arceus, it looks like Pokemon actually is doing something different, taking us back to an old region in a completely different era, offering a mix of classic starters, and most importantly, finally committing to an open world. That’s why I think it could be the franchise’s version of Rogue One.
Rogue One doesn’t get enough credit, but for me it’s the Star Wars story that kickstarted the new, more adventurous direction that Star Wars has gone in. Since then, we’ve had The Last Jedi – love it or hate it, it was different – and The Mandalorian, as well as Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Rogue Squadrons, and some exciting new upcoming projects in both television and video games. I’m not saying these titles all owe their existence to Rogue One, but I do think it marked an important new step for Star Wars, and I hope Legends Arceus will be similar for Pokemon. Also, I know Clone Wars was quietly doing its own thing in the background in expanding what a Star Wars story could be, but Rogue One brought those changes to the big leagues.
It might sound hyperbolic to call Rogue One the best Star Wars movie ever, when that means going up against A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, but it’s precisely because those movies exist that I think Rogue One is the best. Those two set the Star Wars standard early on – a standard not even the ending to their own trilogy could live up to. Much like Pokemon Red & Blue and Pokemon Gold & Silver, Star Wars has been chasing the glory of its first two releases ever since, constantly tweaking elements, messing with arcs, and introducing new ideas – only to then abandon them – in an attempt to make the next Empire. Now, tell me that’s not exactly what Pokemon has done since Gen 3?
Rogue One was bold enough to do something completely different, to tell a smaller story, to deliberately duck the glory of the laser battles for a much more intimate tale. To do that, under the pressure of living up to the greatest space western of all time, is why I think Rogue One deserves to be elevated right to the top of the Star Wars canon. Even if you can’t agree with me, if it’s sacrilegious to even suggest Empire might not be the number one Star Wars movie, surely you can see where I’m coming from?
Hang on though, wouldn’t Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee be the Rogue One in this scenario? While it’s true that those games did take a completely new direction in terms of art style, roving Pokemon, and downplaying battles in favour of a friendlier Pokemon Go approach, they have a considerable safety net. The core of the game is just Pokemon Yellow, and while I loved the new artstyle and reinvention of the way a Pokemon game could feel, being a riff on perhaps the best loved game in the series is not as big a risk as Legends Arceus. Especially given it piggybacked off Pokemon Go, which if you really want to get into it, is probably Pokemon’s Clone Wars.
I mention Rogue One having a smaller story, and even though Legends Arceus is giving us an open world to rove around in, it does seem like that’s what we’re in for. Pokemon stories are usually huge – too huge – and they all revolve around the same thing. You, a ten-year-old kid, love Pokemon but are useless with them. You need to be shown even the most basic of steps, and no, no matter how many times you button mash, you can’t skip them. You then travel around the country fighting grown ups and become the best Pokemon trainer ever, all while being half the age of Billie Eilish. Oh, and some of the folks you meet along the way are hellbent on flooding the world or destroying it in the name of peace or some other nonsense, and you stop them too. All while, again, being ten years old. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch a one-of-a-kind monster that scientists, researchers, and experts have been hunting for literal centuries.
This is a major story with massive consequences, but they all play out the same way, so the twists never get you, the emotional beats are flat, and the ending is always predictable. Legends Arceus offers an opportunity to push past these cliches into a story much more human, one full of heart and soul. I don’t need to save the world or be the very best like no one ever was. I just want to be part of a story that feels like it matters, that feels like I’m driving it. A story where I feel like a real person and not just a faceless drone moving on rails towards an empty and vacuous glory. Pokemon Snap on rails? Yes please, but keep that out of my regular Pokemon games, thanks very much.
We also know that Legends Arceus is going to focus on the origins of the Pokedex, and that’s another way in which it can be like Rogue One. I firmly believe that at least part of the motivation for writing Rogue One was to explain the gaping plot hole of A New Hope; why did the Death Star have a vulnerable hatch on it? I’ve already explained why I think Rogue One is a fantastic Star Wars movie, but if nothing else, it gives us an answer to that question by focusing on the previously unexplained sabotage of the Death Star. Similarly, the Pokedex is littered with plot holes, too.
It reckons Kadabra used to be a real human boy, and that Banette was originally a doll who was thrown away. In both cases, how do you explain that there are loads of them, and with Kadabra especially, what does that mean for Abra? Meanwhile, one of Entei’s entries says a volcano erupts every time it barks, but another says a volcano emerges every time one is born. So a newborn baby Entei creates a volcano out of nowhere, then barks and it immediately erupts? Nah. Oh, and Magcargo has a body temp of 18,000 degrees, which is almost twice as hot as the Sun. Give over. If The Pokemon Company has made Legends Arceus entirely to justify why some of these Pokedex entries are absolute waffle, I applaud it for finally setting the record straight.
Pokemon has been feeling its way into something new for a while now, giving us the Wild Area, mainline DLC, and Let’s Go. The developers have been trying. But Legends Arceus feels like the first bold footstep into something truly fresh, and if it really is their Rogue One moment, then I look forward to The Mandapokeian in a few years’ time.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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