When Sword and Shield were announced, perhaps you remember the question which caused speculators and fans no end of excitement: Would Sword and Shield be to Pokemon what Breath of the Wild is to Zelda? The answer, ultimately, was no. Sword and Shield introduced a larger map and some new ideas to the series, but didn’t end up dramatically evolving the series. Pokemon fans tucked in their disappointment and moved on.
But then, during this week’s Pokemon Direct, Pokemon Legends: Arceus was unveiled. And this time, the answer actually seems to be, “Yes – this is Pokemon’s Breath of the Wild.”
The two-minute trailer for the game seems to be actively encouraging this comparison, even through the score. The piano arpeggio flourishes and reversed violin strikes which open up the trailer immediately recall the score for Breath of the Wild.
And that’s not even taking into account the air-brushed, nature-centric art style the game exhibits or the sweeping shots of open landscapes showcased in the trailer, some of which looked… familiar.
We aren’t the only outlet to notice this by a long shot – the headlines are everywhere. And Twitter immediately erupted with comparisons:
In retrospect, the folly of thinking Sword and Shield would fully break open the Pokemon formula was that, rather than offer a radical departure, they embraced tried-and-true Pokemon RPG formula. Yes, the Wild Area was an incredible expansion. But even though the Galar League felt more like a giant sporting event than the traditional Pokemon gym, it was still very much a gym league.
There are multiple reasons to believe Legends will be the mold-breaking exception we were yearning for back then. For one thing, it does something the Pokemon game series has never done before: travel significantly forward or back in time. Just as Breath of the Wild takes place tens of thousands of years after any previous entry into the Zelda timeline, Legends will take place long before any previous entry into the Pokemon series. So long before, in fact, there is no Pokemon League of any kind. You will be creating the very first Sinnoh Pokedex.
I mean, just look at the weird clasp on this Pokeball! That’s one antique-looking Pokeball.
This significant time jump signals that Pokemon is, in fact, trying something new. The very fact that Pokemon president Tsunekazu Ishihara described the game as an action RPG was another subtle-yet-profound hint for the departure Legends has in store.
The trailer even gives us a glimpse of a major evolution in Pokemon game mechanics: Pokemon catching and battling is now seamless with the open world. Gone are the days you bump into ten Rattatas in the grass and have to tediously run away from each fight. Now you can just literally run away. This one detail compromises a significant evolution for the series – and one that many long-time fans (including myself) have been yearning for.
In fact, to catch a Pokemon, you can simply toss a Pokeball at it. You can even sneak up on it – another obvious nod to BotW (and a very familiar one to anyone who has navigated through Master Mode.)
In fact, the game seems so inspired by Breath of the Wild that one hopes it doesn’t get too caught up with its Zelda counterpart’s success. It still needs to evolve (haha) its own identity. That being said, would I literally play a game which is just Breath of the Wild, but with Pokemon? Absolutely. And I’d have an excellent time.