The Pokémon Company has been an absolute juggernaut for the past two decades. Growing up around the 90s and early 00s, I have a special affinity for the franchise. It is the franchise that pulled me into gaming. Of course, that did extend into trading Pokémon cards during recess as well. But with countless sequels and remakes, the dream was always about what Pokémon would be like if it was open-world.
A Look at Their Critical Reception
While Pokémon released their first game in 1998 (in the US), we’ll look at the Metacritic scores starting at Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire which was released in 2003 from the US, mainly for the reason that there isn’t any data for those previous games. I also opted to take the highest rated version of the two which were released and only count them as one entry. They generally only differed by one or two points anyway.
During that time frame there have been 15 mainline Pokémon games released. Those titles were released on five different handhelds. Some info found includes:
- High Aggregate Score: Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver Pokémon X and Y (87)
- Lowest Aggregate Score: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (73)
- Average Aggregate Score: (83)
Based on Metacritic rankings, Pokémon titles are almost always well-received. Some might think they are failures because they didn’t review higher in an overly inflated review system, but I feel they did just fine. As per their sales, they are unparalleled across any franchise, easily being 10+ million sellers per entry. No matter the issues critics and fans have, selling is a non-issues for the franchise.
From a personal perspective, the series has felt long in the tooth for quite a while now. They’ve developed a solid foundation, but the series never seemed to have that big revolution. It’s unclear where this fault lies. The hardware limitations? The Pokémon Company not having fresh ideas? No matter which side you land on, or both, it looks like Pokémon Legends:Arceus is going to finally shake up that formula. But, will it be enough to have a critical reception that exceeds their previous entries?
Why Pokémon Legends: Arceus will be a Hit Critically
Arceus has to represent one of the biggest shake ups for the franchise, while also being one of the riskiest. We are finally getting what so many have dreamed of. A rough initial showing has also led to far better showcases thereafter. The art style and Pokémon represent just enough of a change to feel fresh and reinvigorating. While I don’t think this will hit Breath of The Wild territory, it has a chance to alter the course of the franchise moving forward.
Why Pokémon Legends: Arceus Might Miss the Mark Critically
Hardware limitations. As much as I love the Switch, its hardware is five years old. That doesn’t seem that old, but it was never a juggernaut in the fps or resolutions department to begin with. Their developers have worked magic in fighting past a relatively weak device for the console generation and have created some truly great experiences. Having said that, I am worried about how Arceus will run. It’s initial showing was deeply concerning, but recent showings have fared far better, albeit some low fps is still noticeable. I have far less concerns of how TPC will implement Pokémon into an open-world than I do with how it will physically run. If the long dream was having an open-world Pokémon game, the next one will be having an open-world game in 4k or somewhere close.
I would be surprised if Pokémon Arceus doesn’t hit the upper 80 mark, settling somewhere around an 88-89 Metacritic rating. I feel TPC will be rewarded for their ability to transition to an open-world, and it will help to reinvigorate the franchise. The only thing that I could see pulling that score down is hardware limitations.