When we first heard rustlings about Pokémon Legends: Arceus, initial art and trailers seemed to point towards a Pokémon flavored take on Breath of the Wild. Key art of a ninja with a wind-swept scarf trailing behind them looking over a sprawling mountainous expanse was what really did it. And although I love Breath of the Wild as much as the next person, my excitement for the game doubled when the Pokémon Company revealed it’d be much closer to Monster Hunter.
Capcom has flirted with its own version of that particular combo twice with Monster Hunter Stories, and to great effect. Stories and it’s sequel have already established themselves as solid entries in the monster catching RPG genre in their own right. Probably their greatest asset is that dopamine rush of doing Pokémon stuff with a healthy coat of Monster Hunter paint over everything.
Legends seems to be Gamefreak’s answer to Capcom encroaching on their turf. With the most recent Diamond and Pearl remakes being handled by support studio ILCA, it’s clear that this is why Gamefreak has had its hands full for the past two years.
Legends sees you creating the very first Pokédex in a time before the domestication of Pokémon was commonplace. You’ll still be building a stable of Pokémon partners, and using them to take down the bigger guys in the wild. But this time around it seems like the battles will be mostly in real time with interstitial chances to pause and deploy your Pokemon like in the traditional games.
When you’re not out in one of the biomes completing missions, you’ll be back at the hub town talking to NPCs and crafting supplies. This proposed gameplay loop should be nothing new to Monster Hunter fans.
At its outset, Monster Hunter was an extension of a lot of the ideas that made Phantasy Star Online and Diablo successful. You’ve got your hub area where you gear up and form a party to take on increasingly harder assignments. You’ve got an expanding list of locales to visit and complete your missions in. And of course there’s a never ending list of loot to collect or craft. It’s a good formula that has driven Monster Hunter’s popularity for almost two decades. Aspects have been tweaked, changed, and introduced with each game’s take on it, but it’s a testament to that basic loop’s strength that all three are legendary names in the RPG space.
The real thing to be gained here as a Pokémon fan is difficulty. The idea of a Pokémon game that asks the player to avoid damage using a dodge roll isn’t something I knew I wanted until the trailers for Legends started trickling out.
It’ll be interesting to see if some of the more obtuse mechanics found in Monster Hunter will be sanded away for simplicity’s sake. Personally, the meal preparation system seems like a no-brainer inclusion with how many different kinds of Pokémon treats made their way into the mainline titles by the time we got to the Sinnoh region in Diamond and Pearl (to which this game is a semi-prequel).
Could we see weapon degradation pop up in some form or another? This one seems more doubtful; but at this point even Zelda’s made use of the concept, so I’m still keeping my hopes up-even if it’s one of the most divisive mechanics found in games today.
One glaring omission that still stands is the role of multiplayer. It’s been confirmed that trading will make a return in one form or another, but as of yet there’s no mention of trainer battles or taking on co-op missions with other trainers. It’s worth mentioning that Monster Hunter Stories didn’t have co-op until its second entry. So there’s an obvious runway they could use to build out the game more if this one does well.
The idea of a Monster Hunter game without multiplayer sounds like blasphemy, but as someone who played through vanilla Monster Hunter: World solo for the most part, I can attest that the fun isn’t completely lost in a solo run. (Though it’s worth noting that playing the older games solo always sucked).
What co-op really infuses these games with are the extra layers of community. There’s nothing quite like partying up to take on a quest you’ve been struggling with all day just as some super raw high rank players in some other time zone log on and join your game. Seeing a monster who’s trounced you over and over become manageable with the help of some overpowered new friends whose names you can’t quite pronounce, then finally coming back to those tough quests after the fact and throwing the ladder down for newer players like others did for you: to me, that’s one of the most satisfying experiences in all of videogames.
Multiplayer or no, this is Gamefreak taking another chance with the series. The Pokémon Company has never been shy about licensing their baby out. But it’s a good sign that this is the primary developers taking a step back from the mainline titles to give one of the spinoffs a go.
One thing’s for sure: I’ll be there on day one. And if it takes a sequel or two to get the fully fledged Monster Hunter experience up and running, I’ll give them the time to hammer out the details. Because when that particular concept is executed correctly, there’ll be just nothing like it.
Yousif Kassab writes about games, music and manga on the internet. You can find him on Twitter at @Youuuusif (four U’s).