Soapbox features enable our individual writers to voice their own opinions on hot topics or random stuff they've been thinking about, opinions that may not necessarily be the voice of the site. Today, Ryan talks about the surprisingly early release date for a big-name Pokémon title.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus – in my mind, at least – has the potential to be one of the most interesting, exciting, and series-progressing Pokémon games we've had in years. The initial announcement came in February, setting the scene for a game that will be "infused with new action and RPG elements that go beyond the framework established thus far" for the series, and will boast an entirely different plot and setting than what we're used to.
Legends: Arceus could be something truly special – and possibly serve as a testing ground for enhancements to the core titles
Everything about its concept is marvellous, and plenty of its ideas sound like the sort of thing fans have been hoping for since the dawn of time. It's an open-world Pokémon game where players will "seamlessly enter battle"; it's set in a completely different time period to anything we've seen before, giving us the chance to see old-school Poké Ball technology and more; and the story has you completing the Sinnoh region's first-ever Pokédex. I mean, how cool is that?
The mainline series of games will always be where it's at for most, but Legends: Arceus could be something truly special – and possibly serve as a testing ground for enhancements to those core titles. It has the opportunity to prove whether or not an open-world Pokémon game could actually work, and it could even spawn its own sub-series of historical, lore-based adventures for diehard fans. It's unfortunate then, that this week's release date news has me slightly more concerned than excited.
February's reveal trailer was split into two parts – the intriguing 'not actual gameplay footage' intro, which got me wonderfully hyped as intended, and the true gameplay footage, which did not. The footage does show off a lot of things to be positive about (the art direction looks solid, gameplay mechanics like crouching around in stealth mode look interesting, and it's always a plus having Pokémon roaming around on the overworld Let's Go-style), but the performance on show in the trailer is another matter entirely.
Now, I'm not one to get hung up on how many teraflops and bibblybops a console has, and nor would I cancel my pre-order because you can't quite see Mario's individual moustache hairs, but even I can tell that the footage we saw looked a little rough. There's a scene where a Chimchar – despite being the only object of note on-screen bar the player – is moving at under ten frames-per-second; equally, a Chingling can be seen floating in the air, stuttering through each frame as if it's falling down an invisible escalator. You can watch it for yourself below:
Pokémon Sword and Shield were heavily scrutinised for what fans believed was a lack of overall polish and quality, with aspects like re-used animations and that blimmin' tree generating much discussion. Personally, I actually thought Sword and Shield ticked all the boxes and if it weren't for all the negativity online beforehand, I'd never have given things like these a thought while enjoying my playthrough.
It's all subjective, of course, but based on the initial Legends: Arceus footage, this new title looks a little worse for wear than Sword and Shield ever did to me. Maybe it's the difference in style (developing an open-world landscape is an entirely different beast to a game full of linear paths), but whatever's happening, my main takeaway from its reveal was, 'I hope this gets plenty of time in the oven'.
And that's why the newly-revealed release date worries me. Initially, the game was announced to be launching at some time in the twelve-month period that is '2022'. 'Great,' I thought — 'what we're seeing will be a really early build and there's plenty of time to work on it.' But then 2022 changed to 28th January 2022 (only eight months from now), and I'm left wondering just how much can be done in that time.
I hope that The Pokémon Company and Game Freak have given (or are giving) this title the development time it deserves
The truth is we'll likely never know how early that build was, and we may never know how long the game's actually been in development. If updated Switch hardware really is just around the corner, that could certainly help here, but having a Pokémon game be exclusive to a theoretical 'Switch Pro' simply won't happen – it'll need to perform smoothly for the 84 million people who own the base Switch and Switch Lite, too. Maybe I'm worrying over nothing and every little bump is being ironed out as we speak?
Either way, I hope that The Pokémon Company and Game Freak have given (or are giving) this title the development time it deserves. This isn't your typical mainline Pokémon game where the company overlords have to insist that the games, cards, anime, merch, and everything else all line up perfectly, potentially rushing some products out to hit deadlines. This is a unique product that could be a dream game for the series' biggest fans, so please, please treat it like one.