Pocket Gods

On catching legendary Pokémons.

Toward the end of Pokémon Legends: Arceus, a war between Giratina, Arceus, and their avatars comes to a head: the sky cracks open as chromatic aberrations scatter the clouds, revealing a plane of pulsing, interdimensional hexagons. Pink and neon green light tangle between veins of indigo, like slicing open a watermelon from the void. The soundtrack veers into glitchcore as we wander through a world that, once beautiful, is now curling in on itself. The shift reminds us that Pokémon are terrifying creatures — how can humanity develop a relationship with these beings if we live at their mercy?

Unfortunately, the story resolves in a lackluster surrender from its antagonist. We are rewarded with a lesson in respecting outsiders, which attempts to parallel the larger idea of humans respecting Pokémon, but is muddled by a mediocre, almost antithetical postgame. We investigate rumors of Legendary Pokémon, ultimately finding, battling, and capturing them. Every main-line Pokémon game lets you bag the Legendaries  — you toss them into your PC and forget about them. God lives in your pocket.

In a spinoff like PLA, however, those rules need not apply. Why should they? Giratina breaking the sky apart was mesmerizing — a feat worthy of a renegade god of the void. Arceus, too, is a massive cosmic entity. The Monster Hunter-esque battle against it is an incredibly colorful, high-octane experience. At least Arceus gives a diegetic reason that the player can take it home upon victory: we’re summoning one small part of god gifted unto us.

Other Legendaries aren’t afforded this narrative justification. It’s routine: find a weird cave, toss Poke Balls ’til you win. The wonder of Pokémon’s own mythos was overshadowed by a grocery-list narrative in what was, up until then, a mysterious open world.

Do we really need to catch ’em all?

By Luca Fisher

Luca Fisher is an up-and-coming journalist with bylines in Fanbyte, Gayming Magazine, and SUPERJUMP. He writes about video games as art with a focus on story-driven titles. He is also a terminal millennial who loves public speaking, phone calls, pumpkin ice cream, and defunct radio technology. If you want to get trashed in Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, he'll take you on anytime! Catch him @lucanfisher on Twitter.

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