Pokémon Legends: Arceus is celebrating its second anniversary, and with it comes a reminder of how special the game was for so many franchise fans. But beyond that, the massive release of Palworld has even more players looking back and wanting more of Game Freak’s black sheep.
Legends: Arceus dropped on Jan. 28, 2022, marking the first time since Pokémon first launched in 1995 that Game Freak truly changed the formula for the series. Sure, Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! altered how catching and encounters worked in 2018 but the battle system remained mostly unchanged—and things quickly shifted back to normal with Sword and Shield. On the other hand, Legends: Arceus changed basically everything about Pokémon’s core gameplay loop to bring it closer to an action game.
Whether it be the freedom of catching Pokémon without having to battle them, the “Style” system and other changes to the franchise’s turn-based combat, or the actual danger of facing down creatures who will damage your trainer, Legends: Arceus was a bold departure fans praised at the time. Now, two years on, the game is getting even more love after the launch of Palworld, which iterates on things Legends: Arceus did and shows what another entry in that style could do for Pokémon.
Palworld has exploded in popularity, selling more than eight million copies and becoming the second most-played game in Steam history (by peak player count) in less than a week. Pocketpair’s blend of monster catching and training with a survival core paid off big-time, giving players a huge world to explore, Pals to encounter, and content to mess with. Ark may be a more apt comparison for this mega-hit, but the areas where Palworld does share similarities with Legends: Arceus highlights just how well the model works for Pokémon.
“Legends: Arceus was proof that a vastly different approach to the Pokémon formula can coexist with the normal one and not compete with each other,” Twitter user Kuyonn wrote. “Really hope Legends becomes an ongoing series because it was by far one of the best new additions to Pokémon in awhile [sic].”
Being able to catch a Pokémon without having to battle it and actively being part of the combat yourself were two of the changes players enjoyed the most—though the responses to altered battle system and stats were more mixed. That only further highlighted how incredible the Pokédex system was at getting you to go out and explore while filling out requirements for rewards and story progression. The new setting also opened the door for Game Freak to play around with the series’ lore in a way we had never seen before by using it to show Sinnoh’s past.
If you really take a close look at Palworld’s gameplay it has an entirely different feel to Pokémon outside of that Legends: Arceus approach to catching Pals. Its focus on survival and base-building mechanics sets it apart, but the visuals and world filled with things to discover and creatures to capture gave players a glance at what Pokémon could become if there was a little more time put into development. At the very least, the hope is Scarlet and Violet’s performance issues and backlash will keep something similar from happening in the future.
The comparisons between Palworld and Pokémon won’t stop any time soon, with the former continuing to dominate Steam and The Pokémon Company openly noting it is going to investigate Pocketpair for IP infringement.
But, unless legal action is taken, this competition between the rising star and established media juggernaut should only benefit the people who want to enjoy fun games.