Pokemon Legends: Arceus is a major event for the Pokemon series. Not only is it breaking with many series traditions to present a clearly Breath of the Wild-inspired open-world take on the Pokemon series, but it’s also taking a swing at a relatively underused concept for the Pokemon franchise: a historical story.
We’ve seen this before, briefly, in the DS spin-off Pokemon Conquest, which told the story of feudal Japan in the Pokemon universe. But this month’s title is the first time the concept has been explored in a main-line, full-fat Pokemon title.
Legends: Arceus is set in the Sinnoh region, the same area of the Pokemon world that happens to be based on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Sinnoh has already featured in Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, but what makes this game different is that it takes place in the past – seemingly somewhere around the 19th century. It’s the same region, but even the name is different: in these times, it’s known as Hisui. In Legends: Arceus, players will work to create the region’s first-ever Pokedex in a historical setting.
It’s an exciting twist for the Pokemon series. It means we’re going to get to see long-extinct forms of beloved Pokemon, and see early-generation versions of Poke-tech we’ve come to know and love, such as PokeBalls crafted from wood (Kurt, eat your heart out).
All of this has got us thinking, though. Of course it has. What other settings around the world would we love to see historical Poke-versions of? The title of the game – Pokemon Legends colon Arceus – already suggests that this could be a series of game, after all, and not just a one-and-done spin-off.
So, what other Pokemon Legends settings would be cool? Here’s some of our ideas…
Victorian Era Galar / England
We’ve seen this sort of setting done in games like Professor Layton and, more recently, Ace Attorney Chronicles. And as Brits, we do sort of love that filtered, idyllic version of England that always appears when it’s a vision of the country crafted in Japan. One of the coolest things about Pokemon Sword & Shield was its dedication to leaning into its UK setting, even folding lots of dubious slang into its dialogue. But what about winding the clock back on the Galar Region’s version of the UK?
There are a few options here. The first one that comes to mind, obviously, is the Victorian era. Japanese games in these sorts of British settings love to have (legally distinct) versions of Sherlock Holmes running around. What would Holmes’ partner Pokemon be? Could we get an older version of Looker, going full Doctor Who, turning up to investigate a Oliver Twist-inspired criminal gang, a la Team Rocket?
Britain’s history is rich enough that you could go for different periods of history, of course. Looking back to Pokemon Conquest, a medieval England setting could also be cool for knights doing battle with Pokemon alone. Galarian Farfetch’d even points to this era in Sword & Shield. That would be the top other option; but an industrial revolution, Victorian Pokemon would still be our favorite.
30s or 40s Unova / New York
Introduced in Pokemon Black & White, Unova made Pokemon history by being the setting in the series based on a place other than Japan. Depicting the Pokeverse’s version of New York City and the surrounding areas, it’s easy to think of New York and land on one iconic period in particular – the Depression, and the immediate following period.
Maybe that’s too depressing for Pokemon. But I don’t know... The series has a knack for sugar-coating things, like enslaving cute creatures and making them batter each other. And that period of New York is iconic – construction, flappers, gangsters, upheaval of society in practically every way you can imagine.
The fashion and designs of the time are just iconic, too, in a way that Pokemon’s designers could really have fun with. And whereas Galar still plays with the more traditional, classic style of England, modern Unova as depicted in the games is practically unrecognizable to how it was seventy years prior, so it’d be a cool change-up to any potential Victorian games we do get.
The Holy Poke-Roman Empire
I keep looping back to Pokemon Conquest, in part because it’s my favorite Pokemon spin-off. So, I keep thinking about cultures with stories like Nobunaga's Ambition and his conquest across Japan. And so, naturally, I think of Ancient Rome, which spanned a great variety of settings and left a great cultural impact on the world. That’s what interests, really – seeing the Pokemon version of these influential figures and the impact they left on Pokemon’s version of the world. I reckon Caesar would have an Arcanine, probably. Maybe a Falinks.
The other interesting thing about Rome, of course, is what a melting pot it was. It bled into multiple countries and cultures; there’s the Persians, the remnants of Ancient Greece, and of course the Empire even touched another of our suggested settings in another era – Galar. Plus, we’ve never seen Italy in Pokemon before – so the heart of this culture would be an all-new setting, potentially full of all-new Pokemon.
The Kalos/French Revolution
You’ve probably seen Les Mis (or played Assassin’s Creed Unity – if that’s the case, we’re sorry), and so you’ve probably already got a basic idea of what went down in Paris in 1789, or the other revoltion that happened slightly later. If you want a SparkNotes summary on the whole thing, we’ve got you: thousands of Parisians that were sick of Louis XVI’s consistent and flagrant abuse of power erupted into violent protest in the streets, eventually uprooting and toppling monarchy and demonstrating the power of protest – and the strength of a population’s will.
Imagine it; imagine taking to the streets with all your red Pokemon – red being the symbol of revolt for the French at the time – and battling in urban skirmishes as ex-Gym leaders and trainers work together to dismantle that big, imposing Poke-Bastille at the other end of the city. Imagine using Cut to dismantle furniture and make improvised barricades in the street. Imagine getting a Bisharp to use Guillotine on the Pokemon-universe version of King Louis XVI... hm, maybe that’s a bit much. But still! There’s a wealth of history in this era, and there’s a lot of potential Pokemon tie-in, too, where you could set the scrappy street ‘mon (Poochyena, Pidgey, Rattata, Grimer, Trubbish et al) against the snooty, upper-class pampered types (Snubbull, Boufallant, Togekiss, Roserade, Pyroar, Gallade). Pokemon studies the class divide; I’d get it Day One.
Alex touched on this up above with his Holy Roman Poke-Empire suggestion, but I reckon we could also take it back a bit further and go to Ancient Greece. The landscape of the Greek islands really plays to Pokemon’s strengths (unless there’d be ‘too much water’, heh) and the mainland itself has enough scope for different biomes to cram nearly all of those 898 Pokemon in without too much hassle.
But when most people think of Ancient Greece, though, they think of myths. So how about this? Instead of that predictable slog where you fight your way through different Gyms and battle the Elite Four at the end, why don’t we tour the temples of Ancient Greece and battle the mega-powered priests and their god-powered Pokemon? Trainers with Legendaries? Sure! Trainers with Shinies? Why not?
Replacing the standard eight Gym format with a game dedicated to you usurping disciples of the 12 Olympians (Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Hermes, and Hestia/Dionysus) sounds like a dream game. Imagine the designs! Imagine the Types they’d each specialize in. Imagine Pokemon x Hades, basically. It sounds incredible, mate.
China – Three Kingdoms
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but wouldn’t a game set during China’s ‘Three Kingdoms’ era be great? What? What do you mean it’s already been done in countless Dynasty Warriors games? And Total War games? And dozens of others besides? Oh. Well, none of them do the job as well as a Pokemon take on the mythology would, right?
Think about it; you’ve got rivalling factions (that have all been attributed nice red, blue and green primary colours thanks to the folks at Tecmo Koei) that could all specialise in different types. You’ve got territorial aspects to the story, and we know Pokemon deals with that well because of the Pokemon Conquest games Alex bangs on about up above. Transplanting some of the ideas we saw in Conquest into a bigger game – brimming with incredible characters, astounding locations and some peculiar lore – is a no-brainer, at this point.
Given that a large swathe of Pokemon are inspired by Chinese mythology (Drampa, Absol, Suicune, Reshiram, Zekrom, Kyurem and more besides), we could also see some cool interactions with mystical guardians of certain locations – or see the likes of Guan Yu, Cao Cao or Lu Bu paired up thoughtfully with relevant ‘mon to their legacies.