When Pokémon Legends: Arceus comes to Switch on January 28, it will bring with it a handful of new Pokémon. But my sick, anxiety-poisoned brain isn’t content to just be happy learning more about the upcoming game. No, I can’t help but question why these fresh faces aren’t present in other games, and the conclusion I’ve come to is, predictably, a huge bummer.
Pokémon Legends: Arceus takes place in Hisui, a vast wilderness that eventually becomes the Pokémon Diamond and Pearl region of Sinnoh. It’s unclear how much time separates these games, but a big part of Legends concerns your work both crafting the first Pokédex and settling the untamed land as part of the Galaxy Expedition Team. Sadly, this likely has some dire repercussions for the animals already living there.
During this week’s Pokémon Presents broadcast, the developers showed off some of the new Pokémon players will encounter in Pokémon Legends: Arceus next year. Kotaku staff writer Ethan Gach wrote at length about his love for Basculegion’s creepy origins, but my favourite is definitely Hisuian Growlithe with its eye- and chest-covering tufts of fur. I’m a sucker for fluffy dogs, even those with the ability to simultaneously conjure rockslides and burn me to a crisp.
When the serotonin rush of the stream’s Pokémon Legends: Arceus breakdown wore off, however, I wondered why these new Pokémon aren’t present in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. The boring response is that the developers merely wanted to introduce new Pokémon to the series without paying much mind to how it affected continuity with 16-year-old games.
If you regard the Pokémon universe as a living, breathing world, however, the only real answer is that Basculegion, Hisuian Growlithe, and the others had to have died out sometime after Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Hisui is described as an area untouched by civilisation, after all, and we all know what tends to happen when the natural world meets human ambition. It seems not even the magical world of Pokémon is free of these terrible consequences.
Pokémon as a franchise often sugarcoats the realities of nature for its young audience. Hints exist here and there of the Pokémon world’s sinister underpinnings, sure, but overall it’s a pretty cosy place for humans and wild animals alike. Pokémon are never shown eating other species, for example, even though you can bet a Charizard would absolutely go to town on a Wooloo if things worked like the real world.
In most Pokémon games, players are given the opportunity to revive long-dead species like Omanyte, Cranidos, and Tyrunt from carefully preserved fossils. But Pokémon Legends: Arceus may be the first entry in the series that allows us to witness the opposite side of this process by kickstarting (if not actually taking part in) several Pokémon species’ extinction events instead. Maybe a complete Pokédex isn’t that important after all.