Johto is the perfect setting for the next game

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I’m obsessed with Pokemon Legends: Arceus, Dear reader. In the space of a week, I went from turning my nose up at all the trailers because I thought it looked rougher than a Machamp’s armpit, to obsessively combing every inch of Hisui to completely fill my Pokédex.

Yes, Legends: Arceus has its problems. Large parts of the empty open world look really bad, and it’s clear that GameFreak needs more help, time, and resources to really get the most out of the Nintendo Switch. The tutorial is too long, the cutscenes drag on, and it could be argued that there just aren’t enough trainer fights to break the endless cycle of catching and collecting.

But honestly, I don’t care about any of that when it comes to this. For all its faults, Legends: Arceus easily became one of my favorite Pokemon games of all time. In fact, it might have gotten a spot as my second favorite, just below the excellent DS remakes of Gold Silver.

Given the game’s incredible commercial and critical success so far, it’s clear that a sequel to Legends: Arceus is a matter of when, not if. I’m sure we all already have our own mental wishlists for tracking. Legends: Arceus has, after all, established such a solid new foundation that is bubbling with so much potential. But there’s only one thing at the top of my list: setting the next Legends game in Johto.

Assuming all future Legends games stick to the established concept of sending players back in time to a time when people and Pokemon lived together in perfect harmony, which they absolutely should, then surely Johto is a no-brainer for our next trip down memory lane? Certainly our own James Daly said so himself in his Legends: Arceus review – and it’s perfect.

The region made explorable for the first time in Gold Silver way back in 1999 has always been brimming with a real sense of history. Despite the technical limitations of the time and the fact that Johto is much smaller compared to later regions, you have arrived at Gold Silver fully believing that you were part of a world where so much had already happened. It was like a whole formed place.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus / Credit: Author

Kanto was a much more modern technology-based region, but Johto has embraced the very notion of its own past. It was the first time players really felt like the world of Pokémon was something really old. Something that had existed since before they were born and would probably continue long after they were gone.

Sure, that’s now true of the franchise both in reality and in the game, but if I think about it this for too long, I may well plunge headfirst into a total existential crisis.

Johto’s history is rich, fascinating and just waiting to be explored in more detail. The mysterious Ruins of Alph and the Unowns who dwell within. Ecruteak City, with its century-old towers, and the fire that engulfed the Brass Tower for three whole days. The rise of Entei, Suicune and Raikou. The arrival and departure of Lugia and Ho-Oh. The ancient forest of Ilex and the sacred sanctuary erected in honor of its protector. These are all stories that Gold Silver hint and explore to some degree, but a Johto-focused Legends game could really dive in and allow us to experience this story without having to read it on a Wiki page.

Ecruteak City serving as a central hub in the same way as Jubilife in Legends: Arceus would give players the chance to shoot every corner of Johto, but it would also provide the perfect starting point for the game’s story. The Brass and Bell Towers, built 700 years before the events of Gold Silver were literally built for the purpose of strengthening the friendship between people and Pokémon. The goal of Legends: Arceus is to help people understand Pokémon by researching them so they can be less afraid of them. So why not make the sequel build on that in a fun and interesting way?

Pokemon Heart Gold / Credit: Nintendo
Pokemon Heart Gold / Credit: Nintendo

Instead of taking down boss-like Noble Pokemon because they mindlessly rampage, have players hunt down and work with monsters to learn new ways to cooperate and develop Ecruteak alongside the two towers.

Part of the fun of Legends: Arceus sees Jubilife grow and change as you increase people’s understanding of Pokémon. The sequel should take this idea even further by fundamentally evolving the main base of operations as you learn to work with new abilities and Pokémon. Don’t just catch them in little balls and put them to work, but think about how each Pokémon could help grow your colony while making sure the environment you create has real benefits for the Pokémon.

It would be the perfect opportunity to look at this fundamental idea that the franchise has always put forward, but never really shown via gameplay: this Pokémon and its friends and partners first. Battles and training are great, but actually studying ‘mon as a way to build your own colony where people and Pokémon can live together in peace is the truest expression of what Pokémon is. What better way to honor Johto’s history than to be able to participate in its formation?

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