Nothing brings video games to life like dynamic weather systems. No matter how many NPCs or how much wildlife you pack into an open-world game, it doesn’t really feel real to me until the clouds roll in, the sky darkens, and rain starts to fall. Changing weather represents a passage of time and makes it feel like the world is evolving. It can break up the monotony, especially in longer open-world games, by creating unfamiliar situations that lead to unique experiences. Even scripted weather changes in narrative games, like the frequent Seattle rain in The Last of Us 2, are incredibly effective at creating a moment.
Weather is art, environment, physics, and storytelling all rolled into one. Sometimes, weather can even be a gameplay mechanic. While the comparisons between Breath of the Wild and Pokemon Legends: Arceus seem somewhat overblown, there’s a lot that about the way weather works in BotW that Legends could borrow from and improve upon.
Weather has been a major game mechanic throughout the Pokemon series going all the way back to Gen II. Gold and Silver introduced moves like Rain Dance and Sunny Day which a Pokemon could use to change the weather in battle, giving certain types an advantage and other types a disadvantage. In Gen III, weather systems were added to the overworld so that you could experience rain and other conditions in real-time. While Gen III weather was static and specific to only certain regions, any battles that happened in a weather-affected area were subject to the same weather condition.
Practically every generation has built on weather mechanics in some way. For example, Gen IV introduced the held items heat, smooth, icy, and damp rocks that extend the duration of weather in battle. Gen V introduced the four seasons, which caused weather conditions to change in certain areas in accordance with the changing of seasons. As weather has become more dynamic and meaningful to the series, it has led to more and more Pokemon with weather-related abilities. The most prominent example, Castform, is a Pokemon that changes physical form based on the weather it’s exposed to. What’s more, weather can also determine the kind of Pokemon you can find in any specific area.
This is a major mechanic in the AR game Pokemon Go. When the weather is sunny, for example, you’re far more likely to encounter fire, grass, and ground-type Pokemon in the wild. When you play at night, ghost and dark-type Pokemon are more common, and when it rains, the water pokemon spawns are increased. Unlike the core Pokemon series that features weather patterns in predetermined areas, Pokemon Go reacts to actual weather conditions in real-time. If you happen to live somewhere that experiences a wide variety of weather, you can see how much of an impact weather has on spawn rates in the game.
Weather, and the way it affects Pokemon differently, needs to be an important part of Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Legends is the first truly open-world Pokemon game, and fans have plenty of expectations for what the game ought to be. But if Legends doesn’t lean hard into weather, I think it will lose one of the most important parts of Pokemon’s identity. This is our chance to see wild Pokemon living in their natural environments, they need to be affected by weather systems that are dynamic and complex.
Biomes are great, and I’d love to see ice-type Pokemon on a frozen mountain top and ground-type Pokemon digging holes in the desert, but more importantly, I want to see a living world of Pokemon that reacts to natural weather patterns. I hope that on an especially windy day in Legends, you can see a herd of Drifloon gently floating across the sky. I hope that when it rains, the Squirtles and Poliwags come out the splash in the puddles and play water guns with each other. In a perfect scenario, you could sneak up on a Charizard relaxing in the sun, tell your Piplup to use Rain Dance, and then catch the Charizard when it tries to fly away to escape the depowering rain.
Extreme weather would also make perfect opportunities to introduce legendary Pokemon. Imagine a heavy rain that turns into a thunderstorm. Suddenly, off in the distance, you see the clouds start to swirl around, creating a cyclone. By chasing the storm, you may eventually find that a Tornadus has created a tornado and now it’s flying around in the center of it, steering the tornado across the world. These kinds of encounters would be rare, but there are a lot of exciting scenarios that could be created with extreme weather.
Weather probably isn’t the first thing people think of when they think of Pokemon, but it’s nevertheless a core part of the games going all the way back to Gen II. Game Freak has a huge opportunity with Legends to make weather an important game mechanic, and I can’t wait to see what the developers do with it.
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Eric Switzer is the Livestream News Editor for TheGamer as well as the lead for VR and Tech. He has written about comics and film for Bloody Disgusting and VFXwire. He is a graduate of University of Missouri – Columbia and Vancouver Film School. Eric loves board games, fan conventions, new technology, and his sweet sweet kitties Bruce and Babs. Favorite games include Destiny 2, Kingdom Hearts, Super Metroid, and Prey…but mostly Prey. His favorite Pokémon is Umbreon.
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