Pokémon Legends Z-A Wishlist

I originally passed on Pokémon Legends: Arceus. While I thought it looked very interesting and cool, the scarily quick turnaround announcement of Scarlet & Violet caused me to wait for Gen 9. After scoring a great deal on eBay in 2023, I decided the time was right for me to give it a whirl. Arceus quickly became one of my all-time favorite Pokémon games, possibly the favorite depending on what mood I'm in. I couldn't stop playing it, having fun, and being happy with how a new gameplay style meshed so well with Pokémon staples. Being an outsider in an unfamiliar time, with humans only recently coexisting with Pokémon created a special atmosphere to the story and vibe.

Maybe we'll do a full review sometime. I was very, very excited to see if there would be a Legends 2. And where would it be? Many speculated Johto (is Pokémon really just supposed to be on a predictable loop like that?), but on February 27th, Pokémon Legends: Z-A was announced! Two birds in one stone, the fabled lost "Pokémon Z" and a Legends sequel were now one and the same. Apparently this game will take place entirely within Lumiose City during a redevelopment project. The time period wasn't clear, but I would be safe assuming it will be in the past. Maybe not as far back as Arceus, though. The timing of this was great for me, because just a few months ago I had finished playing Pokémon X for the very first time!

We know very little about this game as of this writing, and it's slated for 2025 release on the Nintendo Switch. That means it's the perfect time to speculate and play pretend! This is primarily a wishlist of mine and not strictly a prediction of what will be in the game. Hopes and dreams, if you will!

1. Gender, Beauty

Arceus featured absolutely wonderful player character designs. This kind of thing matters to me. I've even purchased an Akari cosplay for myself to wear! I rarely strayed from the default outfit in my 70~ hours with Arceus, but the game featured an enjoyable suite of outfits and hairstyles for dress-up aficionados. This is something that ended up completely flat for most of Scarlet and Violet, sadly. The DLC helped, but still, it was nothing like the customization in Arceus.

It was also nothing like the customization in X&Y, which featured beauty as a theme, according to Junichi Masuda. This was something that certainly could not have been done on prior hardware, so they went all out in Gen 6. The entire Kalos region was filled with interesting landmarks, with depth to a lot of adventuring areas. It's a wonderful feast for the eyes!

We shouldn't really be getting anything higher fidelity than Arceus, and some have expressed concern for the technical performance of a Switch game taking place inside one (enormous) city. Still, I would like to see a well realized, and reasonably rich Lumiose City, whatever shape it is in as we redevelop it. It would be wonderful to see some great optional player character outfits again. But it would mean the world to me to have an outstanding, nostalgic default look for the players! I'm dying to see what they will look like! More cosplay potential, please! I'm also quite curious to see if the protagonist will be 'isekai'd' into Kalos, or be a native resident. This leads us to the next item of business...

2. How About The 1960's?

One Twitter user "GlobinGoblin" speculated that Legends Z-A could take place in the 1960's. THIS WOULD BE THE COOLEST THING EVER. I've always been fascinated by the American 1960's, a decade of tremendous change for American culture in nearly every single way. While I can't claim to yet know much about France of Paris in the 1960's, I find this 'modern but not' idea very enticing for Pokémon.

One of Pokémon's greatest appeals is in its modern setting that reflects our real world. Kanto in Red & Blue seems to strongly resemble 1990's Japan. Or, in another sense, the computer has always been there in the series. "Technology is amazing!" is one of the first few lines of dialogue you can read in Pallet Town! I would love for the game to stay in the past, it's got to be behind the 90's though. 80's would be too close and honestly, a little tacky. The whitewashed, marketable 80's nostalgia has been around since I was a child, far too long. The 1960's is a perfect sweet spot to me. If we go back earlier in the 20th century, that would be fine, but I've got my fingers crossed.

I think THE WAR might be a little too far back to go. It's not perfectly clear, but Arceus took place anywhere from 200 to 300 years ago from the Sinnoh games. The Kalos War, and AZ building the ultimate weapon was 3000 years ago! This is so far back it makes your head spin! Of course, it would be a bit of a shame to not touch upon one of Pokémon's most wild, unexplored historical events in a Pokémon Legends game returning to Kalos! Maybe we'll get isekai'd within an isekai? Or collect some sort of historical artifact in a game that already takes place in the past? Characters in Arceus were no strangers to legends and myth, after all. We'll have to see!

3. A Strong Villain and Real Conflict

X&Y, in my mind, had a rocky story. Not without highlights or positives, but I felt like Lysandre needed some time in the oven. He acts like Elon Musk and is about as responsible as him, but everyone seems to think he's great until it's murder time. ...maybe he's a realistic villain? Anyway, Arceus also had some issues. While Volo ended up being a great villain, that didn't happen until the very end. The conflict between the Diamond and Pearl clans is, at times, ludicrous. Watching Irida and Adaman argue over which is more important between time and space was cringe-worthy nonsense that sounded like little kids arguing. I mean, they were young-ish, but what are you talking about? The really good story was in Akari or Rei's quest to be accepted in Jubilife Village, and the village's growing coexistence with Pokémon.

Z-A has some major potential to improve here. Scarlet and Violet showed repeatedly that Game Freak can tell a bold story with lovable characters and some genuine emotion. Knowing so little, we could imagine that the story could be anything. Zygarde and Mega Evolution will somehow be involved, and we'll learn about how wonderful our bonds with Pokémon can be. Almost anything else is anyone's guess, but I would really just like it to make some kind of sense. If we're playing a role in the redevelopment of Lumiose City, perhaps there could be two factions of pro-reconstruction and those who wish to preserve historic Kalos? Something like this would go over much better and make perfect sense for the story, rather than the overly literal "Time vs Space" thing in Arceus.

4. More Zygarde!

I've still yet to touch Sun & Moon where you can actually get Zygarde's complete form, but he became one of my favorites on sight whenever he was revealed. His mecha-inspired design and awesome black body endeared me to him instantly. I would love for Zygarde to be a part of the plot in a larger role, making more visual appearances than Arceus did in ... Arceus. There was nothing wrong with how Arceus was used in its game, of course, but it would be sweet to see our dog-snake-mobile suit friend take some action!

I'm tickled by the idea of a more evil Zygarde commanding the player to do evil things, rather than save Kalos. I don't think this would actually happen, but if a cool green snake told me to destroy Lumiose Gym, sure, I'd do it!

We may or may not see Alpha Pokémon again. A great excuse to have more powerful boss Pokémon in the wild could be "They're infected with Zygarde cells! That makes them extra dangerous!" That seems fair enough, right? If we've got to assemble Zygarde ourselves*, that would be a nice incentive for players to go up against stronger Pokémon. Although, are wild Pokémon going to be running around Lumoise? One imagines that we can't deviate that far from traditional Pokémon gameplay, but whose to say for sure in the bold world of Legends?
**be a little nicer than Spiritomb please!

5. Let Us Have Some Of The Good Moves

This was something that bugged me a bit in Legends Arceus, but there was a bit of rebalancing done to the battle system and move effects in order to better fit a purely single-player adventure where wild Pokémon were stronger. That was fine, and most of it made a lot of sense. For example, Hypnosis, inflicted the Drowsy status (like Yawn) instead of instantly putting a Pokémon to sleep. It would be pretty annoying to round around and get instantly slept by everything. Moves that inflict the Freeze status got turned into Frostbite, which acted kind of like a Special Attack reducing Burn.

The rebalancing I didn't quite understand was taking away some staple, powerful moves. The biggest offender here was Earth Power but no Earthquake. I love Earthquake! Doesn't everybody?! Give it back!! Spamming Surf is a time honored tradition unavailable in Arceus, though beloved Hydro Pump did make it!

I'm not against a smaller game move pool (though I love wide move pools on Pokémon that get them), but some staples and high BP moves should stick around. I don't see the design reason for not including them, unless it was deemed a totally necessary element in the goal of keeping a strong overworld. They certainly succeeded in that, Wild Pokémon were tough cookies in Arceus, but I didn't like the feeling that the Pokémon I raised were one or two moves away from their idealized selves.

I think that about covers what I can think of for Legends Z-A. I'm extremely excited to see more from the game, and I have a positive feeling that Legends Arceus was no freak accident. Even if nothing on my wishlist ends up in the game, I'm hoping that I'll be immersed in Lumiose City and a special vibe, and cool new Pokémon.

See you next time!

- James