Pokemon Legends: Arceus innovates on Pokemon conventions in a lot of ways, and the experience of catching Pokemon is one of them. Naturally, players can battle wild Pokemon and wear them down before throwing a PokeBall, but that's only one of several options. Sneaking up to a Pokemon with a Heavy Ball is a great way to quickly catch a Pokemon, and even without stealth, players can simply toss PokeBalls at many monsters that they pass, quickly collecting nearby Pokemon in the style of Niantic's mobile game Pokemon GO. Aside from these, Pokemon Legends: Arceus has yet another unique catching experience to offer: the search for Unown in the Hisui region.
Unown operate very differently in Pokemon Legends: Arceus than they do in most games. Rather than simply being another type of wild Pokemon to encounter and catch, Unown have their own list of objectives, and they're far rarer than most of the other Pokemon available in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Interestingly, this is another trait that Pokemon Legends: Arceus shares with Pokemon GO. In both of these games, Unown are particularly challenging to find and serve as a consistent excuse for players to explore the world around them as thoroughly as possible.
Unown in Pokemon GO and Pokemon Legends: Arceus
Once players have progressed through a certain amount of Pokemon Legends: Arceus' plot, they'll receive a list of riddles written using Unown that tasks players with finding all 28 versions of this alphabetical Pokemon. Pokemon Legends: Arceus makes it easier to collect new Pokemon than most games, since its various regions are filled with Pokemon large and small, but Unown is significantly rarer, since it can only be found by solving these riddles. Once an Unown is found, however, it can be caught instantly. In that way, the search for Unown encourages players to familiarize themselves with Hisui as much as possible so that they can solve riddles more easily, but they don't stress the actual catching components of Pokemon.
For years now, Pokemon GO has had a notably similar relationship with Unown. In theory, players can find Unown in the wild, but it's such an extraordinarily rare spawn that players will largely have to rely on special Pokemon GO events and Raids to find this Pokemon. Even then, events usually only highlight a couple versions of Unown, meaning collecting them all is a painstaking task. Those players determined enough to seek Unown on foot are sure to get extremely familiar with their neighborhoods, figuring out good PokeStop paths, identifying nearby Pokemon nests, and so on. Pokemon GO has notoriously simple catching mechanics, however, so finding Unown is the vast majority of the work.
Unown's Special Role in Pokemon
These two Pokemon side games have each found a unique way to incorporate Unown into the franchise, which is great to see. Unown has always been a special Pokemon in that it isn't particularly powerful in battle, but it's very influential in Pokemon lore, and it inherently comes with a special subset of catching objectives that few other Pokemon have. Recent mainline Pokemon games haven't made Unown a priority, but maybe experimentation in Pokemon Legends: Arceus, as well as Niantic's ideas in Pokemon GO, will inspire Game Freak to revisit the Symbol Pokemon.
With Pokemon Scarlet and Violet on the horizon, the unique ideas featured in Pokemon side games feel more important than ever. Pokemon Legends: Arceus stands out as a particularly successful Pokemon spinoff, so its ideas about combat, Pokemon outbreaks, Pokedex objectives, and much more could all affect the design of Generation 9 Pokemon games. The way that both Pokemon Legends: Arceus and Pokemon GO handle Unown seems like a great design element to borrow from in Scarlet and Violet, since it introduces some variety in the process of collecting every Pokemon. Hopefully Game Freak will hint at Unown's role in future games soon.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus is available now for Nintendo Switch.