Faith & Fandom
Pokemon Arceus: It's Over When It's Over
Updated: Mar 7, 2022
When I first heard a Pokemon game was coming that would be using the same engine as Breath of the Wild, I stopped listening. I didn’t need to hear anymore. I was automatically sold. I preordered two copies, one for me, and one for my kids, we have two Switches, and divide game time amongst the 4 of us. I hadn’t played Diamond or Pearl before so I hadn’t spent much time in the Sinnoh region, but I expected like most Pokemon games to wake up in your bedroom, or a vehicle or something, not hurtling through a rift in time and space. Arceus, the Pokemon deity, is basically sending you from your world into another, and as it chucks you through space and time, it upgrades your smartphone to give you a helper, and way to receive communication from the cosmic commissioning creature.
You find yourself crashing to this foreign land with little memory or understanding of where you’ve come from, or why you are there, but are quickly thrust into the adventure. I’ll say that this is easily my favorite Pokemon game, but it’s also so much like Breath of the Wild, that it’s kind of a given. But this format really does work exceptionally well for a Pokemon game. It’s definitely a different formula, but the same heart.
For me personally, I'm story driven (in games and life), and I rarely go full in for the completionist end of gaming. For me, once I've gotten the full story, I'm out. This is one of the reasons I've enjoyed more recent Pokemon games like Sun & Moon, Sword & Shield, and Arceus as well. When you’ve “beaten” the game and the credits roll, you’re literally only like halfway through the story. There’s more after the initial “victory” waiting for you. Whether it’s exploring weird portals, or funky dudes with sword shaped hair, the story continues. It’s not simply unlocking achievements; your journey isn’t over. The same is very much the case for Arceus. After you have closed the rift, there is a whole adventure.
Once the credits roll, Volo is waiting to challenge you to get all the Arceus plates, and not only that, but many legendary Pokemon and one of the toughest battles lie ahead with Arceus. I was discussing with someone just a couple days ago how much I enjoyed this aspect of the game, and they just kind of looked at me with mouth agape. Turns out that as soon as the credits rolled, they just turned the game off, put it back in the case and moved on. They didn’t see if there was more to go, or even about the outcome of their actions, they got the acclaim of the finish screen, and were satisfied.
When we satisfy ourselves with praise, congratulations, and approval, we rarely are going to give our best. If all we want is for someone to give us an acknowledgement, it’s easy to put a small amount of effort in, do it long enough to earn some praise, and then jump right back into living how we previously were. This is an attitude that is thick throughout church culture. Where people are willing to show up for Sunday services to get social or familial approval, and then go back to ignoring God the rest of their time. Enough of an effort to make gramma think you’re still a good boy, or to drop a well captured pic of holiness for the Gram. This is a dangerous mindset to live by in terms of spiritual development. Yeah, missing out on catching a Giratina because you stopped playing is sad, but there’s a lot of us who miss out on what God actually has in store for us because we settle for the momentary applause rather than fully exploring the story God has laid before us.
Paul lays out this verse in Galatians 1:10 that has dramatically shaped my heart and motives for the last 14 years;
“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”
Temporary accolades can be detrimental to the Longterm goal. There are so many people in both Pokemon and life that are satisfied with that brief moment of accomplishment, that they just stop pursuing forward motion. We have to fight to make sure that’s not us.
The first arc of the story comes to an end as you close the rift and credits roll. If you choose to accept Volo’s nudging, you find 17 Arceus plates, and unknowingly (unless you are even remotely good at foreshadowing and story devices) find yourself being double crossed by Volo who has used you to help him pave his way to the deity Pokemon of Arceus whom he plans to conquer and remake the world in a better way, like every classic monologuing villain. You battle Volo and his Pokemon for the safety of the universe at large (Btw this is thus far the toughest battle in the game), and he pseudo repentantly walks away giving you the final plate, and potentially the access to Arceus. You end up with a Legend of Zelda style flute-ish object, and once again, the story ends.
Just gonna pause for a second and say this interaction reminds me of something in Acts chapter 8.
A sorcerer named Simon tries to get access to the power of God for selfish reasons, gets rebuked, and walks away repentantly. As far as I can tell, no magic flutes are involved.
“14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”
24 Then Simon answered, “Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me.””
There often comes a time when people will see something they want, but not be willing to get it in the proper fashion, or to do the work required for it. Simon literally tribe to bribe his way to the power for God. Volo recognized the power Arceus had and wanted it for himself, but after his defeat at your hands, he decided it wasn’t worth the effort anymore and walks away. He may come back, I'm not done with the final portion of the game yet (trying to get this written first), but he just wasn’t willing to do it the right way. That can be true of so many of us in life in every area from relationships, to notoriety, to faith. We want shortcuts and don’t want it if we have to do the hard work. That’s never an attitude God will honor.
Once Volo storms off and you get the Ocarin... Azure Flute, you blow it and receive this message; “Seek All Pokemon.” This should sound familiar, because at the beginning of the game, once you land and pick up your Arc Phone, you get this message; “I bestow upon thee this Arc Phone, and thy mission: seek out all Pokemon.” Right out the gate they told you what was required. But some of us see that message and feel like it’s just not worth it. That requires you to find all 240 Pokemon in this game in order to proceed to the final point of facing Arceus. Remember, this whole game was built on the idea that this deified Pokemon sent, equipped, and commissioned you into this world. That’s the point. For Christians it’s a similar concept. Jesus called his disciples and told them they would be “fishers of men” in Matthew 4:19. That phrase that connotes that these followers of Jesus were to go out into the world and bring in the lost. To seek, and to find. They just didn’t get a fancy mystical smart phone to do it. When Jesus was about to ascend into Heaven after the resurrection, He gave what we call the great commission.
“Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20
From fishers of men, to the great commission, the goal is clear, go seek the lost. Make disciples. Do the work Jesus called us to do. His calling, and mission; “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” - Luke 19:10
I am currently at the stage in the game where I’ve completed the 2 main arcs, and if I want to see Arceus, I need to find all the Pokemon. I put my laptop down and picked up my switch to check my Pokedex count. I subsequently got distracted for 15 minutes looking for satchels. As it stands, out of the 240 Pokemon, I have seen 209, and caught 197. I have a long way to go.
You know what happens if I go back to the shrine and blow the Azure flute to summon Arceus? I’m told to get back to work. Told to go back out there. Seek all the Pokemon. I know what my job is, and it’s my responsibility to do it. This is the same distracted attitude where Christians will say things like; “I don’t know what God wants me to do with my life.” God has told us clearly, He wants us out there sharing our faith, making disciples, and doing His will. This isn’t just a vague concept it’s the actual mission.
“And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” - Matthew 24:14
I’m at a stalemate with this game. If I don’t do the work of seeking out all the Pokemon, I won’t see the true end. If we don’t do the work of taking the gospel into all nations, we won’t see the ending Christ described either, because God is being patient with mankind.
On a real note, I don’t have a burning desire to see, fight, or capture Arceus. Before this game, I didn’t know Arceus existed. But I want to finish the game, I want to be able to blow that flute, and move on to what’s next. Instead of being told to get back to work. The Bible teaches of this moment when people will come before God, and will have as fruitful of a response as me blowing this funky flute.
““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
- Matthew 7:21-23
I can stroll up to Arceus and say, “I closed the rift,” or “I stopped Volo.” I can say those things, but the mission the whole time has been to seek out Pokemon. If we are going to church, listening to Christian music, reading geeky devotionals, but not actually doing the work that Jesus gave us to do, then we aren’t being effective.
If you want to see Arceus, it’ll take time and dedication. You have to decide that continuing to play this game and seeking out the Pokemon is worth more to you than shelving it, or trading it in at Gamestop. Your heart as to be set on that if you want to see Arceus. Jesus states in Matthew 5:8 that our hearts condition will determine us seeing God. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Not that we attain purity on our own, but that our hearts are made pure by knowing Jesus and the salvation He offers, but the reality that if we know that salvation, that will also mean that we aren’t just going to horde it to ourselves, we are going to take that sacrificially pure heart Jesus provides us, and we are going to share the word and work that He gives us. We don’t earn a right to see God, but a truly changed heart results in truly changed actions and efforts.
It took me two more weeks of gameplay after the first draft of this chapter to be able to complete my Pokedex and face Arceus, and I solidly stand by everything previously stated. It was a great experience, and Arceus even parts some Pokemon wisdom your way in the process.
“Unflagging devotion to a goal shalt see it through... So hast thou proven thine actions. Much as that ancient hero once did. He and the Pokemon that walked beside him. To see such truths proven anew, beyond the bounds of time and space, bringeth joy to me. I am glad that I chose thee to call to this world. As thou walkest onward upon thine own path... upon thee... and upon this creation where thou now dwellest... I bestow my blessing. And I bestow upon thee part of myself. I would walk this world together with thee. Show me how it appeareth in thine eyes.”
Ask yourselves these 3 questions:
Is your desire to do the work God calls us to?
Is your heart changed enough to actually care about others to share His message with the world?
Did you catch that Unown on top of the Magikarp statue in the middle of town?
The work of the Gospel is meant to reach all. Like Pokemon, it’s “em all” not “em some.” See you out there trainers.