It’s fair to say that, over the past few weeks, I have fallen deeply in love with Shiny Hunting in Pokémon Legends Arceus. The feedback loop of filling in detailed Pokédex entries, then checking out mass outbreaks, while listening for the telltale sound of an overworld Shiny spawning nearby has been scratching a very particular itch for the ADHD Autistic regions of my brain.
However, it has become increasingly clear the more of Pokémon Legends Arceus I have been playing, how much the game’s shiny hunting mechanics favour hearing players, and disadvantage deaf and hard of hearing players from encountering Shiny Pokémon as regularly, or unexpectedly.
So today, on Access-Ability, we’re going to be talking about how Pokémon Legends Arceus disadvantages Deaf and Hard of Hearing shiny hunters. We’re going to demonstrate how hearing Shiny hunters can use audio to recognise hard to spot Shiny Pokémon, even when they are not on screen, and how we could change the game’s UI to offer deaf and hard of hearing players that same degree of support in shiny hunting.
So, to start, let’s demonstrate what happens when a hearing player encounters a Shiny Pokémon, with the sound turned on, while playing Pokémon Legends Arceus.
When a hearing player enters an area where a shiny Pokémon has spawned, they hear a unique piece of audio to tell them a Shiny has spawned nearby. They do not need to be looking in the direction of the Shiny spawn to hear this audio. What this allows them to do is, particularly in areas where they have increased their shiny odds by completing lots of Pokédex entries, to run around areas at speed on one of the game’s Ride Pokémon and, if they hear this unique piece of audio play, slow down and look around an approximate area for a Shiny Pokémon they know is somewhere just out of sight.
Now, there is also a visual tell for a Shiny Pokémon spawning, but it is much more directional and targeted. If you happen to be looking in the correct direction when a Shiny Pokémon spawns in, you will spot a small visual sparkle animation denoting the Pokémon is shiny. Additionally, if you know the species of Pokémon well, you may notice it being a different colour to usual, but this is not a guarantee, with some Shiny species such as Gengar looking nearly identical to their non shiny forms.
While the sparkle effect and overworld visible colour difference in theory allow deaf and hard of hearing players to find Shiny Pokémon, these visual cues are a lot more likely to be missed than the game’s audio cues. Beyond already needing to be looking the correct direction to see the Shiny spawn in, there’s also the risk that a shiny’s sparkle animation may be disguised by tall grass spawning that blocks line of sight to the visual animation.
Put simply, while players who are able to listen to the game’s audio are able to know if they pass a Shiny Pokémon without even seeing it spawn in, deaf and hard of hearing players have to spot a Possibly similar looking Shiny Pokémon, by looking in the correct direction, ideally at the correct time to spot a small sparkle animation, hopefully not obscured from view by other elements of the overworld.
So, how do we fix this? Well, Pokémon Legends Arceus already features a series of UI elements designed to tell the player important information, which we could build upon.
If the game can already add a border around the edges of the screen to show you damage dealt to your Pokémon trainer, an eye symbol to show you’ve drawn the aggression of a wild Pokémon, and a visual effect to show you are successfully stealth crouched in long grass, I would suggest adding a UI element, large and difficult to miss, that appears on screen for the same length of time as the shiny sparkle sound effect plays.
The visual element would appear whether or not you are looking in the direction of the Shiny spawning, and perhaps even appear on the screen’s edge to point you toward which direction the Shiny spawned in from.
Basically, for players who cannot hear, have trouble picking out specific sound such as those with auditory processing issues, or who simply need to play with the sound off, I’d like to see a sparkle on screen, whether or not you’re looking at a spawning in shiny Pokémon, so that every player has an equal chance of knowing that they just ran past a really cool unique species of Pokémon that might make their day to encounter.
As much as I have loved Shiny hunting in Pokémon Legends Arceus, the stark difference in experience when playing with sound, versus without, has been really bugging me the longer I play.
I am autistic, and I often struggle to mentally pick out individual sounds from a wider soundscape. I know I have nearly missed several Shiny Pokémon spawns when playing Legends Areceus on Twitch because my brain simply didn’t pick the shiny sparkle sound effect out from the rest of the game audio which was playing. My issues with hearing those audio cues is intermittent, but for deaf and hard of hearing players that issue is the status quo.
If we want shiny hunting in Legends Arceus to be more accessible, we need to make sure that the visual cues for shiny spawns are just as prominent as those delivered in audio.