Review: Pokemon Scarlet & Violet


UPDATE: As of this advisory, the first post-launch patch Edition 1.1.0. has been released, and it fixes some of the issues I’m going to talk about. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s definitely a decent improvement.

For the past few years, the Pokémon series has teased us with the idea of ​​fully open-ended gameplay; something fans have been dreaming about for many, many years. In Generation 8, sword and shieldthere was a dedicated “Wild Area” to explore, and in the latest spin-off title Pokemon Legends: Arceus, free-roaming exploration was a major selling point. With the release of Generation 9, scarlet and purple, the open-world concept has finally been fully embraced, but does it really live up to the hype? Let’s find out!

Considering Pokémon has been around for over 25 years, it seems like it would be counterproductive to explain all the traditional aspects of the series that most of you are probably already familiar with. If you don’t already know Pokémon type strengths and weaknesses, you’ve probably been living under a rock, so I’ll try to keep this review condensed without unnecessary filler. As always, Scarlet and Violet are two versions of relatively the same game with some minimal differences. You can consult these well-crafted articles on here and here for a full list of differences to help you choose the game that’s right for you… or just pick your favorite color.

Your adventure begins after creating your very own Pokémon Trainer from a variety of customization options. It’s your first day at Naranja/Uva Academy, and the school’s principal, Mr. Clavell, welcomes you by offering you a starter Pokémon, either Sprigatito (grass-type), Fuecoco (fire-type), or Quaxly (water type). Next, you’ll be introduced to Nemona, your friendly rival and champion-ranked student council president. When Nemona shows you around the campus, you’ll discover the mysterious Pokémon Koraidon/Miraidon, and while you can’t use them in battle at first, you can use them as faster transportation. Spoiler-free, the story is deep and engaging with a cast of characters that shine with personality. The lack of voice acting makes the dialogue a bit lifeless, but I guess that’s understandable given the number of lines that would need to be recorded, which means additional development costs. Even still, I hope Nintendo and The Pokémon Company make the investment for next-gen, because it would add a whole new dimension.

As soon as I started exploring the Paldea region, my expectations were turned upside down by the size and scope of the open world. There are so many massive areas filled to the brim with Pokemon to catch, trainers to battle, and badges to earn, and you can pretty much do whatever you want in any order. There are plenty of Pokemon Centers to heal your party of six, buy Poké Balls and healing items, or craft TMs using materials you collect from Pokemon, all in one place. After visiting a Pokémon Center, you can return there almost instantly at any time using the “Flying Taxi” service found on your always-accessible Rotom Phone, a device that contains the world map where waypoints can be set to facilitate trips. , as well as your own Pokédex.

There are 400 total Pokemon to find in the Paldea region, 104 of which are brand new. As a collector at heart and someone who owns every single Super Smash Bros. amiibo, the “catch ’em all” mantra has always stuck with me. Completing the Pokédex is my favorite part of every new Pokemon generation, and Scarlet and Violet make it more fun than ever. The capture system’s UI is very intuitive, and as always, the more damage you deal in a battle before you throw your Poké Ball, the greater the chance of success. However, this of course runs the risk of accidentally fainting the Pokémon of your choice, which is always a tragedy. A battle starts when you throw a Poké Ball at a Pokemon or run into one directly, but sneaking up on it is the best strategy, as it gives you an advantage by letting you go first in the battle. If you can’t remember whether or not you’ve caught a certain Pokémon before, there’s a handy indicator when you lock in that tells you if it’s registered in your Pokédex. I’m glad the days of random encounters are over, because it always frustrated me.

There are different types of Pokémon Battles you can participate in, the most well-known being Gym Battles; face off against a leader who is knowledgeable about a specific Pokemon type. Before you face each other, you have to complete a special challenge to prove your worth. Some of these challenges are more difficult than others, but I found each one to be at least enjoyable. As for the Gym Battles themselves, you’ll want to make sure you’re properly prepared before entering the arena, as having the right team of Pokemon will be key to victory. There are eight Gyms in total, and after defeating them all, you’ll pass a Champion Evaluation which will grant you the Wanted Champion Rank you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

A unique type of Pokemon battle in Scarlet and Violet are Titan battles, in which there are five to defeat. These battles have you facing off against different types of massive Titan Pokémon guarding a lair containing a special type of Herba Mystica. Each Titan Battle you complete will upgrade your driving Pokémon, Koraidon/Miraidon, with abilities to help you travel, including but not limited to running and increased jump height. There’s also a story arc around this, but I’m tiptoeing for spoilers sake.

Finally, you’re tasked with taking down Team Star, a group of troublemakers divided into five Crew Bases of different types of Pokémon. Before battling each base’s boss, you’ll need to participate in a Star Barrage, a much less convenient special type of Pokémon battle. With the use of only three of your Pokémon at a time, you must defeat a set number of enemies within a certain time using Auto Battle, a mechanic where you send your Pokémon into battle alone, without needing to say which one moves to run. Auto-Battle can also be used outside of Star Barrages and can be useful during regular exploration.

Battles work as you’d expect for Pokémon, but with the introduction of a new feature called Terastallizing, a phenomenon that crystallizes your Pokémon, making them much more powerful. A Tera-type Pokémon sometimes looks different from its usual type, so keep that in mind. Once you’ve terastallized one of your Pokemon in battle, you won’t be able to use the mechanic again until you’ve visited a Pokemon Center and healed your entire party. Terastallizing adds an interesting layer of strategy, and while it won’t always be necessary to use it, it will be important to leverage its power during some of the tougher Pokemon battles you’ll encounter.

Multiplayer features have always been an important part of Pokémon games, and Scarlet and Violet have enough options to satisfy just about every type of player. Not only can you trade and/or battle Pokemon with other Trainers online or via local comm, Sword and Shield’s Raid Battles are also making a return…but with a twist. Since last generation’s Dynamax mechanic is no longer present, you’ll now team up with players to defeat Terastallized Pokémon instead. On top of all that, online co-op is available for up to four players, so you can explore the open-world region of Paldea with friends, a first for the Pokémon series.

Frame rate issues and noticeable stuttering are most often apparent in Scarlet and Violet, and it’s not the level of quality one would expect from a multi-billion dollar franchise. During the first few hours of my game, I encountered an abundance of issues, including but not limited to: shadows being cast under textures, objects appearing and disappearing, camera traversing the floor, movement/ Stiff and clunky animations, and a cutscene not triggering when it was supposed to, forcing me to completely restart the game in order to progress. Apparently, some users have also reported losing their save data after sudden crashes. Luckily, this has never happened to me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a cause for concern.

While some may point to hardware limitations due to the Nintendo Switch’s increasingly outdated technology, that’s really not enough of an excuse when gorgeous games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 are also comfortable on the platform. The Pokémon Company was likely aware of the poor optimization, but opted to release the games to make them available to consumers in time for the holiday season. It’s all speculation, but the decision not to delay Scarlet and Violet seems to have paid off, as it continued to sell out. 10 million copies worldwide in just three days on the market, making it not only the best-selling generation of Pokémon of all time, but also the best-selling platform-exclusive video game of all time.

I would like to end this review by properly expressing how much I love and always will love the Pokemon series. Any criticism I’ve voiced here is because I want the show to be the best it’s ever been, not because of some weird personal vendetta some might be quick to assume. In fact, while I have my share of issues with games, I’d even go so far as to recommend Scarlet and Violet; especially if Nintendo and Game Freak keep their to promise of performance updates to unleash the full potential of these otherwise fantastic Pokémon RPGs.

Scarlet and Violet take the evolution of the Pokémon series one step forward and two steps back. It excels at providing a great open-world gameplay experience, but technically falls flat, feeling more like an alpha release than a final product. Unfortunately, the severe lack of polish and optimization is holding Scarlet and Violet back from what could very well have been the best Pokemon generation yet. That’s not to say I didn’t have enough fun to make it worth it, but Pokémon Legends: Arceus tickled me a bit more.


A copy of Pokémon Purple was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK as part of this review.


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