I feel like Pokemon has become one of the most recognizable titles in gaming over the past two decades. In fact, it's pretty hard not to run into the brand. You can even find gummies in your local grocery store. That, coupled with the fact that the pandemic helped Nintendo Switch console sales soar, guaranteed that a lot of gamers knew about and had access to the hardware to play the new generation of games. The biggest question is, are Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet worth that $60 price tag? Below we go over all the ins and outs of the newest mainline games and what you should consider before picking them up.
It's Not, Not Linear
To start off, I was taken in by the possibility of no longer being tied to the gym routes. In fact, the first thing I did was go after Team Star just to see how different the game would feel when not playing the bread-and-butter route of the series would be. But, unfortunately, this is where I hit my first snag with the game. As it turns out, the three paths are nothing but an illusion of choice.
If you don't do the gym route, then your Pokemon still won't listen to you, and it will be harder to catch higher-leveled ones. In addition to this, you won't really be able to fully explore Paldea unless you do the Legends routes, as your legendary motorcycle won't learn to swim or fly on its own. This was a bit frustrating as it pretty much meant that the games, while open world, was still linked to the old linear gameplay, only this time the box it was presented in was decorated a bit differently.
It also didn't help that the gyms were all out of order. Without a guide, you're pretty much popping up to the nearest gym to see if it's the proper level. Sure, you can take them on at any time, but if Pokemon that are over level 25 won't obey you, there are not too many battles you can win. This pretty much leads you to have to Google a play order guide to properly get through the game. While this didn't majorly affect my gameplay, as I tend to do everything in a Pokemon game, I was a bit let down that the three different paths couldn't be separate from one another.
I will say that the gym challenges did prove to help break up the old formula some. However, the Team Star portions of the game truly felt shallow to me as they were all the same basic formula with a car fight at the end.
New Features, New Pokemon, New Customization
The game rolled out many new features, including the ability to throw a Pokemon out and let them fight in the overworld on their own. This was a huge plus as it made grinding a bit easier. Like in Arceus, Pokemon don't jump at you from the grass. Instead, they freely run around the map, and touching them will start a battle. Each area has a large selection of Pokemon to choose from, making it easy to assemble all-star teams from the get-go.
Paldea is a mix of good and bad designs for me. However, while Pokemon like Bramble have excellent designs, others earn some criticism. One of the most painful designs for me is the evolution of Pawmi. This Pokemon simply stands up on its hind leg when it evolves. The starter evolutions are also a bit of a mixed bag, with Fuecoco's final evolution falling a bit short compared to that of Quaxly.
Tera battles are this game's big gimmick, but they are fun and add a layer of challenge to gym battles. By adding the Tera Types to your Pokemon, the strategy of your team gets much deeper. Multiplayer is also fun, but you may find that the game will lag a bit when letting another player into your world.
Breeding also has an overhaul and is tied to the new picnic system. Gone are the days of Pokemon Daycare and having to check back for eggs. Making sandwiches in the game is pretty interesting, as there are dozens of recipes. If you like crafting, then you may also be interested in the new ™ making system, which has you gathering materials from Pokemon to make moves. You can also find TMs on the ground. These are represented by glowing gold Pokeballs in the overworld.
Another huge change is the fact that you can always find items on the ground. These are picked up by examining sparkling spots on the ground or grabbing the pokeballs. The vast difference is that these now respawn, so gathering items is easier than ever. In addition, the items you pick up will be incredibly random, with the RNG system giving you everything from protein to a basic potion. If you are looking for special hold items, though, then you will need to interact with a new shop called Delibird Presents.
These can be found in most of the major towns and let you buy up items like Spell Tags and Soft Sand in exchange for money. Another significant shop change that you will find is with clothing stores. You can no longer buy clothes to wear outside of accessories like glasses and bags. The whole game, you must remain in your school uniform, which in my opinion, is a huge step back from the customization system that appeared in previous games.
Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violets Performance
This is where one of my biggest gripes comes in, especially after seeing Xenoblade Chronicles 3 run on the Switch. This game looks awful, and in all honesty, it doesn't always play that great. While things aren't as bad as Tiktok and YouTube complications make them out to be, it does have glitches. The draw distance is a significant problem, as is the game actually keeping up with a reasonable FPS rate. You can really see this in towns and Pokemon-filled areas as NPCs will pop in and out of existence.
The frame rate will drop if a lot is going on, which can sometimes look like a stop-motion battle. You will also notice that while there aren't loading times, you can't enter homes anymore and everything is pretty much restricted to one overworld map. Even the Pokemon Centers have been streamlined to be open-air businesses instead of existing in their own building. It honestly feels like a lot of quality got sacrificed in trying to make Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet into an open-world game.
It would be a bit different if the environments were complex, but many areas are dull. In fact, you will find that many of the areas feel empty, and while there are many Pokemon spawns, the little mysteries found in previous games just aren't present. There's no Chateau to explore, No S.S. Anne to loiter in, and no Underground to build your base in. In fact, I can list all the things I feel they are missing from the game based on what was offered in Sword and Shield. On the other hand, even Pokemon Legends Arceus gave us quite a few exciting features, especially when concerning the quests you could take on.
None of these complexities are present, yet the game still chugs along at times, and the environments are yawn-worthy compared to games like Breath of the Wild. Another aspect of the game that is absolutely dreadful is the in-game camera. Sometimes it felt like I was battling the camera angle and texture pop-in more than my opponents.
The Story, Music, and Characters
While I can't say that a Pokemon game's story has ever topped my list of RPG storylines, Scarlet and Violet's was exceptionally bland. Sure there were some cute moments with your legendary partner, and the Academy Director was funny, but most of it was bland. I actually was more annoyed than anything when I was exploring, and the game went into a cutscene.
The villainous group, if you can even really call them that, Team Star, is just forgettable. But, of course, this also extends to your classmates who help guide you through the different paths. One part of the game I can praise in this category is the character designs. The Team Star Leaders and Gym Leader designs are some of the best the series offers. I can also safely say that I feel the same about the game's soundtrack. It's fun to listen to, and the music change during Tera Battles is fun.
Should You Buy Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet?
This is a pretty tough call. While I had fun with the games, they certainly don't perform great or look appealing. After a patch to address the issues, I would feel much better about recommending them to players. This isn't my favorite pair of games, but I like it better than other titles in the series. But, really, it's a middling release that is brought down by a host of technical issues and features like customization that really shouldn't have been removed.
All in all, I would say that these games are ok, but I miss a lot of the magic that made past games lore-filled treats. If you're a Pokemon fan and can handle the bugs, then go ahead and splurge. If you are not a huge fan, wait for everything to be ironed out before picking up the title.
Pokémon Scarlet Review (Nintendo Switch)
One Step Foward Three Steps Backward
While the core gameplay is as fun as ever, the performance issues take center stage. Beloved features like outfit customization are missing and bland landscapes reign supreme. Still if you love the series there is still a lot of fun to be had in this title, after all the bugs are ironed out.