Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Review – Very nice even with hitches

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have already been much talked about, mainly because of the technical problems. Part of that has already been resolved, but the game will still run moderately on the Nintendo Switch. That is a pity because the other games show nice improvements and innovations in various areas. Old systems have been modernized and some of the new elements, such as the fact that there are now three main missions, really add something. The more open design of the world is also nice, because exploring Paldea has something adventurous and relaxing. It is difficult to follow the right route through the regions so that you occasionally end up in areas that are too high, but in the end the balance is positive. For example, Scarlet and Violet are nice additions to the long-running and still-relevant franchise.

A while back, a discussion arose in the comments under a review about what a roleplaying game, or RPG, actually is. Although you play a role in the story quite literally in the Xbox game Pentiment, and the way you fill it in also influences the story, that game does not meet what we understand today as a game in the RPG genre. Fairly or unfairly? The answer to that question depends on the definition you want to use. Depending on that, you might think back to which RPGs you’ve played over the years. As you ponder The Witcher, Knights of the Old Republic, and Dragon Age, you may be forgetting a game that also qualifies for an RPG that you may have played more times than you care to admit: Pokémon. the old red, blue or yellow copy is even among the first open-world RPGs. In recent years we have seen the old recipe in a somewhat newer jacket, with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet as the most recent examples.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet share several traits with their long list of predecessors. As with every double release within the Pokémon franchise, we are talking about two almost the same games, in which the range of pocket monsters differs. As always, you will have to trade with other players if you want to complete the Pokédex in the game. That, in addition to playing through the story and building the strongest possible team of Pokémon, is, as always, a goal in itself. But with Scarlet and Violet, things do change that have been different for decades.

Of course, that starts with a new area. The new Paldea region seems loosely based on the Iberian Peninsula, which is also reflected in how the characters talk in the game. Even if you play the game in English, you will occasionally get a Spanish word in between. In Paldea you will of course also encounter the necessary known and new Pokémon, including your starter Pokémon Quaxyl, Fuecoco, or Sprigatito. Your choice doesn’t matter much: every basic type of Pokémon can be caught early in the game. We like the choice for Fuecoco, but it seems less important than it could be in previous games.

So many critters around you

This is due to two important differences between Pokémon Scarlet and Violet and the somewhat older games. First of all, the days of busting through tall grass to find Pokémon are behind us. Just like in Pokémon Arceus, you will just see the critters roaming freely. If you’re looking for a specific type, you don’t have to walk around haphazardly in places where they hopefully occur: you can just look around and walk towards the Pokémon you want to catch, while the Pokémon that doesn’t interest you, can dodge. That makes putting together a balanced team a lot easier and, above all, faster: by the time you reach the first gym, you already have a good counter for almost every type of Pokémon.

Logical route difficult to follow

The other difference is that the moment you reach that first gym is not fixed. More than in previous games, the game world of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is completely open. So you can determine a route yourself and that route does not, as was the case in the past, automatically pass the right gym at the right time. That just sounds more fun than it is. Due to the lack of guidance, you quickly end up in areas where the Pokémon are too strong. You suddenly notice that the Pokémon of trainers in that area have a considerably higher level than your critters and if you succeed in catching the wild Pokémon in that area, chances are they won’t listen to you: the badges that after all, you earn in gyms also ensure that higher-level Pokémon listen better to your commands.

The positive downside is that the more open style of the game is also inviting. Somehow it is also nice to just wander around and be surprised by strong Pokémon. You can also see when you have arrived in a higher area, because then you suddenly see evolutions of Pokémon walking around, of which you saw the normal version just before. On top of that, the next gym doesn’t always have to be the most logical next destination. This time there is more under the sun than just beating eight gyms and some elite enemies to become champion. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have three main missions, which then even follow in a closing part of the game.

Three main missions

Of the main missions, Victory Road is the one with the well-known content: this is your journey through the gyms, the Elite Four and the champion of the region, to prove that you are the best Pokémon trainer. The other two missions are more interesting. In Path of Legends you go on a hunt for five Titan Pokémon that have ended up in Paldea under mysterious circumstances. Then there’s Starfall Street, a mission all about thwarting Team Star. This slightly evil presence in Paldea is of course reminiscent of the old Team Rocket, although their background is different and the story around it is a lot more fun. Each of the three main missions has specific zones or places you need to go to in order to progress, and you’re free to choose any order you want, as long as it somewhat matches your Pokémon’s level.

While you go on an adventure in Paldea, you also learn to deal with the new systems in this game, or rather: the changed systems. We have finally said goodbye to unnecessarily cumbersome operating systems. For example, you can now access your collection of Pokémon anytime, anywhere, so you can always change the composition of your team. You can also travel back to previously visited Pokécenters from anywhere in the game world, and that Pokécenter also doubles as a shop and a place where you can unlock new attacks, which you can then teach your Pokémon. The game has had the much-needed streamlining, which improves the gameplay. It ensures that you can adventure without any worries and if you don’t feel like it anymore, you can quickly go in another direction.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet not only have improved old systems, of course there are also some new ingredients. For example, the Terastal phenomenon is new. This phenomenon means that Pokémon can change into their Tera Type thanks to special crystals. In this form they are stronger and sometimes even have special attacks. As a player, you can also change your own Pokémon to their Tera Type once per battle, which can certainly come in handy in more difficult battles. You also sometimes come across a crystal formation in the game world in which a Tera Pokémon is hidden. You fight this with a group, where you can decide for yourself whether you do that with AI trainers or with real players. This aspect is a bit like the Raid Battles from Pokémon Go. It’s a nice addition but more of a little extra than something that plays a major role in the game. The same goes for other elements, such as the ability to make food from ingredients that make you and your Pokémon stronger. It helps, but we barely used this game element and never missed it.

The Tera battles also involve some special effects. They feel pretty over the top and are probably meant to be. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are at their most spectacular here. Some environments are nice, but the overall graphic level of the game is not high. The environments are barer and emptier than we are used to from games in 2022. The animations of the Pokémon themselves make up for something, but graphically the game does not make much of an impression.

Technically mediocre

This automatically brings us to the more technical aspect and the game does not fare well in that area. You will have noticed that many gamers online have complained about the technical state of the game. Let’s start with the good news: steps have already been taken in this direction. For example, we have not fallen through the map and have not experienced any crashes. However, that does not mean that the game is now running like a charm. The frame rate is low and at times even drops so far that characters in the game world visibly ‘jump’ from one place to another. The rendering of characters is also often very slow, so that other trainers sometimes suddenly appear right in front of you.

We’ve read all kinds of opinions on this last point, ranging from ‘unforgivable that it runs so badly’ to ‘well, you can’t expect much more from the Switch’. There is an element of truth on both sides. What it mainly comes down to is whether you can step over it yourself or not. Especially when you’re driving around on your mount, the image stutters now and then, and the time it takes for the game to release a new Pokémon from its Pokéball sometimes feels just a second too long. This is still a fun pokemon game. The improvements and innovations work well. It especially feels like this game could use a few more months of optimization, although we naturally assume that that would also help. Anyway, technically Pokémon Scarlet and Violet leave something to be desired and that’s a shame.

Conclusion

So we close with a negative point, but our opinion of the entire game already seeps through that paragraph, because we had a great time with Pokémon Violet. The game mixes a recognizable base and associated parts with a number of new elements and that works well. That you can focus on multiple missions is nice. The stories are quite transparent at times, but they lead to fun moments and battles with Pokémon that you don’t encounter every day. The best part, however, is that you can freely explore Paldea. Riding around on your mount, looking around to see if you see any interesting Pokémon, items or trainers, almost gives you a ‘zen’ feeling. At the same time, the lack of guidance is a problem, because you soon end up in a zone with too strong Pokémon and it’s not clear where you have to go to get back into a zone with the right level. That, together with the questionable state of the game on a technical level, is the main thing to criticize about Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. We see no reason to advise against the game on those grounds: it would mean that you pass by the perhaps best Pokémon game to date, but that it could have been even better is evident.

Pros

  • Varied, open world
  • Three main missions
  • Tera battles
  • Old recipe modernized

Cons

  • Doesn’t run well
  • Difficult to follow a logical route