When GameFreak began making Pokémon games on the Nintendo Switch, the company began diverting from the norm. They added open areas in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield and created an even more open world in Pokémon Legends Arceus. With the launch of Pokémon Violet and Pokémon Scarlet, GameFreak has taken the next step in transforming this historic franchise. We now have a full-fledged, open world Pokémon game.
The question needs to be asked, however: does it work? Let’s take a look.
Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet Details
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Developer(s): Game Freak
Mode(s): Single player
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
An open world like no other
While we have seen glimpses of what GameFreak would want to do with an open world Pokémon game, we’ve never seen it fully executed. In Pokémon Legends Arceus each area was still self-contained and only accessible via a menu system within the central town. Arceus also held a fairly linear path, pushing you to tackle each area one after the other.
Scarlet and Violet are true open world experiences, allowing you to tackle the game in the way you want. There are still constraints that will keep you from exploring too far, as higher-level Pokémon will live in those areas, posing an early game challenge. Still, should you want to go challenge the boss furthest from the central academy, you can do this.
The world itself is gorgeous, with different biomes to explore and 400 Pokémon to find and catch. It was so much fun running across the environments and seeing some of my favourite Pokémon from past games. The world does feel alive, with waterfalls dotting the landscape, caves to walk through, and so much more.
I assumed when I saw my first cave that the game would break-up the open world with linear cave exploration. I was pleasantly surprised when this was not the case. When they said they were working on an open world game, they really meant open world.
Another major change in Scarlet and Violet is that there are now three separate stories to uncover and explore. You can help a local student named Arven tackle the 5 Titan’s spread across Paldea, recovering the magical herbs they have hidden away. Another option is to do the traditional gym tour, taking on each of the 8 gym leaders and winning their badges.
The final, and most interesting, storyline centres around this generation’s Team Rocket, Team Star. The creation of Team Star is incredibly interesting, and as you take out each Team Star Boss, and bit more of the story unravels. You quickly learn that the creation of Team Star is tied directly into events that happened at the Academy.
Each Team Star Base requires players to use another of the new game mechanics. In any part of the overworld, and when required in Team Star Bases, players can actually throw out their lead Pokémon by pressing RB, and instead of engaging a nearby Pokémon in battle, your Pokémon will just battle it on its own in the overworld. While you will earn less XP than actually battling the Pokémon yourself, you will still earn some VP. This new mechanic is a great way to level up your Pokémon as you run around Paldea, and makes the game feel much less grindy.
The last few generations of Pokémon have brought about new and changing Pokémon abilities. This time around, GameFreak has introduced the brand-new Terra-Type Pokémon. These Pokémon can crystallize and become a Terra-Pokémon, with enhanced abilities. Throughout the world, you can find specific Terra-Type Pokémon to battle, either alone or with friends. These Terra-Type Pokémon battles provide an additional unique benefit, as the Pokémon’s Terra-Type will be different from its base type. This will allow a fire Pokémon to take on attributes of, say, rock Pokémon.
All Pokémon in the game can become Terra-Pokémon, which is really awesome, but also results in a downside. Actually, using Terra-Type moves in battle results in a fairly lengthy cutscene that cannot be skipped. The first few times it was fun, but as the game wore on, I purposefully didn’t use my Terra-Pokémon unless absolutely necessary, as I didn’t want to sit through the cutscene each time.
Progress but with issues
With great progress comes the opportunity for issues. Pokémon Violet and Scarlet are full of issues, mostly related to the game’s performance. Frequently—and I mean frequently—it is impossible to not notice the continual dropping of frames. Whether it’s something happening right in front of you, or happening to characters in the background, it’s really unfortunate to see all of these issues.
The issues extend to other areas of the game as well. You will experience a lot of pop-in, where items pop-in to your field of view as you run around Paldea. The same can be said for Pokémon that appear and then disappear from view entirely.
There are other issues as well, although less frequent and egregious.
Pokémon Violet and Pokémon Scarlet are enjoyable games but lack the polish we come to expect from the series
I’ve spent well over 40 hours with Pokémon Violet and Pokémon Scarlet exploring Paldea, and have completed all the gyms, bases, and titans. For the most part, this has been the most enjoyable Pokémon game to date, although the lack of polish is jarring. Your mileage with this game is going to vary. But, if you are a longtime fan of the franchise, and enjoyed what they did with Sword, Shield, and Arceus, there is a lot here to love.
That being said, if you can’t enjoy a game riddled with issues, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet probably isn’t for you!
+ Wide variety of Pokémon, new and old
+ Open world with few constraints
+ 3 great story arcs
– Quite a few graphical and performance issues with the game
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF POKEMON SCARLET AND POKEMON VIOLET
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5