Review Roundup: Pokémon: Scarlet and Violet
The main Pokémon series goes open-world for the first time.
Pokémon is back with another dual installment to the franchise’s video game collection. Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet just launched, thrusting gamers into a brand-new region full of new collectible monsters.
Embargos lifted this week, and plenty of reviews are already in. This time, Game Freak, creators of the Pokémon games, developed a mostly open-world setting for players to explore.
This strays from past Pokémon games that featured a linear structure and quests meant to be completed in order. So, how are people feeling about this new structure so far?
The final verdicts of the game are decent, with most people happy with the new structure. However, the performance limitations of the Nintendo Switch seemingly hurt the experience. Let’s see what people are saying.
A truly open world
By far, the biggest shift in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is the open world exploration and story decisions. There are tons of missions and questlines that you can complete in any order you see fit.
Like most other Pokémon games, you start off your time in the game as a young child. You’ve just moved to the Paldea region and must join a local school. From the start, you are thrown into a world to explore.
“In many ways, it feels like Game Freak has finally taken the training wheels off of Pokemon,” says Jake Dekker from GameSpot.
You’ll start out the game picking between three different starter Pokémon, a staple in the series. But after your introduction and a few helpful hints, you’re on your own to explore Paldea.
There are three main questlines in the game. First, the standard Victory Road quest requires you to defeat all eight gym leaders in the region.
There’s also a Path of Legends which requires you to hunt down abnormally large Titan Pokémon across Paldea. And finally, you’re tasked with defeating Team Star, the ‘Team Rocket’ bad guys of this generation.
You can complete those tasks in any order you’d like. Certain areas are more difficult, and you won’t stand a chance without leveling up your Pokémon first. But that doesn’t stop the game from letting you explore those areas.
There are bottlenecks in the story that does mess with the open world feel, but the game still leans heavily into exploration and playing how you like.
Brian Shea of Game Informer says, “the mission structure is the most freeing we’ve ever seen in a mainline Pokémon game.”
Gripping story and new gameplay mechanics
One thing that many reviewers seem to agree on so far is that the story and character development are top-notch in these games.
During your time in the Paldea region, you’ll treat your school as a sort of main hub. You can interact with classmates and professors and even take classes culminating in exams later.
“There are some genuinely tender moments, and many of the characters have personalities that are conveyed well, both through cutscenes and story moments,” says Alana Hagues of Nintendo Life.
The gameplay will feel pretty familiar to most fans of Pokémon games. Like most other Pokémon games, The Verge’s Andrew Webster notes that “almost everything involves either battling or collecting monsters.”
A new mechanic called Terastallizing adds a little extra to the game’s mechanics. Each Pokémon you catch will have a Tera Type.
When you Terastallize your Pokémon after visiting a Pokémon Center, it gives extra boosts to abilities that use that Pokémon’s Tera Type.
Additionally, that Pokémon will get extra resistances matching up to its Tera Type. This is an extra way to buff your Pokémon and have them ready for tough battles ahead.
Performance limits of the Nintendo Switch
Unfortunately, it looks like Game Freak has pushed the limits of the Nintendo Switch with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.
The game’s ambitious open world has led to some issues in the performance of the games. Many reviewers commented on choppy frame rates, specifically in more populated areas.
Daniel Van Boom of CNET says, “The frame rate can stutter at the best of times, and slows to a crawl when you’re in busy areas like towns.”
Fortunately, Pokémon is not an action game and doesn’t require the smoothest frame rate to enjoy what it offers. Still, it’s annoying when a game looks more like a slide show than a fluid story.
“Technical problems and an evident lack of development time take the shine off this ambitious new outing for the world-conquering critters,” says The Guardian’s Tom Regan.
Although the game does represent a major jump with the addition of an open world, performance is seemingly lacking.
Maybe Game Freak could fix this somewhat in a later patch, but it seems like the devs reached the limit of the Nintendo Switch’s capabilities.
A major revolution in a classic franchise
The Pokémon franchise has a history of releasing classic RPGs dating back more than 20 years. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet represent one of the biggest leaps the franchise has made in its history.
Although there are some performance issues likely caused by the outdated hardware in Nintendo Switch consoles, these games seem like solid entries to the franchise.
“Game Freak has finally stumbled upon an open world formula that successfully reinvents how Pokémon is played, while remaining true to the nostalgic childhood vision of exploration, adventure, and cute monster collecting,” says Rebekah Valentine of IGN.
Die-hard Pokémon fans will likely not want to miss this generation of games. And if you’ve never played a Pokémon RPG before, Scarlet and Violet look solid.
At the very least, it will open you up to a new world of RPGs with a list of games you could play for years to come.
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