Review: Pokémon Scarlet & Violet

foreign as much as I’ve loved my time with Pokemon scarlet and violet this past week sinking 50 hours into the former and a further 10 hours into the latter I can’t help but feel conflicted about my overall experience with the titles scarlet and violet are undoubtedly the future of the Pokemon series and I’m excited for the potential that that future holds but the newest generation of titles also feel held back by the limitations of switch hardware and in my opinion a lesser for having left behind some of the Innovations introduced in Pokemon Legends Arceus just

nine months ago I think scarlet and violet are fantastic games but I also feel like their progress comes with some caveats so let’s start off by talking about what Pokemon scarlet and violet are and are not at their core Pokemon scarlet and violet are fundamentally traditional Mainline Pokemon Adventures set in a truly open world and adapted to be more in line with many of the conventions established by Legends Arceus scarlet and Violet’s promise of an open world Pokemon game is fully committed to with a few key exceptions once the play has gone through the game’s

first area and gone through a series of storyline establishing cutscenes at school the full game map is opened up and in theory any town on the map can be walked to there are certain

locations which will require unlocking traversal styles to reach which does somewhat gate a few select locations until later in your adventure but with the exception of certain water surrounded islands and high peaks there is usually a footpath that players can walk to to reach any location they set their eyes on as early as they want to head there there are no NPCs

that will tell you to get back on track with the plot no NPCs gating progression because you’ve done something out of order and nothing to prevent you messing around with everything beside the plot for hours at a time there’s a grand scale of scope to environments with a good density and variety of Pokemon to find and secrets to uncover helping to ensure that the open world structure feels purposeful rather than simply there to fill space to give an actionable idea of scope I spent four hours in Pokemon scarlet and caught 40 unique species of Pokemon

before heading to the school that opens up the open world properly and starts the three main storylines there was that much to see and do on essentially the first linear route of the game the only thing lacking which I would have really appreciated is an option similar to breath of the wild DLC adventure line it helps map out where you’ve been in the game during your adventure would have really helped with being methodical in Exploration and not missing areas while on my journey while there is no defined order that a player is forced to tackle

the game’s core objectives scarlet and violet do not feature level scaling meaning that deliberately setting off for a distant area on the map first will put you face to face with high-level creatures and any creatures that you luckily managed to catch may not obey you if you’ve skipped collecting badges the intention is made pretty clear as your adventure the further up toward the north of the map you head the stronger the wild Pokemon and trainers you face will become there is nothing to stop you heading toward those objectives but the consequences of pushing ahead are

clear to understand during the bulk of your adventure Pokemon scarlet and violet present players with three main storylines to approach tackling the gym leaders in Pokemon League fighting Titan Pokemon for her by mystica to make magical sandwiches defeating team star bases attempting to take down their overall organization while each of these storylines initially seem narratively basic and separated from each other they do eventually come into their own and get pretty interesting before combining satisfyingly into a wider narrative each of the storylines present in scarlet and violet offer a unique narrative and mechanical reward for progress

and understanding what each offers is key to making informed choices about where to prioritize on your journey the quest to defeat the Titan Pokemon giant oversized creatures and claim the game’s herbal mystica is perhaps the most narratively and mechanically significant of the three storylines while I won’t spoil the narrative surprise of this storyline which genuinely brought me to tears briefly the mechanical benefit to this series of missions is unlocking new traversal forms for your game’s chosen box legendary if you want Corydon or miraiden to be able to Sprint leap climb or Glide this storyline is

the one to prioritize to unlock those new traversal tools while the mechanics involved in this questline are fairly consistent usually simply involving a battle with a strong Pokemon that possesses an abnormally large health bar there is some variation involved in how these Titan Pokemon are encountered and tracked down and the relationships building between yourself your legendary Pokemon and NPC trainer Arvin is enough to keep the experience feeling fresh while we’re on this topic I want to state that I absolutely love the way that your legendary Pokemon karayden or miraiden is a tangible part of your

adventure incorporated into the narrative from the start of the game tied into the story and made to feel like a character that you’re building a tangible bond with by the time the game is over those legendaries honestly felt more like a partner Pokemon to me than my starter did moving on operation Starfall where players battle teams have disaffected teens offers perhaps the least immediately impactful completion reward but does offer one of the series more fleshed out and interesting motivations for an antagonist team to date raids on team star bases are generally very basic affairs with

the initial section of each base consisting of defeating 30 Pokemon in under 10 minutes using the Game’s new Let’s Go Auto Battle feature to explain the feature as clearly as possible players can press the R button to send a Pokemon from their party out onto the Overworld where it will automatically attack any Pokemon targeted or nearby these battles are entirely determined by type advantage and how many levels stronger your Pokemon is than the opponent meaning that as long as you don’t have a tight disadvantage or a level deficit your Pokemon will likely clear through most

Auto battles in the game minimally unscathed when not taking part in team star base encounters Let’s Go Auto battles are useful for defeating Pokemon rewarding you with TM crafting items and minimal experience they’re also useful for shiny hunting in the post game where mass outbreaks make a return from Legends Arceus though a little bit different in their implementation Shiny Pokemon do appear shiny on the Overworld but they don’t spark a visibly or make a sparkling sound when they spawn let’s go won’t knock out a Shiny Pokemon and as such these Auto battles can be used

to clear through Mass encounters while also identifying Shiny Pokemon by your team’s refusal to Auto Battle them returning to the topic of Team star raids generally all grunts in these spaces will use Pokemon of a single type attribute meaning that clearing through 30 of their creatures in 10 minutes is very little challenge most of the challenge comes from finding 30 to defeat rather than from actually knocking out the required monsters it’s inoffensive but not terribly strategic then each base ends with a battle with a boss trainer which is generally where the fun and challenge for

this plotline lies while initial team star bases aren’t super challenging they are all very impressive in the scope and spectacle of their fights with later bases making clever use of dual type Pokemon who are hard to hit with Pokemon that would typically be strong against the type that the bass specializes in while this was perhaps the least mechanically satisfying of the story lines and provided the least immediately useful rewards I was incredibly personally invested in the story of these teenagers and their reasons for creating and maintaining team Star as an organization I have a lot

of spoiler heavy thoughts about team star and I do plan to write about them in more depth in the coming weeks and finally let’s talk about the gym challenges on paper the most traditional part of Pokemon scarlet and Violet’s design as you travel around paldaya each gym leader in the region has a unique gimmick to the test required to tackle their gym that feels uniquely tailored to their personality and feels like it fleshes out who they are outside of their life as a gym leader I want to give a mild spoiler here for one of

the early Gym Leaders one who has been shown in official trailers to try and give you a sense of what the variety in these gym challenges feels like if you want to go in totally unspoiled skip to the timestamp that I’ve put on screen okay let’s talk a little bit of spoilers about a single gym leader iono the electric type gym leader is essentially a twitch streamer in order to battle her you have to do a collab on her twitch Channel and prove that you have enough of a viewership draw to be worth her time

she actively makes reference to the fact that she needs to know that you’re going to be a viewership draw before she will battle you on stream before then correcting herself and being a bit two-faced and trying to pretend that she needs to know if you’re passionate as a cover for the fact that she really just wants you know more views players need to complete a series of increasingly challenging find the NPC tasks from the perspective of fixed position CCTV cameras interspersed with battling her most dedicated twitch viewer super fans before battling her live on stream

to win her badge this is an example of the level of characterization seen in the gym challenges in scarlet and violet each mechanically varied and tied into the personality of the gym leader in their everyday life these activities prior to battling the gym leaders really helped him make them feel like fleshed out characters and improve their memorability unsurprisingly the reward for completing gyms is increasing the level of Pokemon who will obey you reliably in battles while this does feel a little more like a traditional Pokemon Adventure than Legends Arceus did I do feel like the

new formula does work well having operation Starfall and the Titan battles sprinkle throughout the adventure provides reliable variation in mechanically and narratively how the story progresses while the gym challenge is pretty straightforward and light on narrative surprises the other two storylines keep the game focused and provide emotionally resonant tidbits to keep the game feeling engaging the end game narrative as these stories eventually join together is some of the most magical and exciting end game content I’ve experienced in a Pokemon story and laid the groundwork for a world that felt big and full of mystery in

a way that was genuinely exciting I also want to know before we move on that the three main NPC companions you’ll be spending your time with in this adventure are all a lot more interesting than the last few generations of player Rivals have been these are not simply garages that you’ll battle watch them gloat or sulk then run off these are characters with their own stories that began before you entered their lives and who have goals and priorities outside of their Journey with the player which is really refreshing however this feels like a good time

to start talking about some of the areas where I feel like Pokemon scarlet and violet struggle a little particularly when in direct comparison to Legends Arceus which released at the start of this year while a lot of the quality of life changes introduced in Legends Arceus are present as options in scarlet and violet such as being able to skip prompt so providing nicknames sending Pokemon to your box and learning new moves until later in the pause menu which do help keep the pace of the game fast and minimally interrupted some aspects of Legends arguise that

I really loved have been removed or implemented in less polished ways in Pokemon Legends Arceus the Pokedex contained a series of tasks for each species of Pokemon which could be completed for rewards such as increased shiny odds for that individual Pokemon this system of completionist check boxes has been removed which I know won’t bother everyone but for me it was one of the most satisfying aspects of Legends Arceus I’m really sad to see it go and can only hope that we see it brought back in Future titles it encouraged me to use a lot of

species of Pokemon I might not otherwise try out constantly rotating my team selection as well as helping Point towards specialized moves and evolution methods for new species additionally While most of the traversal mechanics of your ride legendary function identically to those found in Legends Arceus one notable downgrade is that when gliding your Pokemon will now after a period of Time start to rapidly descend you can’t just pick one high point on the map and simply Glide forever until you hit the ground traveling as far horizontally as you like at a certain point the game will

simply Force you toward the ground catching Pokemon without engaging them in battle is also gone and its absence feels notable while you can still clear out wild Pokemon quickly using Auto battling it doesn’t feel quite as polished and makes the world feel a little more transparently like a video game rather than a living world additionally while you can manually aim and throw a Pokeball at a wild Pokemon to initiate a battle with a turn of stun the aiming mechanic is simply worse here than it was in Legends Arceus there is no aiming reticle president in

scarlet and violet and without that aiming reticle it’s often tricky to aim properly at one Pokemon in a group as I alluded to at the start of this review Pokemon scarlet and violet even following the game’s day one patch feels like a game that is screaming out to be ported to slightly more powerful Hardware than the current switch personally I enjoy the game enough to overlook this in most cases but the game struggles to hit its 30fps Target and in many situations drops noticeably below that rain effects running downhill and water effects all noticeably impact

performance with wild Terror Pokemon on water in particular crawling the game’s frame rate hilariously low generally the game hovers close to 30 FPS but more than any other game I’ve recently played this feels like a game that if we got a switch Pro revealed in the next year would be a prime candidate for some kind of performance patch low draw distances hop in low texture detailed on distant objects reduced slideshow frame rates on background NPCs and frame rate dips are all compromises made to deliver the promise of a truly open world Pokemon game I think

the trade-off is worthwhile but I know for many the level of technical sacrifice required is going to be a much bigger deal than it is for me personally I can acknowledge the game at times really struggles to achieve its ambitious aims additionally while I have seen some people assuming from previews of the game that Pokemon scarlet and violet have done away with binary gendering of player characters entirely that isn’t strictly true while all character customization options are open to all players your starting selection of Base character model will determine binary gendered pronouns which cannot be

changed once the game has started that said even with those negatives I still feel that Pokemon scarlet and violet are largely positive steps forward for the series particularly for opening up the complexity level and accessibility of competitive team composition in the series The Following thoughts are based on 50 hours with scarlet and 10 hours with Violet and may change over time but are currently how I feel about the competitive structure of these games following on from sword and shields example players in scarlet and violet can change any stats on any Pokemon to make them competitively

viable at a later time nature mints are back so we’re ability patches now renamed ability capsules and bottle caps which Pokemon now only need to be level 50 to use EV Improvement items are available right from the start of the game if you have the cash and all competitive viability mechanics including Terror types can be altered after the fact so let’s talk in some depth about terrestrialization the new gimmick in Scarlet Violet when you catch a wild Pokemon in scarlet and violet it will have its usual typing as well as something called a terror type

which will generally be the same as its primary typing you can find rare Pokemon either roaming in the wild or in Ray Dent which may have a different Terror type which doesn’t match either of its usual typings once per competitive battle or in regular gameplay once per visit to the Pokemon Center one of your Pokemon can rasterize transforming either until the end of the battle until it’s withdrawn from Battle or until it’s knocked out when a Pokemon terasterizes it becomes a monotype Pokemon of its Terror type for the purposes of damage dealt to it if

for example you took a mimikyu a ghost fairy Jewel type and terasterized it into a water type it would no longer be weak to dark type moves as a ghost type instead being weak to electric and grass type moves as if it were a water type if you happen to rasterize into a ghost type it would now only be a ghost type defensively not also a Fairy Type meaning it would no longer be weak to moves that would usually be effective against fairy types in terms of offense terasterizing a Pokemon doesn’t get rid of any

offensive Buffs it previously had only adding in new offensive Buffs if you terrestrialized and mimic you into a ghost type it wouldn’t lose its 1.5 times fairy same type attack bonus but it’s ghost stab bonus would increase from 1.5 times to two times if you terasterized into a type that it previously was not such as an electric type it would keep the 1.5 times stab bonus on ghost moves and on fairy moves and also gain 1.5 times stab on electric moves too Terror types can be changed later in the game by bringing 50 shards of

a terror Crystal to an NPC in the normal Gem City but these resources are tough to come by meaning that changing to a new Terror type is an investment and not something you can do regularly on a whim having played a decent amount of both games I really do like to rasterizing as a competitive mechanic and think that it has enormous potential its ability to switch up your defensive typing without losing current stab bonuses as well as the flexibility of increased damage on a wide range of move types really adds an almost overwhelming amount of

flexibility to team composition possibilities I’m incredibly excited to see what the competitive scene does with terrestrialization as a mechanic as I feel like the potential for well-timed reads of an opponent and terrestrialization to counter-expected large hits could be really exciting and unpredictable in high-end play the only negative that I foresee for competitive play in scarlet and violet at the time of writing this review is that I can’t find an option for players to play the game in set mode where the player doesn’t get a free switch in when a new opposing Pokemon is sent out

it may be that I’ve somehow missed it or that it will exist for competitive but not regular story mode play but if set mode truly is absent that will be a big negative for the competitive scene for those of you interested in shiny hunting I will have a more in-depth article available later this week but right now here’s what I can tell you picnics replaced the daycare for egg breeding by putting two compatible Pokemon in your party then starting a picnic eggs will automatically spawn in your picnic basket which can be made to happen more

quickly by crafting sandwiches in a mini game the basket can hold up to 10 eggs at a time and eggs collected will automatically go to your boxes images showing a shiny egg glowing in the picnic basket earlier this week are fabricated they’re false shiny eggs appear the same as any other eggs when in your basket or box also the Masuda Method is back and ditto can be found in the game for breeding purposes or non-breeding methods of shiny hunting there is a shiny charm available when you complete your Pokedex mass outbreaks are back and are

visible on the map in the post game you can clear through mass outbreaks with auto battling and your Pokemon will shake their head and refuse if told to Auto Battle of shiny Pokemon in the post game five star raids can provide an item called Harbor mystica as a reward using multiple different kinds of these in a sandwich can help raise your shiny odds for 30 minutes but depending on which sandwich recipe you follow the type of Pokemon whose shiny odds are boosted will differ sandwiches do not increase your shiny odds across the board as far

as I can currently tell if autosave is turned off you can manually save next to a Shiny Pokemon and if you accidentally defeat it or it flees you can reload your save and it’ll still be there you can’t travel large distances away and then travel back but saving when nearby does work having now finished a first playthrough of Pokemon scarlet and having started playing through Violet I want to make it clear that my overall feelings on the new generation of Pokemon games are very positive if peppered with caveats I wish the game ran a little

more smoothly and I miss having little tasks to tick off in my Pokedex but on First Impressions I feel like these new games managed to capture a grand scale of Adventure that truly feels like an open-ended story in a tangible world for someone who grew up with the Pokemon series from a young age and has had an Autism special interest hyper fixation with the series from the very earliest years I was playing video games scarlet and violet do feel like they bring to life something magical the Pokemon world I imagined when I was a child

if I could give one piece of advice to anyone planning to pick up these games it would be the following don’t rush your way through I saw the main credits roll in Scala after about 40 hours but that involved a lot of new sprinting past interesting looking sites trying to have this review ready to post I had the most fun with the game when I allowed myself to slow down and explore taking insights and going wherever I saw something interesting letting myself get immersed in the journey rather than trying to see it through as quickly

as possible was when the game felt most magical to me scarlet and violet are certainly not Flawless games but they are pretty magical experiences they’re a wonderful step forward for the series even if there are things dropped from Legends Arceus that I feel like are steps backwards it’s not universally going to replace Legends Arceus as my personal favorite Pokemon game but it is setting a new Benchmark for what this series wants to be and I am excited for the direction the main series is heading

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