Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have been met with mixed reception both from its fans and non-fans of the franchise. Despite that, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have managed to do the impossible – selling ten million copies in its first three days, making it the best-selling first-party game on the Switch, outranking Sword and Shield’s initial sales.
With a steady sail from its inception up until its release day, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet were widely anticipated for what it can bring to the table, along with the expectations of outshining its predecessor, Pokémon: Legends Arceus, in terms of gameplay, mechanics, and visuals.
Although Pokémon Scarlet and Violet don’t manage to appease some, if not all, of the expectations that fans have for the game, the newest entry for the ninth generation has improved itself with its gameplay and features.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet Review: The Good
I’ll start this Pokémon Scarlet and Violet review with the good things. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s gameplay has vastly improved, distancing itself from its Gen 8 Predecessor, Sword and Shield, in many ways.
Open World Gameplay
For starters, my favorite improvement is that Pokémon Scarlet and Violet has adopted the open-world design of gameplay and ditched the linear and segmented levels that older games from previous generations used. This gives the players more freedom to choose what they want to do and where they want to go. At the time of this Pokémon Scarlet and Violet review, I have clocked over 70 hours into the games. Most of this time has been spent exploring the open world and all it has to offer.
Speaking of the open-world gameplay, players would feel at home as they explore the region, that is, Paldea. Exploring the vast region, accompanied by Let’s Go mode, makes life easier for players who are looking to level up their team. Not only that, but trainer battles are also optional. Gone are the days when stepping into their range would trigger a battle. Overworld Pokémon, and loot, vary as well, neatly distributed throughout the region which encourages players to explore Paldea and see what it has to offer to them.
From the first day I bought the game (I pre-ordered Scarlet), I spent the next 24 hours roaming the region, catching Pokémon, and fighting trainers left and right. Not only that, but Tera Dens is also available early in the game once you gain your first badge. Players can take advantage of the early rewards that the raids have to offer. On top of that, the story in the game is not one-dimensional. Game Freak did the right thing with this.
Open World Means You Can Choose What Story Branch You’d Like to Tackle at Any Time
The game has three story paths that players can choose from: Victory Road (Gym Matches), Path of Legends (Titan Battles), and Starfall Street (Fighting bad guys).
Players have the freedom to choose which story path they want to take without worrying about the story branches. They can choose to fight a Pokémon Titan, after taking a Gym Match. This gameplay presents unique challenges that can give the player many ways to tackle them, especially since there is no set path for players to follow.
I stumbled on a gym that has a max level of 30 while my Pokémon are stuck at level 15. That happy accident has encouraged me to produce tactics and train with my Pokémon as I vowed revenge for my humiliating defeat.
I found the gameplay cycle to be incredibly addicting, as the game seamlessly immerses me in the region of Paldea. The open-world style of gameplay in Pokémon is a remarkable sight, and the gameplay structure is solid.
Scarlet and Violet have learned its lessons from Sword and Shield and improved its regional and open-world gameplay design that can impress even new fans of the franchise. I hope they’ll continue to push with this gameplay design and improve even further in the future, and they are headed in that direction.
Terastallizing and Tera Dens
One of the biggest new additions to the game is called The Terastallization Phenomenon, where players would use an object called a Tera Orb to power up their Pokémon and even change their types!
How does it work? Well, for starters, Terastallizing a Pokémon can change your Pokémon’s type depending on what Tera Type it has. For example, an Eevee can change its type into a Dragon-Type if it has the Dragon Tera as its type. Or let’s say Pikachu that has the flying type will turn into a Flying-Type.
Additionally, raid dens have returned in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet in the form of Tera Dens. These dens are randomly generated throughout the region of Paldea, with random Pokémon and Tera Types as well. It’s like Dynamax Raids but spiced up with a random wheelspin.
I find it nice and challenging that Tera Raids are random and their difficulty is categorized by the number of stars. This is enough to make players rethink their strategy and the Pokémon they will also use. And the best part? You can use any kind of Pokeball to catch Tera Pokémon without worrying about it failing!
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s Terastallization Is a Game Changer
While Terastallized, Pokémon receive STAB on moves matching their Tera Type, in addition to moves matching the type(s) they had immediately before Terastallizing.
A Dragon-Type Eevee, for example, which knows Draco Meteor, will be able to boost its move’s damage as both its Tera Type and move are in the same type of category. This is a game changer, both for casual and competitive matches, with the same impact that Dynamaxing had.
Players at first would be confused as to how this phenomenon works, just as I was confused as well. But with enough time, knowledge, and practice, players will start to get the hang of Terastallization and in understanding its mechanics.
Although it is a nice addition to the game, I worry that competitive scenes will ban the use of Terastallization in future tournaments, and that is something that I feel could be changed as it is a unique feature that can give any player a fighting chance.
Open World Co-Op Multiplayer Sessions
Other than the Open World design being my favorite, the second favorite in this list would be the Open World Multiplayer Co-Op feature. At any given time, I can summon my friends or strangers in the game, and we could just go goof around, battle each other, or even take on Tera Den raids together! A bonus if you can get on a VC with your friends while roaming around the region!
But the best part with co-op is that you can set up a picnic and bask in the sun with other players, participate in sandwich making and even interact with their Pokémon. Not only that, but you can also challenge one another to a casual Pokémon battle without the use of link codes, an issue that has plagued the previous generation.
Not only that, but you can also take timeless moments with your friends by using the selfie button. If there’s anything that can make your day, it’s taking a photo of you and your friends just posing around with goofy and fun poses that you can pin on your photo album.
School Life Immersion and Teacher Buddies
The game has perfectly nailed its school life accurately, combined with its impressive architectural design and abundance of classes. Scarlet and Violet offer a wide array of classes to choose from, all of which vary depending on the subject that you choose.
Other than that, you can take exams in this game if you genuinely want to test yourself if you think you really know the mechanics of Pokémon down to a tee. There are both Midterm and Final exams after taking three classes in each subject.
Speaking of the school, the game has professors that will assist you in your studies. Professor Jacq, for example, leads the biology class. He is also there to help you with your Pokedex as well as categorize Pokémon and reward you for your efforts. But the best part about this is that you can bond with your professors in the game, further deepening the bond that you share between you and your seniors.
I have not yet maximized my bond with the professors yet as I am guilty of skipping class (don’t tell the director), but it feels nice to interact with them because it means that they are not just some random generated NPC that is there simply as fodder. I really love interacting with them, it makes the game feel more alive than ever.
The Game’s Lore
Last on this list would be the lore of Scarlet and Violet. It’s absolutely a major step up from its predecessor, where Sword and Shield were marred with its subpar plot. Scarlet and Violet have fixed that by introducing a brand new, polished lore that is a remarkable sight.
Not only that, but there are also tons of books and dialogues that reference the lore of Paldea, and of previous regions as well. Naranja Academy boasts a handful of books, including the fabled Scarlet/Violet book that explains in detail the mysteries and stories surrounding the game’s story. They also have books referencing other regions as well, such as the book that makes a reference to Sword and Shield’s legends.
I’d spill more details as to why the game’s story and lore are so good, but that would mean spoiling you, the reader.
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Review: The Bad
While Pokémon Scarlet and Violet sold millions of copies, a plethora of issues has bogged it down, affecting the game’s overall performance and the player’s satisfaction with the game.
One of the most dreadful things the game is plagued with is Performance Issues. Although it is a game for the Nintendo Switch, a console that has adequate but less high-spec hardware, it is still not an excuse for the game to run so poorly at any given time.
The argument for this would be Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and NieR: Automata. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has impressive visual graphics and NieR: Automata is a AAA title ported to the Nintendo Switch. Despite XC3’s high-quality graphics and NieR being a multiplatform AAA game that requires more than the switch could offer, they both still run smoothly and perfectly without as much of a single performance issue. Both games are running smoothly at a constant framerate of 30 Frames Per Second, especially in NieR’s case when even the developers at Square Enix were surprised that the highly demanding game is running smoothly on the switch.
If they were able to pull it off, then how come Game Freak can’t? Although I wasn’t bothered by the drop in the FPS of the game, it is still a big headache for a good chunk of the fanbase. At times, the game would even crash the least you expect, which is not a good sign. Not at all. Not only that, if you’re unlucky, you can even lose your data if your game freezes or crashes, effectively wiping out your hard-earned Pokémon and progress. This is something that Nintendo is trying to address, and they rightfully should as soon as possible.
Glaring Visual Bugs
The problems just don’t stop at the Performance Issues. Gamers online have reported glaring visual bugs (such as the photo above) which spawned a ton of memes and scrutiny online amongst the Pokémon community. To this day, visual bugs are still rampant in a good chunk of the player base.
Although it does not affect the game’s performance, it certainly reflects poorly on Game Freak, especially if they continue to ignore the pleas of Pokémon fans on fixing the plethora of issues that are plaguing the game.
Lack of Fashion Design Choices in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet
Players have also complained about the lack of clothing options, leaving them stumped and confused as to why they can’t customize their characters as a way of expressing themselves in the game (or to just look cool).
Although it is a game where you are a student attending a prestigious university in Paldea, that doesn’t mean players should be stuck to four templates of outfits. Although there are customizable accessories such as hats, glasses, gloves, shoes, etc, that isn’t enough for the players who are looking to equip their characters with some sick drip.
At the time of this Pokémon Scarlet and Violet review, there is still no available clothing customization in the game, but that could be slated for a future DLC as the icon for clothes is greyed out in the customization section.
Although HOME being excluded on the launch day of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet has its reasons, it is still a shame that it is not compatible with the game.
Yes, Game Freak wants players to experience the game fresh, completely free of returning Pokémon, but some players (including myself) would like to try out the game with returning Pokémon that haven’t returned in Gen 8. Still, their reasoning is understandable, though it is a shame that players cannot store their Gen 9 Pokémon back to HOME and experiment with their team by bringing in new returning Pokémon in S/V.
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Review: Lack of Post-Game Content
And lastly, the game is lacking in post-game content. Although the game offers a plethora of Raid Dens as well as rematches with Gym Leaders and Starfall missions, there really isn’t much to see when it comes to the post-game. This is sad because the game could use a little bit more of that endgame content, enough to keep the interest of players in top shape.
An Ambitious Game With a Messy Start
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is an ambitious game that is plagued with a vast array of visual/graphical bugs and performance issues. Despite that, I am still playing the game religiously (although not 24/7) even after the credits have rolled. There’s just something addicting about roaming in the region of Paldea, catching new Pokémon and playing with friends via Co-Op mode as well as raiding Tera Dens to farm rewards (mainly EXP Candies).
However, there are a few ways to improve the game’s image, and that is starting with rolling out major fixes that answer the game’s performance issues, and visual and graphic bugs. Players aren’t asking that much from Game Freak; all they want is a polished game so that they can enjoy playing Pokémon without any game-breaking issues and bugs that can break the player’s immersion within the game. By covering both the negatives and positives, I hope my Pokémon Scarlet and Violet review assisted in covering just why these games are so exciting.
A New Hope
Despite the issues listed above, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is absolutely a success. I strongly recommend this game to anyone who wants to try out a brand-new Pokémon game that has strayed away from its traditional storytelling roots, armed with an open-world game design and the freedom to choose however you want to finish your story in any order. The game has a good amount of content that players can choose from, and with upcoming events and possibly a DLC in the future, both veteran and fresh fans have something to look forward to.
I haven’t even rambled about the amazing soundtrack in this game because if I did, I would take all night explaining why the game’s OST is an absolute joy to listen to! I absolutely recommend everyone to give Scarlet and Violet’s soundtrack a listen.
The game has its fair share of troubles and tumbles, but it’s been a while since we’ve been given a fun and engaging Pokémon game that is consistently fun. I genuinely believe that with the right direction, which is fixing the game’s many issues, this game can finally earn its place as one of the best Pokémon games in history. Going forward, I hope that Game Freak will continue to improve the game’s formula and stories going forward.