“Pokemon Scarlet and Violet”: A Review
(Note: This review is based on the current build of the games available as of this writing. Your experience may vary depending on the version update you’re playing.)
“Pokémon Scarlet and Violet” are the latest games in the “Pokémon” franchise, marking the first fully open-world entries in the series. As a start to the ninth main generation of the series, the games mark a satisfying start to a new era of the series despite some admitted issues at launch.
Taking place in the Paldea region (which is heavily based on Spain and neighboring countries), this game sets the player as a student at the Pokémon Academy, one who takes part in an independent study project known as the “Treasure Hunt.” The story has three distinct main quests. On top of the Gym Challenge (which can be done completely nonlinearly for the first time in the series’ history), there are two additional quests; “Starfall Street,” in which the player must take down factions of delinquent students known as Team Star, and “The Search for the Herba Mystica,” where you help an upperclassman named Arven find a rare herb by engaging in battle with new Titan scale Pokémon.
As of these games, the overall amount of monsters in the Pokédex has passed 1,000 overall. On top of the series mascot Pikachu, a trio of new starters lead off the new monsters. They consist of Sprigatito, a grass-type cat with a relaxing aroma, Fuecoco, a fire-type who resembles a gator with a laid-back attitude, and Quaxly, a water-type duck that prides itself on the beauty of its feathers. This time around, the legendaries are Koraidon and Miraidon, a pair of dragons with ties to the game’s past and future.
One notable new mechanic is the “Terastal Phenomenon,” which allows players to get a boost in power, along with new abilities for their monsters turning into a crystalline form once per battle. Players can also fully customize their avatars for the first time in the series’ history, with the flexibility being on par with the likes of Nintendo’s Mii characters, the “Splatoon” trilogy and recent “Animal Crossing” titles. Paralleling the likes of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” and Rockstar’s open-world titles, these games easily rank among the most ambitious “Pokémon” titles to date.
That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement. The launch build of the games required day-one and day-zero updates to play, and the performance does have some admitted and intermittent issues. The visual presentation, while retaining the distinctive look and feel of the franchise along with its own graphical flair for this generation, does have moments of frame rate slowdown and occasional flickering. Though the discourse about how this reflects on the developers and the hardware is ongoing (with the analysis by Digital Foundry on their YouTube channel being a notable standout), it is clear that the potential these titles have is endless.
Despite the audience reception arguably surpassing 2019’s “Pokémon Sword and Shield” as the most divisive main installments to date, the fact the games still sold over 10 million copies worldwide upon their launch on November 18, 2022 still proves the series commands a sizable fanbase. The developers have also promised updates and support for the near future, so the quality-of-life status of the games is highly likely to improve from here.
While not on the same order of magnitude as last year’s “Pokémon Legends: Arceus,” the open-world sandbox of “Pokémon Scarlet and Violet” has a rough road to an overall enjoyable adventure – warts and all.
Publisher: Nintendo/The Pokémon Company
Developer: Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: E