Pokémon Scarlet & Violet (Switch)
The next generation of Pokémon is here with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet with a whole new region to explore and a new crop of Pokémon to collect. This is a whole new mainline game unlike January’s Pokemon Legends Arceus but it definitely takes some inspiration from that game. The game released November 18th exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.
The story of the game is a massive departure from other mainline games in the series. It starts off in similar fashion to other generations with you meeting your rival and choosing your starter Pokémon but not long afterwards the game opens up massively. Previous games followed mostly the same formula with a fairly linear storyline which tasks you with travelling across the region collecting gym badges and occasionally foiling the regions evil teams plots while doing so. This time around the game is split into three completely separate storylines that you can tackle in any order you’d like. The three stories are Victory Road which is your typical quest around the region to gather gym badges and challenge the elite 4 to become champion, Starfall Street which is focused on the games new evil team: Team Star and tasks you with going to each of the teams bases to defeat their leader and Path of Legends: an entirely new storyline which sends you to the lairs of giant Titan Pokémon to gather special ingredients called Herba Mystica.
Splitting the main storyline into three paths was just what the series needed and adds a lot more freedom to the games whereas in previous games you were fairly railroaded into taking a set path around the region and doing everything in order. I feel like this freedom really helps to make the game seem fresh and hopefully can bring the series into a new era where you can truly explore the world to your hearts content. Each of these stories are entertaining in their own right, each boasting their own fantastic cast of characters. I felt that Arven, the main character of the Path of Legends storyline had a particularly good character arc and is overall a great character. Overall, I feel that splitting the story into three paths is one of the best changes the series has had in a long time and really breathes new life into the series.
The games gameplay has also been revamped in the way that the series has finally made the leap to a fully open world game that you can travel across by foot or atop the legendary Pokémon associated with your version of the game. This combined with the newfound freedom in story means that you can really just spend your time travelling around the region hunting for different types of Pokémon. While you can tackle any story section at any point in the game, there is definitely an intended order for the smoothest ride in terms of difficulty but with the right team you can definitely progress in your own way. For example, I defeated all 5 Titan Pokemon before I had even gone to the second Team Star base. While you can definitely choose your own path, I would’ve liked levels to scale with your progression as opposed to being a set level regardless of how far you have progressed.
The battle system itself has been relatively unchanged with it keeping the easy to approach system that has a surprising amount of depth that the series is known for. There is a few new additions to the battles, primarily in this generations new mechanic: Terastralizing. This changes a Pokémon’s type to their Tera type and boosts moves of that type. While I am no expert on the competitive scene of Pokemon I feel this adds a whole new layer of depth along with a few new battle items. Overall, the gameplay is some of the most fun I’ve had with the series in years and is a leap forward in the series.
The series big jump to open world has come at a big cost to its performance and its visuals. The games environments look outdated and large open areas look bland without much going on. The cities on the other hand are well designed despite the textures themselves not being too detailed. Characters and Pokémon themselves though are rendered well and some of the new Pokemon designs are fantastic, some personal favourites of mine being Kingambit and Ceruledge. Characters also have some great designs, particularly the regions gym leaders. Pop in is also a frequent issue with Pokemon frequently appearing in front of you as you ride your Pokemon throughout the world.
This is paired with fps drops to make for some definitely noticeable performance issues. This is a real shame as the game itself is fantastic and arguably one of the best in the series but your enjoyment of it hinges on if you can get past the games disappointing performance. Game Freak have also stated that they are going to improve the games performance in the future. On a more positive note, the games soundtrack is exceptional and personally one of my favourite Pokemon soundtracks with the games battle themes being particularly good. Overall, lacklustre visuals and rough performance are holding back Scarlet and Violet from being one of the best Pokemon games.
Despite rough performance and some bland visuals, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet feel like a big step forward for the franchise with much more freedom to explore than other Pokémon while still keeping the charm of Pokemon. I am definitely looking forward to the future of the series and hope that it keeps the improvements such as the open world and more open ended narratives while outgrowing the growing pains this jump caused.
A fantastic Pokémon game held back by performance issues and disappointing visuals.
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