By this point, you’ve likely heard a few things about Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. The first is that it has sold over 10 million copies in its opening three days, more than any Nintendo game in history. The second thing is that it’s a buggy/unrefined mess that you will be shocked by as you play. But the question that many have asked is, “Can the game still be good with all these glitches?” The answer, as my Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Review will tell you, is yes.
Not surprisingly, this review will start with the positive because there’s a lot to be positive of here! For example, the game’s beginnings are far more expansive than any of the past titles. Not unlike Pokemon X&Y or Sun & Moon, they changed up the formula for the better in the beginning before the Treasure Hunt begins. We meet the director of the Academy we’re enrolled in, we meet our rival in Nemona, we get to see what it’s like walking around in the new world, we do some battles, catch Pokemon, etc. You’ll be fully ready for your new adventure by the time it “truly starts. Oh, and I found a shiny two minutes into catching Pokemon. Shiny Hoppip, who would’ve thought?
Once you start on the treasure hunt, that’s where things get really interesting and expansive. Because you’ll find your entryways into Victory Raod, the Path of Legends, and Starfall Street. As promised, you can do whichever one you want in any order you want. I was curious how this would play out because they didn’t make it clear in the trailers whether you could only do one path, or you could do all of them. Thankfully, they did the latter option, and it worked for the benefit of the game. Because with these three very different paths, you could spice things up, jump all over the region to do what you wanted, and then find out in the end that they all tie to a fourth storyline via “A Way Home.” I won’t spoil that in full, but it’s easily the deepest endgame scenario in Pokemon history.
Furthermore, all the paths play differently. Victory Road is classic gym battles, but there are also other “Gym Challenges” that come with it. The Path of Legends has you facing Titan Pokemon, with some surprises regarding who you face. It’s very reminiscent of the Elder Pokemon from Pokemon Legends Arceus at points. Finally, Starfall Street embraces the “Let’s Go” feature to let you battle numerous Pokemon without having to do individual battles for each. That variety will make many of you happy so that you’re not “grinding through” each one in a straight shot, but bouncing around from one to the other based on where you are.
That’s a perfect segue to the open-world aesthetic that the games have truly embraced. They started this path with Arceus, but here it gets taken to another level. One that can only grow in quality.
I’m not ashamed to say that in my 30+ hour journey in the game, which will grow via the post-game content, I spent a lot of time walking around Paldea and seeing where everything went and what Pokemon I would find. I would be literally hundreds of feet from a goal, and then I’d wander off to explore. Or, I’d enter a new stretch of land I hadn’t been to before, see a bunch of Pokemon I hadn’t caught yet, and then spend 20-30 minutes trying to catch them all.
If this Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Review tells you nothing else, please remember this: I had SO MUCH FUN playing this title. I’ve been a fan of the series since Gen 1, and yet here in Gen 9, seeing a new or familiar Pokemon out in the wild and being able to run up to it and battle it or catch it was loads of fun. As I noted in the most recent episode of the Nintendo Entertainment Podcast, I wish my party could be bigger than six members because there are so many great Pokemon I would love to have in my crew!
There’s a whimsy and joy to wandering around this region and seeing what Pokemon will pop up next. Even as I entered the end of my journey, I found new Pokemon I hadn’t encountered before and was like, “I NEED IT!” Many times during my journey, I would play the game before going to bed and say, “I’ll play until this hour,” and then I’d go 30-45 minutes past it because I was “too invested” to stop. That says something right there.
Next up, I’ll talk about something I usually don’t mention in Pokemon game reviews, the characters. Sure, we all have our favorite rival or Gym Leader, but we don’t think of these games as “character-driven.” But in Gen 9? It’s the opposite. All the main stories are driven by the characters, which totally rocks. Nemona is a darling on the internet right now because of her Goku-like personality and love for battles. She and Ash Ketchum would be BFFs for sure. In Path of Legends, Arven emerged as one of the deepest and most tragic characters in Pokemon history! Gaming or anime! He’s rough at first, but by the time you reach the end of the main story, you’ll never want him to get hurt again. That goes for Penny and the members of Team Star too. They are billed as “troublemakers” at the start of the game, but the truth is much deeper than you’d expect, and it honestly calls out a problem in our real-world society.
Beyond the personalities, the character designs are top-notch for Gen 9. There are various unique looks here, and you’ll easily find some of the best designs in these games. Speaking of designs, another improvement is the Pokedex. Not only are you rewarded for catching lots of Pokemon, but each Pokemon also gets an illustration-style entry in the Dex that many have praised. It’s not hard to see why, it adds more flair to the Pokedex beyond being a “catalog of Pokemon.”
You’ll find plenty of “little things” that improve the titles, including the speed of getting into and out of battles, the animations of the Pokemon when they’re in the wild (including them being able to sleep in the wild, follow you eagerly, etc), the witty dialogue, and more. Oh, and let’s not forget the “completion screens” when you beat a part of the stories:
In terms of gameplay gimmicks, the Terastal feature is one that you will like due to its depth. You can transform a Pokemon into an entirely different Pokemon type, and that can give you a serious edge in battle. You can even find some of these “rare types” in the wild, and it’s always fun to see who you’ll find next. The Gym Leaders also take advantage of this so that their parties can go “beyond type.” Plus, if you don’t like the type your Pokemon has, you can find shards to transform them further!
Tera Raid battles play much smoother than the Dynamax battles of Gen 8, as it flows in real-time, and you can do more in the battles. Just as important, co-op works flawlessly in here. This past Sunday, during the Tera Raid event, I had one of my NEP partners join me in my world, and we explored the world in two different directions without issue. Then, we could summon each other when we found the Pokemon we wanted in the Tera Raids and battle alongside one another. Given Nintendo’s spotty history with internet features, it would’ve been easy to think they would bomb here, but they didn’t.
On a more divisive matter, the graphics are hit or miss depending on your personal views. I found them fine when they weren’t glitching out. I don’t agree with comments that it should “look like Xenoblade Chronicles 3!” when that franchise and Pokemon have different aesthetics. What’s more, you can see the detail in the cutscenes and trainer animations that showcase that they can push these things far. Add that to the Terastal sequences and certain other things, and the game looks great overall.
Plus, the music is a blast to listen to. The main theme you hear throughout the game and the Terastal theme in major battles were definitely highlights.
Alright, we’re finally at the point in this Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Review where I talk about the downsides! First up, obviously, the bugs and glitches. There are so many!!! I was stunned, in a bad way, by how unrefined Gen 9 was, and it’s really depressing because had they worked this out? It would’ve been the greatest Pokemon title ever, by far.
Just in my experience alone, I saw droves of framerate issues and visual bugs that boggled my mind. Some of them were basic things like clipping with character models. Other times I had camera issues where the game’s camera would clip through the ground and expose “the void” underneath. One time my Pokemon straight-up vanished into the ground and didn’t reappear until the battle ended! What really makes me mad about this is that some of these things are “forgivable,” but others aren’t. The framerate issues shouldn’t have been a problem, as they can be fixed. Yet, they weren’t. When you have to be literal in-game feet away from a character model before it gets a smooth walk cycle? You did something wrong.
Other times, it would be bugs in major cutscenes that ANYONE who played the game would see, and yet they weren’t fixed. Case in point, during multiple gym battles, the Pokemon on the field would clip through the gym floor. It was obvious, incredibly obvious, yet it wasn’t fixed. Again, if these were addressed, the game would be the best Pokemon title ever. But instead, the game feels more like an “unrefined proof of concept,” which sucks, considering how great the rest of the game is.
Another issue that I and others have had is level scaling. The game proudly boasts that you can “make your adventure your way,” but that’s not exactly true. There are some areas of the game you can’t access until you get special abilities for Koraidon/Miraidon. But ignoring that, if you go to certain areas/regions of Paldea, the Pokemon there can be vastly higher in level than you. Or, if you go in a certain route and then backtrack to areas you hadn’t gone to before, you’ll find yourself with Pokemon in your party that is 20-plus levels above the ones in the wild. For example, at the beginning of the game, you’re given a “go left or go right” option.
I went right to battle a Gym Leader I knew I could beat easily due to my starter’s type. Then I did some Path of Legends, Starfall Street, and other activities. Then, when I was done, I decided to the “left area.” When I did, the Pokemon there were 20 levels below me, and I had to be careful, so I could catch them without knocking them out instantly. That applied to Gym Leaders too. I saved the Normal-Type Gym Leader for last in my Victory Road challenge. When I got to him, my Skeledirge was at level 70, and his best Pokemon wasn’t even level 40. He, and others, were hardly a challenge as a result.
In contrast, there were some characters that, despite never battling you before, they had top-tier Pokemon teams, and you had no warning about how high their levels were. I lost a fight because of that, and it made me really mad.
Continuing on, while the Team Star storyline was one of the best parts of the game, going to the bases and fighting the grunts there…wasn’t. In fact, by the end, I was bored of it and wanted to get right to the bosses. We don’t gain experience via those fights for some reason, and it’s really easy to wipe out 30 Pokemon in ten minutes as long as you don’t make by-type choices. Hopefully, this gameplay style won’t be present in the next game.
Other little things held the games back too. One example is the picnic feature, which wasn’t as intuitive as I’d have liked. There was also the recurring problem of some Pokemon having emphatically dumb ways of evolving. I’m all for variety, but when I have to walk 1000 steps with my Pokemon, and I don’t have a counter for how long we’ve walked? It’s annoying, and that was the least annoying one of the evolution requirements I saw!
Finally, the Academy. I like the idea of us being at the Academy to start, but it’s very easy to forget to go there throughout the story and gameplay. This isn’t good, because you can only learn certain things from the classes, and you can get top-tier rewards as a result. One of which would’ve saved me from that blackout battle I told you about, but I had no reason to think such rewards were there.
In the end, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet was a big leap forward for the franchise. There’s no doubt of that at all. But as in all things, there’s a catch, and that catch is the fact The Pokemon Company let the game be released when it was clearly not finished. The fans are onto them now, and they better not pull that with Gen 10. Even with these issues, the game is a blast to play, and I know I haven’t finished all it has to offer. So if you’re a fan of the series, or you’re trying it out for the first time, this is a great title for you to get!
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Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Review
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are hardly perfect games, far from it, in fact. But when you look past the visual setbacks and glitches, you’ll find an expansive experience that begs to be explored in full. It doesn’t do everything right, but it further sets up a future that fans will be excited for once they refine it more.