Pokémon Scarlet and Violet seemingly suffer from proper time and care from Game Freak. However, the games include enough positive elements, such as multiple storylines and new features, that it’s worth the playthrough.
Table Of Contents
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have you follow three main storylines. You are a student who just began attending Naranja (Scarlet) or Uva (Violet) Academy. Almost right off the bat, you’re told that you are to go on a “treasure hunt.” Essentially, this means you are given a pass to travel across Paldea and do whatever you want.
You are told about three main missions you can embark on: the classic mission to beat the eight Gyms and Elite Four to become the champion, a mission to find and take down five Titan Pokémon with special powers, and a mission to take down the five bases of Team Star, a group of delinquent students.
The story in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet comes across, expectedly, as written for children. If you’re looking to sit down with an immersive and complex plot, this isn’t the game for you. But if you like to sit back, relax, and collect Pokémon while getting a children’s TV show vibe, this will be right up your alley. You’re not going to come across much character development or shocking plot twists, but that could be a positive for some looking for more of an unwinding gameplay experience.
Like the story, the dialogue in these games is simplistic and sometimes hokey. This is not unusual for a Pokémon game though, so Scarlet and Violet fall right in line. Your dialogue choices usually are irrelevant, but sometimes you’ll need to choose the correct responses, such as during your class Midterms, Finals, or the interview you take before challenging the Elite Four.
While Pokémon Scarlet and Violet do an okay job of making characters feel distinct, the games fall short on making them lovable. The teachers, for example, have distinct personalities, but there isn’t enough backstory or interactions with them to make them worth caring about. Similarly, your rival throughout your journey is always there to cheer you on and challenge you, but they don’t offer up any other personality traits. Most characters are entirely one-dimensional, which makes it difficult to have any kind of investment in them or any of their dialogue.
What’s worse is the trainers out in the wilderness generally don’t even have a distinct personality. Many of them have extremely similar appearances too and absolutely nothing to distinguish them from other characters.
Not a True Open World Experience
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet were marketed as games where you would be “free to explore at your leisure and not in an order dictated by the story.” In a way, this is true. You aren’t restricted from any areas of the map, even from the very beginning of the game. In terms of story, you’re essentially told to set out wherever your heart desires.
However, with the absence of level scaling, you’re basically still dictated to go from one spot to the next in a mostly linear fashion. While you could go straight to a late-game area, you will not be able to progress far. Every wild Pokémon, trainer, Gym battle, Team Star battle, or Titan will be far beyond your abilities. Thus, you are essentially pushed into following a path that’s been laid out for you.
That said, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet certainly still have enjoyable open-world elements. You can fast travel between cities once you’ve visited them, and there are tons of different stores and restaurants you can visit across Paldea. In fact, the visuals of the cities are probably where the game’s creativity shines the most, as they are all notably different with some creative building designs and touristy landmarks. However, you can only go into a handful of these buildings, and the ones you can get into simply pull up a menu when you walk in. The available interaction with the world and its people is lacking.
Where Is Everyone?
Unfortunately, with an expansive open world comes the threat of emptiness, and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet suffer a bit from this. Paldea’s wilderness is expansive and has varied terrain to keep it interesting. It’s also full of wild Pokémon to encounter, but you can easily go long stretches of time without coming across a single person. While there are trainers out in the wild, they are few and far between.
In older Pokémon games, you encounter Pokémon trainers much more often. This is likely due to the much smaller and restricted worlds the games were working with. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet made the world much more massive but seemed to retain the same number of Pokémon trainers, which didn’t work in its favor. You also will not encounter any people to provide you with side quests or other activities out in the wilderness.
However, this isn’t to say that Paldea is entirely empty. You can still have a blast riding around on Koraidon or Miraidon and spending the time to fill your Pokédex. Considering there are almost 400 different Pokémon in the games, this alone will provide you with numerous hours of entertainment. Additionally, there are some other activities you can partake in, such as searching for every Ominous Black Stake to unlock the locations of Legendary Pokémon.
Improvements on Previous Games
In many ways, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have improved upon previous games. To start, the way that Pokémon appear and behave in the wild is significantly more interesting. For example, you will often come across Pokémon appearing in groups rather than wandering around alone. Additionally, the group of Pokémon will often be a bunch of lower-leveled ones surrounding a higher-leveled Pokémon of the next evolution. So, for example, you might come across a big group of Magnemite surrounding one Magneton. You can also encounter Pokémon that are asleep while others will be racing around.
Though the open world might not check all the boxes, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is still the most open Pokémon game so far. Pokémon Legends: Arceus tapped into this a bit, but it always had you returning to the same hub with restrictions on which areas you could visit. Despite the world feeling a bit empty, the designs of the cities, the number of wild Pokémon, and items littered throughout Paldea were enough to keep things interesting.
Familiar but Enjoyable Gameplay
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have some new features, but the gameplay includes many of the elements from older Pokémon games that we already know and love.
The Gyms in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are almost the same as past games, except now there is the addition of Gym Tests. To challenge a Gym Leader, you must first complete a Gym Test, which varies depending on the Gym. The Gym Tests are generally tedious, sometimes lengthy tasks that don’t really require skill. For example, one task is to walk around and push a large item through a track to the finish line. Another test has you walking around town to search for 10 of the same Pokémon that are hiding. A more difficult Gym Test has you battling people to get clues to find a Secret Order at a restaurant. While some may find these menial tasks quirky enough to be fun, others will find them to be a distraction from the goal they set out to do—take down the Gyms.
Team Star is a group that has bases all around Paldea. When you go to these bases, you must defeat a set number of Pokémon within a certain time limit through auto battles. You can throw out up to three of your Pokémon at other Pokémon scattered around their base, and watch as they do battle. If aiming your throws wasn’t so clunky, this would be a fun new take on battling. Afterward, you end up in a normal battle with the base’s leader. As you progress, you learn more about the backstory of Team Star members, offering a nice alternative to the classic “earn your Gym Badges” route.
Across Paldea, there will be large Titan Pokémon that you must defeat. This works basically just like a normal battle, though you’ll have Arven join you in the second half when the Titan becomes stronger. Coming across the Titans in the wild was especially fun, as it is always a small rush to fight against a giant Pokémon with stronger powers.
Pokémon battles work the same way they have in the other games—turn-based combat where you’ll need to pay attention to type matchups. Though in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, you can start battles by throwing your Pokéballs at wild Pokémon… most of the time. Unsurprisingly, this is also a bit clunky, so you will sometimes encounter difficulty getting your Pokémon to actually target the ones you want to battle.
Otherwise, battles are where the game shines the most. Though Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s Gym Leaders and Elite Four suffer from being notably easy to defeat, battles are still the fun Pokémon experience that we all know and love with minimal additions. You won’t encounter many technical issues while battling either, making the battles less frustrating to deal with than traveling.
Tera Raid Battles
Tera Raid battles are like Pokémon Sword and Shield’s Dynamax raids. Up to four people can participate in these battles to take down a Pokémon that is (sometimes) stronger than the average ones you’ll encounter in the wilderness. You can win rewards that will help make your Pokémon stronger by completing Tera Raid battles. However, Scarlet and Violet have improved on the Raid battles from the previous games by allowing everyone on your team to do their attacks simultaneously rather than one at a time.
The character customization options at the beginning of the game are decent. You have plenty of options between eye color, hair color, and hairstyle—though skin color choices are still minimal. However, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet don’t offer many options in terms of changing your clothing. You can add numerous accessories, but you are limited in your clothing choice.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have added a few new features that the older games didn’t have, and these features are overall improvements.
Terastallizing is the new process in this generation that you can take advantage of in battle to give your Pokémon a boost. When Terastallized, Pokémon receive STAB (same-type attack bonus) on moves matching their Tera Type, in addition to moves matching their original types. So, if the Pokémon’s Tera Type is the same as one of its original types, moves of that type receive a 2x power boost instead of the usual 1.5x.
While this was intended to add an interesting layer to battles, it’s hard not to get discouraged from using it. The animation you have to sit through each time you use it takes quite a while, and the payoff isn’t really there when every battle in the game is easily winnable without it.
Another new feature included in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is the addition of classes. If you’re into Pokémon lore or getting a deeper understanding of the game’s mechanics, you can take classes at the Academy to learn more. You can even earn rewards from completing class exams. Though you will likely know most of the content already if you’re a seasoned Pokémon player, there are still some interesting tidbits specific to Pokémon Scarlet and Violet that you can pick up.
You can make or purchase Meals in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet as a way to give you or your Pokémon special abilities for a limited time. Meals are especially useful when you’re looking to complete your Pokédex. This new feature, along with pausing for a Picnic where you can manually build the sandwiches, is a fun little gimmick—even if it’s not really necessary most of the time.
Continuation of Poor Graphics
For years now, Game Freak has been reluctant to improve upon the graphics of their Pokémon games, and there isn’t really a clear reason as to why. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet suffer from this same issue. While the Nintendo Switch is not known for having exclusives with breathtaking graphics, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s are particularly poor. Bad textures, low-resolution art, and obvious repeated patterns make the game harsh to look at much of the time. This is especially bad coupled with the plethora of technical issues, considering Pokémon, trainers, and landscapes in the distance tend to pop in and out at any given time.
Lack of Voice Acting
Once again, Game Freak chose to forgo voice acting in their newest mainline Pokémon game. Whether this bothers you in general or not, it certainly detracts from the game’s cutscenes especially. You will see characters’ mouths moving in a dramatic movie-like scene, yet no sound comes out. This makes scenes that are supposed to be epic or serious feel more on the comical side.
A Performance Nightmare
Though this is already well known, we cannot discuss Pokémon Scarlet and Violet without discussing the mountain of performance issues. The game is set to run at 30 FPS, but frame rate dips are almost constantly present, whether you play the system docked or not. The frame rate tends to drop when there is a lot going on. However, even out in the wilderness, the frame rate will often drop severely while you or other Pokémon are running.
What’s worse is that NPCs and Pokémon will pop in and out of existence at any given time, even at close distances. So while you’re trying to travel around, it’s not uncommon that you’ll suddenly be in a battle with a Pokémon who, quite literally, was not there a second ago. Additionally, the game doesn’t keep track of Pokémon that pop out, so moving around will completely despawn the Pokémon.
The camera angles will also randomly be a disaster, depending on where exactly you run into a Pokémon. Sometimes, you will even encounter Pokémon who are halfway through walls or the ground where you cannot see them at all.
Finally, if you’re looking to play co-op, you’re going to want to hold off for a while. Playing online with friends causes all sorts of issues in addition to the ones mentioned above, such as people disappearing and a need to reconnect repeatedly.
Though the game did run slightly worse in handheld mode, it wasn’t as different as you might think. All the above issues, for example, were encountered while playing the game docked.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are decent but not great games. The general impression the games give is that Game Freak has opted for treating the franchise with much less care than it deserves. While having three main storylines, a bunch of new Pokémon, intriguing city designs, and some new features make Pokémon Scarlet and Violet feel worth a playthrough, there are enough drawbacks that waiting for a sale is probably the best course of action if you’re on the fence. There’s a good chance you’ll have fun playing these games, but they’re ultimately not worth the $60 price tag.