Developer: gambling addict
Release date: Now available
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Pokemon is now over 25 years old. Known for being one of Nintendo’s most valuable and successful franchises, the namesake has been a fairly annual schedule of late since the release of the Nintendo Switch. While LLegends: Arceus gave us something else scarlet and violet trying to bring things back to basics. This main installment features a large open world and a bunch of new creatures that are set on the more traditional experience that most liked. Does Pokemon scarlet and violet move us forward, or is it one of the first big failures? let’s find out
As much as I love Pokémon overall, the story has never been the strongest part of the main titles released over the years. scarlet and violet try to make a big change for it since it is risky to deepen the narrative by splitting it into three parts. The first is what we usually get, which is a path to becoming a Pokémon Master, where the player accepts the challenge at the Gym and eventually faces off against the Pokémon League. The next part features the latest evil “squad” known as Team Star. This force has bases throughout the Paldea region and has been known to bully trainers. Yes, it’s a step backwards from the usual forces we’ve seen in the past, but their motives and threat work well enough here for some interesting moments. Finally, we have the Academy plan, where the player takes classes and interacts with other coaches. Naranja Academy (or Uva Academy if you’re playing Violet) is basically the thread that ties the game together, acting as a large part of the lore for the region as well as a background theme for the overall experience.
These three narratives suit the player’s pace more and fit well with the open-world design, but the execution sometimes leaves a few things to be desired. For example, all three plots start at the beginning – but it almost feels like everything is set up so quickly that the player has little time to see any excitement or purpose for the journey ahead. I understand how the open world pace is developing and eventually things start to take shape, but not without a bit of searching. The core experience of simply “catching them all” is good for keeping the foundation going, as despite a slow start, I never felt like I wasn’t enjoying this new region and most of the characters in it. The academy itself and the courses are a great way to learn history, and despite some odd implementations and pacing, I think the storyline here is still good enough, even if it doesn’t flesh out well enough to really push this entry on the next level this franchise should be at.
The gameplay for scarlet and violet has some elements at work, but still feels quintessentially Pokemon. Players are free to navigate the world as they please, except when not in a cutscene or story segment, and there are few limitations when it comes to progression, aside from level. Yes, for the first time you don’t have to worry about thirsty guards or some kind of “wall” since freedom is truly given to the player. You will still have limits, but they are all within the standard formula one would expect. You can have a team of six that you can catch, level up, trade and whatnot, all of which feels familiar and good. Almost all popular mechanics return, and some are more sophisticated than others.
Combat feels great, and players can carry their box with them from the start, with the ability to swap teammates along the way. A new addition is a picnic element that adds food into the equation. Food can be found anywhere in Paldea. Players need to collect ingredients and gather foods like sandwiches and ice cream, which can improve almost anything on the battlefield. Although there is an open world to explore, there are still two different types of environments at play. Cities act as hubs for quests, shops, etc., while the routes let you find the Pokémon yourself. The picnic option allows you to interact and take photos with your team, but also enjoy your findings to increase your team’s encounter rates and overall skill power. It’s a neat idea that works well enough in execution as it gives a reason to visit every store and test out different recipes. We’ve seen this in the past with Poffins and such, but it’s never felt more concrete than it does with these two entries. Battles also have new Tera evolutions that allow players to manipulate type advantage with a stunning transformation that can be performed on any teammate. Sure, it’s not as deep a gimmick as we’ve seen in the past, but it’s a nice regional change that makes combat feel more interesting this time around.
Gyms are a bit different too. While the fights are more the same, new “tests” are added to replace environmental puzzles. These get a little better later on as the first pair feels too basic and boring at best. It’s not that I don’t enjoy rolling an olive through a maze or chasing sunflowers, it just feels a bit lackluster compared to the older, far more intuitive challenges we’ve encountered than we did arrived at a gym. Catching Pokemon is a bit mixed. A lot of the mechanics of Legends: Arceus are here, where players can quickly kick out their teammates to fight, which feels great. Trainers also now require interaction in combat, eliminating the stress and hassle of being caught off-guard. That means something is still missing. Between the large, open spaces, we can now see the Pokémon running around and fighting with them at will. Items are plentiful and can be found almost anywhere. Because of this, the world is fun to explore, but at times it feels like the mystery and intrigue of the battles has faded a bit too much, as nothing really feels like a threat or a challenge. Don’t get me wrong, the game is fun. Without the element of surprise and wonder it inspires in exploration, there seems to be a void the game can never fill for older players who enjoyed that excitement of finding a chance encounter.
Koraidon & Miraidon are the two main Legends in this set and act as new replacements for HMs of the past. Players can ride these transformable beasts, which as they progress can acquire new powers that open up new areas and routes by sea, land, and air. Both complement the world well and make exploring a breeze. Because all of these things work in a single experience, Game Freak deserves a lot of credit. However, what’s a little disappointing is that the game feels unfinished and rushed. I’ll address more during the visual aspect of this review, but the game has a lot of weird design choices that affect gameplay in the traditional sense. Some stores go straight to the menu as you walk in the door. That would be fine if this was a different series, but it’s really just a few deals, as if setting aside the need to design interiors for many rooms to quickly staple everything together. There are also many holes like this in the game and glitches that occur frequently (mainly when driving Koraidon and Miraidon) that can cause discomfort on the field itself, e.g. would be unexplorable without upgrades that would normally be acquired later. It has a much rougher feel than what is traditional Pokemon Titles have historically and overall – feels like a lesser title given its current state.
performance can be Pokemon scarlet and violetbiggest problem. There are little things everywhere that have corners and edges. Multiple on-screen sprites cause terrible slowdowns when animations are crippled, with NPCs and Pokémon alike walking at a terrible framerate and moving shockingly slow. Getting closer usually fixes the issue, but it seems the game just isn’t powerful enough to run on the hardware. Docking the system only seems to make this worse and more noticeable. Yes there isn’t enough to ruin it overall and the game is still playable but outside of the environments and general character models which mostly look fine without much trouble. I don’t want to overstate the visual flaws because while there are many, the game still runs well enough and most won’t experience too many problems, but it’s a bit surprising that such a big publisher releases the game in such a chaotic state .
Luckily the soundtrack is great. There are new vocal-backed tracks that really spice up key battles, and while a lot is new, remixed favorites still work well to capture that Pokémon vibe that many will love. The creatures themselves still use their screams, and while I wish there was a little more voice work in the game, the audio still sounds good enough and does its job of bringing personality to the characters involved.
Pokemon scarlet and violet are an odd duo for the long-running franchise. While both implement new ideas and features that push the franchise forward, the game still feels rushed like never before, which was the biggest surprise in a series with so few black spots. What makes this couple even more puzzling is that despite so many visual bugs and glitches, I still loved my time in Paldea. Sure, not everything is perfect, but this could be one of the best efforts for Pokémon as a whole in a while. This is still an entry from which to get hundreds of hours of gameplay, as all the ingredients are there, the game is just a bit immature even in those small areas that most would easily overlook. For better or worse, this is our step into the next generation of Pokemon, and Scarlet and Violet are doing a good job of breaking new ground, although it’s not without a few stumbling blocks that hopefully will be addressed with patches in the future .
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