Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are finally here, the tenth generation and the first truly open world Pokémon games. There’s a lot of exciting new features for newcomers and veterans. But it wouldn’t be a Pokémon game without some frustrations as well.
Here are 5 things we love (and 4 we don’t) about Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.
Love the Huge Open World
There’s no denying Scarlet and Violet’s biggest feature: the open world. Sword and Shield teased it with the Wild Area, and Arceus pushed it forward with its large zones. But never before has trainers been able to wander around an entire world filled with Pokémon.
And we do mean filled! The sheer number and variety of Pokémon in each area is astonishing. It’s easy (and fun!) to spend hours wandering the mountains, hills, swamps, and deserts of Paldea discovering new Pokémon, hunting for shinies, snatching up items, and battling trainers.
Don’t Love Lack of Level Scaling
After attending class for the first time in the city of Mesagoza, you’re given two completely different routes to explore. What you may not realize, is that the most optimum path is to travel back and forth between the two sides of the map, slowly making your way north.
The Paldea Region is essentially shaped like a big donut, with every trainer starting at the bottom. If you travel clockwise (or counter-clockwise) you’ll be met with fierce resistance as Pokémon levels and trainers increase the further north you travel. This can be a great thing — until you make it to the other side, where you’ll face opponents who are ten, twenty, or more levels below you, creating a completely trivial end game.
With permanent exp-share on and easy ways of leveling, the lack of any level scaling quickly robs the open world of any kind of threat for all but the newest trainers.
Love the Non-Linear, Three-path Story
Scarlet and Violet make two smart decisions when it comes to the campaign: dividing it up into three separate paths, and allowing trainers to tackle each individual scenario in any order. Defeating eight gym leaders is only one of the paths, and each gym leader could be fought in any order. Though the problem with level scaling persists: some gym leaders are definitely meant to be tackled well before others!
The separate paths also grant different rewards, allowing each trainer to prioritize what matters most for them. Starfall Street unlocks more powerful TMs. The Path of Titans upgrades your mountable companion, granting new traversal abilities. Victory Road is the most traditional, with gym badges granting the right to use higher-level Pokémon, and a path to the Elite 4 finale.
Don’t Love Starfall Street
Victory Road is the traditional campaign, while Path of Titans borrows from Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ boss battles, leaving Starfall Street as the truly new campaign mode. Unfortunately it’s also the most disappointing.
Starfall Street’s enemy bases try to take advantage of the Let’s Go feature, where trainers toss out a Pokémon and let them auto-battle. There’s little strategy involved, other than choosing the right three ‘mons for the base, and healing machines render the entire “challenge” nearly pointless. The idea is interesting, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired, making us almost wish the villains were simply a gauntlet of trainer battles as in previous games.
Love Our Legendary Bike-Mon
One surprising leap forward in Gen 9 is our Legendary “cover” Pokémon, Koraidon and Miraidon. You get them extremely early in the game, but with a clever twist. Instead of having an overpowered Legendary right from the start, they’re only used as our trusty mount Pokémon (at first).
“Only” isn’t really fair, as the games inject a ton of personality into our Bike-mons, making them a delight in every cutscene. They also handle all our transpiration duties, including dashing, jumping, swimming, and flying, making them a critical asset in our adventuring. Plus, riding or flying around the world in our very own Poke-cycle bestie is just too dang cool.
Don’t Love Lack of Side Quests
Scarlet and Violet took a weird step backward from Legends: Arceus, which we praised for adding a lot of side quest content. Gen 9 doesn’t really have any formal side quests outside of the three main story paths. The only Pokédex achievements are simple thresholds, rather than the complex assignments for every single entry as in Arceus.
We still love exploring the world, but we’d love it more if we could be completing various quests and tasks and earning rewards at the same time.
Love Co-op Play
The Pokémon series has flirted with limited co-op play before, but never like Scarlet and Violet. For the first time, up to four local players can join the same game world to adventure in. They’re not tied together and can freely roam apart. It’s a dream come true for many gamers who longed for a true multiplayer experience with their favorite franchise.
Co-op play isn’t perfect; you can’t tackle main story missions together, but you can trade, evolve, battle, share picnics, take photos, and engage in Tera Raid battles as a group. We hope this is only the beginning for a new era of multiplayer Pokémon!
Don’t Love Graphics, Performance, and Lack of Voice Acting
There’s no denying the harsh truth: Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is a bit janky. Sometimes a lot janky. The Pokémon series has never been visually impressive, but graphical limitations are becoming more and more inexcusable in the 3D Switch era. Even worse, the game has some major performance issues, such as Pokémon clipping through the world, late pop-ins and draw distance, and severe lag. I find it tedious to even explore my boxed Pokémon because of the annoying time it takes to load each Pokémon.
And special mention must go to the lack of voice acting, something the Pokémon series has annoyingly resisted for decades. Seeing fully 3D characters with lips moving and zero voice work is absolutely awful. This series has taken forever to modernize, but it still has a ways to go.
Love Tera Types and Raid Battles
Ending on a high note is Gen 9’s signature “gimmick:” Tera types. Every Pokémon can Terastallize once between Pokémon Center visits, transforming into their Tera Type (and receiving a shiny bling effect). Most Tera types are the same, but rarely you can find Pokémon with completely different Tera type, as well as in Tera Raid battles. Being able to suddenly switch your Pokémon into a completely different type is hugely game-changing for all levels of play in the Pokémon series, and may be the single most significant change since Mega Evolutions in Gen 7.
It helps that Tera Raid battles are also a lot of fun, grouping four players (or you and 3 AI) into a party to take on a single beefed up Tera Pokémon simultaneously. They’re a primary source of end game content, but I love that we can jump into Tera Raids almost right from the beginning of the game, creating fun and epic battles throughout our Paldean adventure.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are available on Nintendo Switch. They’re rated E for Everyone.