Nintendo / Pokémon

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: my review

I guess it’s time to write this. I haven’t written a review of anything, let alone a game, in years but I felt like Pokémon Scarlet and Violet warranted some personal analysis. But first: disclaimer time.

  • These are all my personal opinions based on my own gameplay. If you don’t agree, that’s fine as your experience will vary, but my thoughts aren’t your thoughts so we can discuss differences in the comments but mistaking my thoughts for facts won’t cut it. Take that debate somewhere else.
  • I also have no connection with Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, or Game Freak so there won’t be any bias or favouritism on that front (but I’m happy to take any collabs or sponsorship in the future, just saying!)
  • I’ve broken this down into three sections: things I’ve loved, things I’ve not enjoyed, and things that baffled me. This makes it easier for me to discuss the various parts of Scarlet/Violet that I’ve felt some type of way about.
  • This won’t be a Kotaku-style review. They really didn’t like the game but spoiler alert: I did, for the most part.
  • This will be spoiler-free

Things I’ve loved

1. The open world

A screenshot from Pokémon Scarlet/Violet showing the open world

When it was announced that Scarlet/Violet would be open world, I was interested to see how they’d do it given its history in 3D. But I was pleasantly surprised when I got into the game and I’ve loved being able to explore Paldea at my own pace and see everything. In Sword/Shield, the Wild Area grew a bit stale after a while but Paldea’s expansiveness means exploring different terrains at different times of day and, at least for me personally, it took me back to certain moments in my life where I’ve been in parks and open spaces and enjoyed my surroundings. I’m grateful for what they’ve done with this and Paldea as a region is gorgeous. You can climb up mountains, glide across plains, navigate through forests, surf by the beach, and trudge up snowy hills. I love it!

2. The three storylines

I’ve never cared for Pokémon storylines. As games have gotten more advanced, cut scenes have impeded my enjoyment (Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon are a good example of this) so when they mentioned that Scarlet/Violet would have three storylines for the gyms, Team Star, and Titan Pokémon, I was worried by constant A pressing and that was the case but for once, I actually read what the characters were saying and I enjoyed the storylines a lot more. Team Star tackled issues around bullying (could have been better but definitely relatable), the Titan Pokémon backstory was poignant and made me emotional, and the gym leaders were more exciting than usual (except maybe Larry but there’s a hint of irony in him being one of the most interesting gym leaders in history).

Some of my favourite characters:

  1. Clavell (who is, by the way, the perfect hybrid of Ryuichi Sakamoto, Andy Warhol, and David Bowie as Andy Warhol in the movie, “Basquiat”)
  2. Geeta
  3. Grusha
  4. Jacq
  5. Nemona
  6. Penny
  7. Ryme
  8. Larry

3. The new Pokémon designs

It’s been another successful generation for Pokémon designs and I finally got my wish of a Grass/Fire type in the form of Scovillain. I have one in my team and I love it so much! The starters are solid and unique, the early route Pokémon are cute, and the psuedo-legendaries and late Pokédex Pokémon look amazing. There are a few Pokémon that have new evolutions which make them stronger and, at the moment, viable options in the metagame. And then there are the Paldean variants such as Wooper into Clodsire and Tauros alongside its Water/Fire forms. I might do a separate post for tier listing the new Scarlet/Violet Pokémon so watch this space but I’ve loved them.

Things I’ve not enjoyed

1. Tera raids (and the rare items attached to them)

A Tera Raid

Whew, where do I begin? I was hyped for Tera Raids when they were announced but they’ve fallen very flat for me and despite my daily attempts, I just grow more frustrated every time I do them. John Walker for Kotaku wrote a good post summing up my feelings so go read that but I’ll post an excerpt:

Raids are supposed to follow a certain pattern. In an even fight, players get to perform about two attacks each before the Pokémon pulls in some manner of energy around it and buffs its HP bar with a chunk of crystal. To fight back against this, players need to get a third attack in, which then lets them terastalize their own monster, and blast away at that tougher belt of hit points. All the while, there’s a time bar counting down, at the end of which—should you not defeat it—the target Pokémon unleashes all this energy, and everyone’s flung out of the raid.

Should your Pokémon get knocked out at any point, you have a five-second penalty before respawning the first time, 10 seconds the next time, and it’s unlikely you’ll ever have time for a third.

It almost never goes like this. Instead, when playing online via the Poké Portal, should you be lucky enough to get past the dreadful lobby, raids tend to go more like this:

You launch your first attack, and it knocks off far less of the Pokémon’s HP than you’re expecting. The Pokémon responds, but the attack takes ages to happen. Then, after it does, the menu to do your second attack doesn’t appear. And still doesn’t appear. And then appears, but when you click on it, nothing happens, but a “Y: Check status” option starts flashing, although pressing Y does nothing.

Then, just as the attack menu finally reappears, the camera cuts to the target Pokémon, who’s now noisily shaking off all effects from attacks. When it cuts back to you, you hit A to choose an attack, but it cuts back to the Pokémon again, who’s now apparently removing buffs that none of you could have had time to apply. You get your second attack in, and then notice the time counter suddenly jump from three-quarters full to under halfway, for no reason at all.

(Oh, and if you got knocked out at any point, it won’t start your five-second countdown until after it’s finished this tiresome series of lengthy interruptions, or often just never bother to do it at all.)

The Pokémon then terastalizes, before letting you go through the previous events when trying to do your third attack, so you can terastalize back. Except at that point, it suddenly announces that the Pokémon has stolen some of your Tera Orb energy, so you’ve got to get a fourth attack in. Except, the time bar just jumped again from a third left to all but nothing, and then before time runs out, you’re blasted out of the raid.

Or perhaps you’ll have a very different version of this, where for no understandable reason, the six-star Charizard you’re battling suddenly seems to lose most of its health in one inexplicable leap, and you get to catch it before it even buffs its HP.

Or perhaps my favorite: the one where you’ve got the Pokémon’s HP down to zero, but for some reason, it doesn’t faint. So you all do another attack against its empty HP bar, and then it blasts you out of the raid as losers.

For me it’s a mix of two issues: Tera Raids are super buggy and, while people are learning how to do them, they keep bringing the same Azumarill and Sylveon regardless of Tera Type or the Pokémon’s original type and corresponding moves. An Electric type with a Dragon Tera type can and will one-shot an Azumarill and cut down the time. It’ll be easier for people to learn this new “meta” but I have no idea if/when Game Freak will fix the raids.

2. The slowness

We’ve all either experienced performance issues or seen countless rants and memes about them. The frame rate is choppy, menus take a million years to open and close (in and out of raids), it’s all very annoying. I wasn’t as annoyed at first because it didn’t impact my game progression but once that’s done and you start doing post-game stuff like completing your Pokédex or shiny hunting or doing any kind of online task, it grinds your gears. Maybe there’s a clear explanation as to why Scarlet/Violet’s menus have regressed since Sword/Shield but it doesn’t make sense to me on the surface as they are smaller but fundamental aspects of the game compared to the bigger graphical/world building parts. Let’s hope future patches improve the experience but I don’t see it getting that much better.

Things that baffled me

1. Removing box management functionality

Why can’t I select multiple Pokémon to move them into different boxes? Why do the sprites take 3–5 seconds to load, even if I switch boxes? Why aren’t they cached or, if they are, why isn’t that working? Box management is bare minimum in Pokémon. There should be no reason why it’s worse in Gen 9 compared to previous gens.

2. The easy Elite Four

I was really sad to discover that the Elite Four was so much easier (for me!!!) than in previous gens. I know the argument about it being catered for children etc. etc. etc. but the levelling and the Pokémon you’ll have access to by then means you shouldn’t struggle too much. And then the final match with Geeta didn’t ramp it up nearly enough.

Overall verdict

If I had to rank Scarlet and Violet in my favourites list, I’d put it in #4th behind Gold/Silver/Crystal, Red/Blue/Yellow, and Sword/Shield. It offered me an open world setting that I didn’t demand but enjoyed nonetheless. I’ve also enjoyed the new Pokémon designs and the concept of divergent species. However, the game performance has been really poor and taken the sheen off my experience, even if it wasn’t detrimental to my completion of the game. It just sucked, you know? And please god, Game Freak, fix raids!!!

Oh, you want an actual score? 4/5

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