Pokemon Scarlet
Home / News / Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Pass the Test

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Pass the Test

Another Pokemon, another chance to be disappointed!

Only this time, I’m not. Not in the slightest. I mean sure, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet stumble in some (mostly technical) ways, but honest to Arceus, this is the best Pokemon has been in years.

Let’s start with the knocks against it, shall we?

Technical Troubles and Cinematic Silliness

The full Pokedex is still gone, it’s true. As much as I’d love to bring forward my entire Red team now that Primeape evolves, I’d have to leave behind Nidoking and Beedrill, and nothing doing. When the game is so replayable, it’s a continued disappointment to be limited in who I can use. It didn’t affect my first or second play-through, just like in Sword and Shield, but it does hamper my post-game enjoyment.

The storytelling’s lack of voice-acting in its cinematic scenes is still awkward. I’m not usually one to beg for voice-acting in games, but the overhanging silence during Pokemon’s pivotal moments is borderline bizarre at this point. During the standard text delivery, I don’t even think about it. But when a video is played, it’s distracting. I understand every reason Pokemon doesn’t have voice acting (time and expense, I’m sure), but I mean…Come on. At least axe these uninteresting cinematics and let us continue to move the text along at our own reading pace.

And yes, we still can’t turn off EXP Share, but at least the game’s difficulty is better balanced for having it on (unlike Sword and Shield).

There’s plenty to be said about performance, especially if you hold Game Freak to a triple-A standard. But I played Pokemon Legends: Arceus, and while tempered expectations certainly don’t excuse what’s on offer, they helped me to find the game perfectly playable. Despite the glitches and crashes, with which I’ve been very lucky (one crash in 150 hours of playtime—less than my friends have experienced, without a doubt). Don’t turn off your auto-save. Seriously.

It really is disappointing to have Game Freak go from delivering some of the best-looking handheld games to some of the blandest environments. Some of Paldea’s zones do have a sense of place, but few on the level of, say, Ruby and Sapphire’s ashen routes and limestone city.

Then there’s the Terra Battles, which are very fun, co-operative raids with excellent rewards, and overall a marked improvement on Sword and Shield’s version. But there is a major problem: the more human players, the worse they are to play. Normally, you can take your turns without worrying about other players, but there are specific animations that play out during which your game must wait for their game to catch up. Terrastalizing, breaking shields, and casting pre-plotted skills… Start stacking them together and your game won’t allow you to act for what can feel like MINUTES. Not to mention the times when you select a move and nothing happens for similar lengths of time, but without the comfort of knowing why. And sometimes the Cheer menu will glitch and stick around, but not let you utilize it.

In a timed mode that isn’t the slightest bit generous at higher difficulties, each of these pauses and problems can be infuriating. And I only play with friends.

Trying to join random raids is even worse since a search function doesn’t exist and your game only displays eight at a time. Which you can’t refresh at an acceptable rate. And which stick around even when full or canceled or otherwise inaccessible. And while I’ve not actually gotten into one successfully, those that do have no guarantee that their allies will be sufficient in beating the most difficult raids. All in all, it’s a tiring business.

This is why I do them exclusively with friends, and only with as many as three people. In that way, they’re plenty of fun, perfectly challenging, and not too frustratingly unplayable.

But other than all that…

(And let’s not forget the subpar character customization that comes with having to wear school uniforms at all times)…

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are fantastic.

Terrific Typing

Pokemon Scarlet

It starts with the open world. Enormous landscapes open up in every direction, sporting hundreds of Pokemon running about for catching, battling, and shiny-hunting. In many ways, adventure in Paldea is reminiscent of Pokemon Legends: Arceus. No, there’s no dodgeroll or blind-Pokeball chucking, but you can still sneak up on Pokemon with a crouch, chuck balls at their back for a better catching chance, and enter standard battles by making contact. Traversal is very similar, featuring climbing, swimming, and gliding, only this time all tied to the same Pokemon. Of course, there’s no research data anymore, so catching them all is a simpler chore.

But for all their similarities, in Paldea, it’s back to Gym battles, held items, and abilities! Aside from open-world exploration, it’s Pokemon as it used to be. The damage values make sense. The speed and strength styles are gone. There’s nothing to muck up the nearly flawless combat core that makes these the best in competitive JRPGS. But Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are not without their gimmick.

Terrastralizing is the best thing since Mega Evolutions. Unlike Gigantamaxing, it’s not tied to specially-marked Pokemon. Any Pokemon can Terrastralize, and any Pokemon can Terrastralize into any type. Each Pokemon has a Terra type, which can be changed with a bit of Raid grinding. Your options literally run the gamut. Terrastralizing turns your Pokemon into that Terra type, retaining your original typing only for STAB (same type attack bonus) purposes. Defensively, your Pokemon has only the weaknesses and resistances of their new type.

The versatility is quite impressive. Do you change to a brand new typing for improved coverage potential? Or to gain a key invulnerability so that you can set up? Perhaps you stick with one of your original types, increasing the power of your STAB to even more incredible levels. And since it’s not tied to a held item, you can select which Pokemon you terrastralize on a battle-by-battle basis.

I’ve used a combination of each option. Some types for defense, some for extra powerful STAB, and some for needed power in my coverage moves. Their uses are plentiful in the main game, but even more wacky and wild in competitive play and raids.

The Raid Pokemon all have unique Terra types, too. When their stars are high enough (think 6-star), it can make them very exciting. You have three types to consider when picking your strategy: their coverage and STAB options, and their new defensive typing. Add in abilities like Defiant and Competitive that impact your game plan and Terra Raids that should have been simple become calculations of time, turns, and BST.

Straightened-Up Stories

In addition to the gym battles, there are two other tracks of quests to complete in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. Titan Pokemon are giants with even larger health bars, and defeating the five of them progresses the story of the Pokemon Professor’s son and his sick Pokemon. Then there are the Team Star fights, which open with you squaring off against thirty Pokemon on the field (press R; no actual battling necessary) and end with you destroying a car.

Both of those stories are a marked improvement on the achingly-bad plot progression of Arceus and Sword/Shield, with enough heart to carry me through. They’re still presented awkwardly, as mentioned before, but the scenes are relatively quick.

It’s after these plotlines (Titans, Team Star, and Gyms) are all wrapped up that the story really shines. The use of the Professor as the antagonist is a rug-yank to the typical Pokemon story, and it’s only more surprising when paired with the future/past time-travel shenanigans that bring Pokemon like Iron Bundle and Scream Tail into our modern world.

The final fight is a memorable one in the pantheon of Pokemon final fights, ending the main plotline on a high note and helping to ensure surprises through to the conclusion. But it’s not really the end, for there are high-level gym rematches (mid-60s) and a new Elite Four-Esque tournament that features the school’s staff (high 60s). Then there are the Terra Raids which reward patient Pokemon training even for players uninterested in battling competitively. Add to that the easiest Shiny Hunting to date and there’s enough bone to keep players invested for weeks to come.

I’ve already wrapped up a second play-through, which makes it worth mentioning that cutscenes and story dialogue can’t be skipped. Too bad, when the early game and endgame both spend so much time talking. But I wouldn’t say no to a third…

(Also worth mentioning: trainer battles are all opt-in, which means if you don’t care about each route’s held item, they’re easily skipped. But the route’s items are pretty good, like Amulet Coins and Loaded Dice, so they may be worth tackling anyway.)

Final Thoughts

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have their technical foibles and cinematic struggles, it’s true. But they’re offset by an ambitious generation that is truly open-ended and open-world, filled with excellent monster designs and smart changes to the franchise. In the future, I hope only that the aforementioned problems will be solved, that the ‘Dex will be expanded, and that the new Terra Raids will continue to challenge our ability to plan and strategize. It’d be nice if the next game gave the zones, routes, and towns a better sense of place, too.

Whether or not the Plusles outweigh the Minuns will depend on your own tolerance for ugly cliffsides and stuttering framerates, but as for me, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have been an absolute joy.

About Michael

Brutal Gamer's Nintendo Editor began his gaming life a little late- at five years old. But he's made up for it in the two decades since, gaming and writing about gaming with the same passion, fervor, and unrelenting love as his five-year old self.

Check Also

Warner Bros Discovery extends DC Comics toy-deal with McFarlane through ’25

If you’re digging what McFarlane Toys has been doing with the DC Comics name, then …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *