Pokémon Scarlet and Violet | Review

Who I am
Pau Monfort
Author and references

I deliberately waited before sitting down and writing this analysis. I waited for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet (Here you can find our complete guide) were officially released so you can test their functionality online and, above all, be able to install that "infamous" Day One Patch that should have taken away so many problems... yes, exactly like Epiphany with the holidays.

  • And instead never as in this case was waiting in vain and, never as in this case, a new iteration of Pokémon generated such mixed feelings in me that I arrived, partially, to disappoint me, making me raise the white flag in front of something that is no longer defensible, except by those "fans to the core" willing to be devoid of self-respect in continuing to justify every work created by Game Freak .

    Before you start ignoring me with phrases such as: "... but Pokémon have never been about graphics and performance" or "... stop offending a game that is entertaining thousands of true fans of the brand", I want to tell you in all honesty that I'm playing I've been playing Pokémon Scarlet and Violet for, now, dozens of hours and I'm enjoying it in a similar way to how I've enjoyed every title in the series since Pokémon Red and Blue (yes I'm old, I know). I appreciated the timid willingness to overturn some aspects of the series which have now been consolidated for over two decades, just as I am undoubtedly appreciating that general streamlining of multiple game mechanics by now excessively cumbersome for 2022 but this does not mean I accept, with a big smile on my face, such a lack of respect towards all those fans who, like myself , have not missed an appointment for over twenty years.

    It is not a question of simple technical backwardness, I forgave that to Legends: Arceus by virtue of a series of experiments that seemed to be a springboard for future projects in the series, how much more a total lack of respect for the players, presenting a poorly finished project that, as usual in the last decade, takes two steps backwards for every step forward made by the development team.

    Don't misunderstand this long introductory hat of mine, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are not bad games, they don't deserve insufficiency and I'm sure they will entertain as always all those fans who, like myself, await each release like a child awaits Christmas night … and this is precisely the reason that embittered me the most. The structure that made the series famous is still there, revised and corrected in many aspects to embrace the younger generations of players. The problem is always the same, Game freak doesn't have the resources to make what the fans would like, The Pokémon Company doesn't find it necessary to invest in something that in the end sells anyway and with each title we all find ourselves sitting around the fire crying because he would like that something more that he already knows will never arrive.

    An all too open world

    Since their announcement, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet were presented as the first main titles in the series to have a truly open world structure. Obviously the first thought of every fan, faced with this declaration, was that that level of maturity in terms of world building would finally be reached which was only scratched by the previous spin-off dedicated to Arceus.

    No more linear Wild Lands, paths surrounded by tall grass, or open maps separated from each other by tedious hubs... the whole new region would have been explorable in total freedom, allowing the player to move freely deciding how to progress on his journey... in short, a dream come true, except that the game world turned out to be, in the end, far too open and full of compromises.

    While it is true that all areas are interconnected, all that exploration of the interiors that has always been a staple of the series has been lost. Pokémon Centers reduced to stalls positioned outside, non-existent shops (replaced by menus that appear whenever you approach the door of a business), MT machines positioned here and there in the various game areas… in short, the idea that the World Building of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet gave me is that of a constant "I would but I can't", or better, "I would but I don't have time".

    After a handful of hours spent wandering around the new region, it seemed to me that I was in a huge "second hand market", with all there is to offer positioned in the middle of the road. The general impression was that Game Freak went beyond the time limit, finding themselves forced to place everything externally that, as a rule, should be found inside closed and well-characterized environments.

    A little more care, in this peculiar version of the game world "made in Game Freak", I found it in the city that dominates the: Mesapoli. Headquarters of the Academy from which the journey of the coach on duty will begin to take shape, the huge school takes the place of a central HUB in which to carry out various more or less interesting activities. There is no mention of who knows what changes but at least inside the academy there are some more interiors to be able to explore, even if Mesapolis, the full-bodied city that surrounds it, also turns out to be an enormous bare and unattractive map to explore after the first visits.

    Different speech, however, must be made regarding the level design of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet which, surprisingly, takes up that high verticality already shown in Legends: Arceus, and expands it further by offering a region that, at first glance, invites you to be explored in every corner of it, taking advantage of the various forms of Koraidon and Miraidon (the Pokémon featured on the cover). Desire that, however, fades in the exact moment in which you get that much coveted freedom of movement in the first hours of the game, since although it is true that caves, ravines and various peaks are a pleasure to explore, given a renewed complexity of some of the plans present on the surface of Paldea, the same cannot be said for the flat areas, which are almost always bare in content and, generally, tedious to cross after the first time that you explore them in search of some Pokémon to add to your Pokédex.

    A real pity because, net of everything, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet constantly try to reward the player's desire to explore with collectibles, or rare objects, of various kinds but never as in this case does one perceive the weight of having wanted to be more than the leg length by the developers. A map smaller in size, in fact, would undoubtedly have benefited the two titles, allowing greater attention to detail and a more sensible concentration of the elements scattered in the various plans.

    It's not that I didn't appreciate the effort perpetrated by Game Freak in trying to finally offer an Open World to Pokémon fans but simply, throughout Paldea, their lack of maturity with this genre is perceived. Excluding the much talked about sector, which I will tell you about later, what doesn't work is the World Building which, unlike the good, albeit timid, experiments made with Legends: Arceus, here he seems to take a couple of steps backwards that are quite difficult to digest.

    In addition to the shortage of explorable interiors (even in inhabited centers), and the absence of dialogues that go beyond a line of text with the various NPCs, in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet nothing of what happens within the game world … modifies the game world itself. Let me explain better, that there is a threat, or an event of rather cumbersome dimensions, which afflicts an area of ​​Paldea, no Pokémon, or NPC, will seem afflicted by the situation. On numerous occasions I've found myself throwing a Pokéball to collide with a specific Pokémon within a pack… and everyone else just stood there, watching.

    Now you would like to shut me up by telling me that all these things have never been in Pokémon… and instead I answer you that in Legends: Arceus (which Game Freak herself declared to be an experiment to lay new foundations for the regular series) there were side missions and a game world which, albeit bare, showed the various characters that they lived there, intent on talking about the most recent events in the region.

    In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, on the other hand, there are simply no side quests, or rather there are some optional activities that are solved in a matter of minutes and for which it is not even necessary to make an activity log. Step back really important when you consider the excellent foundation laid with Legends: Arceus.

    And by exploring the making of this Open World even further, it turns out that Game Freak could easily have opted for a couple of games spread across large maps instead of embarking on such an undertaking. The progression, although it is trumpeted that it is totally free, remains anchored to those invisible tracks called "opponents' level". The difficulty does not scale based on the current level of our coach, just as the various threats present in Paldea will always have a fixed and well-defined level, which, like it or not, limits the real possibility of doing what you want one hundred for one hundred.

    Even here the loyalists could shut me up by telling me that "it's always been like this"... it's true but the previous chapters never wanted to be "an Open World where you decide how to deal with the experience in its entirety".

    Pokémon Scarlet and Violet on Nintendo Switch

    If you are wondering why I decided to tell you about the technical sector of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet right away, don't worry, I will explain it to you in the last paragraph of this long analysis. At the moment what you need to know is that, unless you've already been playing it for days and have already seen it for yourself, the two new Game Freak titles are well below all expectations, proving to be even lower than what was technically done with the previous Legends: Arceus.

    Very low resolution textures for all surfaces of the game environments (whether they are grassy plains, sandy beaches or cobbled streets); constant pop-ins of any type of interactive element, or less, in open areas (Pokémon that appear a few centimeters away, blades of grass that disappear before our eyes, etc. etc.); low quality and totally unstable lighting, which generates constant appearances, and consequent disappearances, of shadows on practically every scenario.

    The frame rate should settle at 30 fps but it is more often the victim of dips and stuttering, than those in which it manages to remain solid for more than five minutes. The frame rate of distant elements is deliberately halved in order not to consume excessive resources (exactly like in Legends: Arceus and in Splatville of the recent Splatoon 3), with the small difference that the distance of these elements is sometimes a few centimeters or, even, it includes secondary characters present within some cutscenes.

    As soon as you decide to play online with some friends, to share the adventure cooperatively, a Glitch Russian Roulette of each type is activated. Characters that become giants, deformation of 3D models, faces that disappear and a whole series of monstrosities that are rapidly going viral on the web.

    Even the urban areas show several shortcomings on the technical side with marked aliasing, textures that repeat themselves in an evident way (with attached visible and non-homogeneous joints) and details of the buildings in very low resolution. The panorama ends with a whole series of interpenetrations that generate situations bordering on the hilarious, with Pokémon sinking into the ground during fights, NPCs which are absorbed by the architectural elements or Poké Balls that begin to dematerialize, generating a shapeless mass of textures, in contact with liquids.

    All this, however, while appearing to be a decidedly catastrophic scenario, never turns out to be disabling. Net of the terrible performance, in terms of frame rate, of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, thanks to the Day one Patch all these technical imperfections never reveal such an impact to the point of making the adventure unplayable or requiring a restart of the software. Consider that before the patch there were often crashes of the game that now seem to have disappeared from circulation. This is undoubtedly the worst work ever made by Game Freak, able to "make you regret" what the software house did with the previous Sword and Shield and with, the much talked about, Legends: Arceus.

    It is not, however, all horrid what is offered by the technical sector of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. The new Pokémon models are made in a convincing way, animated much better than in the past, constantly intent on interacting with the areas in which they reside and adorned with a series of details which, absurdly, clash sharply with the paucity of the settings in which they are they move.

    Similarly, we can see a series of attention to detail in the protagonist's animations, with facial expressions that change based on what happens during the exploratory phases and a whole series of small tricks which, once noticed, make it even more inconceivable how the developers have spent so much energy on polygonal models and so few in the making of the game world.

    The renewed game interface is also excellent, streamlined by useless frills and made quicker in its consultation. Peculiar, finally, the fact that Pokémon Scarlet and Violet behave better on the go, showing more solid performances and offering a better glance, thanks to the small screen on which they are reproduced.

    An atypical narrative

    It makes no sense that I go into too much detail about the narrative sector of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet but I think it's important to explain how Game Freak wanted to try to change the cards on the table on how the story of the new main chapters of the series is told. Don't think that there have been incredible upheavals, your coach will always start the journey from his room, with his mother who will encourage him to leave the nest, in the first moments of the game he will be faced with the choice of his starter (as always fire, water or grass) and practically every main character will explain everything to him through dozens and dozens of lines of text. But what I liked, albeit not completely, was Game Freak's willingness to try to detach itself from some clichés, trying to manage more narrative strands, all with the same value within the story.

    Everything revolves around the Mesapoli academy (Orange for Scarlet and Grapes for Violet), where our coach will begin his studies after a slightly longer prologue than in the past. Passing through this renowned school, clearly inspired by Hogwarts, three main narrative paths will open: challenge the canonical eight gym leaders in order to have access to the final challenge and thus become champions of Paldea; try to stop the plans of Team Star, which represents the classic group of two-bit criminals present in each chapter of the franchise; walk the Legendary Path, facing the fearsome Totem Pokémon that threaten the region.

    Where the canonical route through the eight gyms does not present any particular turns towards the narrative standards to which the series has accustomed us, the other two macro-stories present in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have proved to be decidedly pleasant, with some decidedly atypical narrative peaks for the series and some twists and turns which, although widely called, they turned out to be well researched and convincingly staged.

    Let me be clear, it's not about who knows what narrative thickness but I appreciated it that the writing of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet ventured into tackling more mature adolescent issues as events progressed, failing only in those moments in which she could easily "go a little further", abandoning that comfort zone devoted to excessive positivity which on several occasions seems unable to amalgamate with the events narrated in the game.

    The characterization of the characters is also excellent, including gym leaders and Team Stars, who finally seem to have managed to get out of that bubble of "caricatures of themselves", becoming characters painted through grayscale much more convincing than in the past.

    The real weakness of the narration of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is absolutely not to be found in their writing, how much more in the terrible management of the game world in which the events take place, capable of deleting the immersiveness of the player with its ingenuity... and this is a great pity.

    Shining gameplay like a Swarovsky

    Like a chef of yesteryear, I wanted to keep the best course for the finale of the dinner. I would have been sorry to close this analysis, as usual, by talking to you about the disastrous technical sector that accompanies Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, so I thought I'd leave you talking about something beautiful: the gameplay of these new chapters of the franchise. Let's start with the novelty of this generation, or the much discussed Terracrystalization. After Mega-Evolutions, Dynamax and all the other devilry that Game Freak has given birth to over the last decade, Teracrystalization is certainly the most balanced.

    First of all, Teracrystallization is designed to change the type of Pokémon, aesthetically transforming them into questionable Made in Swarovsky variants which can strategically overturn the outcome of a battle. First of all, the possibility of changing the therapy is limited, and in order to be able to reuse it, one must physically go to a Pokémon Center to recharge the peculiar Poké Ball that allows it to be used. In addition to this exploit designed to avoid abusing it in each fight, the alterations it generates in the chosen creature are not devoted to extreme power, but more to allow for different approaches during battle.

    Although there is no doubt that a Teracrystallized attack is more powerful, and therefore does more damage by exploiting the weaknesses of various therapists, it is also true that Teracrystallization allows you to quickly change theratype, avoiding succumbing during a fight where you find yourself without a theratype suitable to face the opponent.

    In the days and days spent together with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, I have never found myself abusing them as fate in the past with the Dynamax, how much more to take advantage of this new ability in moments in which I knew he could actually become a Game Changer. It may seem little to you but if you think from a competitive point of view, it is undoubtedly excellent to finally have a well-balanced gimmick.

    While I'm talking about competitive, never like with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, creating a competitive team turns out to be simple and not very frustrating. First of all, the Pokerus (the virus that appeared for the first time with the second generation of creatures) was definitively removed; types of mint and caps can now be purchased for a few coins to allow anyone to change the nature and values ​​of the various Pokémon; the management of the eggs has been moved from the pensions for Pokémon, completely disappeared in these two chapters, within the Picnic areas where you can feed your Pokémon with numerous types of Sandwiches designed to guarantee a series of bonuses ranging, precisely , from the generation of eggs, to the acquisition of temporary bonuses, up to the possibility of increasing the chances of obtaining a Shiny.

    As regards, however, captures and fights between Pokémon, I little appreciated the removal of the hunting and capture system introduced with Legends: Arceus. Let me be clear, we had all perceived that it was an addictive system but at the same time capable of drastically reducing the clashes between the creatures, however having removed it in favor of a hybrid that limits itself to launching the Poké Ball in the direction of wild Pokémon to start the canonical clashes… well, it seemed to me a convenient solution designed to avoid the risk of experimenting.

    The possibility of choosing whether to attempt direct capture with the Poké Balls in the trainer's possession or whether to clash, canonically, with wild Pokémon would have been enough in order not to throw away the good things proposed with the previous Legends: Arceus but so be it. However, there is no doubt that the system proposed in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet works and entertains in the same way both in the early stages of the game that after dozens of hours spent playing.

    Among the other innovations introduced to streamline the gaming system, I particularly appreciated the possibility (finally I would dare to say in total subjectivity) that we are no longer forced to clash with every coach standing in front of our path, leaving the possibility of choosing and introducing a reward system that rewards anyone who opts to clash with every brat, garbage man , courier or fisherman stand in front of him.

    Furthermore, the possibility of "sending to battle" the first Pokémon of our team is very clever, allowing it to independently collide with the wild Pokémon present in the various game areas and returning to its Poké Ball on its own once the battle is over, carrying with if the various materials useful for the creation of MT. a system that expands what we saw in Legends: Arceus and that allows Pokémon not only to collect resources instead of the trainer but also to farm experience and materials in semi-autonomy.

    They all seem to be news, apparently, of little importance but you have no idea how much they do well to the play system of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. It is precisely all these small implementations, in fact, that return that visceral need to collect them all and manage to pass over the dozens of technical problems, keeping the player glued to the screen as in the grip of a constant addiction.

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