It’s been just over a month since Pokémon Scarlet and Violet opened up the new world of Paldea for the series’ ninth generation.
In the last month, trainers from all across the world have climbed the highest icy mountains and descended the steepest waterfalls as they catch new and old Pokémon. The new open-world design creates an immersive experience, with many trainers taking detours and finding new ways to spice up the familiar Pokémon adventure.
Scarlet and Violet aren’t without their issues. The weekend after the games’ release, Twitter was flooded with clips in all languages of players experiencing horrible visual and sometimes game-breaking glitches.
Overall, the new games have taken some steps forward, and some steps back for the Pokémon universe. In this way, they are a lot like the stories they tell, which reflect on the future and past alike.
Now we’ve had the game in our hands for a month, we can assess the current state of Scarlet and Violet, taking a look at their highest highs and the lowest lows.
Highs: Open world, new story, new Pokémon, postgame
The open world is the defining characteristic of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, and Paldea is a magnificent region. There are the usual different landscapes that you traverse throughout your journey where you can find various types of Pokémon. And while there is a general “correct” order to complete the gyms, Team Star battles, and titans, nothing is stopping you from going in any order you choose.
This openness means no two players will play the game exactly the same way. This gave the classic Pokémon storyline a breath of fresh air, and seems to have gone over well with fans. Everyone was able to appreciate the story in their own way for the very first time.
The three storylines offer exciting new twists on the usual formula. Though it may initially seem like the typical Pokémon Victory Road and evil team narratives are in play, Paldea’s secrets soon open up to something more.
The Victory Road and Team Star storylines breathe new life into these classic plots, and we meet wonderful new characters along the way that perfectly keep up with current design trends who are also relatable to a large audience. Livestreaming gym leader Iono, for example, is the perfect representation of a Twitch streamer looking to boost their channel with high-quality content. Larry, on the other hand, is the perfect representation of post-COVID attitudes towards office work, as he sends out Normal Pokémon in a suit with heavy bags under his eyes.
These characters are relatable, and that means a lot for an audience whose world has transformed since Pokémon Sword and Shield, the last main series Pokémon games.
Professor Turo and Sada’s son Arven offers up the best story in the games. Though the Titan Pokémon battle storyline mostly serves to add the post-game item Herba Mystica, it also sets up the question: “Where the heck are the Pokémon Professors?” Arven’s love for his Pokémon is something a lot of other games in the series have been missing.
While there are opportunities to connect with your Pokémon across all nine generations of games, whether it’s camping, picnics, or contests, the relationship dynamics feel shallow compared to the Pokémon anime.
Arven’s connection with his own Pokémon fills this space where those relationships were lacking in the main series games. While we’ve seen plenty of heartwrenching moments, nothing pulled on our heartstrings quite like seeing Arven and his best friend recover from sickness and weakness. This story may have been the most relatable thing of all, as it addresses loss, hope, and love all at once.
The newest Generation XI Pokémon compliment Scarlet and Violet’s stellar story and region in a great way. There truly is a Pokémon for everyone in this generation. From long-awaited evolutions like Annihilape to new faces like Pawmi and Tandemaus, to one of our personal favorites, Dudunsparce, everyone can find a new Pokémon they love. Though some of these Pokémon received criticism upon the game’s release, now that the community has seen every new Pokémon the game has to offer, it is more apparent the game includes a well-rounded lineup. The new and old companions also form a coherent group in the open world.
The best thing about the last month of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is that even though many players may not have even finished the main story yet, there is already so much content to experience after you’ve completed everything in the core game.
Nintendo already started rolling out Tera Raid events just a few weeks after launch, starting big with Charizard and continuing with Delibird and Cinderace. There is so much to do in the game, from exploring Paldea over and over again, to tracking new outbreak spawns every day, to battling against extremely difficult Raid Pokémon with your friends. The game won’t get boring any time soon, and looks to have a good life ahead.
Lows: Performance, customization, quality-of-life features, Pokémon catching
Undoubtedly, the worst thing for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet has been the plethora of performance issues the game has had on the Switch. Though the game’s first patch seems to have smoothed gameplay for some players, there are still widespread glitches and crashes across the board that are frankly unacceptable for such a major release.
Many players opted against picking up Scarlet and Violet altogether because of these issues, while the most dedicated fans stuck through the horrible frame rates and Pokémon clipping through the ground to still log hundreds of hours on the game. Yet it isn’t an exaggeration to say that these issues likely made the game unplayable for some.
Certain quality-of-life features are also glaringly missing. In an already laggy Box screen where Pokémon literally load in one at a time, having no Mass Release is torture. It puts a stop to an otherwise engaging experience traveling around in an open world.
Character customization was another area of the game where players were really let down. From early game trailers, fans had expected and were looking forward to having more diverse options for their trainer’s skin tone, hair, facial features, and clothes. And while Scarlet and Violet delivered in terms of having a variety of facial features, several key components of the general concept of “character customization” are still missing.
First of all, the skin tone shade range is a step back from previous games in the franchise. This isn’t a sacrifice players should have to make for being able to have slightly longer eyelashes.
The big, big miss here was the lack of clothing options. While there are more than enough different socks in the game to wear five different pairs a day, you can’t change anything other than your accessories. You’re stuck in the school uniform for the whole game. It feels like there were so many missed opportunities for more clothes.
The most common theory here seems to be eventual DLC will add more clothing, but so far there has been no news of it yet.
The glitchy catching and overworld spawn interactions in the open world are also a step back from previous games in the series. Pokémon can run into you, and you into them, but there have been several issues with players not being able to see very small Pokémon or with them running into your trainer right as they come out of another interaction. They also frequently clip through each other or environmental elements around them.
Players have also expressed concerns with how Shiny Pokémon appear in the world. Without other visual queues and some designs having very minuscule color changes, it is so easy to miss Shinies in the overworld, especially for visually impaired players.
In addition, you can no longer just throw a Pokéball like in Legends: Arceus, but at first, the new targeting mechanic makes it seem like you can. Functionally, there isn’t a difference between throwing a Pokéball at a Pokémon and just running into it. This is confusing.
What we’re hoping for next
As Pokémon Scarlet and Violet continues to grow, there are a few things that would be nice to see from the developers in the months ahead.
First of all, keeping up with the Terra Raid Battle Events to continue to bring exclusive Pokémon from other regions into the game is a must. The events so far have brought the community together in a new way, since they are, in all honesty, really difficult! Keeping this up in the future is great for the health and longevity of the game.
It would also be great to get another patch or two to fix the serious bugs that make the game inaccessible for a lot of people.
And of course, a DLC announcement in 2023 would be the cherry on top to keep the game fresh and add the small things missing from the latest Pokémon adventure.