Nintendo, Game Freak and the Pokémon Company International released “Pokémon Scarlet” and “Pokémon Violet” — the first games of the franchise’s ninth generation — for the Nintendo Switch on Nov. 18. These are the franchise’s first fully open-world games, meaning that players have more freedom compared to previous installments. In addition, they contain several significant differences from previous Pokémon games.
The games’ plot is set in the Paldea region, which is based on the Iberian Peninsula in Portugal and Spain. It starts out when a man known as Director Clavell recruits the player to join a special school known as the Naranja Academy, or the Uva Academy depending on which version one purchases. During the first day of school, the player chooses a Pokémon, attends classes and meets new friends. In addition, a mysterious Pokémon, Kiraidon or Miraidon, washes up on shore and transforms into a motorcycle. After a short time skip, Clavell challenges all of the students to go on a “treasure hunt” and journey across the region.
From this point in the game, the player can travel to any part of the region, though there are recommended orders for each gameplay segment. This is a significant change from previous installments, as non-playable characters (NPCs) normally block a player’s progress until they complete a certain objective.
There are three separate parts of the game. For the “Victory Road” path, the player must fight eight Gym Leaders — challenging Pokémon trainers specializing in a single type scattered across the region. But, before challenging each Gym, the player must complete a puzzle related to the Gym’s theme and beat trainers with Pokémon of the same type to the Gym.
Unlike previous games, when the gym battle, puzzles and trainers were integrated into a single building, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet forces players to complete these challenges in separate areas. This is to the game’s detriment, as having the Gym Leader and the puzzle in separate areas is not convenient. However, the gym battles themselves are fun and strategic, with each Gym Leader using the new “Terastilizing” mechanic to change their main Pokémon’s type. At times, the Pokémon’s type and its “Terra Type,” the new type after Terastilizing, will work in tandem with each other to create a challenging battle.
Another campaign in the game is “Starfall Street,” where the player beats bases that “Team Star,” the games’ intended evil organization, controls. In this campaign, the player must select three Pokémon from their party and beat 30 other Team Star Grunts within a 10 minute time limit. After beating the required number of Pokémon, the player must face a Star Boss, the base leader, who specializes in a certain type of Pokémon. Additionally, they must encounter the team’s truck Revavroom/the Starmobile, which can change its type in order to fit the bases’ specialty. Beating the boss will reveal a backstory regarding how the Star Boss came to join the group, revealing that most of them are just troubled students.
The third part of the game is known as “Path of Legends.” For this portion of the game, the player must fight giant Pokémon known as “Titans,” which grant the motorcycle Pokémon specific abilities such as flight and swimming, making the world more accessible and easier to explore.
Although a player can stick to one path for most of the game, I would personally recommend that they take on all three paths. It will lengthen the game, giving them more bang for their buck, and level up the player’s Pokémon faster. Some parts of the game also connect to the others. For instance, each Team Star Base has a barrier surrounding the area that blocks out nearby sections. By beating the Team Star Base, the barrier is eliminated and the player can access new paths that might lead to new gyms.
As with each generation, several new Pokemon were introduced in the game, bringing the total number of monsters to over a thousand. 103 new pokemon were introduced in this generation, significantly more than the past 3 generations. These new pokemon include Spigatito, a cat, Fidough, a dog/bread hybrid, and Lechonk, a pig.
One factor that many people have criticized the games for is its poor animation and various glitches: poor frame rates on several NPCs, the game slowing down in crowded scenes, players getting trapped in the environment, and characters floating in midair or appearing without their heads. While these issues are problematic and apparent, I did not think that the issues were as problematic as they would’ve been in a game with real-time combat, like Mario or Street Fighter. The game’s combat being turn-based minimized the effects of the issues.
Other than the aforementioned visual errors, the graphics are fairly good, with more detail on several of the Pokémon models and a less cartoony appearance. For instance, the snake Pokémon Serviper now has visible scales compared to previous designs.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are great games with some flawed elements. Hopefully Gamefreak can build upon the base that this game established and correct its flaws to create a better game.
Bailey Kanthatham is an Entertainment Contributing Writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.