Sunday, November 20

My first impressions of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

I’ve put a few hours into Pokémon Violet, about 7-8 hours. There are three main quests to focus on. You have the traditional Gym badges to collect, the unruly gang to shut down and the titan Pokémon to battle. I’ve got my first gym badge, taken down one titan, and defeated one gang base. So what do I think after my first day with the game? I love it; I do have issues with it, but I think it’s the Pokémon game I’ve wanted for years, and it’s an almost perfect continuation of what Arceus did in January. I’m not so sure that I think it's better than Arceus. Let’s split this up into a few bullet points.


Unlike any other mainline Pokémon game before it, you can now tackle the three paths to progression in any order you want. You have eight gym badges to collect. These work similarly to how they did in Sword and Shield. You arrive in a town, find the gym building, talk to the receptionist inside, and they will tell you where to go for the gym challenge. These little minigames must be completed before taking on the gym leader. After you’ve finished, you will have to fight the gym leader. These are bosses that specialise in a specific type of Pokémon. If you beat them, then you get a gym badge. The difference here is that you can travel to any town on the map right after you finish the game’s intro section. There is no order you need to complete these gyms, do them as you wish. This also goes with the team star bases you need to dismantle and the titan Pokémon you need to take on. Certain ones are closer to the starting town so most players will do those first, but nothing’s stopping you from heading out to the furthest away gym, star base or titan and taking them on. I love this. The freedom is fantastic compared to older games in the series; it feels so liberating!


The gameplay is a mix between Legends Arceus and Sword and Shield. The entire map is an open world now, similar to Arceus, but you have the gyms and trainers from Sword and Shield. The thing that’s missing from Arceus that I wish was still here is the ability to capture wild Pokémon without battling them. In Arceus, you could use long grass and slow movement to sneak up on wild Pokémon and then throw a Pokéball at them while they were eating, sleeping or facing away from you. This would have a chance to catch them without needing a battle, and it felt amazing. That’s gone in Violet. You have to fight any Pokémon you want to catch, and it feels like a step backwards. What feels like a step forward is the auto battles that your Pokémon can now do. So you let a Pokémon out of their ball to run alongside you with R, then you can also command them to fight wild Pokémon by tapping R while facing the wild Pokémon. If your pocket monster is strong enough, either in level or type advantage, it will defeat the wild Pokémon, and your team will gain the EXP from the battle. This saves so much time when just trying to grind up a few levels for whatever reason. I think the gameplay is excellent.


This is a letdown for me personally. Now I know Pokémon isn’t a fashion game. Still, I loved spending my winnings on fancy new shirts, skirts, pairs of boots or whatever in both Sword and Arceus. My post-adventure shopping sprees were a highlight of those past two games, but it just feels lacking in Violet. You can change your clothes, but you must remain in some variation of the school uniform. You have four base uniforms to choose from, based on each 4 of the seasons. Beyond this, the only clothing you can change is your shoes, socks, gloves, hats, glasses and bags. It’s not the worst customisation I've seen in a game, but after the incredible outfits you could dress your character up in during Arceus, it’s a disappointing step backwards.

Graphics and performance

Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. This game is graphically ugly. Significant pop-in is constant inside buildings and in the open world. NPCs in the foreground often run with skipped frames, making them look like cheap motion capture. The framerate will often drop from 30 to around 15-20 when there are more than a few Pokémon or NPCs on screen. The textures for the ground and certain buildings are very often low quality. There are jaggy models all over the place. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are graphically awful. But I don’t think the game is ugly overall. I’ve argued for years that a good art style can shine through bad graphics, and this is a good example. The technical side of how this game looks is appalling. The artistic side is fantastic. Everything feels like a dreamy version of Spain with bright colours, beautiful spacious buildings with light brickwork and tiles and bright, vivid painted colours everywhere. I love this world; being in it makes me happy, and that’s the art side. I don’t wanna undersell the poor graphics. This should have been better. If Breath of the Wild can run on a Switch with none of these issues, then Violet should also be able to. I think this is a case of the dev team not having enough time to optimise everything. Arceus came out in January, and Gamefreak got Violet out in November of the same year. That’s eight months. I have no doubt there was some development overlap between the two games, but that’s still not enough time. This should have been delayed until 2023 at the minimum. I feel sorry for the devs, who likely underwent months of crunch to get this game as fantastic as it is. This bullshit needs to stop.

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