Home Featured News Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is an incredibly fun mess of a game

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is an incredibly fun mess of a game

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Gabriel Fisher

Many people feel as if the Pokémon franchise has been on the decline in terms of its mainline games. As the largest multimedia franchise on the planet, one would be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t at least aware of it. But the most diehard fans of the Pokémon series have been under the impression that, thanks to the Pokémon Company rushing the developers at the company Game Freak, putting them through massive crunches and forcing them to put out lower quality games, the series was suffering. 

While this year’s Pokémon Legends: Arceus was a pleasant surprise, many of the aforementioned fans were rightfully skeptical of the upcoming newest games in the series, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, after the debacle with the last new mainline games, Pokémon Sword and Shield. And upon its release, the games were both widely praised and widely panned – leaving a mixed taste in the mouths of many players. With that in mind, how does the new game stack up against its predecessors? 

In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, one plays as a young Pokémon trainer living in the Spain and Italy-inspired Paldea region, who has recently been accepted into a big-name academy to better their futures. This school, called either Naranja Academy or Uva Academy depending on the version the player owns, has a yearly project in which the school director, a kind older man named Clavell, encourages students to explore Paldea and find a “treasure,” be it a literal treasure or a figurative one in the form of an experience or friendship – so long as they steer clear of a crater called Area Zero. After that, the player is set free to accomplish this task however they see fit.

While Pokémon Legends: Arceus was a semi-open world game, with multiple smaller areas that were open in and of themselves, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet has one big interconnected open world, that the player may tackle as they see fit. In this open world, there are three main quests for the player to handle. The first is the usual collection of eight gym badges in hopes of becoming the Champion and challenging the player’s rival – in this case, a cheerful but somewhat overexcited girl named Nemona, who already is a Champion. The second is helping another classmate named Arven track down legendary food ingredients called Herba Mystica and defeating the titans that guard them, all to make some legendary sandwiches. The third is assisting a mysterious hacker who calls themself Cassiopeia in taking down a widespread delinquent gang called Team Star, alongside a personable student named Clive, who definitely isn’t just Clavell in a lame disguise. The player is free to take these various challenges on at their own discretion, but the challenges do not scale to their level, so taking on more dangerous missions than expected is entirely possible, and could make the weaker ones easier.

In terms of gameplay, it’s very simple – the player can run, throw out their Pokémon for battles or just for walking around, and ride a mount Pokémon for the sake of speed and utility, like swimming or climbing up mountains. The battles are the same as they ever were: four moves per Pokémon, six Pokémon maximum on a team, and a weakness and resistance system. Now, however, the player has an extra tool at their disposal – using a Tera Orb, the player can Terastillize their Pokémon – giving them a gemstone-like appearance and boosting moves that share the type with their gem. Strategic use of this could shake up battles, if used properly. There are also picnics, which allow the player to interact with their Pokémon and make sandwiches to eat, which boost stats. All of this is possible in multiplayer too, because for the first time in a mainline game, up to four players with four separate saves can play with one another on the same map, using local or online connection. While the gameplay begins fairly simple, completion of the game unlocks more capabilities. Going through the gym quest allows the player to train and catch stronger and stronger Pokémon, going through Arven’s quest powers up the ride Pokémon to grant it more abilities, Cassiopeia’s quest grants the player more TMs aka Technical Machines, which let the trainer customize their Pokémon’s moves more freely, etc. which makes progression very engaging.

Aesthetically, the game is decent. The environment looks okay – it’s nothing to write home about for the most part, aside from a few pretty shots. Characters are more fleshed out than in the previous game, and there is a greater emphasis on the narrative – while Pokémon games don’t necessarily need great narratives, many times out of 10, having one makes the experience much more enjoyable. Of course, the biggest highlight of the game is its soundtrack – regardless of the quality of the gameplay in any given Pokémon game, it is commonly agreed upon that the music is always good. Scarlet and Violet is no exception – the soundtrack is incredibly varied, with orchestral music in the grassland in the overworld, western music in the west near the mountains, a jazzy Gym Leader theme, punk rock anthems for Team Star, a hardstyle track for one of the later story battles, an ominous, oriental battle theme when combating some ruinous Legendary Pokémon, and many more sublime tracks can be heard in the game.

These pros all make the game sound incredible, and one would not be mistaken to think that the game seems incredibly fun – it is. But it was also incredibly glitchy on release, especially in online multiplayer. Graphical bugs galore, a glitch where the fights against the Elite Four and Champion would loop the first 15 seconds of the song without moving on, and some collision issues plagued the game at launch, and while the game has since been patched to fix many of the issues, it doesn’t excuse the game being released in such a way to begin with. Knowing that Game Freak had done their best in the crunch they had and got out a good game is impressive, but it’s simply unethical to force game designers and programmers to release a game in such a state just to get by.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are incredibly enjoyable games to play – and from a certain perspective to some degree, the glitches add to the charm. But it doesn’t excuse the fact that the people at Game Freak, and for that matter many other people in the game industry, are being overworked. This practice has been around for years upon years, and while the task is daunting, we can stop it if we use our voices.

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