Welcome to EXPlay, (Explain & Play) the review series where we care not for scores but tell it how it is when it comes to every game we get our hands on, whilst also taking the time to include some lengthy gameplay, to give you the reader, the chance to shape your own impressions and views whilst watching and reading. In this installment, we’re covering Pokémon Scarlet / Pokémon Violet by developer Game Freak.
Pokémon Scarlet / Pokémon Violet: (The Explanation)
At this point, I don’t think the Pokémon series really needs much introduction. The series is so well known in this day and age that basically everyone and their nan (especially those that have played Pokémon Go) know what Pokémon is, even if they can’t name all 900+ of the critters.
Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet is the second main series instalment on Nintendo Switch (not counting Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl, or Pokémon Legends:Arceus). It takes place in the Paldea Region which is heavily inspired on the Iberian Peninsula of Europe (Spain & Portugal) with its familiar landmarks and culture. You will hear many Spanish colloquialisms throughout the game with many of the game’s characters and NPC’s using phrases like “Buenas Dias!” “Toma Ya,” and a personal favourite of mine “En Serio?!”
The game’s story setting has you, the player enrolling in one of two academies depending on your version. If you are playing Pokémon Scarlet, you will be enrolled in the Naranja Academy (orange) and if you are playing Pokémon Violet, you will be enrolled in the Uva Academy (grape). From the get go, you will leave the comfort of the family home, meet Director Clavell of the Academy as well as the academy’s Student Council President and very “battle forward” Nemona, who becomes your rival and friend.
After choosing your starter Pokémon from Director Clavell and being shown the scenic route the city of Mesagoza where the school is situated, the player will be introduced to their version’s legendary Pokémon Miraidon (Scarlet) or Miraidon (Violet) who will act as your ride while you explore the Paldea Region. Unlike in most Pokémon games that follow a rather linear path of travelling to towns in a set order whilst collecting Gym Badges so you can take on the Pokémon League and become Champion, Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet gives you the option and the means to tackle the gyms in any order you wish and go wherever you want within reason. The reason being that there are some areas of the game that you can’t access straight away without some overall story progression.
Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet gives players three distinct objectives of becoming a Pokémon Champion, Defeating the rebellious Team Star, or taking on the five Titan Pokémon. How you go about doing either or all of these tasks is up to you. You can opt to do them one after the other or do all three at the same time and alternate between them. What must be said though is that if you want to beat the game, you will need to ultimately do all three of the tasks as you won’t be able to access the post-game content otherwise.
As is the staple in the Pokémon Games, you will spend the grand majority of the game catching, battling, and training Pokémon to make a formidable team and complete the Pokédex. You can fight wild Pokémon and Pokémon Trainers that you see out and about in Paldea and take it in turns to attack each other by choosing one of four of your Pokémon’s moves.
One slight difference this time around is that Pokémon Trainers will not actively engage in battles with you. Instead, you have to physically walk up and talk to them for them to engage you. Gone are the days where you had to sheepishly skirt around the back of them so they didn’t annihilate your severely wounded team as you try to make it to the nearest Pokémon Center to heal them because you have run out of healing items.
All previous entries in the mainline Pokémon games have had some kind of gimmick to distinguish themselves from one another, whether it be Mega Evolutions, Z-Moves, or Dynamaxing. Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet also has its own gimmick in the form of Terastalizing. This allows Pokémon to crystalize and take on a type that it isn’t usually associated with. For example, Growlithe is a Fire type but through the power of Terastalization, it can become a Ground type. This opens up new strategies in battles as Growlithe in its Tera state is no longer weak against ground moves. If it has a ground move and uses it while it is Terastalized, it will make that move stronger than normal as well. You do have to take into account, however, that it will of course become weak against Grass moves in this state, which it is normally strong against so, you have to be careful when Terastalizing.
Another thing worth pointing out about Terastalizing is that it lasts until the battle is over, the Pokémon is switched out, or is defeated. You can only do it once during battle as well and you will have to visit a Pokémon Center to heal your Pokémon and refuel your Tera Orb which allows your Pokémon to Terastalize in the first place. If you have a particular Pokémon that you really like but are not a fan of its Tera Type, you will be able to change it at a certain place in the game, just as long as you have the necessary Tera Jewel Shards and ingredients required to make the change.
Like in Pokémon Sword & Pokémon Shield, you can participate in Raid Battles with friends or on your own. Raid Battles can be accessed by coming into contact with Raid Dens on the map or by going online to join someone else’s Raid Battle. These Raid battles pit up to four players against a powerful Pokémon depending on their star rating (3 is quite weak but 6/7 is very strong). In Sword & Shield, if the team’s Pokémon faints three times, the raid would be over. In Scarlet and Violet however, you have a timer and fainting will only cause you to receive a penalty that will lower the timer but not kick you out of the raid. If the timer is reduced to zero before you defeat the target Pokémon, you will be kicked out of the den.
Other features in Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet that I will touch upon are Picnics, Union Circles, TM Machines, online/local battles, and Trades. When out and about exploring with your Pokémon, you can have picnics with them (much like the camping mechanic in Sword/Shield) and create sandwiches that will cause certain boost effects like catching power, EXP, or battle power up. You can also play ball with your party and give them a wash.
The Union Circle allows up to four friends to play together either locally or online. To do so, you have to stand on the circular yellow areas near Pokémon Centers, which will allow you to host a room for your friends to join you or you can join theirs. Another added benefit to this is that players of a different version to the host will be able to catch Pokémon in the host’s game that are exclusive to that version. Players can roam free in the host’s world but will not be able to fight Pokémon alongside a friend. These fights are still very much a single affair.
The last online/ local features are Trading and Link Battles. Trading comes in two forms in that you trade one of your Pokémon and have no idea what you will get in return. The normal trading option allows you to see what the other player is offering before you accept the trade. You can also create private rooms with a code so you can trade with friends or people you trust who you have shared the code with. Link Battles is as the name suggests, you link up with players to battle their Pokémon with your own. There are a number of different rule sets that you can use to cater your own Pokémon Battles like the Normal Set Rules that see Pokémon to level 50 regardless of their actual level and can limit the use of having the same species of Pokémon or items on the same team. Mystery Gifts also make a return and can be acquired by connecting to the internet or using a password while an event gift is active.
Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet is by far the most entertaining and enjoyable Pokémon game that I have played in a while. I will admit that I myself was seriously put off in the before the launch of the game and during its build up, mainly with the vast number of leaks spewing out all over the internet from certain sources and some of the designs of the new Pokémon being rather unenticing. The more I saw and the particular angle that the sources were taking with their “leaked” information really turned me off the game and as my friends can vouch for, I was more than happy to pass on Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet completely.
Then, as we reached the launch week of the games, I found myself being drawn into wanting to play them for some reason, in contrary to how I was feeling before. It was probably fear of missing out or something but after taking the plunge with the game, I almost immediately fell in love with it. Maybe it was because of the promise of an Open World Pokémon game or because the game’s setting is inspired by Spain and I happen to live there. I still don’t know myself now but I am glad that I took the chance to dive into Paldea Region and explore the vast land.
Now, I would be remiss if I spent most of the time bigging up the game and overlooking its faults. There have been a great number of performance issues and bugs found by other players and it has resulted in a lot of funny videos on social media and complaints about Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet being unfinished and unpolished. It would seem that it wasn’t just the setting of the game that took inspiration from Spain but that even the developers adopted a “Mañana Mañana” attitude (leaving things until tomorrow but it never happens) when it came to polishing and bug fixing. This is a joke of course, as I mean no disrespect to the Spanish culture, having lived in Spain myself for over 20 years (and still do) but I have experienced the “Mañana Mañana” attitude first-hand on many an occasion.
Still, performance issues and bugs aside, Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet are very fun to play and actually it feels refreshing. The good news is that Game Freak is aware of the issues and are actually working on patches to fix the bugs and improve the game. While, yes, the problems should have been addressed well before the games were released, including delaying the games if necessary, the fact that they are willing to put them right rather than just moving straight on to developing the next game does show that they are committed to supporting the game and doing what needs to be done to ensure it is an enjoyable experience for all.
All in all, Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet is “Simplemente Buenísimo” and you really shouldn’t take a Siesta on them. The Open World gameplay allows for so much exploration that you can easily do it at your own pace. The supporting cast of characters have more depth to them, making them feel far more fleshed out than in other Pokémon games with proper real-world issues that players can actually relate to like bullying, neglect, and strained relationships. Even Tera Raid Battles are feel more fun and rewarding.
If you have been waiting for a Pokémon game you can really immerse yourself in and have a lot of fun doing so, then Pokémon Scarlet & Pokémon Violet es la leche!
Pokémon Scarlet / Pokémon Violet: (The Gameplay)
Developer: Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Adventure, Role-Playing
No. of Players: up to 4 players (Local Wireless & Online)
Release Date: November 18, 2022 (EU & NA)
File Size: 7 GB