Pokemon Scarlet & Violet review: An almost super-effective adventure

pokemon scarlet and violetGame Freak

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet have ushered in the 9th Generation of the series, and they are packed full of emotional storylines, fun mechanics, and updated gameplay. However, the glitches and performance problems can’t be ignored.

Pokemon fans around the world have been eagerly awaiting the launch of Pokemon Scarlet & Violet since its announcement early this year. Now released, the game offers a more complex experience than any other in the series – mixing three storylines with open-world exploration.

While the gameplay, characters, and narrative are solid and easy to get lost in, the game does suffer from a lack of polish that takes away from the enjoyment. From serious lag during the newly revamped co-op play to both Pokemon and character models breaking mid-exploration, the bumps definitely impact an otherwise solid title.

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Pokemon Scarlet & Violet: Key details

  • Developer: Game Freak/Nintendo
  • Price: $59.99 USD / £44.99 GBP / $89.95 AUD
  • Release date: November 18, 2022
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet Trailer

New way to explore as a Pokemon trainer

While the Pokemon video game series has been working on transforming gameplay since moving to the Nintendo Switch, Scarlet & Violet seem to truly reach new heights. Linear routes and contained areas are traded for an open-world map, and the cut-and-paste storyline of past main series entries is replaced with three flexible paths that make each playthrough unique.

“Victory Road”, “Path of Legends”, and “Starfall Street” can overlap each other as the player makes their way through Paldea or be tackled one at a time to completion. The narratives of each arc offer the emotional depth found in Sword & Shield, with players becoming attached to NPCs like Arven, Clavell, and Nemona as they discover more about what is happening in the Paldea region.

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The ability to freely move through the open-world map and progress through the games in any way desired adds a level of autonomy and immersion that weren’t present in previous games. It truly makes the journey to becoming a Pokemon Champion feel like a personal experience with a story that players can write themselves.

Co-op finally lets players share the world together

Academy Pokemon Scarlet VioletThe Pokemon Company
The academy is the starting point of your Paldean journey

Multiplayer functionality has always been an awkwardly implemented feature in past Pokemon games. In earlier titles, players could trade and battle through Link Cables, and then through the internet, but in more recent games, co-op has been held back. While the Raid dens and overworld sprites of Sword & Shield were a step in the right direction, they lacked a serious commitment to true multiplayer features that the Pokemon video game series could benefit from.

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Thankfully, Pokemon Scarlet & Violet have finally embraced co-op. Using the Union Circle locally or online, a group of four trainers can enter a host player’s game. Here they can battle, explore, have picnics, and communicate together in a real-time space.

The multiplayer features are fleshed out with a return of Raid battles, as well as the competitive online battle options that were a critical factor in the success of Sword and Shield. These options offer a range of ways for trainers to connect with each other and create a game outside of the main narratives that will go on long after the primary storylines are completed.

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Tera Raid battles are fast, fun, and enjoyable

A Pokemon trainer holding a Pokeball in Scarlet & VioletThe Pokemon Company / Game Freak
Tera Raids offer big rewards

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet have revamped the Raid system in several important ways. First introduced in Sword & Shield, the single-player or co-op battles feature one powerful Pokemon that must be taken on by four trainers. When solo, the Trainer is teamed up with random NPCs, but the best way to succeed is to play online with others.

The Paldea region boasts a new type of challenge, scattering Tera Raid dens around the map. Each den holds a Terastallized Pokemon with a unique Tera type, and the dens come in six difficulty levels. The dens are easy to spot, sending up a glittering beam of light wherever they have spawned.

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The Tera Raid system is much faster than the Gigantamax dens of Gen 8. Instead of each player taking a turn to hit the wild Pokemon, they all attack simultaneously on a timer. Additionally, when a Trainer’s Pokemon is knocked out, they are given a time penalty before respawning, instead of having to wait out a full round.

These improvements turn a ten-minute raid into just a few seconds depending on the difficulty and make jumping into Tera Raids online a fun and streamlined experience. They are also particularly lucrative in post-game, as Gen 9 events will focus on Tera Raids. It is a wonderful thing to see the successful mechanic in another region, and it only adds more depth to exploration without feeling like a slog.

Beautiful gameplay is marred by poor performance

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet glitchesThe Pokemon Company
Finizen doesn’t seem to actually swim

While the core of Pokemon Scarlet & Violet is sound and offers some of the most ambitious changes to the series to date – it is grossly marred by performance issues.

There seem to be visual and performance glitches hindering every aspect of the games, with lag causing staggered character and Pokemon movements, battle animations cutting or freezing, and models clipping through landscapes and solid objects.

During the review process, battle animations regularly froze up or didn’t complete. The camera would glitch when transferring into a battle causing the screen to become stuck on the inside of objects, and Pokemon in the wild would hang or create double images.

The best example of this is seen while riding Miraidon on the water. The Pokemon in the water don’t seem to swim, simply bobbing along, and one glitch saw them duplicate themselves.

It seems every aspect of Pokemon Scarlet & Violet struggles with basic performance issues. While it doesn’t make them unplayable, it seriously impacts the joy of exploring the otherwise well-crafted world.

The Verdict – 4/5

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet are a stunning glimpse into the future of the Pokemon video game series. Ambitious gameplay and thoughtful narratives create an experience that stands above prior titles. With performance patches to improve the games’ stability, this could be one of the most important generations yet. For now, though, it’s simply a very good one.

Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch