I choose you! Pokémon Scarlet and Violet review

Jolene Palijo

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet ushers players into the ninth installation of the iconic game series. The adventure brings fans further into the newest generations of games, with ambitious concepts, environments, and experiences fresh to new and long-time trainers. Scarlet and Violet give us a game that, despite some noticeable gameplay issues, recreates the nostalgic Pokémon game experience with a new feel and freedom. 

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet released on November 18th, 2022 and brought trainers into the region of Paldea, an open world and vast region full of different environments to traverse. Players begin by customizing their character, and are given a wide range of ways to make themselves unique, a fun change that lets players see themselves in their character and adds personality. Rather than instantly running off on an adventure like previous installments, the player enrolls in the region’s school, with Naranja Academy in the scarlet version, and Uva Academy in the Violet version. Their journey begins with the school treasure hunt, where students are sent to find their “treasure,” an idea that motivates the stories of 3 main pathways for the player to explore.

For my early game experiences, I spent hours going through as much of the region as I could, even with the limited travel abilities given in the early game, and took the chance to wander without barriers. The quick, automatic and wild battle experience is exciting and immersive compared to previous games. The active backdrop brought out more open-world elements that the genre tends to have, and I like how sometimes there’s an audience of passing characters and Pokémon to keep the battle grounded with its surroundings.

The main pathways of this game–Victory Road, Starfall Street, and the Path of Legends–gave me both the usual gym challenge alongside a look into a lot of stories and characters in this region. With each path, I faced similar obstacles, each with more challenges and got to learn more about the characters with each bit of their story. When facing obstacles, it never felt like I was stuck in one place and the solution to some problems were found in other paths, it encouraged me to keep engaging with different parts of the region. 

After being invested for 70 hours of this game and going into the post-game, I feel that while the experience was enjoyable, Nintendo is capable of much more. While the Pokémon game formula still works, I would’ve waited longer if it meant that this game could deliver more.

The main story was good, focusing on the characters more than the last game. The body language, facial expressions, and personalities for both the characters and the Pokémon were some of the biggest improvements I saw compared to all of the previous games. However, I hoped to connect more with these characters at that point with an ending that brought the storylines together in a more meaningful way rather than feeling like I connected with them more in the post-game. 

When making this change to an open world, the game leaves the character to explore on their own, but doesn’t bring them through and connect them to smaller areas like in previous titles. Instead, a lot of the story is contained within the main areas and cities and doesn’t have too many moments where the environment is a large part of the story like in previous titles. I felt limited in places I could go and had even fewer things to do outside of the main quests, adding to the amount of separation I felt between the story and the world.

Covering one of the largest complaints from players that started this game on launch day, there are noticeable animation and loading quality issues which are thankfully being patched in future updates. To be fair, this was their first fully open world which is known for these types of glitches and this was not a huge problem alongside everything positive, and since many of them were funny and nothing serious. But, it was noticeable despite coming from such a huge gaming company and a game with such a successful launch.

Overall, I had a good experience with this game, regardless of its flaws. The gameplay was fun and lighthearted, and these new characters and stories were interesting and engaging. This story and animation reminded me of the plots from the Pokémon anime series and I think giving it that feel was a nice way to make this game stand out. I would recommend this to anyone that enjoyed the previous title, Pokémon Sword and Shield. I’d want to see more development to bring out more of the world, characters, and potential in the future, but have otherwise loved the new ideas this brought to the main game series.