Pokemon Scarlet and Violet (Switch)
Pokemon has had a bit of a troubled go lately as far as game quality has been concerned. Sun and Moon, which I felt were objectively the best of the series, failed to really “do it” for a lot of long-time fans, myself included. Let’s Go was an absolute treat as a laid back Pokemon adventure, but most fans hated how easy it was. Sword and Shield was absolutely perfect for online players, but it was a dumpster fire for single-player content. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were great remakes, but they were technical disasters at launch without a HUGE patch and made the controversial decision to go back to a 2.5D perspective. Legends Arceus was an absolute masterpiece, and there will be no mercy for its detractors when the revolution comes (although the lack of breeding and online battle was a point of contention for some). Then comes Scarlet and Violet. Will these games redeem Game Freak as a developer and finally satisfy Pokemon’s notoriously bitchy adult fanbase? Lmao of course not, but I think they’re great.
So let’s address the elephant in the room first - the game is, to put it nicely, a technical clusterfuck. While the character and Pokemon models look great, the environments look terrible, the textures are genuinely god-awful, and the frame rate makes Doom on SNES look smooth and stable. To be fair, a patch that came out a couple of weeks after launch dramatically improved the frame rate, but it’s still pretty bad. I’d say it’s overall on par with being in the middle of Sword’s and Shield’s Wild Area with wifi on. Except it’s the entire game, and that’s your best-case scenario. There is one particular part of the game - a windmill - that, when viewed from a distance, literally moves at two frames per second. Most of the game targets 30 FPS. It rarely hits that. Get about three feet away from an NPC, and that frame rate is halved. Get about three or four feet farther away, and it’s halved again. It’s so bad that you’ve got NPCs running at like 15 FPS in cutscenes. I’d understand it if this were a visual showcase game like Breath of the Wild, Bayonetta 3, or Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but it looks nowhere near as good as any of those games, and it runs significantly worse.
Now that I’ve addressed the unforgivable technical disaster that fanboys will never stop talking about, let me tell you why this might be the best game in the whole series. First off, your rival. Nemona is bae. She’s a perfect yandere goddess, and I love her. She manages to do what Hop, Wally, and Hau all tried and miserably failed to do - be a friendly rival that deserves to live. Every friendly rival before has been a terrible character flatter with less development than Port-au-Prince. Nemona is different. She seems flat at first, but as you progress through the game and get towards the end of her quest line (yes, there’s more than just “be the champion”), they actually flesh her out a decent bit and make her a relatable and sympathetic character. Then you’ve got the professor. Cryptic, interesting, and kind of a dick, the professor (there’s a different professor depending on your version) is hands down the most interesting to date. No matter whether you pick Professor Daddy or Professor MILF, this one has some genuine major plot significance. And let’s not forget the story in general - it’s the best Pokemon has ever had. Legends Arceus had a pretty interesting premise, but Scarlet and Violet manage to take a mundane and troped-to-death premise and turn it into a FANTASTIC adventure and story.
You’ve got three main quest lines to finish before you unlock the final end-game quest. There’s the obvious quest to beat all eight gyms and then take on the Elite Four and Top Champion to become a Champion-rank trainer. You’ve also got the Starfall quest line where you go around and attack five different Team Star bases, and despite how it sounds, this isn’t just a rehash of gyms. Lastly, you’ve got the Titan quest where you take on five massively powerful Titan Pokemon to steal their weed. I mean Herba Mystica. If you can count, you’ve probably figured that there are eighteen main objectives (plus the Pokmeon League). If you’ve played Pokemon, then you probably also know that there are eighteen Pokemon types. Each objective has a type represented, so no longer is it pick-and-choose which types get represented in the gyms; every type gets some love here (and four types give double love thanks to the Elite Four). When you do all of that, then and only then can you enter Area Zero, the mysterious forbidden zone in the very center of Paldea. Here you’ll find powerful and rare Pokemon as well as the game’s final quest. Beating the Elite Four doesn’t get you to the post-game here; it just gets you to the endgame, and it’s this endgame that really sets Scarlet and Violet apart.
While I’m sure everyone knows the big plot twist by now considering that the games have been out for a month, I’m not going to say anything about it because if you have - somehow - avoided spoilers and still haven’t played it, it’s worth discovering for yourself. While this may have been the worst-made Pokemon game to date, it’s definitely the best-designed Pokemon game to date. Game Freak proves here that, while they’re bad at making games, they’re absolutely fantastic at brainstorming them. The new Pokemon are almost universally awesome, some old favorites get fantastic new evolutions, and while there’s not a whole lot in the way of new forms, you do get some cool entirely new species that are based on convergent evolution; they look like they’re regional forms of old Pokemon but are actually completely unrelated. I, personally, would rather have just had regional forms, but I can’t deny that it’s a cool concept for new Pokemon. If you can look past the technical flaws and appreciate the game for what it DID do well, this is definitely a game with something every Pokemon fan can enjoy.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.