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Pokémon Scarlet Review

Pokémon Scarlet

Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $59.99 – Available Here | $79.95 – Available Here


Pokémon is now over 25 years old. The namesake is known as one of Nintendo’s most valued and successful franchises and has been a bit of a yearly timeline as of late since the release of the Nintendo Switch. While Legends: Arceus gave us something different, Scarlet and Violet look to bring things back to basics. This main-line installment features a large, open world and an array of new creatures placed on top of the more traditional experience most were fond of. Does Pokémon Scarlet and Violet move us forward, or is it one of the first major misses? Let’s find out.  


As much as I love Pokémon overall, the story has never been the strongest part of even the main titles released over the years. Scarlet and Violet attempt to act as a major shift for that, as it takes risks to deepen the narrative by dividing it into three parts. The first is what we usually get, which is a path to a Pokémon Master, where the player takes the gym challenge, eventually going up against the Pokémon league. The next portion features the newest evil “squad”, which is known as Team Star. This squad has bases all over the Paldea region and is known for bullying trainers. Yeah, it’s a step down from the usual forces we’ve seen in the past, but their motives and menace work well enough here for some interesting moments. Finally, we have the Academy fare, where the player takes courses and interacts with other trainers. Naranja Academy (or Uva Academy if you are playing Violet) is basically the thread that ties the game together, acting as a huge part of the lore for the region as well as a background theme for the overall experience. 

These three narratives go more at the player’s pace and fit well with the open world design, but the execution does leave some things to be desired at times. For example, all three plots start in the beginning – but it almost feels like everything is set up so fast that the player has little time to take in any excitement or purpose for the journey ahead. I get how open world pacing plays out and eventually things do take shape, but not without a bit of searching. The core experience of simply “catching them all” does well to keep the foundation in place however, as despite a slow takeoff, I never felt like I wasn’t enjoying this new region and most of the characters within it. The Academy itself along with the courses are a great way to get history, and despite some odd implementation and pacing, I do think the plot here is still good enough, even though it doesn’t flesh itself out well enough to truly push this entry to the next level this franchise should be at. 


The gameplay for Scarlet and Violet has quite a few elements at work, but still feels like Pokémon through and through. Players can navigate the world at their will, barring they’re not in a cutscene or story segment, and there are little restrictions when it comes to progression other than level. Yes, for the first time, you no longer must worry about thirsty security guards or some kind of “wall”, as freedom really is provided to the player. You will still have limits, but they’re all within the standard formula one would expect. You can have a team of six, which you can catch, level up, trade, and so on, which all feels familiar and fine. Almost all the favorite mechanics return, and some are more refined than others. 

Battling feels great, and players can carry their Box with them from the start, with the ability to swap team members on the go. Newly added is a picnic element, which adds food into to equation. Food is found everywhere in Paldea. Players need to collect ingredients and collect food such as sandwiches and ice cream, which will allow for boosts to nearly everything on the battlefield. Even though there is an open world to explore, there still are two different types of environments that play into this. Towns act as hubs for quests, shops, and so on, while the routes are where you can find the Pokémon themselves. Using the picnic option allows you to interact with your team and take pictures, but also feast on your findings to boost encounter rates and the skill power of your team overall. It’s a neat idea that works well enough in execution, as it gives a reason to visit every shop and test different recipes. We have seen this in the past with poffins and so on, but never has it felt as fleshed out than it does within these two entries. Battles also have new Tera Evolutions, which allows players to manipulate type advantage with a stunning transformation that can be performed with any team mate. Sure, it isn’t as deep of a gimmick as we have seen in the past, but it is a nice regional change that makes battles feel more interesting this time around.

Gyms also are a bit different. While the battles are more of the same, new “tests” come in to replace environmental puzzles. These get a bit better later, as the first couple feel overly simple and tedious at best. It’s not that I don’t enjoy rolling an olive around a maze or hunting for Sunflora, it just feels a bit lax in comparison to the older, far more intuitive challenges that we were met with when arriving at a gym. Catching Pokémon is a bit of a mixed bag. A lot of the mechanics from Legends: Arceus are here, where players can toss out their teammates quickly to do battle, which feels great. Trainers now also must be interacted with to battle, eliminating the stress and annoyance of being caught off guard. That said, there is something still missing. Among the large, open spaces – we can now see the Pokémon run about and do battle with them at will. Items are more plentiful and can be found nearly everywhere. The world is fun to explore because of this, but it feels at times that the mystery and intrigue of battles has faded a bit too much, as nothing really comes off as a threat or challenge. Don’t get me wrong, the game is fun. Without the element of surprise and the wonder it causes for exploration, there does seem to be a void that the game never is able to fill for older players who enjoyed that excitement of finding a random encounter. 

Koraidon & Miraidon are the two main legends within this set, acting as a new replacement for HMs of the past. Players can ride on these transformable beasts, which can gain new powers as you progress that opens new areas and routes by sea, land, and air. Both compliment the world well and make exploration a breeze. With all these things functioning in one experience, there is a lot of praise Game Freak deserves. What is a bit of a disappointment however is that the game feels unfinished and rushed. I will touch on more during the visual aspect of this review, but the game has a lot of weird design choices that do affect gameplay in a traditional sense. Some shops go straight to the menu when you enter the door. This would be fine if this were any other series, but it really is just some shops, as if the need to design interiors for many rooms were cast aside to quickly staple everything together. There are also a lot of holes like this with the game, and glitches that come up often (mainly when riding Koraidon and Miraidon) that can cause some grievance on the field itself, like finding yourself getting stuck in terrain or getting into areas that typically would be unexplorable without upgrades that would normally be obtained later. It feels a lot rougher than what traditional Pokémon titles have in the past, and overall – feels like a lesser title because of its current state. 


Performance may be Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s biggest issue. There are little things that are everywhere that show rough edges. Multiple sprites on the screen causes awful slowdown where animations are crippled, with NPCs and Pokémon alike walking and moving jarringly slow with a terrible framerate. Getting closer usually fixes the issue, but it seems that the game is just not powerful enough to run on the hardware. Docking the system seems to only make this worse and more noticeable. Yes, there isn’t enough to ruin it overall and the game is still playable, but outside of the environments and general character models which mostly look fine without much issue. I don’t want to overstate the visual flaws as while there are many, the game still runs well enough and most won’t have too much of an issue, but it is a bit surprising that such a large publisher would release the game in such a messy state. 


The soundtrack luckily is great. There are new vocal-backed tracks that really hype up important battles, and while a lot comes off as new, remixed favorites still do well at capturing that Pokémon atmosphere many will love. The creatures themselves still use their cries, and while I do wish there was some more voice work within the game, the audio still sounds well enough and does its job to add personality to the characters involved. 


Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are an odd duo for the longstanding franchise. While both implement new ideas and features that push the franchise forward, the game still feels rushed like never before, which was the biggest surprise to see with a series with so few black marks. What makes this pair even more puzzling is that despite so many visual bugs and glitches, I still loved my time in Paldea. Sure, not everything is perfect, but this may be one of the finest efforts in some time for Pokémon as a whole. This is still an entry that one can get hundreds of hours of gameplay from, as all the ingredients are present, the game itself is just a bit half-baked in those little areas that most would easily overlook. For better or worse, this is our step into the next generation of Pokémon, and Scarlet and Violet do a good enough job to break new ground, even if it isn’t without a few stumbles that will hopefully be addressed with patches in the future. 

Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.


Pokémon Scarlet doesn't have the level of polish one would expect, yet still offers another fantastic evolution of a franchise that continues to give fans new ways to catch them all.
<i>Pokémon Scarlet</i> doesn't have the level of polish one would expect, yet still offers another fantastic evolution of a franchise that continues to give fans new ways to catch them all.Pokémon Scarlet Review