Home GamesConsole Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: A Success but Falls Short of Potential

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: A Success but Falls Short of Potential

by Lethbridge College

The ever-expanding world of Pokémon captures the hearts of a generation as it continues to grow and change. With a variety of console and mobile games, TV shows, merchandise and branding tools at the franchise’s disposal, the lasting impact of this universe will not be easy to stifle. But what can be said of the core series? The original RPG style games that act as the backbone to the franchise itself have had a rocky relationship with its audience in recent years. However, with the newest game in the series now selling at a rate faster than any other game on the console, will Pokémon Scarlet and Violet live up to the expectant fanbase, or fall off the map with the rushed, yearly release schedule the Pokémon Company has been pushing these past few years?

Let’s first talk about the game’s presentation. Scarlet and Violet’s visual design is indeed a step up from its predecessor, Sword and Shield. The entire game is presented as one large sandbox of exploration, with a fully open world and an emphasis on exploration. This new take on Pokémon overworld is a first for the core RPGs, and originally introduced in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, a spinoff title created to help innovate the franchise in the new console era.

Although this is a step in the right direction, when the game graphics of Scarlet and Violet are compared to other games on the console, it’s visual style pales in comparison to other Nintendo properties released well before the games came out, such as Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Another downside is one of the biggest problems holding Scarlet and Violet back: its rampant performance issues. The game is known to chug, lag and crash at random intervals, the in-game lighting can bug at painstakingly obvious times and is slow for users when participating in the online group events. The Tera Raid battles in particular are known to be especially brutal with these performance issues, the laggy constraints under a timer ruining the experience for many players across the game world. The team behind Pokémon and its franchises don’t seem to be interested in fixing these issues with the game, instead focusing on pushing out DLC for more story content later this year instead of listening to player complaints, which is a bit disheartening.

On a lighter note, Scarlet and Violet do bring some well needed improvements to the core Pokémon game series. The in-game story has been updated to be slightly less repetitive compared to the somewhat overdone format of collecting eight gym badges, catching a legendary Pokémon and then becoming the in-game champion. Though this concept does still exist, this is only one path in a set of three stories the player can choose to work between at will, giving a well needed break to the monotonous task of moving from one town to the next just to beat a specific boss. The game also gives you the legendary Pokémon depicted on the cover from the start as a means of transportation, adding a new angle from which to approach the game with. The additional final story of the game is one of the highlights for many players, and is worth experiencing for yourself if you’re willing to overlook the game’s flaws.

Another highlight to Scarlet and Violet is the game’s soundtrack. A variety of catchy, melodic and energetic tunes will follow the player around and help immerse them into the world Scarlet and Violet are painting. A first for the series is that the individual provinces of the game’s region lead to different random encounter themes. These new theme songs build on the overworld theme, transitioning between exploration and battle rather seamlessly as the beat picks up when a Pokémon crosses your path, and then fades into the more light hearted travel ambience for overworld exploration.

Scarlet and Violet had the potential to be great. The updated story elements, gameplay details and design ideas were a step in the right direction. The issue comes in its poor performance and lack of refined visual graphics that hold the game back from being the best it can be. It can only be assumed that development for these key parts of the game’s functionality were rushed to make it’s early November release in time for the holidays. Had the game been given another year’s worth of development and released for 2023’s holiday season instead, leaving Legends: Arceus to be the main Pokémon release for the previous year, perhaps these issues with the performance could have been fixed, and the highlights of the spinoff implemented in the core release a bit better with players having time to put in their reviews for the innovative spinoff that could have been implemented into Scarlet and Violet.

Unfortunately, despite being one of the most successful brand names to date, Pokémon and its neglect of the quality of the core series over making holiday profit as soon as possible has stifled this game’s ability to go above and beyond to stand next to some of the other great games released to the Nintendo Switch. Though, with how well these games sold, it’s going to be hard to see any improvements, as unfortunately a half baked game can still outsell a well designed one by several million copies, so the motivation to change the formula is severely lacking. Perhaps one day we’ll see the Pokémon game that goes above and beyond more than just feeding off nostalgia for the generation whose hearts have been touched, but for now, don’t count your shiny Pokémon before they hatch.

Written by Alyshia Brown, Lethbridge College

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