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Game Review: ‘Pokémon Scarlet/Violet’

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Even though there are so many Pokémon games already, the franchise remains as popular as ever. The latest generation, called Pokémon Scarlet/Violet, was just released on November 18, 2022 and has already sold more than 10 million copies. The biggest console exclusive launch ever, Generation IX has set an absolute record for Pokémon, the Nintendo Switch, and gaming in general.

So how good is Pokémon Scarlet/Violet, and is it worth your time?

The story of Pokémon Scarlet/Violet is… okay

Pokémon Scarlet/Violet’s journey begins in a new region called Paldea, which is based on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal, and Andorra). Spanish culture has a strong presence in this region, and it is easy to see its influence in the plot and setting.

As always, our main goals are to complete the Pokédex, get eight Gym Badges, beat our rivals, and, of course, become the Pokémon Champion. Our main rival in the story is a Pokémon trainer named Nemona, a friendly character who helps us learn how to be a better trainer.

In addition to the main story, we are also able to accept quests to create our own unique adventures and plot solutions. These include Path of Legends, Starfall Streets, and Victory Road. Each quest adds its own part to the story and allows the player to experience the choices involved in being a Pokémon trainer.

Generation 9 Paleda region in Pokémon Scarlet/Violet
Generation XI Paleda region in Pokémon Scarlet/Violet (Game Freak/Nintendo)

After completing the main storyline, you can accept an offer to fight in the Pokémon Tournament organized by Nemona. Winning the tournament and completing the three quests above gives you access to Arena Zero. This is where you can catch several different “Paradox Pokémon” and a large amount of post-game content is available.

Arena Zero contains ancient Paradox Pokémon in Pokémon Scarlet and future Paradox Pokémon in Pokémon Violet. Arena Zero also launches a new quest called “The Way Home,” which gives Scarlet/Violet a lot of playability even after completing the main storyline, in the tradition of past Pokémon games.

Changes in gameplay

As in almost every game in the Pokémon series, you begin the game by choosing your own starter, which helps define your play style for much of the story. You have the three standard options, which are a Fire Pokémon (Fuecoco), a Water Pokémon (Quaxly), or a Grass Pokémon (Sprigatito).

As the starters evolve into their final forms, they each gain a second type that will certainly help you in the story. Fuecoco evolves into the Fire/Ghost-type Skeledirge, Quaxly evolves into a Water/Fighting-type Quaquaval, and Sprigatito evolves into the Grass/Dark-type Meowscarada.

In my opinion, these starters are very good when it comes to giving them unique second types, but I don’t like their designs. Don’t get me wrong, the final evolutions feel very Pokémon-like, but there’s something that made only one of them a really good-looking final evolution, and that’s Meowscarada.

If you want to know which starter to choose to make the game easier, I would recommend Fuecoco, especially if you want to go the easiest way through the Gyms, as it is very durable later in the game.

For the first time in the history of Pokémon, you also get to start the game with a Legendary. When you choose your starters you will also get either Koraidon in Scarlet or Miraidon in Violet. You can use your Legendary to travel and explore the world of Pokémon Scarlet/Violet on land, on water, and even in the sky, but you cannot use it in battle (You’ll be able to catch the same Legendary later in the game). 

Pokémon Scarlet Violet Starters
Starter Pokémon – Sprigatito, Quaxly, and Fuecoco. Pokémon Scarlet/Violet (Game Freak/Nintendo)

Even though it isn’t compulsory to defeat the Gym Leaders to get your first Legendary in Pokémon Scarlet/Violet, there are still more chances to catch Legendary Pokémon after beating the game. So far there isn’t any information about catching older Legendaries like Rayquaza, Zapdos, or Mewtwo, but if you have them from a previous version, you can import them from your older games.

The newest addition to the game is called “Let’s Go,” which allows your Pokémon to auto-battle wild Pokémon while you’re free to explore, find treasures, or do whatever you want. This is a very useful mechanic, as you can earn money by selling items while your Pokémon earns XP.

This mechanic will be useful for people who don’t like to spend a lot of time fighting some Pokémon without catching them, and I like it a lot. In addition, you can play co-op with up to three of your friends, explore Paldea together, and become the best Pokémon trainers in the game. 

Pokémon Sword/Shield introduced Dynamax, which allows your Pokémon to transform into a larger form and receive powerful new attacks. In Pokémon Scarlet/Violet, this mechanic has been developed to the Terastal phenomenon, which gives the Pokémon a unique crystalline appearance.

It also changes the Pokémon’s type to match special “Tera Type” gems and unlocks special moves. I personally preferred the Dynamax version of “power-up” your Pokémon, but it’s not something that discourages you from playing. It’s more of a “think before you enter the battle” kind of thing.

Pokémon Scarlet/Violet Terastal form
Pokémon Scarlet/Violet Terastal form (Game Freak/Nintendo)

If a Pokémon’s “Tera Type” is the same as its natural type, the strength of its moves is doubled, which certainly gives it a huge advantage against tougher opponents. This “super ability” lasts until your Pokémon faints or the fight ends. After using the power of the orbs, you must recharge them by visiting the Pokémon Center or by touching the Terastal crystals.

As in all other Pokémon games since X&Y, your Pokémon also earn xp together, even if your teammate has not fought. It was something I enjoyed when I played Pokémon Sword/Shield, because it helps with xping, leveling, and evolving your Pokémon, but I feel there should be an option to disable the Exp.Share item, and return to the old-school way of leveling. 

Endless possibilities make this game better

As with any game in the Pokémon series, the most beautiful thing is that you, as the player, can create your own story. You can give yourself challenges like by playing through the entire game with only one Pokémon in your party, or with a team full of only one type of Pokémon; there are many ways you can go through this journey to make it more interesting for yourself.

Comparing Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet, there are only minor changes between the two. As always, one game offers you one set of exclusive Pokémon and the other one offers you another set. Some characters are different, several locations have different looks, and some customization items are different, but the overall perception of the game is the same.

Even defeating the Elite Four feels different with different teams of Pokémon, because depending on which team you choose, the outcome of your battles will be different. Of course, because of the main plot thread, you have to win these battles, but it’s all up to you how easy you want to make it. 

Lastly, the Pokémon Scarlet/Violet soundtrack is also worth mentioning, as it is one of the best soundtracks in Pokémon games since Pokémon X&Y or Pokémon Emerald.

Unfortunately, there are certainly a lot of technical problems and glitches in Pokémon Scarlet/Violet. While they don’t affect the plot in any way, they can definitely make the journey more difficult and even frustrating for some. Generation XI of Pokémon is just beginning, but I’m already very curious to see how it will evolve in the future. The Pokémon games and TV series definitely deserve a lot of praise from both fans and their creators, so time will tell.

My rating for this game:

★★★ / ♥♥♥½

Pokémon Scarlet/Violet is now available to play only on Nintendo Switch . Have you played this game? What is your reception of it? Let us know on social media or The Cosmic Circus Discord.

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Wiktor Reinfuss

Big fan of all sorts of pop culture stuff. I also enjoy ambitious cinema. Games, music and graphics are all within my interests. I have a great fondness for the Arrowverse series, especially The Flash.

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