Playable character in Pokemon Scarlet riding the Pokemon Koraidon in game (photo courtesy of Jocelyn Freeman)

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet: Running Into Issues?

WHY DOES IT RUN?!

As a lifelong Pokémon fan, I was excited by the announcement of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. However, I, alongside many other Pokémon nerds, was quite tentative to welcome these new games with open arms. With 4 mainline games coming out in under 4 years, everyone feared this game would appear unfinished. However, with the positive reception of Legends Arceus, many were excited for Scarlet and Violet to take a giant leap forward for Pokémon games on the Switch.

Let’s start out with the most glaring issue. Although I have played enough Monster Hunter: Rise to be used to choppy animation from entities far away, this game still feels too stuttery to ignore, especially because Monster Hunter is more graphically demanding. We’re coming up on the 6th birthday of the Nintendo Switch. One of the most notable Nintendo subsidiaries should not be running this stilted.

As for the gameplay itself, it’s quite possibly the best departure from standard Pokémon one could ask for, and in the best way possible. While this game retains the tried-and-true 8 Gym Leader formula (no apologies to Sun and Moon), the game posits 3 ways of story progression, although pursuing all is encouraged. You can follow the highly competitive Nemona in the besting of the Gym Leaders, the frustrated Arven in his defeat of the 5 Titan Pokémon in a quest to make the best sandwich ever, or you can carry out Operation Starfall at the behest of the elusive Cassiopea to defeat the villainous Team Star. The new formula almost makes up for the lackluster Paldea region.

Speaking of which, an underrated aspect to Pokémon games that I love is the regions. The perfect region for me is big, biodiverse, and no one area feels too big or too small. One of the inherent traits of an open-world experience is you have to make it large and sprawling to give it the feeling of a grand adventure. While Paldea changes biomes more fluidly than Galar did in Sword and Shield, it feels at some points like it gives you just enough of a particular area to get bored of it by the end. Usually, open-worlds would put up plenty of landmarks and small towns to make it feel more lived-in and interesting. Maybe you don’t move fast enough without the aid of Koraidon or Miraidon.

As one last piece, it’s hilarious how Koraidon and Miraidon have bodies that are obviously supposed to look like wheels, but they run. Why does it run? Why would you make these Pokémon look like motorcycles and then make them run? It looks ridiculous!

In terms of the execution of Scarlet and Violet, they feel more like the sum of parts between Sword and Shield and Pokémon Legends: Arceus. I honestly do not know where to put Scarlet and Violet on a tier list of Pokémon generations, but if I have to, it’s probably good enough to be my 4th favorite generation, behind 2, 4, and 5.

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