The latest main entry in the Pokémon series released on November 18th, and it seems to be a popular topic of discussion online for better or for worse. While most reviews I’ve seen for the game are positive, the state in which the game released can’t be ignored. The ninth and latest generation of Pokémon games, Violet and Scarlet, seem to be a big hit but most players are finding it impossible to ignore the many bugs and performance issues it’s plagued with.
I’ve been playing Pokémon games on and off since the original Pokémon Blue Version, and always loved the mix of cute story elements with strategic turn-based gameplay. My favorites are the generation two and three entries – Gold/Silver and Sapphire/Ruby respectively. After playing tons of time playing Sapphire I found it hard to get excited about future games, and skipped several subsequent main entries like Diamond/Pearl, Black/White, and X/Y, and opted to play remakes of my original favorites. Eventually I tried out Diamond and X after new Pokémon piqued my interest again with the seventh generation: Sun/Moon. I loved the story and cosmic inspiration for Sun/Moon, which in turn inspired me to go back and play some games I had missed. After Sun/Moon came Sword/Shield, which boasted its featured legendary Pokémon as legendary good boys. While the game was good, I didn’t connect to it like previous titles such as Moon and Sapphire and feared that after so many games, I just couldn’t connect to Pokémon like I used to. Then came Pokémon Violet and Scarlet…
Violet is a fantastic game, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it! It improves on several things from older games, such as being able to automatically heal up your Pokémon with one button instead of needing to press multiple buttons and accessing different menus to heal a single Pokémon once. There’s a minimap, and Pokémon can free-roam alongside you and even battle other Pokémon in the overworld instead of needing to enter “battle mode” every time one is engaged. Random Pokémon encounters have been gone since Sword/Shield, but has since been perfected. Wherever the player goes, they will be greeted by groupings of Pokémon in large quantities. Having a large concentration of Pokémon in an area is important in order to fill up all the space in the region. The developer of Pokémon, Game Freak, took their lessons learned from Sword/Shield and applied them to this new game. Whereas Sword/Shield tried to be a pseudo open-world game with designated wild areas, the entire new region is the wild area in Scarlet/Violet. The game encourages exploration and is way less linear than any other Pokémon entry. At the start of the game, the player is given multiple objectives but it is ultimately up to you to decide where you want to go and what you want to do first. Around every corner is something new to be discovered, whether it be a Pokémon or item to collect.
The region itself is lovely, and inspired by Spain this time around. There are large deserts and sprawling fields, all surrounded by blue ocean and sandy coasts. The music fits in nicely with the theme of the world it inhabits, and the towns and cities are fun to explore with their architecture and lots of people bustling about. Needless to say, this game has definitely helped reignite my spark for Pokémon, and would be a nearly perfect entry to the series if not for the several technical issues players have been encountering.
Lastly, the online multiplayer experience is phenomenal and a huge addition to Pokémon moving forward. I’ve been playing the game with my friends, and joining someone else’s world through the online multiplayer has been seamless every time. Once a player hosts their game, they can invite up to three other players to join their world and explore wherever they want. There’s no limitation to how far you can stray from the host – players can each work on their own objectives, explore, or catch Pokémon at their own leisure. It’s fantastic, and helps to breathe more life into the game especially for those looking to game with a group of friends.
Unfortunately, the game has also released with tons of bugs and optimization issues that distract its full potential. There is noticeable lag and stuttering when walking into new areas, cameras clipping through the ground, and choppy animation on NPCs in the distance. Others have experienced problems with the player character itself, with stuck animation frames or other weird problems. My friends have warned me of issues with the Elite Four music looping incorrectly. I’ve had a few issues with the game suddenly crashing, one time this happened to me during a cutscene after beating a gym leader, and I needed to challenge the gym a second time since the game hadn’t had a chance to autosave. One very big silver lining to all this is that the multiplayer has been near-perfect, and I haven’t experienced any issues with it.
Separately, these might seem like small issues on their own, but all together they can ruin the experience and definitely remove the immersion the game is trying to create. It seems to have all the hallmarks of a rushed game, which is too bad because if Scarlet/Violet just cooked for a few more months the game might have released with only a few or none of these issues. There are always issues with games and unforeseen issues, but as of now we are still waiting for a patch to resolve these issues. Nintendo has gone so far as to issue refunds for the game, but I wish they released a statement letting us know that they are working hard to resolve the problems.
Aside from the bugs and quirks, there are a couple other points I hope are addressed in the next set of games. Namely, in a game where objectives are open and free to pursue in whichever order to wish, the Pokémon and trainers/gym leaders do not scale. This seems like a bit of an oversight to me seeing as it basically locks the player into following a certain path, therefore not totally freedom of choice. Players can still choose to level up and progress to the next area then challenge gyms and complete other objectives in their order of choice, but I still wish scaling was implemented to make the game completely open. And the map, while a big step forward with the minimap, has an equally big step backwards with the main map; there are only a couple levels of zoom that don’t always show the right detail, and the nearby Pokémon shown on the minimap aren’t always around. I’m wondering if the Pokémon displayed on the minimap are only meant to show possible Pokémon sightings in the area, or if this is another bug?
All in all, I have been having a blast with Pokémon Violet and I look forward to completing the main story and completing the new Pokédex. Being able to enjoy a game despite all of its quirks and bugs is a testament to how good the game is, and once these issues are patched I’m sure it’ll be an even better experience. With DLC for Pokémon games first introduced with Sword/Shield, I’m already looking forward to the new experiences and places to explore Scarlet/Violet DLC is bound to offer.