Enemy – Review: Pokémon Scarlet & Violet triumphs with a focus on exploration

Looks like a lot of people are waiting to hear this pokemon scarlet and Violet They are good “first steps” towards a better future for the franchise – a first attempt at something bigger that will bear fruit many years from now, in a generation or two.

It was what I expected. But the new games aren’t just steps towards something; They have already arrived.

Scarlet and Violet represent a triumphant leap for Pokemon. Limited by technical aspects, created by an open world Game Freak There is still a lot to improve. But it manages to recapture the pleasure of discovering that the main games in the series lost as they became progressively more immobilized.

The ninth generation of Pokémon Adventures puts everything that makes Pokémon exciting on a pedestal: the secrets, the surprises, the sense of freedom – and the result is a pair of games that, if you avoid the nostalgia traps for a moment, are plausible. become sacred as the best of the entire series.

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A terrified high school student, Scarlett and Violet’s protagonist must explore the region Paldea As part of independent research to discover your true passions. and as soon as he leaves the city gates Message meWhere there is a school, he is free to pursue such passions wherever he wishes.

A short walk from this point is enough to realize that Paldea is a completely different scenario from others already seen in the franchise. From the details inside and outside the main character’s house to the number of NPCs walking around, everything works to create the feel of a map on a realistic scale.

No more small towns of two buildings and a swimming pool, and houses ten times bigger on the inside than on the outside. The map is 80% desert, but is highlighted by villages and urban areas with unique visual themes and even reasons to exist in the game world – eg. Zapapicowhich is a mountainside mining town or commercial center Port marinade🇧🇷

The natural transition from one biome to another in different areas of the island is another example of the success achieved by the team that created the game map. leaves medal To the east, the player begins to climb the slope until he reaches a cave with very steep climbs. The vegetation slowly disappears along the way until at the end of the climb and the landscape on the other side of the pass is white with mountain snow. Glazed🇧🇷 Even further east, the ice melts to form a waterfall that feeds a dense forest. Tegtree down.

Such a cohesive open world is something that only a Pokemon review sounds impressive. If we were talking about another game, I probably wouldn’t even bother with such an explanation. But it’s something of an emblem of Scarlet and Violet: the games brought Pokemon out of hiatus at once, and the series is in line with what’s expected of the style game in 2022.

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A direct comparison to Sword and Shield is brutal. Despite being on the same platform, the games of 2019 now look like relics of the distant past. Instead of decorated halls GalarPaldea offers true freedom – the freedom, among other things, to complete the game’s main narrative without visiting the many unique areas that only the most dedicated explorers can find.

It goes without saying that Scarlet and Purple are a natural evolution of the Pokemon formula. in Olo, red pokemon and blue They were practically open-world games, limited only by what could be done Game boy🇧🇷

The Game Boy soon fell behind, but the limitations of its tiny 8-bit processor continued to haunt the minds of Game Freak, who would spend decades churning out content reimagining the old formula. Like a bowler afraid to pull guards out of their grooves, they worried that the Pokémon experience wouldn’t hold up to such freedom.

They were wrong. And now we are free.

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All of the traditional aspects of Pokemon fit well into the open world of Scarlet and Violet. Wild Pokemon are everywhere, and it’s up to you to interact with them on time or not. The same goes for trainers who are no longer responsible for your progress. You can go the entire game without encountering any of them: but those who do will be rewarded, as the game rewards those who defeat all rivals in each region of the map.

Objectives like the gym and hideout from the current thieving team, Team Star, are much more compelling when they can be tackled in any order the player chooses.

Certain areas of the map have higher level Pokemon – an organic indicator of how difficult the region is. But a player with a team of level 35 Pokemon can enter the territory of level 45 monsters whenever he wants, which makes it possible to create more difficult situations for himself. So even without dynamic level matching in Gym battles, Scarlet and Violet felt like more difficult games than the series standards.

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But the classic aspect of Pokemon that shines most in the open world compared to the series’ past is discovering new species of little monsters.

Seeing an unexpected silhouette on the horizon and walking towards it, slowly realizing what you’re seeing until the new creature’s name finally pops up on the screen after first contact, is a much more rewarding way to learn about a new Pokemon.

Knowing this, Game Freak populated Paldea with the newest Pokémon in a generation since Black and White, along with hundreds of returning monsters to choose from from all eight previous generations. Throughout the adventure, it’s hard to go more than 15 minutes without encountering something completely new along the way.

The quality of the new Pokemon isn’t as consistent as the waves of unreleased Pokemon from Alola and Galar, with some new figures harking back to Unova’s lower moments, but there are also some huge hits, including the smaller creatures I’ve already listed. Among my all-time favorites, over 1,000 known species.

own Miraidon and Coraydon, companion mounts, which are new Pokemon, are very useful in searching for new monsters. By achieving certain goals, the player unlocks new ways to move around the map through power-ups. By the end of the journey, they can jump high, run, climb any wall, and even slide long distances.

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in the post worldLegends: ArceusScarlett and Violet’s slow battles are frustrating because we know they could be faster. No longer are there long animations that will individually decrease the Pokemon’s attack, defense, and speed.

But even in the context of greater freedom, the classic format of Pokémon battles still proves its versatility. New type combinations between unreleased smaller monsters prove that turn-based battles are still surprising, as is the ingenious Terastalize mechanic, which exponentially increases the number of possible strategies with a single team and allows one of your Pokemon to switch types once. Once in battle.

There are fans of Legends: Arceus who want the main line of Pokemon to leave the focus on battles, allowing, for example, smaller monsters to be caught without the prior commitment of an encounter. They’ll be disappointed to learn that not only do Scarlet and Violet not do this, but it also proves that change isn’t necessary for Pokemon to do well in the open world.

The Let’s Go mechanic, which allows a single Pokémon to automatically battle other creatures around the player, makes hunting for specific artifacts and leveling up weak teams easier, and may ease fan cravings a bit. Legends: Arceus for faster action. . But it still works in a somewhat clunky and imprecise manner and has a lot of room for improvement.

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And this phrase is the perfect cue to enter the sad territory of Scarlett and Violet’s technical analysis. Let me be clear: after a few hours, most players will have to get used to the visual limitations, which are offset by factors such as strong art direction and the attention-grabbing excellent soundtrack.

But the Switch suffers greatly from delivering the full Scarlet and Violet experience, either due to hardware limitations or Game Freak’s development team. There are constant visual glitches, such as objects suddenly appearing and disappearing, as well as frame rate drops. Will you venture deep into the woods or head out to explore the open seas? You better hope it doesn’t start raining because otherwise it looks like the game is on bullet time mode.

The mechanical battle camera is another technical aspect of the experience that leaves a lot to be desired: it’s too close to the action and clunky, rarely doing the on-screen action justice, and always showing Pokemon from a less-than-favorable angle. That is, when it doesn’t just cut through the geometry of the landscape, it reveals what you shouldn’t see.

The improvements over Legends: Arceus, as well as cave lighting and water action resolution, are significant – which makes sense given that this game had a world split into multiple zones rather than an open world. But we’re still talking about technical limitations that hurt the game as a whole. One example: the combat animations are much better than Sword and Shield’s, but much harder to see in a good light.

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The new co-op multiplayer, announced immediately and then hidden away until the game’s entire marketing campaign, is another disappointing element of Scarlet and Violet.

It allows players to roam the open world side-by-side, pursuing their respective campaign objectives on their own – but that’s about it. Disputes and trades between players are still required via a dedicated menu. Alien battles cannot be observed, Trainers in active conflict appear to other players as if they are standing around doing nothing. There is also no shared indoor environment such as a gym; You can only see friends in the open world.

This is multiplayer “English for viewing”: it works and may appear in the marketing campaign, but it’s still far from a true overall Pokemon experience.

It is interesting that other The co-op aspect of the experience is vastly improved over Sword and Shield: Tera Raid Battles, which use a modified version of the battle system and allow players to attack at their own pace, are much more responsive and satisfying than those. It was in previous games.

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Fortunately, it’s hard to imagine anyone playing Pokemon Scarlet and Violet and feeling like the technical issues cast a shadow big enough to overshadow Game Freak’s achievements. Jumping into the open world, they managed to awaken in me the desire to explore the Pokemon world for the simple pleasure of new discoveries, just like I did as a child.

The player’s organic journey through Paldea is a great narrative experience in itself that doesn’t even need a traditional story to justify it. But the traditional story also existsAnd arguably the best and most engaging of the entire franchise, full of characters with compelling development arcs and memorable relationships with each other.

Fueled by that same story, I entered the game’s epic epilogue with a fascination I hadn’t felt in Pokémon since I climbed Mount Silver at the end of my first journey. Johto🇧🇷

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet makes Sword and Shield look like games from two generations ago, and because of its size, it makes Legends: Arceus look like what it is: a spin-off. Don’t wait for tomorrow’s promised land anymore – the future of Pokemon is now.

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