Review: Scarlet and Violet deliver Pokemon’s best, only to be plagued by poor performance

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Today, the latest additions to the Pokémon franchise are finally launching with Scarlet and Violet now being available for purchase. We’ve spent the past week journeying through the new region of Paldea to see how the latest stacks up, detailing its bold new approach to open-world game and new mechanics to performance issues and everything in-between.

Pokémon Scarlet review

Throughout 2022, we’ve been reporting on all the new findings from the latest region to join the Pokémon world. The latest adventure through Paldea arrives as the 9th generation of the franchise, imbuing the series with a Spanish influence that makes it way into more than just the setting and scenery of the game. Everything from Pokémon names to NPCs throwing sprinkling in some Spanish phases into conversation make this a unique new step for the series, which largely sets the tone for both Scarlet and Violet at large.

Buy Pokémon Scarlet and Violet now for Nintendo Switch

What’s new with the latest titles

And oh, are there some exciting new things to talk about! Following the ambitious release of Legends: Arceus earlier in the year, the very first truly open-world game from the franchise, the Pokémon Company has looked to bring that exploration-first gameplay into the mainline series with Scarlet and Violet. How that stacks up for the new releases arrives in three different focuses of the game that give you more variety in how you explore the region than ever before.

Paldea arrives with one of the largest Pokémon maps ever, which really lets the game pack in so many different converging storylines. While catching them all is still of course the top priority, you’ll have three different other quest lines you can go on that range from defeating the region’s eight gyms to be the Pokémon Champion to defeating this generation’s crime organization Team Star and even battling some massive version of Pokémon called Titans to uncover the secrets of Paldea. All three of these different stories unfold together and weave one of the more interesting narratives from the franchise.

From there, you’re of course also looking at a wealth of new pocket monsters to capture – and loads of new ways to battle them. In total, there are now 107 entirely new Pokémon to land in Scarlet and Violet, so many of which bring fun and exciting new designs into the series. So many have become fan favorites since being revealed throughout the year – I am looking at you, Smoliv and Lechonk –and really show the kind of charm that has been packed into the newest generation.

Quality of life changes make 9th Gen Pokemon even more enjoyable

On top of just new content, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet also take a bold step forward with plenty of core mechanics changes. These aren’t going to be things that Trainers who have been around since the Blue and Red days are going to love necessarily, but are certainly much needed updates to the decade old format.

One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked by friends and those of you on Twitter who have been following along with my playthrough is how grindy Scarlet and Violet are. Pokémon titles have a reputation of being a bit too tedious in recent years, and so it is delightful to say that this is no longer the case. Both of the new games ditch the old focus on just leveling up your team through countless encounters in tall grass in favor of new mechanics that encourage you to explore the region.

My favorite of these is the new Auto Battler system, which lets you send a Pokémon out into the overworld in order to battle all of the foes that now appear roaming in the wild. This makes gaining XP and leveling up a breeze, as you can still be walking around and doing your thing while your companion Pokémon is out handling the battling for you.

There are also so many other aspects of the game which feel extremely polished and improved compared to the aging mechanics of previous Pokémon games. TMs can now be duplicated with a fun little crafting systems – you start out with an easy way to speed around map thanks to each of Scarlet and Violet’s Legendary Pokémon which you ride around on, and even built-in ways to make the most of shiny hunting.

Should you buy Pokémon Scarlet or Violet?

As per usual with mainline Pokémon titles, the new 9th Gen releases arrive with two different games. Both Scarlet and Violet continue the tradition of being nearly identical games, aside from the main Legendary Pokémon that adorns each title’s respective box art and some other minor adjustments throughout. Though one thing that is changing this time is that the Pokémon Company is making those differences less important than ever.

One of the big features of Scarlet and Violet this time around is the co-op play, which lets you team up with three other Trainers at a time. You can effectively join the world of someone who has a copy of the game that you don’t, and then go capture all of the region exclusives. There’s of course the option to trade for them still like the old days, but the added way of actually catching them yourself is a fun addition to the franchise that I hope sticks around in the future.

So ultimately, picking between whether you’re going to be team Scarlet or Violet is going to have less consequences than previous Pokémon installments, which in my book, is truly a welcome change that should help make completing the Pokédex this time around a bit easier.

And then there’s performance…

All of that praise has to stop somewhere, unfortunately, because one of the biggest talking points about the new Pokémon games is how poor the performance is for Scarlet and Violet. And after all my gameplay so far, there’s really no sugarcoating it. The latest games to hit the Switch from the franchise just don’t play like they’re from one of the world’s most popular and profitable IPs.

Frame rate is the biggest offender of the issues, with background character motion dropping down significantly to the point where it’s almost worse than stop motion levels of movement. There’s also plenty of things that just don’t work as intended, like animations glitching out or not playing at all. Objects will clip together in the overworld, and falling through the map is bound to happen at least once or twice during your play through.

All of that would be a little more forgivable if the game looked like some of the other gorgeous open-world titles to hit the Switch over the past five years, but Pokémon still lacks the same kind of visual polish I’d hope for. It is certainly a step in the right direction with Scarlet and Violet, but many areas of the map like the screenshot above leave a bit too much up to your imagination.

It is frankly unacceptable that one of highest-grossing video game franchises is in such a state, the blame doesn’t solely rest on the developer Game Freak’s shoulders. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet not feeling like polished games isn’t anything new for the franchise after year’s of titles that feel much lower budget than you’d expect. It’s just that the production cycle

So hopefully the Pokémon Company will get Game Freak to put out patch, which improves the performance of Scarlet and Violet. We’ve seen countless games that can take full advantage of the Nintendo Switch, and it’s clear that we’re barely scratching the surface of how a Pokémon game can play on the console, or just how great it can look, too. Otherwise, let’s hope that going forward the company will roll back its production cycle to allow more time in development.

9to5Toys’ Take

Let’s just get it out of the way. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are just alright games, technically speaking at least. Both are plagued with issues that would make any other title dead on arrival and yet, that’s hardly anywhere close to the whole story. If you can look past the performance and other gameplay issues, then there is so much to enjoy about the latest releases.

Frankly, this is the best Pokémon has ever been. All of the things that the Pokémon Company and Game Freak did right this time around were executed so well that it makes all of the flaws even more painfully obvious. The games are packed full of charm and ambition that clearly show the new path that the franchise is going on. These truly feel like new generations of Pokémon, and what we should have gotten all along on the Switch from the beginning of the console’s lifespan. And yet as much as I can praise Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, that still doesn’t stop the cracks in the facade from showing.

But even with those performance issues, I have to say I’m enamored by Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. For all its flaws, this is still an exciting new path for the Pokémon Company to be taking, and I can only hope a patch in the coming weeks will remedy the experience. 

At 9to5Toys, we’re not really in the business of giving games or any products star ratings, rather we look to see if something is actually worth your cash. And so while scores for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are dipping into questionable territory, my final verdict is that the game is certainly worth the cash for fans of the franchise. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lifelong fan like me who has been playing every title year after year with varying levels of interest or just someone who’s looking to get back in it after a time away from catching them all.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are the most fun that I’ve had with the franchise in years, and so if you can overlook some glitchy gameplay here and there, they are absolutely worth sinking some time into. And at the very least, the new 9th Gen games show us that the future of the franchise has plenty more to be excited about.

Buy Pokémon Scarlet and Violet now for Nintendo Switch

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