With Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet being officially launched on the Nintendo Switch, players seem to be either praising the game for its innovation, or demanding refunds for its inexcusable performance.
The first open world Pokémon games released on Nov. 18, setting records for the most successful launch in not only franchise history, but Nintendo history, by selling over 10 million copies in just under three days.
Scarlet and Violet are selling incredibly well, which is great news for the developers of the game, Game Freak.
However, the development of the game was done with a limited time frame, as it started in early 2019. This has left a plethora of performance issues for Pokémon’s first journey into the open-world genre of video games.
Now, how exactly did these games turn out? Did Pokémon Scarlet and Violet lay the foundation for the future of the franchise? Or was it just another grim reminder of the state of Pokémon as a whole?
This review will be divided into two main parts, gameplay and performance. This review is spoiler-free.
There is so much to go over in this section, as the game’s gameplay is crucial to whether or not it is worth purchasing, considering its $60 price point.
The core gameplay loop of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet includes catching, training, and battling Pokémon.
There is a reason this franchise is as popular as it is. The idea that you can catch and train against enemies you battle against in the game is one of the biggest reasons fans, both young and old, have fallen in love with the games over the years.
What makes this game different from the rest, however, is that you can truly do whatever you want.
Usually Pokémon games follow a set formula. You get your starter Pokémon, meet your rival, travel a linear path with a cave or two to explore along the way until you eventually finish the main story.
However, there is almost none of that in Scarlet and Violet. After an admittedly lengthy tutorial segment, which explains the main story threads of the game, you are set free to do whatever you please.
You have three main paths to follow in terms of the story of the game, of which you can do in any order that you see fit.
Do you want to catch every Pokémon you see and fill out your Pokedex? You can do that!
Do you want to jump straight into the story the game has in store for you? You can do that!
Do you just want to explore the massive region of Paldea? You can do that!
Along with the freedom to do whatever you want, the new co-op feature allows for the ability to play the game alongside your friends both locally and online.
You can catch Pokémon that are exclusive to each other’s respective versions of the game, complete main story quests alongside each other, or just create your own adventure.
This feature is a personal favorite, as traversing and getting lost trying to find rare Pokémon along the cliff sides of the Paldea region with one of my friends online was the most fun I had ever had playing a video game.
There are other quality of life additions to the game as well, such as the additions of auto healing, the auto battle feature, and many more that help make this game one of the richest gameplay experiences the series has ever had to offer.
There is just one major problem with this game. A fatal flaw that turns this game from a blast to play into a sluggish mess. The performance.
It’s absolutely horrific how this game chugs along. In just my playthrough alone, I experienced hours of choppy frame rates, multiple game crashes, black screens that last way longer than they should, and absolutely ugly lighting issues.
This game can look absolutely ugly at points. One example in particular is when you are picking your starter in front of your rival’s house.
Textures are breaking in the background, shadows are popping in and out, and the Switch can barely keep up a stable framerate.
It turns an otherwise major experience in Pokémon games into a sloppy eyesore.
There’s another sequence where you are in a classroom, again during the opening portion of the game. Unless I’m mistaken, the other children in the classroom are running at near three frames per second.
In simple terms, it looks and runs bad.
There are other examples of this throughout the game, but listing them all here would make this review longer than it should.
Players online have posted their experiences with the game bugging out on them, so if you ever get bored, looking up a compilation of all of these bugs and glitches would be a great way to kill time.
It feels like this game pulls in two different directions, which honestly drags down the experience, if not just a little bit.
In one direction, the innovations this game makes for the future of the series are numerous. The game is genuinely fun, and those who love Pokémon will absolutely love this game, no question about it.
In the other direction, it’s inexcusable for the most profitable franchise in media to be putting out products in this state. It’s one thing to have a few frame rate drops here and there, but it’s another for the game to just outright crash for seemingly zero reason.
So, the question remains, how does someone critique this game then?
The answer to that question is to remember how most games that launch a buggy mess end up getting fixed, that being patches.
This game will be supported by all the companies involved with this game for the next few years at least. The last main series games, Pokémon Sword and Shield, had an Expansion Pass that did just that.
While receiving mixed reviews, it ended up fixing a lot of issues the base game had, adding hundreds of Pokémon while also adding plenty of content for players to dive into.
With that in mind, we can presume that a lot of the performance issues this game has will be fixed.
That being said, we have to grade this based on what is currently available to us at the time of writing.
Therefore, the rating for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet on Nintendo Switch is unfortunately just a 7/10.
There is so much to like about these games, that much can be attested to. To say that I did not have fun playing these games would be a lie, I absolutely enjoyed my time with these games.
However, the performance issues experienced while playing are just something that is impossible to ignore. Again, frame rate dips are one thing, but game crashes are absolutely inexcusable.
Can this game be rated higher with a patch that fixes these issues? Absolutely.
However, they have one major flaw. Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet are just plain broken.