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  • Writer's pictureJessica Nacovsky

117: First Impressions of Pokémon Scarlet / Violet

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Howdy! My birthday was this past week and my husband got me the new Pokémon game. I picked the Violet version, because I prefer the appearance of Miraidon over Koraidon, but aside from that, differences between the two versions are likely minimal. It's important to me that I can trade my dream team into the game, so I waited until the games connected to Home (the app wherein players store Pokémon from the many games) AND the first DLC installment was released, before purchasing the game (or rather, having it purchased for me). I've been very outspoken about how I believe the movement away from including the full National Dex in each game is a misstep so I won't be focusing on that here. Instead, I'll touch on my observations thus far.

Scarlet / Violet has the player start off as a new student at a school in the region, Paldea, which they've just moved to. While being new to the in-game community is essentially a staple at this point, I believe the norm since the Hoenn region in generation three, being a student enrolled at a school is a new experience. It's funny it took Pokémon this long to take into account where real life modern society commonly agrees eleven year olds belong.

Something I found strange was the build up for the dorm room. The rival led my character to their private room and given their enthusiasm, I fully expected the dorm to be a new equivalent to the old secret base from Pokémon Saphire/Ruby. I thought this was a space that could be customized and decorated. Instead, it was a place my character went to bed once and I've had no reason to return to since, which might change but given the lack of furniture stores thus far, I highly doubt I'll get a little slice of interior design in-game.

There are more customization options for the player's avatar, than I recall from previous games. The player can also change their appearance without having to stop at a salon unless they wish to change their hairstyle, which is a convenient shift. Clothing is more limited, as far as I can tell, than it has been since changing the character's outfit became an option, several generations ago. The player has a school uniform menu but every outfit must be an alternative version of that uniform, even while the player is away from campus.

This Pokémon installment leans into convenience more than any prior game, to the point of being too easy. While yes, there has always been the option to heal the team on the go, with items, now the player can simply access the Pokémon boxes from their bag, and swap their entire damaged team for a healthier set, without so much as having to stop at the Pokémon center. Likewise, in every prior installment, the player somehow earned the ability to fly, in order to return to familiar areas of the map. Not so in Paldea. When the rival indicated a flight destination while escorting my character to school for the first day of class, I assumed she meant in the future, once I gained that app or HM. It wasn't until the Treasure Hunt began, and I was whisked away to Unova as part of the DLC, that I went to mark an intended destination on the map, and learned I could simply fly there instead. While yes, Pokémon as an industry should work to appeal to children, there comes a point where the game is too easy. This is one of my cozy game genres, so I'm not an advocate for making the game hard, which obviously the player can choose to do by setting their own personal limitations, but it seems an odd choice, making an already simple game that much easier.

I was surprised by more apparent laziness from Game Freak. In prior Pokémon games, the majority of the buildings could be entered and explored. The larger the city, the less this tendency held true, to my slight annoyance. However, the player could always enter relevant stores. In Paldea, with the exception of the salon, the interiors of stores aren't in the game. Click on the entryway and a menu appears, wherein the player can buy and sell as usual. To me, this shortcoming isn't a deal breaker, but it is an obvious and unnecessary lack. Even the Pokémon Centers are outside, with no interior.

I'm not very far into the game yet, partially due to how large the wild spaces between towns are. Generally, I try and catch one of every Pokémon in an area before progressing. These areas are so diverse now that I level up too quickly if I play my usual way. The downside, in prior games, of levelling up too quickly, is that the player can no longer control their Pokémon in battle. Will that be the case in Paldea? I don't know yet, but it's likely. Which is a shame since I'm currently exploring Unova and have yet to reach a point where I can return to Paldea in order to battle the first gym leader.

My team has begun evolving and the evolution animation feels short. I thought I would be able to tell if my Eevee was evolving into Espeon or Sylveon and decline should the undesired form be revealed, but her evolution was too quick, revealing little in the animation, and now I'm stuck with an Espeon. I don't dislike Espeon but I do feel that I've been robbed of a choice I used to have.

As with my National Dex complaint, I feel the Pokémon games shouldn't be tied to the show, manga, and card reveal schedules, that the game is a rush-job and the DLCs are shameless cash grabs. When the slogan is "Gotta catch 'em all," it goes against the lore to disallow that. And no, the graphics haven't improved enough to justify how few Pokémon would have been in Paldea without the first DLC. As it is, I would need to purchase the second DLC this winter, in order to bring in Lapras, my favorite. Is the DLC area large? Yes. Did I only buy it so I could expand the allowable Pokedex? Also yes. Will I be buying the next DLC? Almost certainly not. I'm going without Lapras, and it is frustrating, but I can't justify blowing $30+ to add a single team mate to a game I'll likely have beaten by then.

Something Paldea has that Galar didn't, is that the gimmick battle form doesn't appear limited to a select few Pokémon, nor to small areas. I can terralize one Pokémon for a single battle between Pokémon Center visits, and the Pokémon will appear in a crystal form, complete with some sort of ornate headdress based off their type. At least in this regard, Game Freak can turn to the graphics and say this is where we spent our time, and why we cut corners elsewhere, something that rang more false with Galar.

As far as I'm concerned, Pokémon Crystal was peak Pokémon, in that that was the last time all of the then-existing regions were included in a game, and there was the National Dex. Second best was Pokémon Sun/Moon, though the revamp brought nothing to the table. While Sun/Moon had regional limitations, mainly just consisting of the Alola region, the National Dex was still existed, and there were more tools for bonding with the team. The more Game Freak lets me down, the better Ooblets and Temtem seem in comparison.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by! I drop a new blog post every Monday. Toodles!

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