Pokemon Scarlet and Violet currently sit with the worst reviews in the series. A 77 from critics, a 2.8 of 10 (!!!) from fans, and widespread uproar from the overall community. So what the heck happened? Are they really that bad?
Wolfe Glick, a competitive pokemon player, said they were his favorite pokemon games. In fact, the streaming community as a whole, even otherwise negative folks like DistantKingdom, are really positive towards the game. So are they actually really good?
As I played through this game, I realized I had to write something about it. I’m going to lay my cards out on the table. Everyone is right.
On the negative side: These games are not finished. They just aren’t. They’re full of bugs and glitches, the visuals are simply terrible, and the performance sometimes lags to 20 FPS. It is actually hard to find a spot in the game where the performance or visuals AREN’T off in some way. it affects everything you do in every moment of the game.
This is not excusable. The game needed six months. They never should have released it like this.
But here’s where things get weird. That’s…where the negatives just about end.
Once you get past the glitchy, buggy, sloppy visuals and performance, the game itself is…
Look man, I don’t know what you want me to say. The game is freaking great.
The game is open world, and the world is ENORMOUS. And it is a real open world. You can go anywhere, and, more importantly for an open world game, you’re rewarded for going everywhere. Pokemon stay in packs and herds and are actually interacting with the environment, and everywhere you go there’s bound to be something interesting to find, some new pokemon you haven’t seen yet.
No, there is no level scaling, and yes, there should be. But considering there is at any given time one of three different main storylines you can interact with, all of which are fun to play, this is less of a problem than you’d imagine.
The stories are simple and straightforward but they work to keep you moving through the game. But really, the most important thing is that, and I cannot stress this enough, they decided to move Pokemon to an open world and they did it just about perfectly. Not TECHNICALLY, you understand, but the gameplay choices they make are all great. The new “let’s go” system eases grinding. Making trainer battles optional? Great choice. Creating so many interesting and varied environments with new pokemon in each area? Great choice. Having gym challenges utilize the full cities when you visit them? Great choice. The Terra raid co-op battles are simply a better-in-every-way version of dynamax raids from gen 8 – faster and more fun. The game itself is actually a pretty fair level of difficulty, where you actually need to pay attention to what you’re doing to win prominent battles (one took me six tries). Exploring is exciting and it feels like I’ve barely scratched the surface hours in. That is not how Sword and Shield felt. They took all of the right lessons from those games and this improved on Sword and Shield’s abortive open world attempts in every way.
The soundtrack is once again glorious, with the new gym battle theme somehow being even better than the old one.
This is Pokemon, finally, for the 21st century, with 21st century design principles made to work with Pokemon’s core philosophy in a way that is actually an absolute blast to play. Exploring and battling and finding new Pokemon and even completing those stories has simply never felt so…modern before. Not in a bad way. In a “we never had the technical ability to do this before, now we do and it’s about time Pokemon took advantage” way.
Yet I need to emphasize just how bad it is technically. The people who are saying it’s unacceptably bad and it never should have been released are completely and `100% right. If you were to say the technical issues made it unplayable I not only couldn’t blame you, I sympathize with you. Something technical is going wrong practically every single moment of the game. Once in a battle that took place in a tunnel a pokemon clipped directly halfway into me. Shadows are weirdly blocky and pixelated. Any time there is more than one person on screen it turns into stop-motion animation.
Yet I can’t call it lazy. The game is huge and a clear amount of time and effort and thought went into it; if not there’s no way all of the gameplay elements would be synergizing as well as they are. What it is, is rushed. This is a game that NEEDED six more months. With six months, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a game of the year contender. But that isn’t what we got and we’re stuck with this.
Truthfully, I’m at a loss at what to make of this game. Two things I can say are absolutely true:
We’re stuck with the Fallout: New Vegas of Pokemon games.
Should you buy the game? That’s up to you in the end. I can see both sides of the argument. But ultimately all I’ll say is that after a half hour into the game, I was planning on writing the “Pokemon Scarlet and Violet is the worst game in the series” article, and that is not the article I wrote.
I’m glad about that, and glad I own the game. I guess I’ll just end the review there.