Pokémon fans have waited three years since the release of “Pokémon Sword and Shield” in 2019 for a new generation of monsters. The wait is finally over as Game Freak presents the ninth installment of the iconic series with “Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.”
This time, trainers were given the opportunity to explore the brand new Paldea region, which draws inspiration from Spain and Portugal. The game is presented as a never-ending road trip, where players are free to ride around on Koraidon and Miraidon to explore and battle at their own pace. The story flows as you stop to heal your team at gas-station-esque Pokémon centers before speeding down hills and across rivers on a dragon’s back.
The series’ tried-and-true formula of progressing linearly through eight gym battles before finally catching the legendary Pokémon is flipped on its head in "Scarlet and Violet." The legendary Pokémon of Koraidon and Miraidon are accessible right away, while the eight gyms can be taken on in any order. Players can make their own story through taking on these gyms and everything else the Paldea region offers in any order.
Of course, the new games offer a plethora of new creatures to catch and battle. Who could forget the adorable piglet Lechonk from the games’ teasers or the Sushi-inspired dynamic duo Dondozo and Tatsugiri? It wouldn’t be a Pokémon game without some questionable new additions to the cast as well. Take Maushold, which is literally just four mice, or Wiglett, a more wiggly water-type version of Diglett that no one asked for.
"Scarlet and Violet" also continue the tradition of the past few generations by giving makeovers to existing fan-favorite Pokémon. This time, they present “Paradox forms,” which are versions of Pokémon as they would have appeared in the distant past or future. As an example, the past Paradox Pokémon Great Tusk is a prehistoric megafauna form of the elephant Pokémon Donphan. Then the future paradox form of Tyranitar, Iron Thorns, draws inspiration from Mecha-Godzilla, a robotic beast that is sure to be sought after by trainers.
The new games also bring a new way to battle. Gone are the days of Dynamax in Generation VIII as the mechanic has been replaced by Terastalizing, which allows trainers to change the type of their Pokémon to a hidden “Tera Type” once per battle. This new gimmick offers possibilities for dynamic strategies for competitive players. Terastalizing into a type that a Pokémon already has can give it a boost to its power, making it more offensive. However, Terastalizing into a new type can mitigate incoming damage, creating defensive counterplay.
"Scarlet and Violet" take the series in a bold new direction, but this doesn’t come without a lot of glitches. Fans have been quick to express their annoyance online, saying the games feel rushed and unfinished.
The laggy NPC walking animations and the ugly textures and lighting on much of the landscape take away from the magic of exploring the new region. In my playthrough, I experienced crashes in the middle of battles — clipping through walls and clunky camera angles. I even watched a poor Buizel fall to its presumed death off a cliff.
There is always an acceptable amount of bugs to slip through the cracks in development, but they are so common in "Scarlet and Violet" that I have to wonder why the games weren’t delayed to give fans a better final product. Hopefully, updates will come down the road to patch these problems, as they are the only thing that stand in the way of this game being one of the best in the series.