Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet review: A shabby evolution - MrLiambi's blog


My tweets


Monday, 28 November 2022

Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet review: A shabby evolution

Somehow people do sometimes seem to forget about Pokémon when they think about the biggest gaming franchises in the world - it's hardly a sleeping giant, but a giant it most certainly is.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have enjoyed an absolutely massive launch in terms of sales figures, as the series continues its transition to an open-world structure. How do they hold up to extended play, though?

A familiar story

After the interesting aberration that was Pokémon Legends: Arceus, we're back to a familiar structure and time setting in these mainline games.

This time you play a young student in Paldea, waking up for your first day at the region's prestigious Pokémon academy.

As always, you'll quickly choose between three starter Pokémon, meet a friendly face who'll crop up throughout your journey, and head out into the world to make it to the top of the Pokémon competitive scene.

For the first time in a pair of major games, though, you get to do so with some real freedom - you can explore Paldea (with some limitations) at your leisure.

The world is seamless and open, with no loading screens in the overworld and the ability to quickly move around using a legendary Pokémon that you pick up early on in the game.

The sense of freedom this gives you is excellent, and follows effectively from the blueprint laid out by Legends: Arceus. This time around there are three paths you can follow at will.

One offers the normal ladder of gyms to conquer (albeit with flexibility over the order), while the other two follow a story - hunting down rare treasures and a nefarious network of truants in the region respectively.

This freedom is slightly over-hyped, since bits of the world will gate you out via high-level wild Pokémon, but being able to move around this freely still feels welcome once more.

Seamless battling

The core gameplay here hasn't changed much in the transition to 3D and open-world systems - you're still moving around, levelling up your team and catching new additions to keep a rounded set of tactical options.

Pokémon's speciality is in offering an expanded rock-paper-scissors system that works both for kids and beginners and those who want to go deeper with their tactics.

That's still the case, although it means that once again any JRPG veteran will find fairly little true challenge to speak of in the main game. For those new to the series, though, some landmark battles are refreshingly tough if you don't have a sensible team.

Battles are more dynamic than ever when they're working properly, with characterful move animations and a bright and cartoony style that's easy to appreciate.

The move to a more open world means that cities and towns are less detailed than ever, though, and the game lacks interior locations quite noticeably at points. It's a little disappointing given the intricacy these can offer up.

Still, it's a fun world to explore, and the addition of two to four-player co-op during exploration is really welcome, perfect for parents who want to accompany their family's in-game outings. The size of its open fields and plains really does make for some lovely moments, just like in Legends: Arceus.

This isn't quite seamless, since there are a lot of activities you can't do together - in particular, trainer battles are off-limits, as are wild Pokémon and gyms.

This means it's more of an option for just hanging out, battling each other, trading and, centrally, completing raids together to beat boss monsters. This is fun, but again isn't quite the revolutionary addition we hoped for when it was first unveiled.

Pokémon's direction of travel looks good, though - it took a while given the restriction offered by Sword and Shield, but we're finally on a path that clearly leads to a more polished and modern open-world series.

Prepare for trouble

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet might not rip the rule book up as drastically as they might have you think, then, but they're solid entries as far as we're concerned when it comes to their core gameplay.

In fact, they're better than ever for younger players, with some fun social features and new twists.

Where things come tumbling down, though, is readily apparent when you start playing either game.

To put it simply, these games run simply terribly - their performance can actually be fairly shocking given the normally extremely reliable quality control that Nintendo applies to its flagship franchises.

Frame rate fluctuations are often no biggie, if they're rare and not sustained, but Pokémon Scarlet and Violet routinely run with a huge degree of choppiness, slowing to a crawl in places.

This contributes to frequent, highly noticeable visual glitches and bugs, from missing animations to textures and assets that pop in jarringly. This performance seems to get worse the longer you play in a session, with a game restart helping, but that's no excuse.

We would understand if the game were reaching for the stars on the visual front, pushing the hardware to its limits. However, that's just not the case - these are games that look distinctly middling. Pokémon themselves look great, and that's just about it.

Landscapes are blurry and lack detail, foliage is a throwback to bygone eras in their lack of volume, and the draw distance is really unimpressive.

The Switch might not be a powerhouse, but this year we've played Xenoblade Chronicles 3 for dozens of hours, and seen huge open areas that look like night and day when compared to Scarlet and Violet. 

It's not even just the visuals. While the music is as sprightly as you'd hope, we're still waiting for voice lines in a Pokémon game - something that might not be traditional in the series but feels long, long overdue.

Game Freak has shown that it has the ideas to modernise its mega-popular franchise, but it might need help with the technical side of things, because this isn't really good enough given Pokémon's stature. 

Source : https://www.pocket-lint.com/games/reviews/pokemon/163525-pokemon-scarlet-violet-review

No comments:

Post a Comment