Pokemon Scarlet might be the best in the series so far, but there’s a big problem

Game Freak and The Pokemon Company have been working hard for the past five years to change everything about Nintendo’s beloved series. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl revamped the games with a more cartoonish look and softer palate, while Sword and Shield included a limited “open world” area. Pokemon Legends Arceus further expanded these free-roam areas, and Scarlet and Violet are the final realizations of this idea.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet finally present the idea that fans of the franchise have dreamed of for decades: a fully fleshed-out open-world game set in the Pokemon universe without limitations.

During the first few hours of the game, Scarlet and Violet quickly establish that (almost) nowhere is off-limits.

Much like the lauded “go anywhere, do anything” nature of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Scarlet and Violet instantly launches players on a similar journey.

They are given three “quest lines” to follow from the start, with complete freedom to follow them in any order (or not at all). You can beat all the gym leaders; defeat the bad guys of this generation, Team Star; and quell the violent outbursts of some abnormally giant Pokémon.

Players can approach the story in any way or order they see fit. No hands free, no criticism.

Sure, there are some parts of the expansive map that are a bit cut out for further exploration, but, for the most part, the entire game is open-ended from the start. And it is truly liberating.

This is the world of Pokemon that fans have longed to explore for years. Not only can you walk into a cave and find a plethora of new monsters to catch and fight, but the expansive roster of creatures within the game allows for almost endless excitement as you continue to explore.

However, all this fun and games cannot be done on foot. At the start, players are given a large “assembled” Pokémon to use throughout their journey: Miraidon in purple and Koraidon in scarlet.

These creatures hold players on their backs and allow them to venture around the world of Paldea similar to the travel feature in Let’s Go! It makes exploration easier, but the game’s attempts to humanize the creatures utterly fail. Ultimately, these new legendary creatures are no different than any horse in any open world game.

Throughout the adventure, these Pokémon receive various upgrades to make exploration a bit easier and more accessible (again, much like Breath of the Wild’s minor but substantial upgrades throughout the story) that allow for greater exploration as the hours go by.

And they will fly for them.

The beauty of Scarlet and Violet’s scouting hooks is buried in endless chores and pranks from the various residents of Paldea. Adventure Hours are filled with picking up lost items, finding exciting new creatures in hard-to-reach places, and chatting with the world’s quirky (and sometimes downright baffling) inhabitants.

Unfortunately, just like Sword and Shield when they were initially released, Scarlet and Violet has one huge problem: their optimization.

Upon first booting up the game, a painful amount of lag and stress on the Nintendo Switch is immediately apparent.

As the environments become more crowded with Pokémon throughout the game, lag and frame rate continue to deteriorate, making the game almost unplayable at times.

Worse still: the software eventually becomes *actually* unplayable after just a few hours of consecutive play; the lag gets progressively worse to the point where your character can’t move without being forced to close the game and start over.

Since the release, some optimization patches have been managed, but it’s still not perfect. Add in the disappointing level of graphics and sluggish performance, and this adds to the layered frustrations as Paldea begs to be thoroughly explored for hours to follow.

Performance aside, this is an interesting Pokemon game. It is the first of its kind and completely breaks the mold of the last 25 years of games in the franchise.

It’s certainly addictive and endlessly fun, but is it a good Pokemon game? That remains to be seen.

As the story and live events continue to unfold, it may be as enduring as Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, but its expansive open world could also be the last nail in the series’ coffin.

Scarlet and Violet risk blending in with every other open world game on the market right now, including other Zelda games, or The Witcher, Destiny, Fortnite, Roblox, you name it.

For now, Pokemon fans won’t be able to put the game down. Enjoy catching them all, this could be the first chapter of the franchise story in the future.


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