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Despite bugs, exploring a new region has never been this fun in ‘Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’

Russell Ku

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Despite bugs, exploring a new region has never been this fun in ‘Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’
It might be buggy but here's one Pokémon fan's take on why they can't put it down

It’s been more than a week since Pokémon Scarlet and Violet came out worldwide on November 18, and that release felt special to me for so many reasons. 

I, with other people in my family, have had an affinity with the Pokémon franchise – from playing the video games, collecting trading cards, to witnessing Ash Ketchum’s historic win in the anime.

But it was also the first time I got to play a new generation of Pokémon – in this case, Violet – as soon as its release on an actual console since Diamond and Pearl. I had high expectations for the latest in the series as well after playing the highly acclaimed Pokémon Legends: Arceus

NEW GENERATION. Those who buy Pokémon Scarlet and Violet early can get a free steelbook, depending on which version or pack they buy. Photo by Russell Ku/Rappler

I am aware of how the internet (and critics) had a lot to say about the game, with much of the focus on the new Pokémons and the bugs and lags as they explored the Paldean region.

Despite this, Scarlet and Violet managed to break records and sell 10 million copies in its first three days globally. 

There is so much to love from the novelty of the Paldean region, especially as the Pokémon franchise continues to embrace the open world format, with the franchise’s move to the Nintendo Switch.

In fact, it’s this very reason that it has taken me a whole week to finish the game’s main story.

PARTY. The author’s current team in Pokémon Violet. Screenshot from Russell Ku/Rappler
Lessons learned and applied

Coming from Arceus, I had a lot of expectations of how the new iteration of an open world Pokémon game would be imagined, especially as it is set in a whole new region. 

Scarlet and Violet took a lot of what’s good from the experience of the Hisuian region, especially in how players navigate different aspects of the gameplay.

The Titan Pokémons, which take a lot from Noble Pokémons and are encapsulated in the Path of Legends story arc, are a fun respite from the conventional formula that Pokémon games usually follow, where the ultimate goal is to beat the Pokémon League and become champion.

PALDEA REGION. The map of the Paldea region where players would have to complete different tasks for three different story arcs – Victory Road, Starfall Street, and Path of Legends. Screenshot from Russell Ku/Rappler

It also helped me to take a lot more time in exploring the different areas of the Paldea region as I battle surrounding trainers and catch Pokémon in the area. But more on Path of Legends later. 

Speaking of exploring, the emphasis on mass outbreaks in wild areas makes a return in Scarlet and Violet, which does help in getting certain Pokémon, especially evolved ones, pretty quickly.  

The feature also makes for some good grinding for those who would change their team often with new Pokémon. Raising underleveled Pokémon is easier to do now as all team members gain experience from battles. 

Mass outbreaks certainly helped me when I was switching around my team with Bagon, Ralts, and Charcadet, who would later evolve to more powerful evolution forms. At the same time, it is also those outbreaks that have left me playing for hours without reaching my next destination.

The ability to relearn moves, another feature taken from Arceus, has also made it a lot easier for me to make good movesets for my team. I relied on the feature heavily to get already learned moves back to use for battles such as Dig, Clear Smog, and Ember, among others. 

Built for adventure

Scarlet and Violet has proven to be the most adventurous Pokémon game yet, built with an engaging story for the player to follow as a student in Naranja or Uva Academy that is working on a grand assignment of a “Treasure Hunt.” 

UVA ACADEMY. Trainers would have their humble beginnings at a school centered in the city of Mesagoza. In the case of Pokémon Violet, it is called Uva Academy. Screenshot from Russell Ku/Rappler

The main narrative focuses on three arcs: Victory Road, where the trainer works their way to the Pokémon League; Starfall Street, where they encounter Team Star, the antagonists of the game; and Path of Legends, where they confront Titan Pokémon and making the legendary Pokémon, Koraidon or Miraidon, stronger.

While the arcs have their distinct story and characters involved, the main story revolves around themes that strike home for me where other Pokémon games usually don’t tread too deeply – living with trauma, the desire to prove oneself, healing, and redemption.

Speaking of Path of Legends, it’s also cool how I got to interact with Miraidon as a ride Pokémon and a central role in my character’s story, unlike in previous games where legendaries are more present at its climax. 

The game also makes catching Pokémon more fun as every time a new Pokémon is caught, you would see the Pokédex updated with a book of the latest capture on what is something similar to a bookshelf. 

For me, seeing that in the gameplay is a pleasant sight, making me want to catch more for the Pokédex. 

POKÉDEX. Every time a new Pokémon is captured, it gets added to the Pokédex like how a book is added to a bookshelf. Screenshot from Russell Ku/Rappler

I also personally love the picnic function where you interact with your Pokémon by giving them a wash, making a sandwich, and playing fetch. It does make the game easier to play around when you need a breather from all the grinding. 

Things left to be desired

While I am frustrated about the bugs and glitches, there is also a lot more left to be desired in the game.

While eating sandwiches or food increase chances to encounter certain Pokémon such as shinies, catching them more easily, or even finding eggs through accumulating meal power, I find it complicated to navigate around the concept unless you read up on guides. 

Aside from this, cities in the game feel more static than ever, with their only purpose in the game being to heal up, buy items, and challenge the gyms. I wish Game Freak kept the feature for trainers to enter buildings or houses as they could find hidden treasures from interaction within those settings.

There’s also the question of the purpose of league points and materials from catching or defeating wild Pokémon as they are only limited to buying moves in the game.

I am also personally not a fan of Terastallizing – a battle mechanic where Pokémon transform into gem-like creatures, potentially changing its type (from Water to Grass, for example) or providing a power boost for moves of the same type. 

Although the phenomenon is good in theory as a potential trump card, I did not use the battle mechanic as much as I wanted to, even defeating terastallized Pokémon with ease through a balanced team and super effective moves. 

TERA POKÉMON. A terastallized Pawmot attacks a Quaquaval in battle. Screenshot from Russell Ku/Rappler

I would have used it more if it was alike to Mega Evolution where stats and ability could be changed upon transformation. 

Still a fun game

In the week that I have played Pokémon Violet thus far, I have experienced my fair share of glitches and bugs that have bothered me, from a levitating battlefield to a long awkward black pause after gym tests or battles. 

For those who are yet to play the game, don’t expect to rush yourself and complete the game in one sitting. Make sure to take your time and explore the wonders of the vibrant Paldea region from all corners. 

I also asked a friend, who I managed to convince to buy Scarlet at around the same time as me, about his thoughts on playing the game.

He said something that summed up similarly to how I feel about my experience: “Outside of its subpar performance…we shouldn’t really discredit the strengths of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.

Scarlet and Violet provides a fresh take on how we approach the Pokémon game, taking advantage of the open world format to tell a compelling story and provide an immersive Pokémon trainer experience for any type of player.

To put it simply, it’s still a fun game despite some heavy criticism arising from its bugs. As one viral tweet said: “I’m still having a nice time with Pokémon.”

As of writing, I have yet to complete the post-game story, but I can’t wait for more of what Scarlet and Violet has to offer, especially if there will be downloadable content for the game. But for now, it’s time to finish the story and complete that Pokédex! –

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Russell Ku

Russell Ku is a digital communications specialist at Rappler who believes in the power of stories to build an empathic society.