Pokémon Scarlet & Violet - The Most Ambitious Pokémon Game Yet?
21-10-2022 13:00 UTC by Joe Merrick (Serebii).
We were let loose on the world of Paldea in the game shortly after the start of the game. All three paths, the Gym challenge of Victory Road, facing Team Star in Starfall Street or facing Titans in the Path of Legends, were made available to us and we were told we could do whatever we want, take whichever path we want; This is the sign of how the game truly is, a vastly open landscape. As all the paths were available to us, they got flagged on the map so you can easily go towards the goal you desire, at a pace you desire. This makes the game feel like it is really giving the player the choice of where to go, rather than holding the hand and us just being passengers through the journey. That said, the characters do sometimes try to suggest you go do particular things such as check on some other characters to lead you to the other story points.
Pokémon has been dabbling with open areas ever since 2016's Pokémon Sun & Moon. With the Poni Plains showing a small look at how the future may be, it grew with the Wild Area in Sword & Shield, the Isle of Armor, Crown Tundra and finally the Hisui Region's 5 open areas in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and the Paldea region is clearly the final step into creating a big open world, and it certainly looks like it has hit the mark. We were only allowed in a small portion of Paldea, but that small area itself was huge and sprawling. So often I found myself distracted from the main task just to see what Pokémon was round the corner, or over the ridge, or up the cliffs. I almost let the time run out before hitting any of the story paths because I was just having such fun exploring and finding Pokémon. That said, I did eventually take the Victory Road path and did the Gym Test of finding Sunflora throughout the town. When that was done, I started the battle against Brassius and went through with the battle much in the way you would prior games, but there was definitely more of a cinematic flair with the small cutscenes, showing more personality for the gym leaders than we have seen before.
Navigating the world works well. Unlike Sword & Shield and Legends: Arceus, you have a mini-map in the bottom right to help you keep direction, and you can set up waypoints on the map to make sure you're on the right path. Riding on Koraidon was also a lot of fun and definitely sped traversal up. It automatically shifted to climbing when I needed it, and I could glide by essentially double jumping.
Pokémon are found sprawled the field. You no longer have to go for specific tall grass for random encounters, which no longer exist, or for there to be a specific spawn point between the grass like in the Wild Area. Instead, it's more akin to Legends Arceus where they can be just about anywhere. They're not always just standing around waiting for you either, but you can see them sleeping or moving around. At one point, I was gliding over on Koraidon and looked down to see two Pokémon racing underneath me. I walked across the field and saw two Deerling sleeping amongst the grass while some other Pokémon were flying by behind them. Sometimes, you will see a group of 4 or 5 of a species of Pokémon together, sometimes with one of its evolutions in the middle.
There is a catch to this though, as the wild Pokémon's interactivity is closer to Sword & Shield's than Legends: Arceus. You won't have to run away from the Pokémon to protect yourself, they'll just run at you to start a battle at worst, which brings us to the next point, wild battles.
If you walk into a Pokémon, you will battle them then and there, the scene will remain the same and you'll be exactly where you were as the world is truly seamless. Plus, unlike Legends: Arceus though, the wild Pokémon in the nearby area, human characters or even other player characters will remain in the background, and will even still move around. Like Legends: Arceus, you can even move the camera in battle at will, but you are unable to have your trainer move around in the battle.
There is another way to start a battle too, if you're close enough to a Pokémon, you can aim with ZL and throw your PokéBall to get your lead Pokémon out and start the battle. Targeting will show you the level of the Pokémon and its name, and if you sneak up on the Pokémon by crouching, and catch it unaware, you'll get a small boost at the start of the battle.
We also saw a few wild Tera Pokémon. These Pokémon will automatically Terastallize in battle against you and can offer a challenge. In addition to that, defeating them will earn you LP, which can be used for both the TM Machine and even just purchasing items at the Pokémon Centers throughout Paldea. They will have a special aura around them and can be visible from far away. A comparison for these would be the Alpha Pokémon roaming Hisui or the stronger Pokémon in the Wild Area, and will definitely be something to watch out for.
Trainers also fill out the overworld of Paldea too, but unlike past games, you have to talk to them in order to start the battle. No longer will they spot you and force the battle to happen, which means if you do so wish, you can just completely skip trainers. They do have speech bubbles over their head inviting you to battle as you approach, so if you aren't sure if a trainer is there for a battle, you will at least get an indicator. Items also fill the overworld, but you can see them from far away through various auras shooting up into the sky, and the same with Tera Raid Battle dens, which also appear on the map. This helps the overworld feel more densely packed as you definitely won't go far without seeing something.
Another change to prior traditional games, but following on from Legends: Arceus is that the time of day and weather are no longer tied to a real-time clock, but instead runs its own day/night cycle, . Weather is also another randomised factor in the game, taking more inspiration from Legends: Arceus than the date based weather of Sword & Shield. For example, shortly after it became night and I got to Artazon, a rain storm hit and unlike Sword & Shield, the player character was constantly reacting to it. While running through the town, the character was trying to shield themselves and their eyes from the rain so they could still see while running.
One of the things many of the Pokémon community would like to know is one we can confirm; Shiny Pokémon are back in this game. Much to our surprise while playing it, we actually managed to get the world first Shiny Pokémon in Pokémon Scarlet & Violet outside of Game Freak and The Pokémon Company staff.
I was climbing up a cliffside and when I made it to the top, I just saw a shiny Skiddo amongst some other Pokémon. That's right, continuing on from Let's Go and Legends: Arceus, Shiny Pokémon are fully visible on the overworld, which is a marked improvement over Sword & Shield. We're not entirely sure if there was any sound or visual cue to this, however, due to it being as we climbed a cliff, but getting the first full-odds Shiny Pokémon in a game is certainly an experience that I will never forget.
For battles, Pokémon Scarlet & Violet definitely align more with Pokémon Sword & Shield than Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Gone is Legends: Arceus' simplified battle system and the battles have returned to the more complex and full battle system of prior main series titles. Abilities, Hold Items and everything make a return but despite that, the battles are definitely feeling snappier and quicker than in Sword & Shield.
Terastallization certainly brings a new element to the battles and can give you a nice boost or type change to make things more suited to you. I didn't get to try it out too much in too deep a way but there's definitely a nice damage boost if you're Terastallizing to the same type you already were. Needing to have to recharge the Tera Orb definitely feels like a good way to keep the game balanced so you're not just constantly pressing the win button like Z-Moves in Sun & Moon.
However, some changes from Legends: Arceus have made it through. While you learn moves in a similar way to Sword & Shield where if your Pokémon hits a level, it asks if you want to learn it, Scarlet & Violet continues Legends: Arceus method of relearning and forgetting moves – you can do it just from the menu at any time. You can also pull Pokémon out of your boxes at any time, just like in Sword & Shield. There's also a new feature where you can select the Pokémon and heal it automatically. This is done by it just automatically using the items in your bag to heal as required, streamlining the process from before.
The menus themselves have followed the streamlined process the game itself has. Now, when you call up the menu with the X button, on the left you will see your party where you can check their status, heal them or alter their moves on the fly while on the right it allows you to go to the Bag, Settings, Save and the Poké Portal, which is the game's method for getting connectivity letting you select all the multiplayer features. They are also visually lovely, going with a similar simplistic look to Sword & Shield.
The Pokémon Let's Go feature was also a fun thing to try out. If you send your Pokémon onto the overworld, it will follow you around, but you can send it off in certain directions. This will let it get items for you and you can have it battle against other Pokémon. These battles are very quick and are often just one hit actions, providing you with experience and the items that the species of wild Pokémon will drop. These items have previously been revealed to be used for creating TMs at the TM Machine at Pokémon Centers, so being able to do this feels like streamlining the potential grind. While you do need to target and it's not as automatic as it could be, it definitely has a lot of potential for the game, especially as it's necessary in the Starfall Street story path.
Another small change is in regards to customisation. In Scarlet & Violet, you have the ability to change so much about your character's appearance except the hair at any time during your adventure. You can change the outfits, eye shape and more all without having to go to a Pokémon Center or Boutique. There are a massive amount of customisation options that we saw, with Boutiques allowing you to buy more clothes and hairdressers to change the hair. This time, there are no restrictions. All players can have all hair styles or wear whatever clothes they want regardless of the look they started with at the beginning of the game; every trainer has access to everything.
You can also use emotes at any time through the D-Pad for pictures which can be done anywhere in the world. This is especially useful when you go into the multiplayer and bring other players in through the Union Circle at any Pokémon Center.
Following the single player portion, we were given a chance to test the multiplayer features of the game and multiplayer is a key aspect of this game and it felt great. It was an evolution of what we saw in the Wild Area in Sword & Shield where you can see other players in the game. This can be done with 4 players at once and it's such a nice thing to see. You can organise battles, trades and more far easier than the usual way and notifications come up at the top if players in the Union Circle are doing them. An excellent touch was being able to see what your friends were doing even if you were in battle, and they can see you. It's this sort of multiplayer interconnectivity the games have truly missed. It feels like you and your friends can truly go on a journey together, though latency did make it a little jumpy at times.
There is one exception to this. When another player puts out a picnic, you will be able to see their picnic table and all players around it, but their Pokémon will only be visible if you yourself join the picnic and be able to enter the picnic mode.
All other multiplayer modes are also still present. You can also do Link Trades, Battles, Surprise Trades plus the already announced Battle Stadium and more all without being in the same Union Circle. Just like in Pokémon Sword & Shield, you use Link Codes in order to match with other players who want to connect.
Tera Raid Battles feel like a response to the feedback to the Max Raid Battles from Sword & Shield. They're faster, but in a way that works with the battle system in general. It's still turn-based, but you don't need to wait for other players to make their move in order to do yours. However, there's still a bit of a wait as it's not as action focused as people may hope. Unlike Max Raid Battles, there are also no shields to slow the battle down, but there was an element part way through the battle which adds a protection up. This protection can be taken down far easier with moves from Terastallized Pokémon. All Pokémon can Terastallize in these Raid Battles, but you have to have multiple moves hit the opposing Pokémon first. This works as a way to balance the battles. If all players are knocked out at the same time, or the time limit runs out, you will lose the battle. It may have been because this is a different system but we actually lost our first Raid Battle in testing, which is definitely an exciting notion as Max Raid Battles lost their challenge fairly early on in Sword & Shield's life.
All in all, on first play Pokémon Scarlet & Violet feels like it has potential to be the huge step forward for the franchise that some have been hoping for. There are so many surprises that have yet to be revealed and if the potential holds throughout the game, Pokémon may have reached a new peak. We are so desperate to play more, to see what else there is in Paldea, and if the full game continues on what the small snippet we played shows, then it truly is an exciting time for Pokémon fans. Roll on November 18th.