Welcome to Paldea – Pokémon Scarlet and Violet First Impressions
It’s that time again, a new Pokémon game has been released, and so a new Pokémon adventure is here! This time we’re travelling through the Mediterranean paradise of Paledea. I played about four hours on Friday once my copy of Pokémon Violet arrived, and here are my first impressions.
New and Returning
The most important question about any new Pokémon game, particularly one that starts a new generation, is what new monsters will we be able to subjugate in tiny balls using the power of friendship? And the pre-release Pokémon certainly suggested that we weren’t going to be disappointed, with new ‘mons such as the perfect porcine Pokémon, Lechonk, and regional variants like the toxic Paldean Wooper.
But it turns out that GameFreak had kept a fair amount to themselves, including the regional bug, Tarountula, and some flamingo Pokémon I don’t know the name of yet. There’s also a new regional variant of Tauros who looks like it’s a monochrome version like it’s in the World of Darkness from Dragon Quest VIII. Granted, some of these may have been spoiled in the trailers I avoided, but usually I find out the Pokémon anyway from leaks and social media posts, so I was pleasantly surprised.
Furthermore, S/V keep up the gameplay feature of having Pokémon appear physically in the wild. However, I’m pleased to say that they take more inspiration from Legends: Arceus than Sword and Shield. Therefore, the Pokémon wander around as if they belong, rather than just popping into existence when you get near them.
But one thing I’m glad they’ve left behind in Hisui, or rather, brought back from older games, are abilities and held items. Now you can even buy held items such as Mystic Water in one of the shops, making it even easier to power up your Quaxley to demi-god levels.
This seems like a good opportunity to mention the starters, who have definitely grown on me since the first trailer. I chose Quaxley, breaking my decade-long streak of only going for Fire-type starters in the first game of a generation. This was a combination of the Donald-Duck Pokémon having the only name I could easily say and remember, and the fact that my brother and girlfriend wanted the fire-croc. I’ll trade one with them later.
Quality of Life
The games also have a lot of much needed quality of life improvements. It’s simple fixes such as not having ‘Quaxley is waiting for instructions’ or similar at the beginning of every battle. The monetary reward for each battle also appears in a bubble in the right-hand corner of the screen, rather than in the normal text box, which allows for more information to appear at once. Pokéballs thankfully still take three shakes to catch a Pokémon (something that I was concerned was gone after watching the trailers) but they shake much quicker now.
You can also turn off the prompt to nickname your Pokémon after each catch, as well as the prompt to learn moves, allowing you to speed up the game to your desire. Hopefully we’ll get a double-speed option for animations in the future.
Another quality of life improvement that impressed me was that the Pokéballs on the ground now glow. This makes them both easier to find, and is a way to pull you out into the world. You also don’t have an animation for picking up the Pokéballs, which is weird but also so much quicker.
The tutorials have gotten both more complicated and easier to understand than ever. There seem to be more systems in this game than previous generations, and yet the tutorials are given in a more lifelike way, which makes them easier to stomach. For example, rather than having Rotom annoyingly presenting tutorial boxes, or listening to your rival explaining every little detail, Nurse Joy now gives you a tip every time you heal your Pokémon. This just feels better to me, as she’s a figure of authority in the Pokémon universe.
That being said, the tutorials were still a little longer than I would have liked, and I found it funny (read: annoying) how many times I was told I was new at battling (I’m sure Sword and Shield had a text option to say that I had played a Pokémon game before?).
One thing that appeared to be a negative, but turned out to be a positive, was TMs. Once again, the game told me that I would only be able to use a TM once before it broke, and I almost gave up on my competitive dreams then and there. However, it turns out that there’s now a full crafting mechanic in the game, and you can make as many TMs as you need (after gathering materials from catching/defeating Pokémon). Huzzah!
And something that will help you gather materials is the new auto-battling feature. I’m glad to say that this isn’t an auto-battle feature where the AI takes over and fights your turn-based battles for you, but is instead a way to send out your lead Pokémon and have them wander around and rain down terror on everyone.
Why Does It Look Like That?
But now for some negatives. The graphics are good, in that they’re colourful (particularly on my new OLED) and the Pokémon even seem to have some texture to them. However, quite simply, it looks like it’s not finished rendering yet, and that the real, sharper, graphics will pop in at any moment. This never happens.
There’s also an astonishing amount of lag, even though it’s on the Switch. The lag isn’t quite Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon on the original 3DS but this is getting less and less acceptable. Furthermore, one thing that is simply horrific, is that the scrolling isn’t smooth when you’re inside buildings. The camera’s mostly fixed (unlike in the overworld, which retains Legends: Arceus’ free-roam) and so when you walk to the edge of the camera, it pauses for a split second and then jumps to fit you in again. Like in the original Legend of Zelda on the NES. There’s no excuse for this really.
The final camera issue is that it can fall through the world when you’re doing certain things, such as battling Pokémon on a hill or, most concerningly, when I was talking to a Bronzong in Mesagoza, and the screen got stuck on the floor and looked like it had frozen.
Strange Choices and Identity Issues
Speaking of Mesagoza, is it just me who wished Pokémon would stop giving us the biggest city as the first one you go to? It happened in Unova and Alola (I can’t remember if Kalos had the same issue, but I blame the lack of Pokémon Z for my reduced association with the region). Galar had Wyndon to aim for, but Paldea’s Mesagoza is already there. It just makes me feel like it’s going to be all downhill from here. Of course, I think this city is more in line with Jublife Village from Legends: Arceus, as it’s presumably going to act as a hub-world and so needs to be accessed to begin with. We’ll see.
Another weird aspect is that you can’t run for the opening of the game, but this just changes when you cross an invisible line, no running shoes required. This fake ‘progress’ was redundant and I think you should just have been able to run as soon as you left your house. Furthermore, the auto-text is a bit odd, requiring you to press A sometimes, and not others, seemingly at random.
My final issue with the game so far, is a slight disappearance of identity. We’ve already lost the ‘don’t wander into the tall grass’ aspect but I was willing to let that go, as random battles are a very old-school feature. However, are you seriously telling me that trainers in Paldea ‘can’t tell if you wanna battle just by making eye contact’?! I have to talk to them first?! I understand that this is probably a technical fix, with the larger, and non-grid-based overworld preventing eyelines or potentially resulting in being battled every couple of feet. But it’s another aspect that’s moving Pokémon further away from its core. At least the Power of Science guy is still there.
Welcome to School
One trend that I am pleased to see has changed, is the ‘weak-rival’ trend. In fact, your new rival, Nemona, is already a Champion-ranked trainer (you can have multiple champions in Paldea, which seems fun), and is obsessed with battling. Furthermore, she chooses (with some pressuring from the Director of the school) to battle you with weaker Pokémon, which I think is a great way to make me feel better about beating her. I mean, I felt like the villain in Alola and Galar, when I kept beating Hau and Hop and practically ruined their lives and ambitions. She still chooses the starter with a type-weakness to yours, however, which is annoying.
I’m also intrigued by Arven, a character who starts by genuinely insulting you, but who turns out to just be a very stressed student who loves picnics. This was a twist that I didn’t see coming, something that very rarely happens in Pokémon. And this picnic-twist sets off one of the main questlines of the game, namely the search for the Titan Pokémon and the herbs they’re guarding. I don’t know much about these Titans, but they’ve obviously stuck in my mind considering I dreamt about them the following night. I’m also very pleased to see that there might be a Delibird-inspired Titan, which is not something I expected.
Arven also gives you the cover-box legendary of the game, which I was concerned about as I thought it might be another ORAS Lati-twin scenario. This was where you were given an overpowered Pokémon too early, and the game became too easy. However, I’m happy to say that you can’t use the legendary in battle yet as it’s too injured. Despite this, it still managed to take on an army of Houndour and Houndoom in one of the best Pokémon scenes I’ve seen. The reverse-escort mission to get there, however, wasn’t great, as the legendary walks slower than you can run.
The other big change in this game is that you are a student. A student who doesn’t just study Pokémon but also studies boring things like Maths and Biology. The school is huge, even if you can’t actually run through it all, and instead have to teleport between rooms. This is a shame, even if it does make the school feel bigger, and is certainly quicker to get around, as it makes it feel less connected.
As far as I can tell, you might even be able to take classes, which is interesting. I’ve only been to one class though, so far, which is a pre-set one. It also showed me one of the worst animations I’ve ever seen, with a lagging child trying to bounce their legs while sitting at a desk (if your console/game engine can’t run this, please just take it out).
The reduction of scale, in order to speed up the game, extends to shops. Rather than going inside them (other than the salon), you just press the door, and a window comes up with the options for you. This is certainly quicker, and allows for some Ghibli-esque artwork for the meals you can buy (which power you up like O-Powers did in Generation 6), but I do worry that there will be barely any buildings I can go in.
The enemy team of the game is Team Star, who appear to just be disgruntled students who want to increase the size of their gang by pressuring other students to join them. This seems to be on the right side of the Team Skull-Team Yell scale, of teams that are nuisances but not trying to destroy the world. I’m still looking forward to saying Hasta La Vistar to them, though. I’m not joking, that’s what they say.
Through the Looking Crystal
I haven’t even mentioned Terastallizing, which is the new gimmick of the generation, like Mega-Evolution and Dynamaxing (both of which are gone now). Terastallizing turns your Pokémon into a Swarovski figure and seems to power up its moves according to its Tera-type. For example, my Quaxley had a Water Tera-type and so appears to get a double STAB (Same Type Attack Bonus) for its Water-type moves, whereas if it had a Normal Tera-type, it would gain STAB for its Normal-type moves. This isn’t as overpowered as when I thought it would change your Pokémon’s type completely, resistances and all, but it will certainly be fun to apply competitively
(Note, further playing has revealed that Terastallizing is more complicated than I thought – keep an eye out for our guide relating to it).
Finally, this game feels like the biggest Pokémon game ever, even with the aforementioned reductions in scale. There’s verticality in the world, and the horizon seems to stretch on for miles. I’ve heard that you can choose the order you approach the game, like in Breath of the Wild, which should be fun, and overall the game finally feels more like a big RPG like Dragon Quest.
I’ve had a great time in Paldea so far and can’t wait to continue my journey. My full review will be coming soon, along with some guides and features, so keep an eye out! Have you been enjoying Scarlet and Violet? Let us know in the comments and thanks for visiting NintendoLink!