Pokémon Scarlet and Violet hands-on: Monster catching remixed

Over the course of the first eight generations of Pokémon, the number of monsters that can be caught approaches 1,000. And yet the basic formula for the gameplay of the series has remained largely the same over this time (apart from a few small changes or spin-offs like Legends: Arceus). But after getting a chance to preview Pokemon scarlet Ahead of its official release in November, it feels like GameFreak has remixed a lot of long-standing tropes in a way that will add a new spark to its next release.

Starting with the Paldea region (which takes inspiration from the real Iberian Peninsula), Pokemon scarlet and violet extends previous games (particularly Legends Arceus and the Wild Area in sword and Sign) by offering a fully open world design. This means there is no set path when dismantling gyms, giving you much more freedom to choose where to go and in what order. Additionally, to traverse the world, you’ll get access to the game’s Legendary Pokemon (either Koraidon or Miraidon, depending on which version of the game you choose) very early on, rather than having to wait until the end of the game to like them to catch in previous titles.

Unlike previous titles, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet feature a fully open-world design.
Unlike previous titles Pokemon scarlet and violet feature a full open-world design.

Nintendo

Even the gyms themselves have received an update, with the trials you need to pass to fight Brassius (the leader of the Artazon gym) taking place across the city rather than in a single room or building. The effect of this is that the world of Pokemon scarlet and violet just feels more alive and alive, adding a new dimension to the way you experience the game.

Of course, there’s a lot more to Pokemon than just gym battles, as riding your legendary Pokemon lets you literally run, jump, and fly across the landscape. As you explore Paldea you’ll encounter ferocious monsters roaming the region, which you can fight or avoid at will, although you’ll also encounter some random battles. There are even rare Titan Pokémon that you must fight multiple times to complete your Path of Legends, which is a separate story branch from your gym battles and clashes with Team Star. And while you’re exploring the world and don’t feel like directing the fight yourself, you can bring out your main Pokémon to find items, or fight other nearby monsters automatically (with the combat taking place off-screen).

Mela is one of the bosses in Team Star and the leader of the fire department of Schedar Squad.
Mela is one of Team Star’s bosses and leader of the fire department, the Schedar Squad.

Nintendo

scarlet and violet Open-world design also means there are more places to encounter Team Star (this generation’s Team Rocket equivalent). In one event, I had to make my way into a barricaded compound while using the new auto-battle system to eliminate 30 different monsters before my team ran out of HP. After that, I had to fight one of the Team Star leaders while she was driving a huge vehicle that had a huge health bar. Meanwhile, standard combat still consists of turn-based combat, with each monster having access to four different moves. And when it comes to catching wild Pokémon, it’s still best to drain their health with attacks and status issues before throwing a Poké Ball at them. There is no need to direct your throw inwards Legends: Arceus.

When your Pokémon Terastallizes, it becomes fully crystalline and gains a crown that matches its Tera type.
When your Pokémon Terastallizes, it becomes fully crystalline and gains a crown that matches its Tera type.

Nintendo

But for scarlet and violet Gamefreak added a new twist called Terastalling, which allows a Pokemon to change its normal type to its hidden Tera-type. Take Tyranitar, for example, which is normally a Rock/Dark-type but changes to a Ghost-type when Terastallized. This opens up new ways to punish your opponent’s weaknesses, while also giving you access to the new Tera Blast TM so you can take full advantage of your Pokémon’s more powerful altered state.

Alternatively, for people who like more cooperative battles, there are four-player Tera Raid battles where you can team up with friends to catch rare Tera-type Pokemon. And unlike traditional battles, there is no turn order. You can spam moves to your heart’s content, and if you’re knocked out, you can cheer on your fellow trainers while you wait to be auto-revived. As someone who’s long thought Pokémon’s core battle system needed an update, Raid Battles are a lot of fun as a break from the main story, even if they feel a little button-pulled.

Bellibolt is one of the new Electric-type Pokémon in the Paldea region.
Bellibolt is one of the new Electric-type Pokémon in the Paldea region.

Nintendo

And those are just some of the bigger changes. Gamefreak has tweaked many other mechanics to make the entire franchise feel fresh again. So let me list a few here in rapid fire style. There are now 18 Gym Badges to collect instead of the default eight. Character customization is much more extensive and can be changed at any time from the standard menu screen. Also, other trainers won’t start a fight on sight like they have in the past, you have to actually walk up to them and attack them on purpose. There’s even a new auto-heal feature that uses potions from your inventory to restore HP after battle, saving you time from scrolling through menus over and over again. And what could have the biggest impact on Pokémon battles in scarlet and violet is that you can now create your own TMs.

In Raid Battles, you can team up with up to four friends to defeat Terastalized Pokémon.
In Raid Battles, you can team up with up to four friends to defeat Terastalized Pokémon.

Nintendo

So while I only had a little over an hour to play Pokemon scarlet During my preview, I’m really excited to see Gamefreak playing around with its traditional format. The world is big and beautiful, there are now three main stories for you to complete at your leisure, and there are plenty of other remixes and quality of life changes that make the series feel like it got a Reno and a fresh coat of paint. And we haven’t even talked about all the new Pokémon.

I usually always take the plant-based starter, but this time I already know I’m going for Fuecoco. There’s something about his goofy grin that I just can’t ignore. Then there’s Lechonk, a masterful play on words, and Pawni, one of your rival’s main Pokémon, is so cute and fluffy I almost can’t handle it.

In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, you can ride your legendary Pokémon to quickly traverse the Paldea region.
In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, you can ride your legendary Pokémon to quickly traverse the Paldea region.

Nintendo

Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to see a new Pokémon main game. My only minor concern is that I’ve noticed some frame-rate choppyness in some areas, which might indicate that scarlet and Violets The new open-world design really challenges the performance of the Switch. However, since my time with the game was in a development build made for this preview rather than a full retail release, it’s difficult to say if we can expect similar performance on release. Regardless, I can’t wait to play more, though Pokemon scarlet and violet will officially go on sale for Nintendo Switch on November 18th.

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Russell Falcon

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