Pokemon Scarlet Review thumbnail

Pokemon Scarlet Review

Catch Pokemon in a lush open-world

Alex Legard

Reviewed by playing a Nintendo Switch on

Pokemon Scarlet is rated Everyone by the ESRB

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are here and they seem to be the most important Pokemon games for a long time thanks to their seamless open-world. Seeing as Scarlet and Violet are 2 of the most anticipated games of the year, let's see if they live up to the hype.

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Pokemon Scarlet screenshot 1
I climbed to the highest point in Paldea for your viewing pleasure

You begin your adventure as you wake up in your bedroom. What Pokemon game doesn't start in the player's bedroom? Anyway, you go downstairs and your mom tells you that it's your first day of school! Also, the director of Naranja Academy shows up at the house. He's there to deliver the enrollment papers plus your starter Pokemon! This time, the 3 starters are Sprigatito the grass cat, Fuecoco the fire croc, and Quaxly the water duckling. You also go next door to meet your rival, Nemona, and you have a quick battle. On the way to the academy, you accidentally tumble off a cliff and meet the box Pokemon, Koraidon, who is in a very bad state but then, after you offer it your sandwich, it quickly perks up. v1d30chumz 35-172-230-154

Anyway, the treasure hunt begins a few weeks into your term at the academy which is an open-ended adventure and the start of your journeys in Pokemon Scarlet. There are also 3 different stories that you can participate in at your own pace:

  • ⭐ Starfall Street ⭐ has you raid 5 Team Star bases while you work for a mysterious hacker, Cassiopeia, who hacked into your phone.
  • Path of Legends has you fight 5 mighty titan Pokemon and raid their dens for the powerful (and tasty) Herba Mystica alongside your buddy, Arven.
  • In Victory Road, you take on 8 gyms to claim their badges then take on the Pokemon League for the title of champion!

Unlike previous Pokemon games, Scarlet and Violet are totally open-world. That means you can go nearly anywhere as soon as you complete the tutorial. If you're like me, you might feel like you don't know where to go first. As a general rule, the further north you travel in Paldea, the stronger the Pokemon you'll encounter. It can be helpful to just walk around and see what gyms, titan Pokemon, and Team Star bases you come across and you can also just wander around while catching lots of different Pokemon if that's your thing.

Pokemon Scarlet screenshot 2
Actually, it can backfire if you terastallize into the wrong type

Pokemon Scarlet's battle gimmick is called terastallization. Players can terastallize their Pokemon which makes them take on a crystalline form. In addition to their regular typing, Terastal Pokemon also have a Tera type which can be one of their regular types or something completely different; specifically:

  • If the Tera type matches either of your Pokemon's regular types, that type's STAB (same type attack bonus) is doubled from 50% to 100%.
  • If the Pokemon's Tera type is different than your Pokemon's regular types then that Pokemon gains that type in addition to its regular types. This means it gains a STAB bonus with its new type. It also gains new weaknesses and resistances to incoming attacks.
  • You can only terastallize your Pokemon once per battle then you have to recharge your Tera orb at a Pokemon center before you can terastallize again.

Raid battles are a returning feature from Sword and Shield where 4 players cooperate to defeat a powerful Pokemon. You can battle alone with a team of bots, with 3 nearby players, or with random players online. The battle takes place in a special arena where each player battles with 1 Pokemon. You can also cheer 3 times per raid to increase the stats of all Pokemon on your team or to heal all friendly Pokemon. Plus, you can catch the Pokemon at the end of the raid and you're rewarded with tons of XP candies and stat-boosting feathers. I really enjoyed participating in raid battles as a distraction from regular exploration. However, the difficulty was all over the place but mostly too easy once my team was a decent level.

Pokemon Scarlet screenshot 3
Nothing's sweeter than a raid battle victory!

In contrast to the fun raid battles, the cities in Paldea are a little bit boring. Mostly, they're filled with sandwich stalls, ingredient stalls for making sandwiches, and clothing stores. In the overworld, you can have picnics to make sandwiches on the fly and gain various buffs. Pokemon Scarlet's obsession with sandwiches is easily its weakest part. 🥪

Instead, I wish the cities were filled with a few more interesting things to do. There are no side-quests to complement the main story quests and there are barely any dungeons which is something that's present in nearly every Pokemon installment. There isn't even a Victory Road gauntlet at the end of the game. Heck, there aren't even many puzzles except for the gym challenges that you have to complete to take on the gym leaders. Each of the 8 gym challenges are different such as the olive roll challenge or a Where's Waldo type of challenge where you have to find Director Clavell. I wish there were more fun challenges like this around the Paldea region.

Warning: the following paragraph contains story spoilers! ⚠️

Another aspect that surprised me is the story. Usually, the plot of Pokemon games are pretty bland; simply take on the 8 gyms, stop an evil organisation, and then take on the Pokemon League. In Scarlet, the story actually made me feel sad. The evil organisation isn't so evil, Arven restores his beloved Mabosstiff to health and is reunited with and loses his mother (so sad!), and Nemona becomes your rival after you defeat the Pokemon League and she couldn't be happier about it. There are also heavy friendship themes; I'm impressed!

Pokemon Scarlet screenshot 4
This is what you get when you picnic with a team of 6 Skwovets

One element that's quite disappointing is the size of the Pokedex. In generation 9, there are a total of 1008 Pokemon but only 400 Pokemon are obtainable in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. It's kind of baffling that Pokemon X and Y (a 9-year-old pair of games) have nearly twice as many Pokemon as Scarlet and Violet do.

I'm sure you've heard and it's true; Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are prone to many performance issues such as low framerate, visual bugs, lost frames, and crashes. While walking around cities, people sometimes walk right in front of you at about 4 frames per second while the rest of the game runs at a normal framerate. I don't think I've ever seen people walking this choppily in any game; let alone from a big Nintendo release. Thankfully, the game never crashed on me but I've heard reports that other folks' games have crashed and that doesn't seem fun. Personally, I had a very positive experience. Besides the noticeable low framerate, the bugs have been few and far between. However, here are the bugs that I did encounter:

  • Occasional invisible Pokemon, especially near rivers.
  • Cliff textures that move before my very eyes.
  • Koraidon can rarely fall infinitely if you land on a texture in a very specific way. After a few seconds, the screen will black-out and teleport you nearby.
  • The game can freeze for about a second before returning to normal.
  • Landscape shadows can appear and disappear depending on the position of the camera. The starter Pokemon's shadows that you see 5 minutes into the game also look terrible.

Keep in mind that some folks tend to exaggerate the bad points but underemphasize Pokemon Scarlet's positive aspects. This can lead to misinformation because, well, it seems that the performance issues have been all everyone's been talking about for days after release but like I said, I had a very positive experience playing Pokemon Scarlet. Besides, a few bugs can sometimes make the game more fun because bugs have a certain mystique about them and they can be fun to pull off and laugh at. If there are too many bugs, they can also consume the entire experience but I don't think that's what's going on here; at least, it wasn't for me.

Pokemon Scarlet screenshot 5
Koraidon decided to fall infinitely on this wheel texture on the beach

Pokemon Scarlet is the most immersive Pokemon installment yet thanks to its seamless open-world, heartfelt story, an interesting new battle mechanic, and fun raid battles. Whether you're in it to speedrun, for the competitive online scene, or you just want to catch 'em all; Scarlet and Violet have you covered. Let's just hope that it'll be patched soon.

  • + Surprisingly heartfelt story for a Pokemon game
  • + It's fun to explore the open-world
  • + Raid battles are highly enjoyable
  • - Some issues like low frame rate, lost frames, occasional crashes, and bugs
  • - Lacks side-quests and extra content
  • - Only 400 obtainable Pokemon
7.0 out of 10
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Watch Alex play Pokemon Scarlet
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