REVIEW

REVIEW

Pokémon Violet

January 9, 2023

GOOD

  • Fun to "go anywhere"
  • Three great starters
  • Compelling, positive story
  • Refreshing three-path adventure
  • Engaging post-game content

BAD

  • Bugs, crashes and glitches
  • Terrible final evolutions for the starters
  • Slim music offering
  • Overworld a little sparce especially in cities

OKAY

OKAY

While there is no question that Pokémon Violet suffers from disappointing visual and (occasionally) even game-crashing bugs, it also somehow manages to be the most engaging and refreshing take on the main series in years. I happily sunk many, many hours into our Paldean adventure, pioneering through the open-world and following a compelling, positive story that kept me coming back despite it’s glitchy shortcomings.

After the announcement that Pokémon Violet (and Scarlet) would be hitting the Switch in 2022 a lot of us were a little surprised. Another dual mainline Pocket Monster title less than twelve months after Pokémon Legends: Arceus seemed really ambitious. Within days of the launch, it was clear that some of the concerns were justified. Early on, reports of hard crashes were standard, and clips of striking (and often hilarious) visual glitches and snail-like framerate drops soon became memes that flooded our social media accounts. It seems this game needed more time to bake before it was released and while the embarrassing videos and comments were not something Game Freak or Nintendo would’ve loved – it didn’t seem to affect sales, with 10 million copies sold in just three days (making it the fastest-selling Nintendo game ever)!

Violet is the most fun I’ve had with a Pokémon game in ages!

That being said, one of the good things about reviewing titles sometime after they release means that we often benefit from post-launch stability updates and sometimes have very different experiences from those that played a game at launch. And having spent much of my summer break (around a month after launch) with the game I’m happy to report that while there are still some (but definitely fewer) glaring and often sends-you-back-onto-the-Switch-home screen-type crashes, Violet is the most fun I’ve had with a Pokémon game in ages. I loved pretty much all the tweaks made to the mainline Poké-formula and, hiding behind some arguably inexcusable bugginess, there’s actually a pretty great game here that often reminded me of all that I love about Pokémon games and promises much for the future of the franchise.

Spriga-three-to Poké-paths

This time around rather than simply heading off to take on eight gyms and become a Pokémon Champion, in Violet, you take on the role of a student and a prestigious school – The Uva Academy. As part of the curriculum (which includes classes you can actually attend – covering everything from battling, breeding and even talking to your Pokémon) you are also tasked to find your ‘treasure’. This means different things for each student, but for the purposes of the game, this basically covers the three main paths you can choose to follow. You can go the traditional gym-badge collecting route aka Victory Road… but you also have the option of looking into a group of bullies that have seemingly wreaked havoc on the school or even investigating a strange phenomenon that has swept through the Paldea region making some Pokémon gigantic and supremely tough to beat.

I really enjoyed how the three paths really broke up the sometimes monotonous slog that simply chasing gym badges can be.

From afar, each of these paths still follows the basic idea of arriving at a specific area taking on a powerful foe, earning some experience points and then moving on to the next one. However, because I wanted to try all three paths, I decided to alternate between all three as I progressed. And I really enjoyed how they broke up the sometimes monotonous slog that simply chasing gym badges can be. Each new path offers a little twist to the original and also reveals important bits of the overall story. For example, when taking on the bullies I liked the new Auto-Battle feature (basically sending out your Pokémon à la Let’s Go) and having them take on other ‘mons in the overworld. Sure, the timer could’ve been stricter or the opponents a little higher levelled – however, I really liked that there was something different to do between taking on gym leaders. After each battle with the Team Star grunts, you also get a little more info on what is going on at the school. And while I don’t want to reveal too much – even the Team-Rocket template gets a bit of a shake-up – which was surprising and welcome.

When investigating the Titan Pokémon path – not having human trainers directly involved also offered something refreshing. What sticks most in our mind here is our interactions with Arven – a character that is obsessed with cooking and accompanies you whenever you take on a new Titan. While he is somewhat irritating at first, the relationship he has with his beloved Mabosstiff and the role that he plays in the overarching story eventually drew us in and by the end, I was pretty fond of the madcap upperclassman and his ridiculous hair.  On the Victory Road path, while the general process is much the same as in previous games, however, the character of Nemona (your friend/rival) also feels rather unique and I enjoyed the new take. All in all, I was really drawn into each of the characters as well as their part in the overall story – which I think is the best story we’ve had in ages. The general tone of the game is also really positive and as a fan of this lighter mood in games – I really became engaged in completing each path so that I could see how everything turns out and it really was the main force that encouraged us to explore the world of Paldea.

Floragat-open world

After the success of Arceus, I was very excited about the prospect of having an open-world mainline Pokémon game. The promise of going anywhere and especially taking on gyms in any order was really what many of us had dreamed of since the days of Red and Blue. However, I suspect, Violet’s open world will be quite divisive. But, let’s start with the obvious issues that I think almost everyone playing this game will notice: Visually the game does not perform well. Having the ability to walk, glide and climb everywhere in a big open world sounds great. However, because it seems that this game was rushed out so it could be on the shelves for the holiday season (and perhaps also because the Switch’s age is showing a little) means that (especially when docked) you can expect some serious frame rate drops when there are multiple objects on the screen. You’ll also see some serious pop-in and texture issues too. In my playthrough, object hitboxes were often irrelevant with me walking into my ‘mons while talking to them as well as clipping through hills and other objects. I also had three hard crashes. All that being said, the stability patch did improve things and thankfully the auto-save meant I never lost more than a minute or two in gameplay when restarting. And while that’s not a great excuse (especially for those that are shiny hunting and specifically don’t enable auto-save) – it does mean for most players the big move to an open world is slightly less bug-filled than it was at launch.

Visually the game does not perform well… frame rate drops… serious pop-in and texture issues… clipping through objects… and I also had three hard crashes.

Now, to the bits of the open-world design that may be a little controversial and will largely depend on your take on two main topics: How densely populated the world is and whether you prefer level scaling. So first up, I have heard the complaint that the world feels a little empty. I actually only had an issue with this in the cities. You can only enter one building in most cities and entering other shops basically just trigger drop-down menus – and this was a little disappointing. However, in the general wild areas, the world feels small enough – packed sufficiently with wild Pokémon to be caught and other (optional) trainers to take on. I even enjoyed exploring the different biomes, especially the snowy mountains. Sure there are only like four or five really distinct areas and these vary in how they are to explore, however, because they were close enough together I never found myself wishing there was more to interact with and could easily move on to another area if I ever did.

So, that brings us to the issue of level-scaling and exploring the world; Enemies and areas do not have level-scaling and there are therefore some areas where you may arrive and find gyms and Pokémon at levels very different to your own. So, while you can go off in any direction there is a recommended route to take from one area to the next for the ‘smoothest’ experience. So, if you’re a fan of level-scaling this will be a problem. However, while I see the obvious benefits of enemy level-scaling for a true ‘go anywhere’ experience, I’m a bit of an old-school gamer that likes the fact that at some point you become overpowered and can pretty much take on anyone – except maybe a final boss. And so, I actually liked this decision. And while I felt like I was forging my own path – going where I wanted to go, I found the map actually cleverly funnelled me in the so-called ‘right’ direction – and only once did I arrive at a gym and realise that I was quite under-levelled. Even then, I did a bit of grinding and was soon able to take get the badge without too much hassle. And sure, the next gym was therefore probably a little easier than it would normally be, however, given my preference for this kind of set-up and the fact that this only happened once and I never felt that pressure to go anywhere specific I really enjoyed the path I took. It felt like I was forging a unique path and going where I wanted to go – and I think that does say a lot about the design. I found making my way around the map really intuitive and even if you go off in a different direction in your own playthrough, while there are certain areas that probably require Miradion’s unlockable abilities (like gliding and climbing) I wouldn’t be surprised if you can find a route to them anyway with a little XP grinding and ingenuity. And I really love that.

Despite no level-scaling (which I’m not a big fan of anyway) the level design is great!

Meo-wow-scarada post-game

While your own enjoyment of the open world may be different to mine based on your own preferences and while not wanting to diminish the obvious performance and graphical issues, I could not help but keep returning to the game. I think the three starter Pokémon may be my favourite since the originals (even though the final evolutions are really bad). Exploring the world via the three paths and getting to know the characters really pushed me to complete the game and was I actually quite moved by the final part of the story. Something I really didn’t expect. However, what I realised after completing the story is that I still wanted to go back. The open world and ease of movement to the different parts of the map somehow gave me all I wanted from a Pokémon game – I just kept returning. In fact, the only thing that drove me mad when powering it up each time was the music. It isn’t that the music is bad, however, each area seemingly only has one track and when you hear anything on a loop for too long it can start to get annoying and I do wish there was just more to the soundtrack. However, I can also happily report that I enjoyed exploring so much that for the first time, I even found a shiny! I quickly became obsessed with finding more. Plus, thanks to the Sandwich-fueled breeding mechanic which I found much more accessible than previous methods, and the faster way of levelling your ‘mons up by sending them out to battle in the overworld, I am currently more than three-quarters of the way through completing my Pokédex! And if that wasn’t enough the new Terastallize mechanic where (within battle) you can give your ‘mon a whole new type along with the Terra-raid battles has even pushed me to battle online – something that no Pokémon game has ever managed to do.

In short, Violet is an immensely frustrating game to review. It is undoubtedly the Pokémon game I have put the most hours into in recent memory. The open world, three paths and other tweaks not only breath fresh life into the long-running franchise but honestly brought back the addictive joy I had playing the originals on the GameBoy. However, even now almost two months post-launch, I feel I cannot score it more than just “Okay” due to the outrageously disappointing glitches, crashes and similar issues. In short, whether or not you will enjoy this one or quickly delete it in frustration will depend almost exclusively on whether you’re a big fan of the franchise and if you can hold out until the bugs are all ironed out or can manage to overlook them (as I honestly found myself doing). There’s so much to enjoy here and so much promise for where this franchise is heading and it’s sad to that we can’t publicise that without throwing in a long list of caveats that probably wouldn’t be there if Violet simply launched later in 2023.

January 9, 2023

Like this website?

Building SUPER websites is our game

You May Also Like…

Princess Peach: Showtime!

Princess Peach: Showtime!

A welcome re-introduction to Peach’s own adventures with excites us for the future but falls a little flat this time...

Splatoon 3: Side Order

Splatoon 3: Side Order

Splatoon's fresh take on the roguelite genre is interesting in principle but doesn't quite hit the right balance...

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake

A fun, more-content-than-expected remake that shines in short bursts. Because I was one of those kids who regrettably...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *