It has been about a month since Pokemon Scarlet and Violet released worldwide on Nintendo Switch digitally and physically. As someone who has never gotten far in Pokemon games since I started trying them back in the 3DS generation, I loved my time with Pokemon Legends: Arceus earlier this year. It was the first non spin-off Pokemon game I enjoyed almost every aspect of, and I was hoping that Pokemon Scarlet and Violet would continue to impress me as a newcomer to the series. Having spent over 50 hours with Pokemon Violet since launch including a dozen or so hours after the recent update, I’ve come away impressed with many aspects of the game, but also disappointed with how unpolished so many aspects feel. For my Pokemon Violet review, I’m going to highlight where the game managed to exceed my expectations, and why it really is held back by its lackluster performance and technical issues even now.
Pokemon Violet did not make a good first impression. I usually avoid reading or watching reviews of games I plan on covering myself, but the noise around Pokemon Scarlet and Violet was a bit too much. When I first booted up the game, I couldn’t play for more than 15 minutes because of motion sickness. The opening area so far is the only area of the game to give me motion sickness, and the draw distance issues did not help. I was shocked at how bad everything looked and felt here. Thankfully, the issues weren’t as bad in later parts of the game, and I didn’t have to worry about motion sickness anymore. I also noticed I had less trouble with the game in handheld mode compared to docked on my monitor. The issues are still present, but they didn’t bother me as much in handheld mode.
With that out of the way, I am glad that my worry about Pokemon Violet feeling like Pokemon Sword and Shield which bored me very quickly, was unfounded. Pokemon Violet is a fantastic game when it comes to its structure, the freedom you get, and the many new Pokemon and trainer designs. I’m not going to spend too much time on the minute details about balance or specific raids, but I’ve enjoyed the actual gameplay and playing with friends online in Pokemon Violet a lot. The strides this entry makes when it comes to quality of life improvements and gameplay aren’t as good as those in Pokemon Legends: Arceus that dramatically improved in key areas, but Pokemon Violet feels like a giant step in the right direction.
One of the additions that dramatically improves Pokemon Violet, is the addition of how playing with others is implemented. In a lot of ways, Pokemon Violet feels like a situation where Game Freak wanted to deliver what fans had been wanting for years, but the end result feels like it was shipped to meet a deadline instead of when fully ready. The non-linear structure, freedom in many aspects, online implementation, plethora of quality content, and new mechanics all add up to make this an excellent game, but one that is held back by so many technical issues. One of the biggest issues I have with Pokemon Violet’s core gameplay is with how sluggish basic battles are. After how easy it was to capture some Pokemon in Pokemon Legends: Arceus, this just feels bad.
Visually, Pokemon Violet is mostly a mess. There are some aspects that can look very good like the sky and specific late-game locations, but generally it looks inconsistent to bad. The combination of poor draw distance, low resolution, and bad textures make this range from a good looking Pokemon game to one of the ugliest full-priced games I’ve played on Switch.
The one consistently good aspect of Pokemon Violet is the soundtrack. Pokemon games usually have very good soundtracks, but this is one of the best the series has had. Even as someone who didn’t play most of the older games, I did listen to the music. I hope the Pokemon Violet soundtrack gets a digital release soon. The different battle and location themes elevate this above every other Switch Pokemon game soundtrack by a lot.
Barring performance and visual fixes, I’d love to see Game Freak add options to speed up basic notifications after battles and in general. Some camera options would also be good because right now it never feels right. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet broke records with the launch sales and I’m hoping they get DLC next year that allows Game Freak more time to improve the core experience and polish things as much as possible. Considering Nintendo directly mentioned the performance issues, I’m hoping we see some improvements soon. As of this writing, it isn’t great even with version 1.1.0.
As someone who owns more than one Switch system, I am annoyed that these games still don’t support cloud saves on Nintendo Switch. It is very annoying having to manually move data each time. The fact that you only have one save file is also annoying. Even Splatoon 3 addressed the cloud save issue with Splatoon 2.
I never did expect to spend so many hours playing Pokemon Violet for review. It made an awful first impression, but the core gameplay loop, freedom you get, and superlative soundtrack elevated it to the Pokemon game I’ve spent the most time with ever. With patches to address the performance and visual issues, it has the potential to be one of the best Switch games, but right now it is a technical mess.