Let's get this out of the way: The technical state of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is pretty shocking. It's buggy, it's broken, and sure, it makes for very funny glitch videos, but for what a full-price Nintendo Switch game costs these days, it should have launched in a much better state.
But we've already written extensively about the problems with Pokémon ScarVi. Alex has given us his thoughts on how to improve the open world, and we've got a massive list of 30 things we'd like to see in the next update, too.
This article is not intended to excuse all of that, but to celebrate the designers, artists, and developers on the Game Freak team that did great work — work that is getting overshadowed by the problems with the game.
Because, honestly, there's a lot to love about Scarlet and Violet's redesigning of the Pokéworld and its inhabitants — and we did. Pokémon games have made very slow progress over the years, almost as if Game Freak is reluctant to change too much lest it all come crashing down, but there are the seeds of great new ideas hidden under all the jank, and we just want to make sure they don't go unacknowledged... or else we'll end up with something safe and boring for the next Pokémon release.
So, here are 14 things that we love in Pokémon ScarVi — despite, you know, the other attention-grabbing stuff.
The Things That Pokémon Scarlet And Violet Get Right
This goes without saying, doesn't it? The open world in ScarVi may not look particularly pretty, especially when held up against Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles 3, but it has beautiful bones. The verticality of some areas offers promise of adventure; the huge map with its different biomes inspires us in a Zelda-like way to imagine what each one has in store; and being able to see something exciting above or below you, and knowing that you can travel there — well, that was the whole thing with Skyrim, wasn't it?
The Pokémon series maps so well onto an open world that we're surprised this is the first time we've seen it properly implemented in a Pokémon game. And yes, it's not perfect. But we don't want to go back to the linear world ever again.
Speaking of linearity, we love the ability to do things in whatever order we like. The argument against this, of course, is that the Pokémon and gym encounters don't scale, but honestly, that's part of the fun. The challenge of being able to get to a gym but pushing your luck in terms of your team's strength makes it feel like you're being daring — kind of like running straight to Hyrule Castle in BOTW and giving it a go with nothing but three hearts to your name.
If we had to suggest a change for this to make it a bit better, it wouldn't necessarily be level scaling... it would be letting us cheese our way through a high-level battle, like taking on a Lynel in the early days of BOTW.
Outdoor Pokémon Centers
It's unbelievably freeing to be able to rock up to a Pokémon Center without having to head to a town... or even head inside. Listen, all we want is to heal up our Pokémon and go, and having Poké Centers be as friction-free as possible makes this a much more pleasant experience. The fact that they're combined with Poké Marts and the TM Machine is just the cherry on top.
YES. NEVER GET RID OF THIS FEATURE. Let's Go is maybe the best new thing about these games, because it once again gets rid of some of the biggest sources of friction in the Pokémon games — the slowness of battles. Now that we can see Pokémon out in the wild (thanks, Sword & Shield), we can avoid them, unlike the old days with that pesky long grass, but if we still want XP, we can throw out our Pokémon and let them figure it out themselves. It's worth the reduction in XP for the sheer amount of time and effort it saves. Brilliant stuff.
Is this new, or have we just forgotten? Either way, we love having our sellable stuff — Nuggets, Stardust, and all that — separated into its own pocket. This means that we can always be 100% certain that an item like Rare Bone is made for selling, and not some obscure evolution ritual. GG, Game Freak.
The clothing (except for the uniform)
When we're not yelling about being forced to wear those HORRIBLE shorts, we're actually quite impressed with the selection and colours of the clothes in Paldea. We can be goth, pastel, biker chic, designer... as long as we're a school-themed version of all of those things. Sigh.
Trainers being more chill
Some of us have anxiety and really hate eye contact. It's a genuine surprise to see that trainers no longer run up to you as soon as they see you, because Pokémon should not feel like a stealth game!
Some of us don't want to give Pokémon a nickname, like, ever. Being able to save a couple of seconds of our time by not having to say "no" every time we catch a new Pokémon may not sound like much, but it's fantastic to have our preferences reflected in the settings.
Not really much to say about this one, but the soundtrack is perfect. We're really glad that Pokémon Sword & Shield's football-style chants for the gym battles made a triumphant return, even if it does make less sense with only a handful of people watching as opposed to a whole stadium.
And yes, we're glad to hear some Toby Fox-ass music in the soundtrack too.
Keep going to page 2 for even more things we love about Pokémon Scarlet and Violet...