Developer: Game Freak
Genre(s): RPG, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 18/11/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Something Like A Phenomenon
Ten Million Copies sold in just 3 days. Just let that soak in. Its quite unbelievable to comprehend that Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have just broken Nintendos all time sales records. You’d have had to be living on a different planet not to know the absolute phenomenon that is the world of Pokemon.
The concept is simple. Learn the ways of becoming a Pokemon trainer. Then capture these quirky wild Pocket Monsters. Next, nurture and evolve them. Then battle it out Gym to Gym until you become a Pokemon Champion. Yet an awful lot has changed since its gaming debut in February 1996.
These latest entries have arrived with some incredibly bold commitments. Pokemon Violet offers a first truly open world experience, with 3 main stories to explore at your own leisure and pace.
The first option allows you to follow the typical convention. Defeat the 8 Gym Leaders, acquire Gym badges and head off to the Pokemon league for a final battle with the best of the best. If successful then you are crowned a Pokemon Champion. There is a curveball thrown in for good measure this time around, that spices things up a little bit. Each Gym requires all challengers to complete a Gym Trial prior to commencing your battles. The tasks at hand here are varied and quirky. From discovering secret menu items, to rolling seeds around an obstacle course followed by an intense game of eye spy. Sound weird? It is, yet the execution is fun and enjoyable. Almost like a throwback to mini-games like Bishi Bashi Special.
Interestingly the Victory Road journey feels almost a smaller part of the total experience. The two other story threads are a little more interesting.
Clash Of The Titans
Our second story called Path of Legends involves a blossoming friendship with classmate Arven, who wants to hunt down some rare herbal ingredients that are guarded by 5 mysterious Titan Pokemon. The execution here is a little flawed, with battles involving a double team approach to topple these super powerful Pokemon. You are able to tackle each stage in whatever order suits you, yet until the final Titan it really wasn’t a challenge at all. I often finished these giants off in one move. The storyline begins to open up after titan number 2, and honestly becomes one of the most heartwarming of moments in the game, with a level of storytelling delivered superbly.
The third chapter of this open world tale, involves a collaborative mission alongside the mysterious Cassiopeia and master of disguise Clive. Our parameters are to bring down the 5 Team Star bases, and dispose of their Base Leaders. Things are a little less conventional here however. When you arrive at the gates of these squad bases you are required to battle 30 free roaming Pokemon, with the Top 3 Pokemon of your own. If successful the Boss will make an appearance and a more conventional battle will ensue. The odd part really is that the 30 Pokemon battle was never the remote bit challenging, it just took a little time to find them all. I was honestly not the biggest fan of these missions and they often felt like a bit of grind to advance the storyline.
So What Else is New?
The ability to freely explore the world map offers unlimited opportunities to really play Pokemon Violet however you should choose to. You are able to bring your Pokemon out alongside you at anytime, and a swift tap of the R button will have them commence auto-battles with wild Pokemon as well as collect items for you. A great innovation for boosting XP and keeping the game flowing. You can even have a relaxing picnic with your new friends.
In addition there are new shared battle experiences, which can be played offline or with friends. These Tera Raid Battles, allow you plus 3 friends to take on a Terastallizing Pokemon out in the wild. This can be for the kudos of sometimes rarer captures as well as Rare Candy and XP boosting rewards for your hard work. When a Pokemon Terastralizes, its usual type is changed to Tera. This change varies from Pokemon to Pokemon and can even be different within the same species. For example, Pikachu’s usual type is Electric but its Tera Type typically moves to Flying when it becomes Terastral. This allows for a different more strategic approach to battles and could even save you when you’re up against a strong enemy that originally had an advantage over you. When it comes to the Tera Raids themselves these seemingly random encounters incorporate a star rating for difficulty. Anything less than 3 stars rarely offered much of a challenge, and honestly until around 15 hours into the game itself, it never felt much of a challenge at any stage.
It’s No Oil Painting
The elephant in the room. Pokemon Violet is rarely a pretty game. In fact its riddled with hideous textures. Transitions between scenes tear like old wallpaper. The mountain ranges and waterfalls look like they’ve been lifted out of Banjo Kazooie on the N64. The draw distance results in horrendous pop-in. For example, when exploring the world map, there are vast empty landscapes. Until suddenly a Pokemon floats in like a ghost, then pops back out of sight. Performance is also a challenge with frame rates grinding to a halt at times with a shudder. Its also absolutely not worth the effort of trying to play docked right now, with frame rates even worse as the game attempts to upscale resolution.
These things are such a shame really, and there’s no excuse for this game to look and perform worse than Pokemon Arceus. Many may state that this is truly an example of the Nintendo Switch being pushed to its limits. To those people allow me to kindly point you in the direction of Monolith Soft the wizards that created the tremendously beautiful Xenoblade games. I will add that the character designs, details, light and shadow are mostly effective throughout. Just whoever was responsible for the scenery and texture finishing work; this just isn’t good enough.
The saving grace for Pokemon Violet is the story arc, detail, character development and execution which is just absolutely superb. I’ve been hooked from start to finish. These are truly characters I care about, and this past week has seen far too many late nights as I’ve struggled to put the Switch down. Engrossing does not do it justice.
The Final Third
So… once you’ve finally drawn each of these three cleverly interwoven storylines to their conclusions, you’ve reached the end right? Nope. Honestly this is where it gets just phenomenal. We shift from traditional Pokemon RPG, to what I can only describe as a Final Fantasy tier JRPG final third of the game. Its emotionally explosive and truly bonkers in the most endearing of ways. As I dodge spoilers, its important for me to state.. you need to play this game. Ridiculous performance issues aside, it just on the balance of things doesn’t really matter. As the final credits role and Ed Sheeran blasts out his latest pop efforts, I’ve settled that Pokemon Violet is the most engrossing Pokemon game yet. The open world enhancements are mostly well executed, the script impeccable and a support cast of characters brings this world to life.
Whether you are an old school Charizard wielder that memorised every single silhouette of 151 Kanto originals or a modern day Skeledirge owner that lost track after we hit 1000. Whether new to the series or a die hard Pokedex completionist there is something for absolutely everybody on offer here. It’s a must buy. Now excuse me… Scarlet is calling my name.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
Pokémon Violet is available to purchase from the Nintendo eShop here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.