There’s a pesky rule in Pokemon games that means Pokemon of a certain level will only obey you consistently if you’ve got enough gym badges. That can lead to this vexing experience: You know a Gym Leader battle is coming up, so you spend time training up your party. You evolve your main Pokemon, the quarterback of your team, and take it into battle.
Unfortunately, you got too keen. You’ve made your Pokemon too big and too powerful for your own good, so it rebels against some of your commands. The Pokemon is so powerful that you manage to win thanks to it following just enough of your orders, but phew that was close.
This scenario is a good metaphor for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, the biggest Nintendo Switch release of 2022. It’s arguably the most ambitious pair of Pokemon games ever, attempting to fuse Pokemon with a Breath of the Wild-style open world, but Pokemon developer Game Freak may have gotten too keen. The Switch is seemingly not powerful enough to handle the scope of what Game Freak envisioned and, as a result, the game suffers from some serious technical issues.
It feels feeble to yammer on about frame rate issues when talking about a game with the cultural gravitas of Scarlet and Violet, but Pokemon trainers be warned: Things are about to get choppy. The frame rate can stutter at the best of times, and slows to a crawl when you’re in busy areas like towns. The citizens that inhabit these cities often shuffle along like stop-motion animation, missing every second frame. It’s bad enough to make you want to spend as little time as necessary in these locales.
Regular frame rate lags are the biggest technical issue, but not the only ones. Pop-in is rampant. Each area in the world is filled with roaming Pokemon, quarrelsome trainers and gleaming items, but these are sometimes invisible until your character is a few feet away. This open world can look sparse as a result — in spite of the fact that there’s an immense amount to see and do.
That’s a true shame, because Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are, in many ways, the most exciting mainline Pokemon games in years. (That doesn’t count Pokemon Legends: Arceus, a spin-off.) It’s a substantial leap for a franchise known for small steps. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are still rock solid, but lack the fine-tuning of an all-time great.
Like the unruly Pokemon that still manages to clinch victory for you, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet end up a net positive. Technical issues aren’t enough to recommend against playing these games. But phew… at times it’s close.
You quickly link up with the Pokemon on your game’s box — Koraidon for Scarlet players, Miraidon for Violet — earning the ability to travel the world by riding on their backs.
The Pokemon Company
Pokemon’s first open world
On paper, Scarlet and Violet stick to the Pokemon formula that made the franchise a gargantuan success. There are eight gym badges to…