Like several other millions of people, I have been playing the new Pokémon game. I say millions because in just three days after the Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet games were released, Nintendo sold over 10 million copies of the titles combined. The highly anticipated 9th main franchise installment in the Pokémon series is both better than I ever imagined and buggy as a termite infestation in an old wooden house.
Upon receiving our double pack from the store, my husband, Neal, chose Pokémon Violet, leaving me with Scarlet. I’ve seen a few memes online indicating that Violet is much more popular than Scarlet, but after seeing both legendary pokémon and the different paradox pokémon, I’m team Scarlet all the way.
I really enjoyed the open story aspect of Pokémon SV. The world map provided hints about which areas to start first, middle, and last, but I didn’t really need them. Similar to my experience with Pokémon Sword and Shield (SwSh), I explored way more than I should have between completing story missions. As a result, I was quickly 10-20 levels over my opponents in most missions. The Pokémon league and final mission put up more of a fight, but I still only had to redo one battle.
The open world is amazing. It’s no wonder there are so many lag issues and the frame rate drops like a midwestern driver seeing a police car up ahead. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore. I’ve spent hours roaming the countryside, and I think I’ve only found 1/3 of the mysterious stakes needed to unlock the ruinous gates.
I chose Sprigatito as my starter. Neal chose Fuecoco, and Vince Mahoney chose Quaxly, so I decided to take the last one. Not going to lie, there was a lot of smack talk against Sprigatito. Grass-type pokémon are inherently the weakest starting type, and fans were not too pleased that the final form was another bi-pedal cat. I was surprised to find I actually preferred the final evolution of the grass starter over the other two. Meowscarada has a rather dashing personality and design, and its signature move always hits and always crits.
It was interesting to play through a new generation of Pokémon with Neal. I was immediately hooked on some of the new pokémon. The Paldean Wooper’s Poison/Ground-type was very useful on my team. I was also quickly drawn to Flamigo with it being a dual Fighting/Flying -type pokémon. I put Fidough in my party early on because its Fairy-type pokémon strengths were useful to have when forming the team, but I fully expected to replace it. (When players get Fidough to level 26, it evolves into Dachsbun. Players can also add Dachsbun to their lineup by catching it in fully evolved form later in the game.) I did not anticipate falling in love with the idea of having Dachsbun as part of the team lineup. I’ll admit, the bread dog combo is still a little creepy to me, but Dachsbun has been one of my stronger starting pokémon. With Dachsbun’s ability called Well-Baked Body (which protects Dachsbuns from Fire-type move hits) and its strengths in defense with decent speed, it’s my top pick for the upcoming Charizard dragon tera type raids. But my favorite pokémon from the gen has to be Pawmot. Vince, Neal, and I were discussing the fact that this Electric-type mouse pokémon is so common it’s (nearly) irritating how every new gen has to have one, but Vince and I agree that Pawmi / Pawmo / Pawmot is by far the best one since Pickachu / Raichu. Pawmot’s hidden ability is Iron Fist, which increases the power of all punching moves by 20%. You can also have it hold the item Punching Glove, which further boosts the power of its punching move as well as prevents direct contact with targets. Pawmot can learn Thunder Punch, as well as Ice Punch and Fire Punch. My one real complaint with Pawmot is that it can only learn one punching fighting move and only as an egg move.
The game really takes you by surprise towards the end. The three separate story lines feel like typical Pokémon challenges. Defeat the gym leaders while taking on whatever rogue group is in power. The titans add a nice addition, but nothing too out of the ordinary. Neal quickly surged ahead of me in the story (I told you I spent too much time exploring), so I was able to pick up on some of the foreshadowing that could have easily been missed. It was mostly comments made by Arven, but I was also able to pick up on the secret identity of Cassiopeia fairly quickly. The story gets dark, even for a Pokémon title. (I’m just going to apologize upfront if this line is also used in the review of this title from Neal and Vince. I’m totally quoting Neal verbatim with this line.) I won’t spoil it, but I think I did tear up towards the end. Also, we joked that the writers did a better job of tying together three different story lines than Fire Emblem Three Houses.
I want to briefly touch on a few things that Pokémon SV does right compared to SwSh, and a couple areas where it took a step back. The union circle mechanic is a vast improvement over the meet up system in the wild area in SwSh. The one drawback is it always seems to transport both parties to a different location, instead of just bringing everyone to the starting location of the person who initiated the group. I also love the new breeding mechanic. I’ve got to be honest, I was super salty when I first heard about it. It doesn’t help that I was told it would take up to ten minutes for the first egg to appear. After actually breeding a couple pokémon, I quickly changed my tune. First off, it was an essential change. Imagine having only a handful of places to breed your pokémon in all of that open world. No thank you. Also, if you make sandwiches to increase your Egg Power, the eggs quickly overflow the basket. In just a thirty-minute period, I was able to collect fifty-six eggs. You also don’t have to collect just one egg at a time. My current record is nine eggs in one collection. It’s honestly stellar. The other improvement is the surprise trades. They are lighting fast now. Sometimes I barely close out of the trade window before the notification pops up that the surprise trade has been completed.
The last major improvement is the raid system. It’s also the worst part of the game. Allow me to explain. If you are in a union circle group, and one member initiates a raid, a notification pops up for you to immediately join the raid. There were so many times I couldn’t find a friend’s raid in SwSh it was infuriating. The drawback of this is you can either have your group join the raid, request a raid code, or let anyone join the raid. If you are raiding with only one other person, you are forced to have computer NPCs raid with you. And it’s not even worth trying to find your friend’s raid on the Poké Portal dashboard. The dashboard makes you wait a certain amount of time before you can refresh, and it takes a good ten to fifteen seconds for the new raids to appear. My biggest gripe is just how long it takes for the server to decide if you can enter the raid or not. I don’t understand how it’s 5x longer than in SwSh. I won’t even get into the bugginess of the actual raids themselves. If you’ve attempted anything over 3 stars, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I’m hoping the raids get fixed quickly, especially since the Charizard event is currently happening.