Pokemon Scarlet & Violet is finally here and the reception has been mixed. This isn’t surprising, given signs of the experience being underbaked have been there since the very first trailer. Textures have always looked like garbage, the performance is prone to tank, and Game Freak is clearly drawing more power from the hardware than it’s capable of sustaining. Given the Nintendo Switch launched with Breath of the Wild, there is no excuse good enough for the biggest franchise in the world to be falling short.
Despite its obvious shortcomings and ample complaints, I’ve already seen dozens of people on my social media timelines picking up copies of both games as they’re ready to jump into a pit of pocket monster mediocrity. Attitudes like this mean that nothing is going to change, and Nintendo is well aware it can keep putting in the bare minimum of effort and we’ll eat it all up like good little piggies. It isn’t about laziness, but perhaps complacency mixed with a studio primarily known for handheld titles being asked to produce a triple-A RPG with not nearly enough development time to make it shine. The ageing hardware only makes it worse.
Game Freak hopefully wants to make a better game, or at least one that doesn’t look like it was thrown together in a weekend with textures and character models that wouldn’t look out of place on the PS2. The art design often shines through, but it’s holding up so much these days that the cracks are glaringly obvious. Parts of the environment and creatures even a tiny distance away slow things to a halt, while populated areas make it feel like your Switch is crawling through treacle. It sucks, and you can’t convince me it’s good enough.
Legends: Arceus was a little better I suppose, but even that featured the symptoms of a rushed production and niggles that would have easily ironed out with more resources and time. Its world was sparse and empty, a single hub area cropping up an entire experience which is normally filled with different towns, characters, and cultures waiting to be seen. It had some of that, and many of us were hoping that Scarlet & Violet would build upon its strengths and take us somewhere new. Bad news: it’s just as half-baked, and even the day one patch doesn’t fix things, yet we are still eating it all up regardless.
Pokemon fans not only deserve better, but shouldn’t be so quick to defend a franchise that already has all the money in the world. You don’t need to go to bat for it, nor should you support it without any critique at all. This is precisely how we’ve ended up here, in a mess of annual releases held up by mountains hype only to come crashing down the second we get our hands on them. I’m unsure what the root cause is, and whether I should blame budgets, the pandemic, or a series that is yet to prove itself on home consoles, but it will never have the impetus to grow if we keep supporting its biggest failures. Vote with your wallet, not with nostalgia, and then maybe we can start paving the way forward for change.
We all have such a lifelong nostalgic connection to Pokemon that we are always going to be hoping for another game on the horizon, but the truth is they’re coming too quickly and there is never a chance for Game Freak to innovate, only to produce new gimmicks and throw them away in the next go around. We’re stuck in a vicious cycle and fans are either much too faithful to a corporation they owe nothing to or complacent towards a series that for almost two decades has been unwilling to change. The Nintendo Switch hardware isn’t to blame, and neither are the individual developers working hard to bring games like Scarlet
& Violet to life, so who is? Until we find that out, Pokemon is going to keep on disappointing.
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