It will of be no surprise to anyone that my first blog back is about Pokémon, especially seeing as in the time since my last post the new games, Pokémon Scarlet & Violet have been announced. This year I have written twice about Pokémon; once where I was reviewing Legends of Arceus, the new game that landed early 2022 and once where I was considering the future of Pokémon as a franchise and how this 2022 provided GameFreak with an opportunity to turn things around as faith in the series was, apparently, wavering. The announcement of Scarlet and Violet asks two questions from both these posts; firstly, does it draw enough from the widely praised Arceus instalment and secondly, is it enough to revitalise Pokémon?
What have we seen so far?
Best place to begin is what have we seen and what do we know? At the end of February we were treated to the annoucement trailer below which started off with a lot of people expecting to be Detective Pikachu 2 given the focus on Live Action however once that music kicks in and we see the room full of hints and clue, we all knew what this meant… and I won’t lie I got goosebumps.
The trailer shows the world but not a great deal of actual gameplay (exploring, battling etc) which worried some people as you’d have hoped to see more of that, especially with the speculation as to what influence the new mechanics in Legends of Arceus would have had. The world looked cool but sparse with questionable textures points so although there was excitement at the launch of the next generation, there was also a lot of apprehension. The new textures on the actual Pokémon looked great though with the models looking polished and updated so there was reason to believe and hope yet.
We also had the room full of clues which fans are still crawling through now and attributing to leaks, rumours and information to make sense of what they have seen. Some things have been confirmed for example, with the crests with the wheel and grapes on appearing to correlate to the two schools unique to each version, as well as more speculative interpretations of symbols relating to a pirate based enemy team for example. It is clear that the region is influenced though, largely, by Spain and Portugal which is great as we will get those Mediterranean influences in the game while also, maybe a link to Kalos which was based on France. The other big reveal that was welcomed was the reveal of the starters; Sprigatito, the grass type cat, Fuecoco, the fire type crocodile and Quaxly, the water type duck.
After this though there was a long painful wait for fans as we waited for the next morsel of news and by the time June came round we would have taken anything as even the leak and rumour mill was running dry. However, June 1st saw us receive the below trailer:
A much more expansive trailer, this trailer showcased more of the world, which looks more polished than the announcement trailer, as well as some new features and confirmation of the battle system. Firstly, Co-Op is coming to the game in a big way with the ability to team up with 3 others and explore the world together or independent of each other although we are waiting for further clarification on the limitations of this (how does battling & catching work for example?). We see the schools, the very chiselled professors and plenty more in of exploring the world. It looks like you can sneak around still like in Arceus however it is yet to be officially confirmed if you can catch directly from the overworld as in one scene we see the player sneaking up to initiate a battle with one of the new Pokémon, Smolive, suggesting battling is still a requirement. We also see the two legendary Pokémon, Koraidon and Miraidon, and I’ve got to say these are some the best legendary designs we have seen in a long time.
It is evident that the games are going to be playing with the concept of time given there is a distinct creative style difference between Scarlet and Violet; Scarlet seemingly embracing the past while Violet is all about the future. The colours and styles used in the logos show this difference with Scarlet having a more elegant, tribal red and gold design while Violet has the jagged and electric border design. The professors, Sada for Scarlet and Turo for Violet, literally translate to past and future respectively, with Sada wearing a cavewoman inspired get-up while Turo is dressed in a black and purple futuristic bodysuit. And even on top of this, the legendaries themselves reflect this concept with Koraidon adorned in regal feathers similar to warriors of old while Miraidon is neon and metallic, reminiscent of robots and future tech.
My Starter -Fuecoco
We don’t know a lot about the starter but who can deny that a little fire crocodile won’t turn into something cool? That being said, I have been burnt before… Litten turned into a very cool Torracat and paved the way for a badass fire panther/tiger sort of Pokémon… and instead we got a bipedal, Tony the Tiger Incineroar. Rumours and leaks suggest that this could become a Fire/Ghost type which would be cool, potentially also based on a Bell Pepper so having a crocodile pepper ghost would be intriguing. I have always liked the fire types so I would likely have been drawn to Fuecoco anyway, although Sprigatito could always create the awesome cat Pokémon that Litten failed to do. Besides a croc though, could we get a fire dinosaur? Or some people are expecting a basilisk/snake sort of evolution? Either way this is my fiery little croc and until I see what it becomes I am Team Fuecoco.
What don’t we know?
There is a lot we don’t know. We don’t even have the region name at this point however I think that will be revealed soon as 8 days ago the Galar ‘travel’ short was released (I have kindly put it to the left). Pokemon have been working through all the destinations with Kalos 3 weeks ago, Alola 2 weeks ago and Galar last week meaning that it has been going in game order so we could well see the new location name any day now…
There are also a lot of new Pokemon to be revealed but more than happy for that to be a surprise. We don’t know anything about the ‘gimmick’ of the game either; Alola had Z Moves, Kalos had Mega Evolution and Galar had Dynamaxing for example so we are expecting something similar for Scarlet and Violet. Some people are speculating a return of Megas (which would be awesome) whereas others are tying in the types and speculating that Pokemon types can be changed within a battle. There is also talk of Past & Future forms, a game version variant where Scarlet has past versions of forms while Violet has future versions – a great concept but also still complete guesswork. At the end of the day we are still early in the marketing cycle and we are sure to find out more as the November release day approaches.
A new generation means a new opportunity to impress… or disappoint
In my eyes there is a lot riding on this generation. A lot of veteran players have been losing faith in GameFreak’s ability to create a truly awesome Pokémon game that rivals gamers expectations of today. Arceus went a way in improving what can be done in a Pokémon game, however this is also a bit of a double edged sword as if they don’t take these features and learnings (some of which already look absent) then it actually counts against the franchise and the studio’s inability to learn and grow. The world looks to be huge and open which is great and hopefully a main game first but it will always be compared against games like BotW meaning it also has huge shoes to fill. Casual, older players however aren’t likely to be enticed back by these games, and I know plenty of people who simply won’t bother with Pokémon unless they drastically revitalise the series. So essentially Pokémon has a huge, uphill struggle ahead of it if it seeks to win back the older, casual players who are more than likely going to be disappointed. On the other hand, and this is something the vocal older crowd don’t consider, there are always new fans joining the community and this game could represent the peak of Pokémon so far for these fresh fans. Although this includes the newer players who have only discovered Pokémon despite playing games for years, we have to also consider that there are a lot of youngsters who will have Scarlet and Violet as their entry into the franchise. They are unsullied with the nostalgia of what has come before and aren’t tired by the drain of generation on generation and will instead appreciate what could be well polished and also pretty expansive games.
There is a lot of reason for me, personally, to hope. The leak and rumour mill is suggesting we could see one of the biggest Pokedexes yet meaning new critters to battle and train, a potential for some cool features involving time travel (lets not forget it’s proximity to the Arceus release, a game set in the past…) and hopefully a new challenge that offers something we are yet to see in the franchise. It has 4 player co-op which is awesome although a lot of my friends have written off these games so that may be under-utilised for me but you never know I may get some time in with one or two of my die-hard trainer friends. An open world that can be explored, seemingly in your own order, is an awesome concept that will make the game and subsequent replays of the series entertaining and may be the thing that makes me waste my money on buying both copies again.