Pokemon Violet innovates upon the series

The new gimmick of the Pokemon Violet and Pokemon Scarlet games is the Terastal phenomenon, which only occurs in Paldea (the setting of both games) and transforms Pokemon into Teratypes with a gem-like appearance and special abilities. // Photo courtesy of Pokemon

Our Take: 4/5 Stars

Last November saw the release of Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet, the mainline games of the ninth generation of the Pokemon franchise. With their hyped release came criticism for their performance and graphics, but the drawbacks hardly taint the fun and innovativeness that these new games bring to the tried-and-true series.

Pokemon Violet built off of the innovations from a previous 2022 release, Pokemon Legends: Arceus. This game introduced an open-world environment and new options for traversing the terrain. While Legends: Arceus felt like an awkward step between more traditional Pokemon games, Violet was able to neatly fold its predecessor’s highlights into the expected Pokemon formula.

Starting Violet quickly immerses the player into the generation’s Paldea region although it has some stumbles. The game is bright and cheery — not as beautiful as many players hoped — but a step up from the disappointing graphics of the previous generation. Soon the player may notice the various performance issues that marred the game’s launch as the frame rate seems to fluctuate between every area and graphical glitches begin to appear.

Looking past these hurdles, the player soon meets their rival and other supporting characters, which are notably more developed and less annoying than in previous installments. They also meet the starter Pokemon, which hint at the excellent designs of the new generation. Each Pokemon feels unique, not only with their physical designs, but almost all of the Paldean Pokemon have a special move, ability or other mechanic to set them apart.

While the game is somewhat slow in the first hour or two, the player can begin exploring the open world on their own and must do so to thoroughly enjoy the game. Exploration is rewarded at every corner; whether that reward is with items or a rarer Pokemon spawn, traveling off the beaten path is essential for Pokemon Violet. 

This exploration is aided by one of the innovations from Pokemon Legends: Arceus: riding on a Pokemon to increase your mobility. All travel functions are condensed into the legendary Pokemon, Miraidon, in Violet, which serves as your metal dog-horse-monster for getting around Paldea. Having Miraidon available from the start of the game makes the open world a much more traversable space, allowing you to explore to your heart’s content.

After rejoining the game’s plot, the player is introduced to the three simultaneous storylines which can be completed in any order. This process differs from previous generations that had strict, linear and often boring stories; the newfound freedom complements the open-world environment well. However, this sometimes backfires as the player stumbles onto locations either under- or over-leveled, implying that some guidance would improve the experience and prevent some embarrassing losses. Whatever path the player takes, the three stories show impressive depth for a Pokemon game. 

While one path includes the familiar gym battles, defeating Team Star introduces some interesting (although mostly underwhelming) mechanics and conquering the game’s Titan Pokemon can conjure more emotions than anyone would expect in a Pokemon game.

After the player finishes the separate storylines, allies from each one will join the player for a final push towards Area Zero, a large and mysterious crater alluded to during the mainline game. Wrapping up the majority of the game’s storytelling elements, this ending serves as a nice cap on the surprisingly good plots from a Pokemon game. 

Even after the completion of the main game, Violet still contains much to do and reflect on. The gimmick for this installment, the Terastal phenomenon, seems like the most balanced and widely accepted addition from the past four generations, adding some depth to the battling experience while simultaneously benefiting all Pokemon. The associated Tera Raid Battles host many of the game’s noticeable bugs, but overall are an improvement from the previous generation’s raid dens.

While casual players can stop there, Violet has continued the trend of making the more niche parts of the game accessible to everyone. From improvements for shiny hunting to easier competitive building, the ninth-generation games invite all players to get involved with these communities with less time commitment than before.

In the months since its release, Violet has delivered on advancing the franchise in new directions, although its technical issues still impede it. It can be expected that the DLC for this game will be released in the future, as the vast amount of content in Violet does not fully eclipse the sense of a larger game waiting beyond the map’s borders. 

Future updates fixing the game’s performance issues would also be appreciated, and together these additions would make Violet feel more complete and polished.