The very famous Pokemon franchise returns with a new pair of mainline games: Pokemon Crimson and Pokemon Violet. Now in its ninth generation, the series shows no signs of slowing down, with Nintendo announcing that the game sold 10 million copies in its first week.
Pokémon Violet offers a fun and similar gameplay loop to the one Pokémon Legends: Arceus did earlier this year. It also has a colorful cast of characters that help elevate a rather simple plot. Its most important downside, however, is its presentation and general performance on the Nintendo Switch. How does it rank among the best Nintendo Switch games and series in general? Here are my thoughts after spending a week fighting and collecting Pokémon.
Expansive open world Pokémon adventure
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is by far the most fun and wide-ranging Pokémon game, but you’ll have to live with sub-par graphics and some performance issues.
Pokémon Violet takes place in the Paldea region, and experimented with the open-world format games that Elden Ring, Sonic Frontiers, and Pokémon Legends: Arceus explored this year. This time around, Pokémon combines the open world with the traditional Pokémon structure of collecting all eight Gym Emblems. In Pokemon games, you can travel around the area and capture different Pokemon. Your team can only carry six at a time, but you can still raise as many Pokémon as you like. You can also battle other AI-controlled trainers in Paldea to earn experience points for your Pokemon. This in turn makes them stronger, and once some Pokémon reach a certain level, they can evolve into more powerful forms. This pairing creates an absolutely killer gameplay loop, as the new open-world structure adds new aspects of exploration to the journey that were barely there in previous games.
Collecting badges and then defeating the Elite Four is its own storyline called Road to Victory, but there are two other storylines called Road to Legend and Street of Starfall, both borrowed from Legends: Arceus real-time elements in .
Path of Legends has you battling Titans, which are bigger and stronger versions of regular Pokémon. This is most similar to the boss fights you’ll see in Legends: Arceus. One thing I really like about Titans is that beating them unlocks a new traversal skill, like being able to swim or glide. This gave me the motivation to fight them and open up the world as quickly as possible by using these new traversal skills. The Titans at the end of the storyline are very powerful, so you have to fight gyms and other trainers along the way, making the progression feel natural.
Starfall Street lets you hunt down the hostile Team Star, which has base infiltrations throughout Paldea. From these bases, you can actually send your Pokémon into real-time battles, somewhat similar to those in Legends: Arceus. However, the overall implementation is less stable than Road of Legends. The real-time battles aren’t very engaging, and the biggest problem here is that neither these battles nor the boss fight at the end of each base provide any experience points to level up your Pokémon. So I don’t even understand the point of these.
All gyms, titans and bases are marked on your map. You can pursue all three storylines at the same time as you like. There are limitations, such as the fact that opponents can be extremely high-level if you deviate too far from the intended progression of the game. However, you have plenty of freedom to explore your surroundings for items and Pokémon to catch. It’s fun to be able to complete goals at your own pace.
Each of the three storylines features a protagonist who you get to know throughout the game. Nemoma is your opponent in the Road to Victory storyline, and it’s refreshing that while she’s a powerhouse, she’s also not a bossy sunshine ball like some of her more recent opponents in previous games or an anxious person. Whenever I had to fight, I also found her to be one of the tougher opponents in the game, proving she backed up her barking with a bite.
Arven is the focal point of the Path of Legends storyline, and his character has amazing depth. Without spoiling any spoilers, his intentions to find the Titans seem shady at first, but then you learn that his goals are noble. His is definitely the most visceral of the three storylines.
In the Starfall Street storyline, you take part in Operation Starfall, in which an anonymous figure asks you to dismantle five Team Star bases in Paldea. Each base has a boss, and once they’ve been defeated, you learn their backstory and how Team Star came to be in the first place. It’s a very touching story and sets Team Star apart from other villains in previous Pokémon games.
Tons of post-game and competitive content
After completing all three storylines and experiencing the epilogue of the main game’s plot, there’s still plenty of content to delve into. You can play rematch with all eight gym leaders, and there are tons of brand new Pokémon to catch. In addition, Pokémon also has rich arena scenes. Over the years, Game Freak has implemented more quality of life features that make it easier to create more competitive Pokémon. For example, if one of your Pokémon doesn’t have the ability you want, you can buy special items to change it.
The game’s online ranked battle system was recently launched through the in-game battle arena, allowing players to compete against others around the world. Players have a rank that goes up and down based on their wins and losses. These are sure to be the most intense battles, so those who love Pokémon battles will spend hundreds of hours building their teams.
That’s the worst part about Pokémon Violet — the game doesn’t play well on Nintendo Switch hardware, even on the latest OLED model I’ve played. It loads very slowly and the frame rate stutters constantly. It’s very frustrating because when I’m roaming the open world, a lot of times Pokemon will pop up in front of me and initiate a fight when I don’t want to.
I’ve also had glitches where sometimes my Pokémon would fall off the floor during Pokémon battles. The battle will continue, but it’s visually distracting when my Pokemon aren’t on the field.
In multiple instances, the game would not allow me to pick up items on the ground. I have to temporarily go to my Switch’s home screen, then return to the game to register my button inputs. There were also a few times during battles where my character would stand on the other side of the field, away from where my Pokémon were.
It’s shocking how many bugs and glitches there are in this game, especially for a mainstay version like Pokémon. While Legends: Arceus had some performance issues, it was never as frequent or disruptive as Violet.
While the Pokémon themselves look nice, the environments look very ugly and outdated. The game lacks a coherent art style, and all textures look blurry. Honestly, it doesn’t look much better than Nintendo’s GameCube games from the mid-2000s.
It’s also a step backwards for Legend of Arceus in this regard, as at least the game’s art style is inspired by ancient Japan. Graphics aren’t everything, but even 2017’s The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looked miles better than Pokémon Violet. The Switch itself isn’t to blame either, as the console is absolutely capable of delivering great-looking games in stunning environments.
Monster Hunter Rise, Shin Megami Tensei V, and Xenoblade Chronicles 3 are examples of games with open-world elements and above-average graphics that no new mainline Pokémon game can match.
When using the game’s online features, it’s actually pretty smooth if you can get involved. A couple of my buddies and I tried four-player co-op, and even though we’re all registered friends with each other on the Switch system, we had a hard time teaming up. However, once we managed to get together, we were able to maintain a steady connection throughout the session, and Paldea was much more fun when exploring with other people.
When we tried to participate in Tera Raids, which are four-player cooperative battles against a single special Pokémon, I kept getting errors saying I couldn’t join because I had Pokémon in my team. I searched to see if other players had this problem and the solution was to keep opting in to the option. It finally worked! I thought maybe one of my Pokémon was too high level compared to the rest of my co-op group, but no, it’s just a bad online service.
Pokemon Violet is by far the most fun 3D Pokemon game I’ve ever played. The combination of open world progression and traditional structure has created a winning formula that I hope to see improved upon in future games. While the story is simple, the characters’ engaging personalities kept me hooked throughout the three storylines until the very end. The game also features some of the best music I’ve heard from the series in a while, and Team Star’s boss battle in particular has an absolutely rousing guitar theme.
However, the game’s sluggish performance and poor visuals are completely inexcusable. Nintendo is known for its quality first-party games, but the annualization of Pokemon is starting to make it look like an exception. It was shocking to see how many steps forward Legend: Arceus took, but then to see Violet take half a step back.
That being said, if you can work out the kinks, you’ll have a good time here. Between the game’s single-player and online modes, there’s a lot to keep you playing for hours.