Nintendo Switch Review: Pokémon Violet

Is the new Pokémon game a Shrinking Violet?

The Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet games, the newest chapters in the Pokémon series, are coming to Nintendo Switch. With these new titles, the Pokémon series takes a new evolutionary step, allowing you to explore freely in a richly expressed open world. Various towns blend seamlessly into the wilderness with no borders. You’ll be able to see the Pokémon of this region in the skies, in the seas, in the forests, on the streets all over! You’ll be able to experience the true joy of the Pokémon series battling against wild Pokémon in order to catch them now in an open-world game that players of any age can enjoy.

The latest Pokémon title from Game Freak takes us to the land of Paldea and has your character enrol at the nearby academy which acts as the opening, teaching you the basics which you should be familiar with if you’ve ever played a Pokémon game before. Violet takes us into a more open-world than past entries and it certainly is ambitious in its scope, but just how does it hold up?

A lot has been made of the performance woes since launch and while Nintendo will definitely be working on patches to improve it, it does feel like they had to get it out before the holidays. There are a variety of issues with the game’s performance from framerate drops to animation bugs like NPCs walking at a weird pace compared to others, NPCs vanishing and reappearing depending on camera position and other odd graphical glitches like characters eyes getting huge and the list goes on. Some have even become meme worthy, which isn’t ideal considering how great the past entries have been so far.

I do have faith though that the patches that come out in December will definitely improve things and while most of the issues are to do with the framerate and weird visual glitches, I can’t actually say I came across anything that was actually game-breaking. It just seemed to be more mildly amusing than anything. So what about the game itself?

You can decide to work on beating all the Gym Leaders and becoming the ultimate Pokémon fighter, you can try and collect as many Pokémon as you can and there are all manner of story content and side-quests thrown in to keep you busy as well. The land of Paldea is pretty big but after a short time you will get to ride a Pokémon like a vehicle which makes getting around a lot easier. It did feel a bit odd and hilarious at first but I did get used to it after a while and it became second nature.

Combat is the same turn-based system as it has always been, but entering fights is more than random as you can see all Pokémon around you, so you can choose to attack or avoid them, and you can even send out your Pokémon to fight others without entering a full-on battle sometimes. There are some good ideas thrown in here that shows that Game Freak still have what it takes to deliver a solid Pokémon experience.

Like I said, the game has a long way to go before it hits the peak performance we hope it can deliver. I know the Switch is fairly old hardware now, but I know it can still push itself pretty far if its optimised correctly. The visuals themselves are pretty standard but vibrant and well animated, even with the visual bugs. The soundtrack is typical of the series and there’s no voice-acting to speak of, which begins the debate of if the next Pokémon should include it or not.

The Verdict

Pokémon Violet has some great ideas, and the open world is certainly ambitious. It is however let down by performance issues that hold it back from greatness. I’m hopeful updates will improve the experience and then it can become the Pokémon game I know it can be. Until then, the game is a good one instead of a great one.

Score: 8.0