Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Scarlet/Violet opens up Pokémon

Last year, I watched my wife play Pokeman Arceus. (Yes, I know the full name is longer than that but I've never heard anyone actually call it anything but Pokeman Arceus) At the time, it struck me as an ambitious experiment. It did a number of interesting things but it fell short in a number of ways. In particular, it clearly started poking at the idea of an open world, sandbox Pokeman game but it didn't make it all the way.

Now I've been watching my wife play Pokeman Violet and, quite frankly, it delivers on what we both hoped Arceus would be. It's still not a perfect Pokeman game and it's still not a perfect open world sandbox but it comes a whole lot closer. (Frankly, I don't think there can be a perfect Pokeman game. I think that the whole point is eternally finding new spins on catching super-powered monsters for cage matches)  

In Arceus, you didn't actually have an open world. You had patches of open space. And, more subtly and more importantly, there was a linear story structure.

There is an overarching story to Scarlet/Violet. However, in addition to having a legit open world map, you have eighteen individual steps/adventures to open the endgame. However, you can do those steps in any order you choose. We are pretty sure there is an ideal order but you don't have to follow it. More than that, there are a lot of side quests, some of them the size of the 'story' adventures. You don't need to do them to complete the story. And that also means that there is plenty to do after you complete the storyline, which is one of the hallmarks of an open world, sandbox game.

There are elements that Arceus had that I liked that aren't in Scarlet/Violet. In that game, Pokeman could actually attack the player. It brought the idea of being in a world full of wild animals that had incredible superpowers to a whole new sharpness. I mean, if I lived in a Pokeman world, I'd be scared to go outside. But I can see how that might mess with gameplay and the tradition of having your superpowered monsters do all the heavy lifting.

If you don't like Pokeman or don't care about Pokeman, Scarlet/Violet won't change that. However, it takes the formula of gym battles and hunting in the tall grass and makes in shiny and new.

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