Wed. Dec 7th, 2022

Pokémon Scarlet and Purple are here, which meant yesterday the internet was full of critics, the media, and influencers giving their verdict on what is arguably one of the most ambitious and varied mainstream Pokémon games of all time. The verdict was positive, but also surprisingly mixed.

Which starter to choose? We got it.

In its current form, Pokemon Scarlet & Violet will be one of the lowest paying mainstream Pokemon titles in franchise history. This Metascore of 77 isn’t entirely bad, but the fact that it came out lower than other equivalent Pokemon games rather took me by surprise – as I made clear in my “It Caught Me By Surprise” when I gave it a 4-star rating. review on VG247. this essentially calls it the best Pokemon game of the last 20 years, along with Legends Arceus released earlier this year as a breath of fresh air that challenges the status quo of the franchise.

But there is an elephant in the room (Donfan?). This is, as I said in my review, performance. People, this is bad. This is probably the worst big budget AAA game I’ve ever seen. And it’s even worse when you consider that it comes from literally one of the biggest franchises on the planet, a brand so powerful that there’s no doubt that more resources could have been thrown at the problem.

This is likely also exacerbated by the fact that Nintendo also released Xenoblade Chronicles 3 earlier this year, a really beautiful Switch-based adventure that seems to stretch the hardware to mind-blowing levels. Somehow Pokemon not only performs worse than Xenoblade 3, it also looks worse. it worst of both worlds. This is, frankly, quite shocking.

Team Star is cool, shame on the performance.

But… dude, what does it matter? For me it depends. I ran into a lot of visual nasties in Pokemon Violet, which was one of the couples I tested. NPCs in the background typically animated at 5fps, popups were liberal (although, it should be noted, not as liberal as in Sonic Frontiers, even on a PC with a $1,500 graphics card and 64GB of memory). and frame drops will occur semi-regularly. The combat camera is confused and stuck inside the world – a world that has a lot of visual flair, to be honest, but also struggles with detail.

But… none of it was technical. The game did not crash, my experience did not deteriorate much. I’ve been pulled out of it from time to time, but most importantly, this new vision of Pokémon is powerful enough that I’m willing to forgive a lot of it and just get on with it. There are types of performance issues that affect the gameplay or make it less playable. But in my experience with the Violet, which was admittedly on the newer Switch OLED model, I haven’t come across any of them.

Is this a static image? As good as the framerate of the game at some points.

As a result, for me, Violet was never going to be a “perfect score” game, but I didn’t want to give up the game I loved so much because of technical issues that amounted to an elusive level of ugliness… but that’s just me. There is no right or wrong answer here – it’s deeply, deeply subjective. And I certainly don’t have the high morals to ignore these issues and enjoy the game for what it is. And no one does the opposite by deciding to skip it because of the ugliness.

But this does raise a question and debate: where do you draw the line? For you personally, how bad does a good game have to be in terms of its technical execution for these problems to overtake all the good things about the game and make it unprofitable for you? Interestingly, on average among people.

Game development is always a matter of compromise and balance – a game that actually works out perfectly is very rare. What level of balance, or lack thereof, is unacceptable? This is probably a topic in gaming that deserves more discussion.