As A Recent Pokémon Convert I’m Excited For Scarlet And Gen 9

Image: The Pokémon Company

Soapbox articles give our team a chance to share some personal perspectives; today it’s the turn of Tom Whitehead to admit he might be a Pokémon fan now.

Back in early January I wrote about how Pokémon Legends: Arceus would be my first game in the series, a confession for which I was instructed to recite 10 ‘Pika-Pika’ chants and read the Pokédex 5 times. Well, dear readers, I’ve played it. The good news is I’ve very much enjoyed it, even if my progress has been slow (I haven’t seen the credits yet).

As someone who plays almost exclusively in portable mode I’ve been largely unbothered by the humble (and arguably poor) technical aspects, and have been drawn in entirely by the actual gameplay and design. The thing is, though, everything is a discovery for me, because beyond a handful of Pokémon I know courtesy of writing about Nintendo for a living, every time I see a new creature or item I get bitten by the curiosity bug. What’s that? What’s its level? Can I capture it?

One of the smartest design choices is the presence of those ridable Pokémon, to help you get across water, up cliffs, find treasure etc. Unlocking each one has made me think “ooh, I need to go back to get that wisp I saw on top of a hill”. A lot of it is game design 101 executed brilliantly.

Discovery is everything then, especially as my Mum is also playing her first Pokémon, so sometimes on visits we’ve compared teams and traded extras. I’m living the Game Boy gen 1 life in 2021, sort of.

Discovery is everything then, especially as my Mum is also playing her first Pokémon, so sometimes on visits we’ve compared teams and traded extras. I’m living the Game Boy gen 1 life in 2021, sort of.

As I’m still in the middle of my first proper Pokémon game I was pretty excited, then, to see the Arceus style of larger spaces being shifted into an open world ‘gen 9’, with Scarlet and Violet due ‘late 2022’ on Switch. If Arceus is a side-alternative game, then I’m intrigued to get in on a new generation from the start and try to join in, even if all the complex conversations around min-maxing and gigaball crafting whoosh over my head.

The trailer was only a brief look, but it looked charming to me, and the starters are undeniably cute – it’s all about Fuecoco for me. The trailer and information are relatively limited beyond those glimpses of the settings, a few of the pocket monsters (I’m sure the ones shown are significant, I have no idea) and the main characters. We have a solid 9 months or so of steady reveals to come, no doubt, a number of which will probably mean little to me beyond reactions of “ooh, looks interesting”.

What I sense, though, is that being such a newcomer may be a benefit, as I’ve seen a number of series veterans suggest they’re a tad jaded at this stage. There’s also the valid argument that Game Freak really needed to take a year extra on a game, in order to make strides not just technically but in terms of broader ideas for the franchise. So if you’ve played every Pokémon game of the last decade, I can understand why there may be concern that it could be another raggedy effort. I was aware of those conversations around Pokémon Sword and Shield, and I was firmly in the camp that the visuals and in particular animations weren’t good enough at the time, just from watching videos as an outsider.

After all, Pokémon is a multimedia juggernaut, so its games should be top tier in every respect, theoretically. In reality, the games rarely show the craft and technical wizardly that we see from a number of Nintendo’s first-party efforts, for example.

We can probably safely assume that Violet and Scarlet will be a leap for the main series in terms of its open world and freedom, but not in various technical ways. Those debates will swirl, especially among those that are the most passionate and invested in the IP.

For me, though? I’m just looking forward to discovering more Pokémon as a newcomer, so I’ll likely be there day one for Pokémon Scarlet. I’m Welsh and red is my favourite colour, ok?

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