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Opinion: Nobody Asked - A Maniacal Engineer's Thoughts on Scarlet and Violet - Part 1: Opening Salvos

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Nobody Asked Maniacal Engineer
Shiny Hunting on stream in Scarlet & Violet
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have been out for almost nine months now, and, with the imminent release of the first DLC, I figured it was about time for a bit of reflection on the base games themselves.

Of course, before I go shooting my mouth off and spouting ridiculous nonsense, I should at least provide some context as to who I am, and my experiences both with Pokémon as a whole, and Scarlet and Violet in particular. So, who am I? I am Maniacal Engineer, also known as ME. I’ve been playing the main series Pokémon games since Red and Blue, and have played every main series game (counting paired installments like Red and Blue as a single game), though my experience with any of the side series games is admitedly quite limited. I also have problems with change, and, whenever Pokémon migrates from one console to another, I have historically been rather annoyed, and as a result have tended to lag behind on purchasing the new console and games. Case in point, I only got my Nintendo Switch in May 2020, and even then it was only because I was being driven insane by an unfortunate convergence of several very stressful circumstances. Despite my general grumpiness, I would not classify myself as a “Genwunner,” since I do enjoy many things about the newer games, and despite my nostalgia I also acknowledge the myriad of flaws in the original games. I also get annoyed at blatant pandering, and, even as someone for whom Charmander was my first starter, I find the sheer number of Charizard forms to be ridiculous.

My play time in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet
As for what I do, these days you can usually find me hanging out on the Bulbagarden Twitch channel, where I stream various challenge runs or shiny hunting series, depending on what kind of mood I am in. Amongst other things, this year I've streamed both a Wooper family challenge run of Scarlet, as well as a post-game shiny hunting and Tera Raid Battle series on Violet. In total, I have sunk 310 hours into these two games.

One other important characteristic of myself is that I am also a man who has opinions. Lots of opinions. Of course, if you are a regular viewer of my streams, you have already likely heard most of my thoughts on Scarlet and Violet, along with whatever the heck else happened to be on my mind that particular day. That said, for the sake of those who have not watched my streams, I will provide the following warning: I can be very verbose.

I will endeavor to keep each individual article down to a readable and digestible length, but, as I do have a lot to say, this will end up being a fairly long series of articles. In this series, I intend to cover my thoughts on an abundance of topics, going over the good, the bad, and the ugly of Scarlet and Violet, covering everything that I liked and disliked about the games themselves, including gameplay problems, glitches, and technical issues. Some subjects will be more profound, others will be a lot more straightforward, but, for ease of reading, I’ll generally stick to a single topic per article, and cover my likes, dislikes, and random shower thoughts on that subject. Each category will take as many articles as it takes to get through all of my thoughts. As I have stronger feelings about certain topics compared to others, some categories may take longer than others. After the arduous task of writing up all of my thoughts is completed, I will have one final article summing up my opinions on Scarlet and Violet as a whole, and where I stand on potential future games in the Pokémon franchise. Given the sheer amount of thoughts in my head, and my absolute inability to keep anything concise, I do apologize in advance for blathering on too much, but I do hope that you all stick around for at least some of these opinion pieces.

It is worth noting that all opinions expressed in these articles are my own, and do not reflect either absolute truth, nor even the opinions of Bulbagarden as a whole. They simply reflect the rantings, ravings, and muses of this self-described Maniacal Engineer.

The Wooper Family Squad from my challenge run of Scarlet
With all that out of the way, since it colored my early perceptions of the games, let’s begin with my thoughts on the open world mechanic, and open worlds in general. I was actually very skeptical and annoyed when the games were revealed on Pokémon Day 2022, since that was right on the heels of the release of Pokémon Legends: Arceus. When a lot of the early Scarlet and Violet announcements and trailers were dropped, I still hadn’t even played Legends: Arceus, and would not actually begin to do so until May 2022. The only “open world” experience I had, at all, was getting lost over and over again in the Wild Area of Sword. So as more and more information was announced about Scarlet and Violet, I honestly became more dubious of the games themselves. Nothing really struck me as being particularly impressive or innovative about the core mechanics of the game. I was concerned that TPCi was more concerned about jumping onto the latest bandwagon, and that despite putting all of their creative eggs in the open world basket, that they hadn’t really thought this whole open world thing through. Being someone who had pretty much only played Pokémon for the past decade and a half or so, I felt that Pokémon did not need to be open world, nor did it need an adjustable camera. I didn’t view it as a necessary step forward for the Pokémon franchise, and I was immensely concerned about how it would be implemented, how it would impact world exploration, and how much of an impact it would have on the game’s development.

When I heard that Pokémon was jumping aboard the open world bandwagon, it honestly frustrated me. At its core, I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea of an open world. I hated how linear and hand-holdy some of the more recent Pokémon games had gotten, and the general concept of being able to explore the world in whatever order you chose, and create your own story is a solid one. But, as someone who isn’t great with game controls, and who easily misses or misjudges important things because of a bad camera angle, the idea of an open world with an adjustable camera scared the heck out of me. Well, to be clear, it wasn’t the fact that the camera was adjustable that scared me, but rather it was the fact that, with the adjustable camera came the fact that there were now things offscreen that could hurt me. As someone used to a fixed camera, not only did the adjustable camera give me yet another thing to control, it also meant that I could no longer assume that I was seeing everything relevant to my current situation. Since Scarlet and Violet came with that scary adjustable camera, I just couldn’t really get behind it. It felt like the one franchise that was a safe haven was now moving on from me. Okay, I know I’m not exactly the target audience for the Pokémon games, but it was still sad to feel left behind as the relic of a bygone era that I probably am.

Maniacal Engineer - Signing off
Still, as a streamer for the Bulbagarden Twitch channel, I knew that I would be at least giving these games a try, and, as I streamed them, I generally had high opinions of the games themselves, at least in terms of gameplay. At one point in time, I even expressed the possibility that Scarlet and Violet could potentially bump off Platinum as my favorite Pokémon game of all time. I have since reconsidered that stance, but the fact that that particular thought even crossed my mind is a testament to the sheer amount of good that is in these games, despite everything. In the end, I’m still unsure, given the final product, that going with an open world game was a good idea. To me, it still very much feels like a lot of development time could have been saved going to a more straightforward, and standard, game, as opposed to trying to figure out how to move Pokémon “into the modern age.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are many people who feel like the main series Pokémon games have gotten stale, and that isn’t entirely untrue. I mean, look at the Alolan games. Those were supposed to be a massive departure from the norm, but, in the end, they still ended up following the same basic Pokémon game pattern. For many, it was time for a massive shake up, and an open world seemed like a promise to bring a breath of fresh air into the franchise.

It’s a pity that Game Freak couldn’t keep that promise. Instead of getting a fun new world that we could explore any way we wanted, we got a broken mess of a game that had bugs, glitches, and performance issues. All of those probably could have been avoided if Game Freak didn't chase this silly ideal of an open world, but that's a story for another article.
 
Maniacal Engineer

Maniacal Engineer

Bulbagarden Multimedia Executive
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