To say that Pokemon Scarlet and Violet received a mixed response is an understatement. There was certainly a split of opinion; some relished the game quite heartily, enjoying new quality-of-life mechanics introduced in Gen 9. Others were intensely put off by the entire ordeal, citing graphical issues, a lack of detail, and other issues as to why they put the game down early.
Generally, positive reception for Pokemon games among fans has decreased since Sword and Shield, even though Gen 8 brought forth the most controversial news: The Great Dexcut. What makes Gen 9 different from Gen 8? Why is it a gentle incline downward? What finer points make Gen 9 good, and what can be improved in this upcoming DLC to help amend these issues? In this article, we’ll break down the good and bad of Gen 9 and what the DLC can do to redeem it in the eyes of longtime Pokemon fans.
What Do We Think of Paldea?
Pladea is a big region, and that’s its strength and weakness. While it leaves a lot to explore, the open-world formula leaves a Pokemon game feeling much different than it used to. Everything from the way you navigate to how you battle Trainers on the fly has changed. We’re no longer bound to corridors or caves with only one way in and out among a swath of random encounters. But while we have lost many of the inconveniences of Pokemon games, there’s something good we’ve lost there, too.
The Overworld Problem
Make no mistake, an open-world Pokemon game is a fantastic idea. Running around with your Pokemon in tow is an adventure all within itself, especially in an open-world type environment where you choose your exact path. However, much can be said about what has been recycled in favor of this new formula. With the elimination of linear paths comes the end of linear gameplay and all the benefits that draw new players. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does render some things that GameFreak has come to rely on over the years defunct.
Instead of making items and trainers, as well as NPCs with something important to say, part of the journey by setting them along the linear path, the game becomes much different. With no paths to take for certain, in a lot of ways, the game has changed from a set story to a choose-your-own-adventure. In previous games, events would often happen to your Trainer character as they were adventuring from Neccesary Point A to Neccesary Point B. Because you couldn’t avoid the road between, you were subject to all kinds of trainer battles, interactions, and other things that would progress the story. With the new system the way it is now, events are centered around pre-existing missions, which can come in any order.
Trainer Battles (And Why They Should Be Forced Again Now More Than Ever)
Another aspect of Gen 9 being a much different beast than Gen 8 is that the nonlinear gameplay has made Trainer battles optional. For the new player, this may seem like a godsend. If you remember your first Pokemon game, you understand the frustration of not being able to avoid Trainers. For the new player, avoiding Trainers can be all too tempting, which may make the game unbalanced down the line. Having some Trainers hail you down can be a good thing, especially if they’re the kind to offer items and other such help that can improve your adventure.
The soundtrack generally seems to have lost some of its Pokemon-ness over the years. Where exactly this happened is hard to say because even the switch to 3D and the transfer of the torch from console to console wasn’t enough to take the consistently awesome music in Pokemon down. No, the slight downturn of Pokemon music is not due to hardware changes or new regions coming in but due to the materials we now have that make Pokemon a bigger, console-ready game. Replacing chips and beeps with orchestral arrangements makes the soundtrack (despite good intentions and great work by Toby Fox) feel undoubtedly different.
Make no mistake; there are still some good tracks in Paldea, the switching between an overworld, battle, and riding version of tracks all being very Pokemon-like, just as in the days of Black and White with layered music. However, those who have been with the games for a while no doubt notice this change too; a departure from limited hardware has led to unexpected changes in this modern day of Pokemon, mostly with us none the wiser now that we’re here.
What Do We Think of Kitikami?
Kitikami, the latest place to visit in Gen 9, is part of the Teal Mask DLC. This is the first of two packs that’ll be coming to the Switch, and while the DLC is satisfying, there are still some issues that it hasn’t fixed. While Photo Mode has received an upgrade so that we can properly take pictures during our time in Kitikami, not much else has been changed in terms of what made the gameplay difficult for others.
Small Town, Small World
The small size of the Kitikami DLC is not as much of a disadvantage as some players made it out to be. Sure, we would all love a little more map to love, but the small scope is a blessing in many ways. For example, if you don’t like to ride your Pokemon for the entire game, Kitikami is a landscape where that isn’t entirely necessary. You can get on foot to most places, and within some good time too, thanks to the limited scope that Teal Mask provides. The area on the map is populated enough, both by Trainers and by Pokemon all around.
Characters (And The Pain We Cause Them)
One other aspect that we can enjoy about the Teal Mask DLC is the characters. While Paldea had some great characters, we feel a tad closer with the main two in this one because of how emotionally heated things get, especially towards the end. The story we follow is a bit more close-knit than what we get in Paldea, with it only focusing on Carmine and Kieran while we investigate the lore behind Kitikami and the legends that surround it. The characters were pretty standard, both being a little more than you expected in the beginning, as typical Pokemon characters tend to go.
A Short and Sweet Story
The story wasn’t to the scale of Paldea’s main campaign, but this is expected for part one of two. Even though it’s a shorter story, that doesn’t stop it from being a pleasant, standard, and overall sweet Pokemon experience. The new Pokemon designs involved range from silly to adorable, with Ogrepon being the clear star of the show with a cute face and plenty of forms and colorful masks to match.
What Can Indigo Disc Do to Save Gen 9?
There are plenty of issues with Gen 9 that a simple upgrade could fix. Tweaks here and there could go a long way, solving many of the issues that players subject to a knee-jerk reaction earlier can accept and even benefit from. The line between someone who played Gen 9 and dropped it is much thinner than you think, and despite some glitch fixes and frame improvements, Gen 9 still has the stain on its reputation from Paldea’s release. What can be done to arrest that reputation and give it a good makeover?
One of the biggest overworld fixes that Gen 9 would have a breath of fresh air receiving is the following Pokemon issue. Technically, this has been an issue since late in Gen 8’s game, with the following mechanic not proving to be up to snuff there either. In the next update, it would be a beloved convenience for the player base if they were greeted by Pokemon that follow you closely, even when running. While we certainly understand that not every Pokemon can follow you while riding a Pokemon, having at least some Pokemon that can keep up with you on foot is a great first step.
Up the Ante
Another measure that GameFreak could take to ensure that Indigo Disc DLC goes well is to improve the difficulty just a tad. While there are other ways to make your game harder, this is the second round of DLC to come to Gen 9. A difficulty setting or something similar wouldn’t go amiss in the series. Even for younger players, this doesn’t pose any sort of problem: simply make it an option clearly displayed in the beginning. Giving this last DLC for Gen 9 a difficulty curve not only can help make current fans pleased with the progress that the game is making but may cause fans to consider coming around. By far, a difficulty setting is one of the most requested features for Pokemon in general, so this would be a more than welcome change.
A Return to Battle Form
One issue with Gen 9 is the optional Trainer battles. While they’re simply part of an open world, having some be unavoidable can help flesh out the world, populating it with challenges and unexpected hurdles. One aspect of Pokemon that made it fun, akin to an adventure, is the drama of running into a battle when you’re not prepared. Having every single battle avoidable makes things just a little too easy, even for a game targeted at children. Considering the fact that previous games made every battle required without any harm, the transition to make a hybrid between the two battle approaches is hardly a bad idea.
Return Customization (Please)
Probably something every player out there for Gen 9 is looking for is fully customizable avatars. While hats and shoes are all well and good, we had customization back when 3D Pokemon were all the newest rage. There’s little reason to put forward why these features can’t make a comeback since they’re pretty standard to the series. Full customization would be a belated but appreciated cherry for the DLC.
Overall, while our game is acceptable in most areas, Pokemon can be better. There are so many areas severely lacking compared to past games, and while you can’t compare apples to oranges, game history is still game history. If GameFreak needs more time, then any time is taken to polish off some old features and get them functioning the way they should again be every die-hard fan’s dream.