Not counting remakes, the Nintendo Switch has seen two distinct generations during its lifespan: Pokémon Sword and Shield, which are part of Gen 8, and Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, which are part of Gen 9. The two sets of games might be the most controversial entries in the history of the Pokemon franchise, so how well do they stack up against each other?
The Nintendo Switch era of Pokemon games has faced issues on two fronts: hardware and the Pokedex. The Pokemon Company has had issues bringing the mainline Pokemon games to consoles in ways that the fanbase enjoys, especially in terms of technical prowess. The fact that Pokemon has been cut from the games for the first time led to many complaints, especially in the face of declining visual quality. Despite these issues, the Gen 8 and Gen 9 games are among the best-selling entries in the series, so The Pokemon Company probably isn’t too worried about boycotts or fans demanding refunds of Pokemon Scarlet & Violet.
Galar Vs. Paldea – Which Is The Better Region
The Galar region from Pokemon Sword & Shield is based on the United Kingdom, with a mixture of industrial and countryside areas. Meanwhile, The Paldea region from Pokemon Scarlet & Violet is based on Spain and Portugal, which means it has a sunnier, more continental theme. In terms of design, both games excel at evoking the feeling of their source locations while creating an engaging world for the player to explore.
Pokemon Scarlet & Violet falter in their implementation. It’s easy to harp on the game’s visual problems, but nowhere are they more present than in the overworld. The towns in Pokemon Scarlet & Violet look like trash, with basic building designs and areas that are so open that they become a chore to explore. Meanwhile, the wilderness isn’t much better, with bland, repeated textures on all surfaces and some truly woeful pop-in and frame rate issues. The Pokemon series has never been a technical masterclass, but the Paldea region is just so ugly and runs so poorly that it cannot compete with the Galar region.
The Galar region certainly could be better in the visuals department, especially in the Wild Area, but the towns and routes feel like they’re part of the Pokemon series and are far more memorable than the generic cityscapes of Paldea. The Football-style battle arenas and associated songs are also leagues better than the more stilted combat zones of Pokemon Scarlet & Violet.
Linear Story Vs. Branching Paths – Which Is Better?
Pokemon Scarlet & Violet attempted something new, as it allowed players to attempt the three storylines in any order, with the regular Gym challenge being part of one, the evil Team battle in the second, and the third involving battles against giant Titan Pokemon. Ultimately, you’re going to want to follow all three, but you can at least decide the order in which you can tackle them.
Pokemon Sword & Shield has a linear story, and unfortunately, it has some of the worst characters and moments in the series. Let’s start with Hop, the worst rival in the series who takes up far too much screen time. The game may as well be about Hop, considering how his loser journey eats up so much of the narrative.
Chairman Rose also pulls the quickest and most ridiculous heel turn in the franchise’s history. His last-minute villain role feels like something the developers threw in just for some extra tension and a way to crowbar in another villain. We’re also not even going to mention the sword and shield haircut villains, as we’ll be here all day.
Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, for all of their sins, have the excellent Path of Legends storyline, even though it does pull on some cheap “I’m trying to save my pet from dying” heartstrings. The evil team storyline also has some great moments. The Area Zero reveal could have been built-up better, but the rest of the story is much more engaging.
Dynamaxing Vs. Terastallization – Which Is Better?
The Nintendo Switch era of Pokemon games introduced unique battle mechanics to the series that have stayed in their respective games. Pokemon Sword & Shield introduced Dynamaxing, where a Pokemon transforms into a giant, which comes with better stats, new moves, and sometimes, a whole new form. Pokemon Scarlet & Violet introduced Terastallization, where Pokemon gained a crystal hat, potentially granting them a new type or boosting the strength of moves of an existing type.
There’s no contest here – Dynamaxing is way more interesting than Terastallization. Dynamaxing might only involve boosting the size of a Pokemon, but the increase to stats and changes to moves completely shook up the competitive scene. There was also the Gigantamax forms, where some Pokemon gained a whole new appearance.
By comparison, Terastallization felt much lazier, with Pokemon receiving crystal hats when they powered up, except a single Pokemon (Ogrepon). The Tera Types thing just adds to something already there and doesn’t feel fresh or exciting. This is especially true in the single-player mode, where players can easily forge they have Tera powers, as they’re such a non-issue in combat, unlike the bombastic and powerful Mega Evolutions, Z-Moves, and Dynamaxing features of previous games.
Scarlet & Violet vs. Sword & Shield: Which Has Better Designs?
One big issue that Pokemon Scarlet & Violet has is limiting the character customization options and tying most outfits to school uniforms. The Pokemon Company can’t get the message that fans want to customize their characters, so we’re left with the dismal offerings in Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, especially compared to the more varied outfits and looks from Pokemon Sword & Shield.
Regarding new Pokemon, it’s more of a mixed bag, as both games have great additions (Fidough, Wooloo) and bad ones (Chewtie, Bramblin). However, Pokemon Sword & Shield has the edge thanks to the Galarian forms of classic Pokemon and the Gigantamax forms, especially retro chunky Pikachu and the long cat version of Meowth.
I remember being harsh on Pokemon Sword & Shield at launch, but it was primarily due to comparisons with the previous games and my issues with the performance and the cut Pokedex. However, I still enjoyed and finished the game and its expansions. The same cannot be said for Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, which was like pulling teeth sometimes due to its slow and clunky design, lack of focus, and tedious battle gimmick. Pokemon Sword & Shield are the clear winners in my mind, and hopefully, The Pokemon Company will learn from its Gen 9 mistakes in time for the Gen 10 games.