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If you ever needed proof that Pokémon games need longer development cycles, just take a look at Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.

After Pokémon Legends: Arceus launched earlier this year showcasing all the awesome potential of a true open-world Pokémon game, I expected the start of Generation 9 to come at the end of 2023 at the earliest. You can imagine how surprised I was when it was revealed that Scarlet and Violet would be coming out less than 12 months later.

While the hype clouded my judgment, that was a pretty big red flag in hindsight.

The proof is in the pudding, and despite what an enjoyable experience Scarlet and Violet can be, it’s hard to look past the technical problems that played the game. It’s heartbreaking because it feels like if this game had even another 6 months in development it could easily be among the greatest games in the entire franchise.

After the tutorial lets you loose, it’s the true dreamlike open world Pokémon experience, where it gives you some vaguely-defined goals and just tells you to go off and explore. Sure, it’s not The Witcher, and it’s not like there are a bunch of side quests to go and indulge in, but that core feeling of freedom is great, and it stays with you right up to the final credits. There’s always something new to find.

A fantastic creature with flames coming out of its body.

Ceruledge is one of the best new creatures in Pokémon SV.

The narrative also lands better than its predecessors. It’s not on the level of what Black and White achieved, but there are some heartfelt moments that I connected with and even a couple of surprising twists along the way. It may not have even 1% of the narrative complexity of something like Xenoblade, but it’s more than what any of the 3D Pokémon games have managed until now.

The new roster of Pokémon has its ups and downs, but on the whole, there are more hits than misses. With 103 new ‘mons, it adds the most since Gen 5, including brand new iterations on old designs like the Paradox Pokémon. There are definitely some stinkers, but you’re bound to come across a decent few critters along the way that capture your heart. Who doesn’t love a good bread-dog?

So I’ve danced around it long enough, let’s dive into these technical problems.

Gholdengo laying down

Gholdengo is one of the worst new creatures in Pokémon SV.

First of all the framerate is not even remotely consistent. In a densely packed area like Mesagoza, you’re pretty much guaranteed to drop frames no matter where you look. In the open areas, it depends on how much is going on at once, which explains why the world is quite sparsely populated. I look back at Pokémon Legends and see how much it was able to pack into its sectioned-off areas, and I can’t help but feel I would’ve preferred that over this barely optimized approach.

The camera doesn’t know what it’s doing half the time either. When you jump into a wild battle it will try and zoom in on the wild Pokémon, but if there’s nowhere for it to go it will happily clip through the floor and show you the underworld. It’s not too hard to clip your character through the floor either if you try. It never happened to me accidentally, but if you intentionally poke at the game’s seams, it doesn’t take long for them to burst.

Tera Raid Battles see you fight with others to take down tough opponents in Pokémon SV.

Tera Raid Battles see you fight with others to take down tough opponents in Pokémon SV.

The thing is, despite all of these problems, I still think there’s a lot of fun to be had here. The standard Pokémon formula is very much intact, and the ability to tackle gyms and titans in any order enhances it, even if they don’t scale to your level. I deliberately strayed into higher-level areas early and I got to have some of the tensest and most enjoyable battles I’ve ever had in a single-player Pokémon game.

The simple fact is, if you’re a long-time Pokémon fan you will enjoy these games, but you’ll have to overlook some pretty glaring problems.

If The Pokémon Company wants to go down the DLC route with this game, then some serious improvements need to be made first. Sword and Shield’s DLC areas were some of the most diverse and visually interesting, but I don’t see anything that good happening in Scarlet and Violet without a lot of work going into addressing the existing issues.

Team Star is the evil team of Pokémon SV that you'll need to take down.

Team Star is the evil team of Pokémon SV that you'll need to take down.

Whatever the next Pokémon game is, I hope Game Freak continues down this open world route design-wise but gives the games more time to cook and understand the power that’s inside.

As they are now, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are strong entries in the 26-year-old series that will likely only be remembered for their failings. There’s still time for things to change with future updates and DLC, but right now the great gameplay and expansive world are marred by a lack of optimization and technical faults.

If you're looking for more from Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, check out our lists of the best new Pokémon and the worst new Pokémon.

Score: 7/10

Version tested: Switch