Today, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet were revealed in the Pokémon Presents – new generation titles releasing late 2022. There’s a lot to like. It’ll seemingly feature aspects of Pokémon Legends: Arceus and has some improvements in Pokémon models (Seviper looked great). The Starters are cute, and I’m already banned from choosing Sprigatito, as my wife told me she has claimed it as her choice. And Pokémon hype season right when a new generation is announced is one of the most fun as a fan.
That said, I wish we had this announcement next year.
The Pokémon Company (International) seem intent on pumping out new mainline games every year at least for a good while now. The exception was 2020, where instead we saw DLC for Pokémon Sword and Shield – two sets of it, in fact, no insignificant addition. Every other year since 2016 has had one new title involving Game Freak, and now we’re getting two of them.
It is true that Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl was mainly developed by ILCA, not Game Freak (the typical team behind main Pokémon titles). That said, Masuda was involved, and it is possible other Game Freak staff were involved as well (after all Morimoto shows up in-game too). It is also true that there are multiple teams within Game Freak – but their overall group is not a large one. While they can produce great titles (look at the effort of two teams with Pokémon Platinum and Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver), of late there have been very valid complaints on a lack of game polish, both visually and with bugs. Perhaps it is simply because 3D games are harder, and hence require more time regardless of manpower. There is less than a year gap between Legends: Arceus and Pokémon Scarlet and Violet releasing, minimising the opportunity to learn from reception to the former and apply to the latter in time for release.
Just look at the trailer – there are visible frame rate drops in the pan around the plaza, as well as the wind turbine blades. The more distant blades were slower, which arguably is a good sign of proximity rendering being used, like in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, but it sticks out.
Environmental textures appear currently worse than Pokémon Sword and Shield as well. Of course, there’s time for the game to improve, and we saw that for the generation eight titles each time. I would argue however that the end product, visually, was still disappointing in each case overall, not just a few pretty examples (such as some towns in Galar – Ballonlea Town comes to mind as a beautiful, yet very uneventful, location). These comments on graphics are in many a review for Pokémon Legends: Arceus for good reason, and affect gameplay (e.g. the issue of pop-in from limited draw distance). The top image of this article is a clear example of a less appealing view – and for a piece of advertising, it’s a strange choice to choose to show us poor graphics at any point. You’d be hard pressed to see something like this for a newly announced Mario, Legend of Zelda, Xenoblade, Metroid, etc. title. Why should Pokémon be the exception?
More time means more content. Remember the Battle Frontier, or the Pokémon World Tournament? Or fully fleshed-out Contests? More time also means more polish, and less bugs too. The Sinnoh remakes could have had a better Following Pokémon feature, and was filled with awkward glitches allowing players to heavily sequence break. The story in Galar would have been much tighter with more time – look at the effect it had on Toxtricity’s role in the games, for example, which was due to a hasty deadline that had to be met (it only reportedly had a two year development cycle). More recently, many characters in Pokémon Legends: Arceus are fairly flat, lacking development or more than one or two personality traits. We know Game Freak can produce better characters – look at the Gym Leaders in Pokémon Black and White, for example. The list goes on.
This is the most profitable media franchise, bar none. You would, and in my opinion should, expect better. And it would be easy to give more time as well – have DLC for Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and/or have some spinoff titles made by other companies distract the fanbase this year. Better yet, Pokémon Legends: Arceus could have released late this year, allowing for more focus on the Sinnoh remakes last year and itself this year, and another year of development for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. Alas, it seems the chase for even more money and advertising for Pokémon merchandise is the priority for the franchise.
Best of luck to the Game Freak developers in managing their time yet again.
Edited by Arcaneum and Sheep.