An enticing step forward!
The latest Pokémon Presents has come and gone and by far the biggest news of the show was the new trailer for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. The new generation seems to bringing a massive shake up to the standard formula, as these will be the first open-world Pokémon games ever. I’ve been a fan of this series for as long as I can remember and the excitement that this game and the previously released Pokémon Legends: Arceus has brought to the fandom feels unprecedented.
I’ll be fully honest, I was never one who wanted or needed much change from Pokémon as a series. I always appreciated that Pokémon stayed the course and didn’t really embrace modern trends. It made the series emanate this warmth of nostalgia and simplicity which I crave more and more as the real world seems to get crazier. So, when Pokémon Legends: Arceus was announced I was Intrigued but concerned; concerned that maybe the things I’d loved about Pokémon would be lost in this new evolution. I’m happy to say after playing Pokémon Legends: Arceus and watching the new trailer for Scarlet and Violet that the joy of Pokémon is still there.
Part 1: The World
The most important part of an open-world game is arguably the world itself. Paldea, the newest region of the Pokémon world, seems to offer the diverse environments and charming cities that fans have come to expect from the series. While I enjoyed my time with Legends, I won’t deny that not having a large list of fun towns to explore was a bit disheartening. I also won’t deny that Legends wasn’t much of a looker, graphically speaking. The muted color palettes of that game did not do it any favors, which is why I much prefer the new aesthetic they’re trying to achieve with Scarlet and Violet. They seem to be striking a nice blend of fantastic colors and realistic textures. I especially love how the Pokémon look in this game, how you can see details like scales and fur on Pokémon who have them. The whole style is very reminiscent of New Pokémon Snap, which I personally feel is the best the series has ever looked in 3D.
I also want to give props to the character designs we have in Paldea. Pokémon will of course always be known for its monster designs but lately I’ve really loved how even the look of the trainers has evolved over time.
It’s always a treat to see how Game Freak will design a gym leader of a certain type compared to last time. It’s even interesting to see how they go about designing certain generic trainer classes like lasses and hikers.
So, we’ve got a beautiful and diverse world filled with charming character designs, but how will we get around? On the brand-new legendries of course! In a move that shocked a lot of fans, it was announced that Koraidon and Miraidon, the legendary mascots of Scarlet and Violet respectively, would serves as our modes of transportation across Paldea.
While it might seems strange that you’ll be interacting with both legendary Pokémon so early in the story, it’s actually a trend the series has had since Sun and Moon and continued in Sword and Shield. It seems that making the legendaries a continued presence from the beginning of the game is the new goal, and I’m personally all for it.
I often find myself enjoying legendary Pokémon enough for their design but never feel an emotional attachment to them (save for Nebby from the Alola Games), but I think that might change with Koraidon and Miraidon. After spending the whole game with them at our side, if we eventually get to battle and catch them to add them to our party, that legendary encounter may prove to be one of the most satisfying moments in the series history.
Speaking of story potential, this game confirms that the gyms will only be one of three stories that you can take part in at your own leisure. We can only speculate on what the other two stories might entail but it’s really cool that this game seemingly allows you to engage with the world at your own pace.
Part 2: The 'Mon
What good is a new Pokémon generation without new Pokémon? Well the latest trailer revealed some brand new friends to make in Paldea, as well as a new look for an old favorite.
Regional forms are back yet again and this time we got a new look for a beloved Johto Pokémon, Wooper! Paldean Wooper seem to have given up their amphibious lifestyle for a life on land, thusly, their water typing has been swapped for poison.
The design itself is pretty similar to the standard form but you can’t mess with perfection. I do love the skeleton motif the design has, with the gills now being crossbones and the wi-fi signal on it’s belly turning into an abstract ribcage/spinal cord design. It’s kind of morbid when you say it out loud but it definitely meshes with the new poison typing!
Fun Fact! The last time we had a dual Poison/Ground Pokémon was all the way back in Gen 1 with Nidoking and Nidoqueen, so it’ll be cool to see what Paldean Wooper will bring to the table. That’s not even mentioning Paldean Quagsire or perhaps a new evolution for Wooper all together!
I want to give props to the localization team for giving us incredibly charming names like Lechonk, Smoliv, and now Fidough!
Fidough is another food-themed fairy type Pokémon, which only leaves me with more questions about this world than answers. Is Fidough man-made? Did Fidough inspire ancient humans in the Pokémon world to bake bread? Do people eat Fidough? These questions will probably never be answered but the design is cute.
I honestly don’t have much to say about this one other than that I am excited for it’s evolution because there’s a lot of places you could take the concept of “dog made of dough”.
Cetitan is a new Ice-type, land whale Pokémon. It also seems to be the signature Pokémon of the Ice-type Gym Leader Grusha.
I don’t really have much to say about this one. It’s a neat concept but it feels like it’s missing something, maybe an evolution or alternate form will make the theme of this Pokémon more clear.
If it does evolve I think it’d be cool to see those fins turn into paws and have this whale crawl on all fours. It might give Wailord a run for it’s money.
Part 3: The Gimmick
The latest trailer also presented us with the newest battle gimmick for Pokémon, the Terastal Phenomenon.
Gimmicks tend to be hit or miss with fans. While many fans seem to really want Mega-Evolutions back these days, I remember them being met with general apathy during the time of Gen 6. Likewise Gen 7’s Z-Moves and Gen 8’s Dynamax/Gigantamax didn’t seem to make the splash that Game Freak was hoping for.
It’s clear following these gimmicks through the past few gens that Game Freak is trying to find a way to come up with a gimmick that is balanced, available to all the Pokémon, and offers unique strategy.
Mega-Evolution provided exciting new forms and type change-ups but couldn’t be used by every Pokémon. Z-Moves remedied this problem by being accessible to all Pokémon, but in practice they were just super moves with no real strategy beyond deciding when to use them. Dynamax seemed to strive for the best of both worlds, with the boosted stats of Megas, the amped up attacks of Z-Moves, and even managed to bring back new forms through Gigantamax, but it couldn’t be used in every battle and had a three turn limit.
With all that history in mind I feel Terastal Pokémon may be the most interesting gimmick yet, as the focus seems to be on strategy rather than raw power.
While the full details on how Terastalization works aren’t known, the Pokémon website does seem to offer some ideas on how this new form might effect battle.
All Pokémon in Paldea can Terastallize to gain special power.
First, each Pokémon has a Tera Type. A Pokémon’s Tera Type is inactive until the Pokémon Terastallizes, at which time the Pokémon’s type will change to its Tera Type.
For example, some Eevee will have a Normal Tera Type, but some other Eevee have a Flying Tera Type.
There are 18 types, meaning there are countless combinations of Pokémon and Tera Types.
Terastallizing a Pokémon allows you to enhance your battle strategies by increasing the power of any moves that have the same type as your Pokémon’s Tera Type or by changing your Pokémon’s weaknesses.
You can Terastallize a Pokémon once per battle, and the transformation will last until the battle ends.
When a Terastallized Pokémon uses a move that matches its Tera Type and at least one of its original types, the boost to that move’s power will be even greater!
So not only can you change your Pokémon’s type defensively, you can also give yourself an extra type offensively, meaning we can technically see Pokémon with three offensive types (similar to Dhelmise with it’s Steelworker ability but available to all)!
Again, this hasn’t been confirmed yet, but the way the website talks about Terastal Pokémon seems to paint that picture
The game seems to be deciding if you want more options or power which opens up many strategic opportunities. I’m very curious to see what competitive players will come up with to utilize these forms.
This also feeds back into the multiplayer gameplay with the Tera Raid Battles.
How will you get Pokémon with altering Tera Types? You’ll find them in the Tera Raid Battles, which seem to be a supped-up version of the Max Raid Battles from Sword and Shield.
I liked the raid battles in Sword and Shield, but there really wasn’t much reason to partake in them unless you were grinding for items or a rare Pokémon was in rotation. Here though, the potential of finding your desired Pokémon with a beneficial Tera Type for your strategy might encourage people to engage with the system more.
Another thing to help with engagement is that now instead of a turn based style like Max Raid Battles, Tera Raid Battles allows for continued attacks from all four members of the party.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I trust Nintendo Switch Online to handle inputs from four separate players while also displaying a battle with tons of shiny, glittery effects all over the Pokémon – especially considering Game Freak has never programmed an online mode more complex than turn-based. But, if they nail it, I could also see it being great fun. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet seem to be the shake up that many fans have wanted the series to do for a long time. While I enjoyed the standard formula I’m happy that this new direction still carries the spirit of what made me love Pokémon all those years ago. It’s like the trailer said: “We’ve kept all the things that you love about Pokémon while evolving the adventure you can have.” I genuinely feel like that’s the plan for this game and the series going forward and I’m totally on board for the journey.
A recently graduated creative writer hoping to work his way into the greater gaming sphere.
"While many fans seem to really want Mega-Evolutions back these days, I remember them being met with general apathy during the time of Gen 6"
This is the truth. I'm surprised the narrative right now seems to be "Everyone loved Mega Evolutions, and they took them away". When I remember constant criticism of lots of Mega aspects, from designs, to "It's too much like Digimon", to it being given to already powerful Pokemon. I think everything GameFreak has ever done has been controversial to be honest.
One neat thing though is that I think the Terastal Phenomenon could be the biggest hitter yet. I think one of the coolest things that Megas did was implement type changes for certain Pokemon, and cooler still when those type changes resulted in resistance changes. Terastral takes that aspect and turns it up to 11, which I'm all for. There's an incredible amount of possibilities here, and I'll be very interested to see how it all plays out competitively and casually when the games release.
Being both Open World and Multiplayer, these seem like they could be a slam dunk. I can't think of how many times I've felt that traversing a world would be better with just one or two friends instead of the chaotic nature of an MMO.
I'm quite looking forward to these entries.