Pokémon Scarlet & Violet Preview - The feeling of a free Pokémon world

Paldea opens its doors less than a month before its launch for what will be one of the most interesting Pokémon adventures of the last few years.

To talk about the evolution of Pokémon is to recount more than 25 years of history, from the first Game Boy in the mid-1990s to the different iterations of the franchise on the Nintendo Switch. Less than a month away from what will be the ninth generation of the franchise, we had the opportunity to try out for 45 minutes what will be the next step in the series, one that integrates the highlights of the last two installments - Sword and Shield, and Pokémon Legends Arceus.

Since its announcement earlier this year, we have been able to see some glimpses of what this installment will be, giving us an idea of everything it will include, as well as the many promises it brings with it. Although the time we had was not enough to go into detail on many of its mechanics, it was enough to see new aspects and get a sense of what will be the next installment.

A truly open world

Pokémon Scarlet & Violet takes us to the Paldea region, an area in the wider Pokémon world that takes inspiration from the Iberian Peninsula, specifically Spain. One of the first aspects that stand out is that we find ourselves in a fully-fledged open world. Unlike previous installments in which there was a linear path, or a hub to reach open areas, Paldea offers us an experience that takes that step forward. We are faced with an extremely large map to traverse, with Pokémon living far, wide and high. Facing this, we have some quality-of-life upgrades, which although they won't be unlocked from the start, will help make our progress through the region easier. Marking on the map our next objective, or having fast travel between cities, towns and Pokémon centers, are just a few of the elements that will make the journey an easier adventure.

The Pokémon encounters are very similar to what we had in Pokémon Legends Arceus, being able to sneak up on them and throw a Pokéball to try our luck and try to catch them or have a classic Pokémon battle to weaken them first. Finally testing Terastal ended up clearing up doubts about this new mechanic, which well applied will surely be a game changer in the metagame and in the competitive game. Giving more power to a type or changing it completely, is one of the most appealing changes. One aspect to highlight is that sometimes, some Pokémon, in addition to giving us experiences, will also drop some items that will help us to create certain elements, which we will talk about later.

One of the details in this new world are the new Pokémon Centers found throughout the map. It is no longer necessary to return to a town or city to be able to heal our Pokémon, or buy items such as Pokéballs, as everything will be there as a convenient stop along the way. In these, we will also be able to create TMs thanks to the TM machines. Here, we will exchange the items we get from Pokémon or raids to create these items. It is a much more visual element that will even help those who are not so into competitive play to understand how it works and which one is best for their Pokémon.

Faster, higher and more... climbing

By having this open world experience, we will have to find methods that make transportation easier. In Pokémon Scarlet & Violet we will use one of the legendary Pokémon, Koraidon or Miraidon, depending on the version, to move faster and easier. As we have been able to see in trailers, these Pokémon can make our character move faster on land, glide in the air, enter the water and be able to swim, and even climb some cliffs. The experience feels quite natural and will be of great help in our adventure.

One game, three routes

During our demo, it was open to us the three routes that Pokémon Scarlet & Violet will present. The first route -and the classic one- will be our way to be the best in the region by facing the gym leaders and then competing for the right to be champion. The second route will be to face Team Star, a group formed by the most rebellious students of the academy. Finally, there is the route of the Herba Mystica, which are protected by dominant Pokémon, which are larger than normal Pokémon.

Throughout our 45 minutes, we barely managed to complete the first and third routes mentioned above. Our visit to the Pokémon Gym to face its leader was different from what we are used to. With a touch close to Sun and Moon, here we will arrive to request to face the gym leader, however, before doing so we will have to perform a gym test. Being the grass-type gym test, this one was about finding Sunflora throughout the village. The mission was quite simple, giving way to the confrontation with the gym leader. The Terastal elements play an important role, and can even be a real surprise even for the most veteran players of the series.

On the other hand, the route of the Herba Mystica, led us to a confrontation against a new and huge Pokémon, very similar to some of the battles that we had in Pokémon Legends Arceus. These showdowns are divided into three stages, first having to find the Pokémon. This was easy thanks to the verticality that our Legendary Pokémon allows us to traverse. The second stage, the battle, was even easier thanks to the power of Terastal. However, we were no longer able to perform the third stage, so we looked at one of the mechanics that had caught our attention the most.

Time to lunch!

As we have seen in some trailers, we will have the option to cook delicious Sandwiches, following part of the Sword and Shield cooking mechanics. However, we have to be very careful when preparing it, from the selection of ingredients to how we arrange them, since we can start to overflow long before placing the lid. The small Sandwich can even be decorated with some items that you can buy in some stores in the villages. Consuming them gives us some special bonuses, but the important thing is to spend time with our Pokémon - and hope that they like part of our creation - to get closer to them.

Playing as a team

Another aspect we were able to test was the raids. These have a very similar aspect to what we found in Sword and Shield, where teams of up to 4 players can join in a Tera Raid Battle to face Pokémon with a special Tera Type. Unlike the last generation, it's now not all turn-based, but a bit more free-form. At the same time, players will be able to support each other, either by raising attack, defense, or even healing, making teamwork, and seeing each other's stats, of utmost importance.

The true Pokémon encyclopedia

There is no denying the importance of the Pokédex since its first release, being this the encyclopedia of the Pokémon world. For Pokémon Scarlet & Violet, we find a visual change in this game feature since when we capture a Pokémon, in addition to receiving its information, we will have at our disposal an illustrated cover of the Pokémon in its natural habitat. Although it is not something that gives a 180º turn to the franchise, it is one of the coolest details that this generation has. Now, in addition to catching all the Pokémon, there will be the itch to discover each one of the illustrated covers for each of these pocket monsters.

Some sacrifices

I can't say that what we played was a perfect experience. The Dophan in the room continues and there are certain visual elements that break the immersion. This can be seen in some trailers, with moments where the frames per second drop, and some animations in the background that stand out. Can this be changed for the final version? Possibly some elements can be improved and polished. Despite everything, the visual aspect has not been an impediment to the series since its jump to the Switch, the more than 12 million copies of Pokémon Legends Arceus in less than a year, are proof of this.

This is just a taste of what's in store for us come November 18 when Pokémon Scarlet & Violet launches on Nintendo Switch.