Pokemon Scarlet and Violet review: Ambitious, bold, and buggy

In the middle of a town square, a fierce Pokémon battle breaks out. In the foodie paradise of the city of Medali, filled with restaurants, a young trainer is trying to earn the right to face the leader of the local gym. With a stoic expression, his Hariyama unleashes a flurry of punches at his hated rival, bringing the enemy’s hit points into the red. It’s a dramatic battle, but the young coach is determined to win.

Then, right at the decisive moment, an aimless local wanders into the battle. All the tension in the scene is dissipated by his curiously warm smile and relaxed demeanor. The ease of his walk and the soft gleam in his eyes suggest a man at ease with himself. Perhaps this man – let’s call him Phil – is on his way to buy groceries or maybe just taking a leisurely walk around town.

Paralyzed by his constant confidence, I watch Phil walk from one end of the screen to the other, the ongoing pocket monster contest completely forgotten as his smooth wandering unfolds. Phil might be having a good day, but he’s ruined Pokemon.

Captured at Philm. (Image credit: Future)

Building on the open-world stages made in Pokémon Sword and Shield and Pokémon Legends Arceus, the world in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is the most ambitious yet. Filled with places to explore and Pokemon to catch, you can take a non-linear approach to its main story, which developer Game Freak has broken into three main quest chains.

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