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Early Previews For Pokemon Scarlet & Violet Say It Changes Up The Formula

"Pokémon Scarlet and Violet" is still a month away, but a few lucky reviewers were able to get a sneak peek. Nintendo has drip-marketed trailers about the game's new features — like the three-part story, auto-battling, and TM crafting – that make it seem like more of an open-world title than past iterations. It's also the first mainline "Pokémon" game to be marketed as "open-world." It looked similar to "Pokémon Legends Arceus," but it's hard to tell how features really play out without a hands-on demo. 


So, the previews are here to tell it like it really is. The consensus? "Pokémon Scarlet and Violet" seems like everything that was promised in the short 1-hour sessions that previewers had with the demo. It shifts the series into an open-world model while retaining the turn-based battles and capturing that made "Pokémon" as big a hit in the first place. In short, it changes the formula to incorporate more freedom, exploration, and quests, and fewer straight-up battles, like gym-based progression from past games.

Not Pokemon Legends: Arceus

"Pokémon Scarlet and Violet" innovates on the open-world formula established in "Pokémon Legends Arceus" without copying it. You can initiate a battle by running into a wild Pokémon, but you can't just sneak up and catch them like you can in "Arceus." You can ambush Pokémon for an advantage in battle — just don't expect to capture them on sight.


Another innovation in this open-world Pokémon game is its "deemphasis" on battles. NPCs also don't charge up to your character to initiate battle anymore, but you can still start a fight on your own terms. That way, their eagerness to battle doesn't interrupt your immersion. 

Casey DeFreitas, IGN's resident "Pokémon" fanatic, wrote, "The NPCs are polite now?" For her, the freedom to explore was more enticing than the aggro trainers at every corner. GameSpot's Steve Watts added that even gyms have forgone eye-contact battles and focused on environmental puzzles instead. It's something that "Pokémon Sword and Shield" already experimented with in its "gym puzzles" and it seems to have continued into "Scarlet and Violet." Trainers still battle, but it's less of a focus, and players are free to enjoy chatting with NPCs instead of wondering if every person is ready to fight.


New systems work together

"Scarlet and Violet" also incorporate features that help the player build up experience while exploring. Players can use a "Let's Go!" command to let their Pokémon run free and trigger auto-battles. Those don't gain as much experience as a regular battle, but they do have some utility outside of XP.


Casey DeFreitas at IGN points out that the TM crafting makes this auto-battling especially valuable. "You won't know what materials are needed [for TMs] until you've found them first – making Auto Battles almost a necessary addition for this new system to be fun instead of arduous," she wrote. "Imagine forcing yourself to initiate a traditional turn-based battle with every single Pokémon you see just in case it might drop material for a TM you want to craft!" She also noted that you can still find TMs on the floor like you could in past games.

As per GameSpot's Steve Watts, "Nintendo was sure to emphasize that this is less XP than they'd earn from a traditional battle, so as to not break the game balance."


So much to do, not enough time

In Polygon's preview, Ari Notis noted that the multiple questlines kept him with enough to do that he could've lasted way behind the timed preview session. "It took me the duration of the session to finish just one mission on each of these three quest lines, which should give you an idea of how meaty these tasks are," he wrote.  Notis also explained that there's plenty to do outside of quests, writing, "The world itself is rife with other activities. You can make sandwiches. You can peruse various storefronts, including a dedicated shop for TMs, or single-use items that will teach your Pokémon new attacks. You can deck out your character with customized outfits." There's just not enough time to do it all during the preview.


The only downside to "Pokémon Scarlet and Violet" so far seems to be its graphics. Watts noted the "windmills" that made it especially obvious that the Switch was straining to run the game.

"What I saw in Scarlet was similarly rough," Watts said, comparing it to Arceus. "The aforementioned windmill was an especially noticeable example, as you could see the individual frames of its motion instead of moving in a smooth circular pattern." But, of course, he noted that Game Freak could possibly patch the graphical hiccup before the game's official release."

Overall, reviewers seemed to enjoy their time with the new "Pokemon" generation, and it left them wishing for more, for the most part.