Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet are less than a month away, and I was lucky enough to go hands-on with a special demo build, specifically of Pokemon Scarlet. I could explore a large area and tackle three main story tasks in any order, and I opted to get a taste of as many things as I could in the hour I had, including the Let’s Go! feature, picnics, a Starfall Street challenge, a Gym Test and battle, plus, character customization. Here are my hands-on impressions of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, with summaries of everything we know about the games so far.
Paldea, the First Open-World Pokemon Region
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet both take place in the region of Paldea, widely believed to be inspired by Spain, and perhaps the entirety of the Iberian Peninsula. It’s the first truly open-world-style Pokemon game, which should let you go where you want when you want to with three different storylines, all part of your school’s “Treasure Hunt” assignment, to follow at your discretion.
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet: Closer Look at the Paldea Region
These different story paths are Victory Road, with the traditional goal of defeating Gym Leaders to claim the title of Champion; Path of Legends, which tasks you with fighting Titan Pokemon to collect rare Herba Mystica; and Starfall Street, which requires you to infiltrate the delinquent Team Star’s bases and defeat their bosses.
Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Version Differences
In the demo I played, I spawned by the main character’s home with the Legendary Pokemon Koraidon already in tow. In Scarlet, Koraidon serves as your trusty mount that can run, jump, climb, and glide; but in Violet, that role is taken by the Legendary Pokemon Miraidon instead. This is just one of many version differences between Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, which also include other exclusive Pokemon and even different professors.
After getting a feel for moving around (and inverting the camera), I set out to have a picnic and check out the new Let’s Go! feature.
Bond With Your Pokemon at Picnics
While having a picnic in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, you can play with, take photos of, and bathe the Pokemon in your party. Washing up your Pokemon supposedly strengthens their bond with you, which I assume references the hidden friendship mechanics that allow, say, an Eevee to be able to evolve into an Umbreon.
I made my own sandwich while picnicking, which was novel enough, but I likely wouldn’t revisit the physics-based minigame often if it weren’t for the small buffs the meals provide. These buffs do a range of things, from increasing a specific type’s effectiveness to increasing spawn rates of specific groups of Pokemon – even Shiny Pokemon!
Let’s Go! Sends Your Pokemon to Auto Battle and Collect Items
After the short picnic, I tried out the new Let’s Go! feature (not to be confused with the games of the same subtitle.) Tossing out a Poke Ball will release your party’s lead, who will engage in an Auto Battle with wild Pokemon nearby, or pick up any nearby items, which classically appear as Poke Balls on the ground. Your Pokemon stick near you as you explore, even if you’re mounted on your Legendary Pokemon companion, with notifications of its escapades appearing in the top right of the screen.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s Auto Battles
The experience earned from an Auto-Battle is still spread across the entire party, but is largely decreased compared to what you’d earn from a normal wild Pokemon battle. This is honestly a relief – if Auto Battles granted the same amount of XP as a normal battle, I’d probably accidentally power level, especially since I’ll be using Auto Battles as a way to collect Pokemon Materials dropped by defeated Wild Pokemon.
These Pokemon Materials are needed to craft TMs at the TM Machine at Pokemon Centers, another new system introduced in Scarlet and Violet. However, you won’t know what materials are needed until you’ve found them first – making Auto Battles almost a necessary addition for this new system to be fun instead of arduous. Imagine forcing yourself to initiate a traditional turn-based battle with every single Pokemon you see just in case it might drop material for a TM you want to craft! It’s worth noting I also found a TM on the ground as you normally would, too, but we don’t yet know if some TMs are exclusively obtainable one way or the other.
I’m still concerned about what happens if you encounter a Shiny Pokemon with Auto Battle enabled – will your Pokemon automatically unalive it if you don’t notice? Oof. Here’s hoping there’s a built-in system to prevent that, but at least I know you can call your Pokemon back at will.
New Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Screenshots – Oct. 21
I’m also curious if you still gain traditional Effort Values with Let’s Go! Auto Battles – I’m assuming you do, but with a time limit on my play session, I didn’t want to dilly-dally figuring that out, so we’ll have to revisit that mystery once the full release is here. I did try to investigate if Pokemon still have Individual Values in a traditional sense, and they seem to. I caught two of the same Pokemon with the same Nature and the same level, but they still had different stats. By the way, throwing a Poke Ball directly at a wild Pokemon does not catch it like in Pokemon Legends: Arceus – it just initiates a battle!
NPCs Are Polite and Don’t Attack on Sight
Curiously, I made eye contact with an NPC, but they didn’t initiate a battle. A Nintendo rep told me that in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, NPCs break that age-old tradition, and instead have an icon above their head to signify that they are willing and ready to fight if you interact with them.
It’s a large departure from the series’ tradition, with good and bad implications. On one hand, this can decrease perceived difficulty, but on the other, a lack of deterrents encourages exploration, and I can now see myself easily succumbing to the song of environmental side-tracking. It’d be a much more relaxing, straightforward experience to choose a spot to venture to and not be forced into a series of battles along the way. We also don’t yet know if some areas will have forced trainer battles as soon as you make eye contact – who’s to say?
Terastallizing Is the New Battle Gimmick
When you do enter a battle, the scenery remains exactly as is, similar to Pokemon Legends: Arceus – it’s quite a seamless transition! Battling will be familiar to Pokemon fans. Each Pokemon has four moves, you can switch Pokemon out in exchange for a turn, there are type weaknesses and resistances, etc. The new battle gimmick in Scarlet ann Violet is the Terastal Phenomenon, which essentially changes your Pokemon’s type to its Tera-type and boosts that type’s moves. It seems like any Pokemon can have any Tera-type, but it seems “rare” Tera-types are exclusive to special wild Pokemon, event Pokemon, and Pokemon in Tera Raid Battles (which we’ll discuss later.)
All Terastallized Pokemon
Hands-On With a Starfall Street Challenge
After I ran, jumped, and glided on the back of my Koraidon a bit while exploring, I fast-traveled to a point on the map to get closer to a Team Star base, part of the Starfall Street storyline. I then jumped over a cliff to the base below, which Team Star did not appreciate. Some harsh words and a loading screen later, I made it to the proper entrance to begin a challenge to defeat 30 Pokemon in 10 minutes with the Let’s Go! Auto Battles. During the trial, I could send out the first three Pokemon in my party to battle at once, and call them back at will. Because I knew the Team Star members here used Fire-type Pokemon, I prepped my team accordingly and had no trouble barreling through everything they threw at me. I was told if I had chosen the Ice-type Cetitan for this, it certainly would not have survived.
The ensuing battle with the leader, the fancy-boot-wearing Mela, surprised me for a number of reasons. The Torkoal she sent out had the Ability Drought, setting up her Fire-type team with advantageous weather. Her Torkoal tanked my now weakened Wigglet’s Water-type moves and two-shot it in return. After Torkoal, my next opponent was the Starmobile itself – which threatened to sweep my team with its Speed Boost Ability and powerful attacks. Luckily, Armarouge (a Scarlet-exclusive Pokemon) survived easily with its Flash Fire Ability, but it would have been a much tougher battle without it.
Completing a story task rewarded me with new TMs to craft at the TM Machine and LP to spend to make them, and some insightful dialogue – but not a free party heal. In the full game, I could have left the area to find the next Team Star base, but for the demo, I went to the nearby town of Artazon to challenge the Grass-type Gym Leader Brassius.
Hands-On With a Gym Test and Gym Battle
Before challenging the Artazon Gym Leader, I needed to pass his Gym Test—which is different for each Gym—but in this case, required me to find 10 Sunflora around the town. Like in the wilderness and Team Star’s base, the camera can be freely moved in town, and I could ride on Koraidon. I could even jump on buildings and glide, which I took full advantage of to find the Sunflora quickly.
The Gym Battle that followed was to be expected, except for Brassius’ oddly Tera-typed Sudowoodo. I easily swept his Grass-type team with Cetitan’s Ice Shard, an Ice-type priority move. I hadn’t even Terastalized, for that would have changed Cetitan’s type to Water. I was told my party of Bellibolt, Wiglett, Farigiraf, Armarouge, and Cetitan were stronger than what you’d usually have at this point, but from what I could see, Cetitan was within two levels of Brassius’ team.
But How Does the Open World Actually Work?
I’m curious if I’d be able to travel to snowy terrain to find an Ice-type Pokemon to catch before this battle in the full game, or if there’d be restrictions based on level. That’s the biggest question I still have – does the world’s levels scale with you, or does each area present with a different range of set levels? I couldn’t investigate to find out, and no one had that answer for me, unfortunately.
Hands-On With a Four Player Co-Op Tera Raid Battle
I participated in a four player-co-op Tera Raid Battle, which was fun, but since we could only do one, I’m hesitant to say much more about it. It was similar to a Sword and Shield Max Raid Battle, but instead of waiting on teammates each turn, I could make moves at my own pace in accordance with the time limit in place. I’d need to play more to get a sense if the in-game communications were sufficient, or if the difficulty of the raids would ever make the feature a necessity in the first place.
The Character Customization Is Robust
Finally, I have to mention the customization options – which are more robust than I’ve seen in any Pokemon game to date. With more than a dozen eyelash options alone, I see myself spending quite a bit of time creating my character and changing up her style as I play.
Overall, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet seem to shake up the traditional Pokemon formula in more ways than one, with an open world to explore freely, three stories to tackle on your own terms, four-player co-op, and even smaller details we probably haven’t even uncovered yet like the disposal of forced NPC battles. There’s enough new here to make me highly anticipate a new Pokemon journey once Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are released on November 18.
New Pokemon in Scarlet and Violet
For more on Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, don’t miss these Pokemon Scarlet and Violet wiki guide pages that have documented everything else we know so far:
Casey DeFreitas is IGN’s Deputy Editor of Guides. You can catch her on Twitter @ShinyCaseyD.