Spoiler Warning: This post discusses the main arc of the latest Pokémon games and while it doesn’t go into detail, I know that some people would prefer to avoid any kind of information at all. This spoiler warning is for those people. And it starts in the fourth paragraph below (this is paragraph zero).
I finished the main plot sequence of Pokémon Violet, which feels weird to write since I wouldn’t describe the main arc of any other Pokémon game as a “plot,” much less as a “plot sequence” which suggests there’s multiple steps to a larger plot. Still, this one definitely had a plot and I have experienced as much of it as my further-along friends say there is to experience (though I did immediately find something no one else knew about after the credits and final cutscene bits had run their course, so maybe there’s still more plot that no one else has found yet). It was pretty surprising, I’ll admit, the way the game went from zero to sixty once I was allowed into Area Zero. It was such a drastic change it almost felt like playing a different game, a feeling aided by the incredible music that is unique to that segment of the game. It was an incredible change that I enjoyed and I found myself wishing the entire game was styled after the Area Zero portion.
Now I still have to go catch or evolve the last 90ish Pokémon, return to thoroughly exploring the world, and work my way through figuring out what Pokémon I need my friends’ assistance to obtain. I only have a few of the Pokémon Scarlet exclusives and none of the legendary or plot Pokémon of either game (with the notable exception of my version’s titular legendary), so I’m in a position of needing only the difficult-to-get Pokémon for the most part. Many of the rest are evolutionary forms of Pokémon I’ve got or pre-evolutionary forms, so it should be fairly simply to level up or get eggs for most of the Pokédex. There are a few complex ones, like the new Pawniard evolution that requires battling wins to evolve and at least one more that requires a bunch of walking around, but I think I’ve got it pretty well in hand at this point. It’s just a matter of time before I can follow the example of my friends and start catching a flock of shiny Mareep or act on my heart’s desire to obtain one of every shiny bird Pokémon. The sky is the limit.
It’s been a pretty fun experience, for the most part, aside from the bug that wound up pushing me into the game’s three major questlines that I’d been ignoring. It’s probably for the best that I left aside my exploration, but I still wish I’d be able to move at my own pace and in my own time rather than feeling pressured to play a certain way. Aside form that, though, it’s been great. The raids are a bit wonky, but I’ve been doing them with my friends as part of being in a Union Circle and that’s way more fun that I thought it would be. Running around the world together, getting up to hijinks, taking pictures with each other, laughing as we do dumb things like figure out how to all jump off a bridge rather than follow someone’s directions for getting into frame for a picture. The only thing I could ask for beyond that is to be able to travel as a group during plot-centric things and watch each other’s plot-focused Pokémon battles. I’d love to cheer on my friends during gym battles.
We got a taste of that in the final section of the plot, in Area Zero. The game teams you up with people you’ve met throughout the earlier portions of the game and not only do you get to battle alongside them, but you get to see them talk to each other as they become friends. They bond over their pasts, over knowing you, and why they’re here in a demonstrably dangerous place. It’s a lot of fun to read their dialogue as you explore and I really wish there was more like that in other parts of the game. It would be amazing to be able to form a party and wander around the world with people who have things to say, their own goals, and a vested interest in whatever it is your character is up to. I know I’m basically just describing every RPG ever, but I think a full Pokémon RPG like that would be amazing.
I do think the story and writing could use a bit more work, though. I’m not going to go into detail because I don’t want to spoil anything, but a lot happens and while a lot of it is very well done, some of the character stuff feels like it just gets dropped. Like story threads appear that just wind up dangling as the game concludes. Sure, those could be lead-ins for whatever DLC is eventually released, but they could have temporarily tied them off without much effort rather than simply let them dangle as one of the characters seems to grow and show some character traits that ultimately vanish as they regress to the way they’ve always been. It was a little annoying. I’ll also admit that I wasn’t really in a place where I was interested in the story the game was telling. I have a lot of thematically similar things going on right now and I just wasn’t up for immersing myself in the Pokémon Violet flavored version.
All of my friends seemed to really like it, though, so I think it was mostly just me. I did enjoy it, though, even if I wasn’t as enamored as my friends are. They did a lot of excellent foreshadowing and payoff, plus a really good, long-term Chehkov’s Gun that I enjoyed immensely. And while the final battle felt a little scripted, it is entirely possible that I just got exactly the kind of lucky I needed to be for my choices to work out. I definitely think it was a bit scripted, though. I don’t think that’s bad, since they did a good job of managing the drama that had been building and I think I probably wouldn’t even be writing this if I hadn’t been holding myself more emotionally distant from the story than I usually do. But it is what it is. I’d definitelly recommend it to people who enjoy Pokémon games and what a fun spin on the old formula. It’s worth the time, for sure.