Platform: Nintendo Switch
I love the Pokemon series, sorta. I played the original Pokemon on the original GameBoy not long after it was released back when I worked for Midway Home Entertainment. I played the game. I beat the game. I enjoyed the game. I didn't fall madly in love with the game that I committed every detail about each Pokemon in the Pokedex but enjoyed it enough to share it with my kids.
Now, my kids, they fell madly in love with the game and can repeat so many obscure facts about every Pokemon game that its not even a challenge for them. And as the years passed, my kids played every version of Pokemon that was released. Of course, when they were young that also meant that I got to hear in excruciating detail about every Pokemon game.
I would pick a new Pokemon game every few generations and play for myself. I wasn't a fan of buying the latest entry in the franchise so I could catch a few dozen new pokemon but mostly the same ones I caught in the previous games. I only bought the games that introduced new mechanics to the series. Aside from Pokemon Red, I played games like Pokemon Black, Pokemon: Legends Arceus, Pokemon Go, and most recently, Pokemon Scarlet.
Pokemon Scarlet represents the first time a standard Pokemon game has been on a non-GameBoy-esque platform. Sure, mobile phones have had Pokemon Go! but that isn't a standard Pokemon game and games on the Switch like Arceus and Pokemon Let's Go aren't either. They have Pokemon elements and use familiar Pokemon features but I wouldn't call them entries in the standard game series whereas Pokemon Scarlet/Violet are your typical Pokemon game.
To anyone who hasn't payed attention, this latest entry does branch off from the old gameplay style and has instead opted for something of an open world. Players can go anywhere in the world at any time. Players can challenge gyms in any order. Gone are the days of specific routes and predetermined gym levels. Players have so much more freedom to play the game in any order they want but now that the gyms will adapt to whatever level balancing is needed to make it a challenge.
The game features a lot of familiar faces with Pokemon from previous generations, though not all of them, and several new ones for players to discover and catch. The game borrows aspects from other games like raids and pokemon being visible on the map so players can choose to fight or evade. There are some new mechanics like being able to make sandwiches to increase stats and encounter rates. There are now also multiplayer capabilities that allow you join other players' worlds and join forces to complete higher difficulty raids.
Between our family, we purchased around 8 copies of the game, 4 Scarlet and 4 Violet. It took me about 2 weeks to beat all the gyms, star bases, legendaries, and complete the Pokedex. I wasn't the first, nor was I the last, to beat the game or to complete my 'dex but I also played less frequently than those among us who beat me to each point.
After having gone through the game, exploring everything I could, catching all the Pokemon available, doing some raids, and everything, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the game's many aspects. I didn't find the game super challenging though. With the open world option, I was able to run around, find good Pokemon for my team, and level them up significantly before hitting any of the gyms or star bases. Even with the level balancing system, my team build either took advantage of the gym leader's weaknesses or just plain overpowered the competition.
I easily clocked 100 hours on the game which means its an enjoyable game. I continued playing even after beating the game. We all play together to do special event raids to catch pokemon that aren't in the game outside of the raids, like Charizard and Cinderace. In terms of things like story, graphics, and music, the game is just whatever. The story acts as a background to the game's core concept of catching and battling pokemon. The music is just typical Pokemon music. And graphics, the graphics are a big step forward compared the graphic power of the previous GameBoy and DS entries but the game pushed the Switch console to its absolute limits. There were instances of graphic stuttering and tearing. The game crashed sporadically. Some users ran into so many issues that Nintendo started offering refunds for the game, kind of like what happened with Cyberpunk 2077.
For me, the crashes in the game were nothing new. I've had several of my Switch games crash randomly. It wasn't anything that would make me demand a refund or write the game off as unplayable. The crashes were less than ideal but again, nothing new or game corrupting.
All in all, if you are a fan of the Pokemon games, pick this game up. It is enjoyable to play. It offers both something new and something familiar at the same time. If you are a new player to the Pokemon series, this is a good introduction game. The challenge isn't too tough but the game gives enough challenge. The game can be played in console mode and handheld mode with no issues (other than the already reported ones...).
I wouldn't consider this game a contender for Game of the Year, not even close, but it's a good game. It's a good entry into the already well established franchise and does a good job bridging the GameBoy/DS world of Pokemon into the newest generation of consoles. It makes me curious to see what future entries will introduce and I'm happy to see that the long-running series has been able to reinvent itself for the current generation.