This is the first fully open world Pokémon game and I found that the open world elements work very well. At the end of a short intro and tutorial section, you are released to truly go your own way. There are a few options given to you, defeating team star bases, tracking down titan Pokémon and, of course, the staple of battling gyms. However, you are not forced to do any of those. You can choose just to explore and fill your Pokédex, hunt shiny Pokémon, made simpler with the added food buffs, or just battle NPC trainers, who are dotted around the game world. You can even take on harder gyms and Star bases before the easy ones, if your Pokémon team is levelled enough. I came across no barriers beyond wild Pokémon level during my initial play through. It is worth warning you, however, that the areas do not scale to your level. But they do radiate out from the starting zone by difficulty, making it less likely that you might wander into a higher level area by mistake. If you are spoiled for choice or don’t know what to do next, you can ask an NPC at any of the game’s Pokémon Centres and they will happy mark a level appropriate goal on your map. So, the open world element never feels overwhelming.
Pokémon breeding has had an overhaul. There’s no point searching the map for the Pokémon day care centre because there isn’t one, in this version. Instead, you need to have the Pokémon you want to breed in your team and find a nice open area to have a picnic. There doesn’t seem to be any indication by interacting with your Pokémon during the picnic as to if they like each other. Instead, as long as they share an egg group, you should just get an egg added to your picnic basket every few minutes. You then hatch these the traditional way by having them in your party and walking/ riding around the map.
In terms of combat, it all works quite similar to sword and shield. You can battle wild Pokémon in the environment or interact with shiny crystals to do a raid for a chance at slightly rarer Pokémon, this includes the new Terastal types. The new Terastal mechanic basically just gives each Pokémon an extra type which can match or differ to its main type. Terastallizing your Pokémon in battle changes your Pokémon’s type to its Terastal type and powers up the Pokémon’s moves that share that type. While the new mechanic can be handy at times, mastering it is not really required to beat the game.
In terms of performance, I found the initial issues raised of poor visual performance to be accurate. The game lags quite a lot, the frame rate drops through the floor in many places, mainly in the game’s cities. The NPC animations in the distance, seem to run like a kaleidoscope a lot of the time. Either the game is very poorly optimised or the development team were too ambitious for the Switch’s technical limitations. However, none of the issues I encountered were game breaking or impeded progress and none caused the game to crash. It just makes things visually uncomfortable at times. I’m sure the issues will be corrected with an update at some point.
I have played the Violet version which is identical to the Scarlet version with the exception of the main story legendary Pokémon and a few version specific wild Pokémon. You can trade online to get the few version specific Pokémon so the only choice you really need to make is which of the main story legendries you want. I chose Violet simply because I like the colour blue more than red. However, if you want to make a more informed decision on which version to get then you might want to check out the wild Pokémon exclusives for each version and see which appeal to you more. Overall, I’ve found this an enjoyable game. There is plenty to do and I really do feel that the franchise benefits from this new open world format.