Pokémon Scarlet Opens the World to Never-Before-Seen Possibilities

I started playing Pokémon Scarlet, the newest mainstream Pokémon game. Here is how I feel about it so far.


Sarah Kueking, Managing Editor

My mother and I answered the door to see Clavell, the director of Naranja Academy. He had come bearing Sprigatito, the Grass Cat; Quaxly, the Water-type Duckling; and Fuecoco, the Fire Croc. Only in the world of Pokémon would this make sense, as this was the scene in Pokémon Scarlet where I first met the three starters.

Screenshot by Sarah Kueking

The question was not in the normalcy of the situation but which starter I would choose minutes later upon arriving for my first day at the academy. Since I do not compete against other Pokémon players in real life, and the games have generally gotten easier over time, I have the liberty of choosing to use the monsters I think are cutest. So, have some catnip, Sprigatito. 

Pokémon Scarlet was released alongside Pokémon Violet on Nov. 18 for the Nintendo Switch, making it the newest entry in the series for Pokémon’s home console. After preordering Pokémon Scarlet, despite some drawbacks, I like it enough to continue playing and see if the positives will continue to outweigh the negatives.

Although I haven’t had as much time to play video games as I did before I started college, I still consider myself a veteran when it comes to playing Pokémon. Between the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS systems, I played 16 different Pokémon games to completion, not including the times I started over just to play them again. After buying a Switch in 2020, I completed the last mainstream Pokémon game to be released, Pokémon Sword, and began another that I haven’t yet finished, the remake of Pokémon Diamond, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond. I expect Pokémon Scarlet to finish where Pokémon Sword left off by fulfilling my long-awaited vision of an open-world game. I just hope the execution is skillful and not half-done, like I heard it was in Pokémon Legends: Arceus.

I remember playing Pokémon Diamond (the original on Nintendo DS, not the remake Brilliant Diamond on Switch) and being so disappointed to look almost exactly the same as every other player other than gender. But that was in 2007, and I am ecstatic to see how much the games have evolved since then, in terms of customization and otherwise. 

Upon first starting Pokémon Scarlet, I was prompted to pick one of eight avatars that differentiated in skin, eye and hair color. In previous mainstream games, after this choice, the player would not be able to change their appearance except in more recent entries, in which later in the game, players could visit salons to cut or dye their hair and put in color contacts. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, immediately after choosing my avatar, I was given a myriad of customization options before even beginning my adventure. 

Screenshot by Sarah Kueking

I almost felt like I was playing the Sims with the massive amount of choices there were, such as 31 eye colors (including choices as wild as ultramarine, lavender, or light blue with gold pupils), 26 eyelash and eyebrow colors and even 13 different locations to put a beauty spot on your character’s face. 

In short, after spending the last 15 years complaining about Pokémon not having many customization options in previous games, I can rest easy. Now I can officially say that my character is just that: a character, with unique traits, not a cookie-cutter clone made of pixels that is indecipherable from everyone else’s.

I won my first battle of the entire game without hardly breaking a sweat. My opponent and “friend,” Nemona (who was named automatically), chose Quaxly, whose Water-typing is weak to my Grass-type moves. Way before the Nintendo Switch, in the days of the Game Boy Advance, the player’s rival would pick the partner Pokemon who had a type advantage against your starter, making strategy essential to battling. Now, the games are meant to be easy. In the first game where this was the case, I was still a child, so I felt grateful for catching a break. Besides, I would still run into a secondary rival who had the starter that mine was weak to. Therefore, the challenge was still prevalent. Now, the easy-by-design required confrontations make me want to yawn. 

The same goes for catching Pokémon. In older games, catching a Pokémon would only be successful if you whittled their health down to almost nothing, tried stronger types of Poké Balls and/or used more than one Poké Ball. Although Nemona did mention all except the stronger Poké Balls when teaching me how to catch Pokémon, after being given some normal Poké Balls, I tried catching a few Pokémon without attacking them at all beforehand–and caught them on my first try. I was even told to simply throw a Poké Ball at Pokémon flying above me to engage them. 

I understand the Pokémon series is being geared towards children as well as adults these days, but where’s the challenge? I want to relive those frustrating moments where I fail to catch a Pokémon and I have to hunt down another one. As for the general difficulty of the game, the kids can always ask their big cousins to help them through the villains’ HQ like I had to in Pokémon Diamond when I was six. 

Despite the low difficulty level of Pokémon Scarlet thus far, I love the open-world concept. I have always wanted to be able to see the wild Pokémon I am trying to hunt rather than running blindly through the tall grass. How this will impact me when I’m crossing over water has yet to be seen. Although being able to see the wild Pokémon before battling them does make the game easier, doing so improves the quality of the game by making hunting for or avoiding a specific Pokémon much easier. The open-world layout also gives players more time to be immersed in the game by eliminating many wasted moments loading between locations. Even battles do not require a separate screen.

Though I still have a lot of Pokémon Scarlet left to play, I’ve enjoyed it enough so far to continue playing it and see if what I don’t like will be improved throughout the remainder of it. I hope I’m proven wrong about the difficulty of this game. I want to once again experience the despair of losing a boss battle and having to strategize which Pokémon I use for which enemies. I also hope that at least some of the Pokémon will prove more difficult to catch. Additionally, hopefully the open-world concept continues to be as enjoyable as it has been so far. I also am very interested to see where the storyline goes as the game progresses.

If you are interested in watching how open-world Pokémon catching works and how I encountered the legendary Pokémon Koraidon within the first 30 minutes of playing Pokémon Scarlet, check out my gameplay videos on our Youtube channel.