Pokémon Scarlet and Violet takes a big risk by going full Breath of the Wild

A new trailer for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet just landed, and it’s bursting with gameplay details for the upcoming game.

Due to release November 18 for Nintendo Switch, the launch of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet is fast approaching. And with Pokémon Sword and Shield now firmly behind us, we’re ready to see what the Pokémon Company has in store for us this time.

The trailer reveals a host of new features, including how Terastallization works and how Pokémon can use the phenomenon to change types mid-battle. We are also treated to glimpses of the TM machine; a must-have for min-maxers out there, as well as the three major storylines available in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: Path of Legends, Victory Road and Starfall Street.

They also showed off the new Tera Raid battles, which are co-op engagements against a single, especially tough Pokémon, reminiscent of the Dynamax Raids in Sword and Shield.

The gameplay footage also revealed numerous open-world features, including a “Let’s Go” command, which instructs your Pokémon to fight automatically, without requiring micromanagement. They also revealed a world map and “Grunt Battles,” where your team face off against multiple Team Star trainers in the open world.

It’s a whole new world we live in

The open-world ambitions of Scarlet and Violet clearly intend to build on the Wild Area of Sword and Shield in a big way.

It’s exciting to see a shift towards open-world exploration in Scarlet and Violet. Judging by the map shown off in the trailer, it looks like the latest pocket monster simulator is meandering in the direction of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Nintendo have clearly learned a thing or two from Pokémon Legends Arceus, not only embracing a greater emphasis on exploration but also allowing battles to take place in the world, rather than in a stylized, instanced arena. Pokémon has always been celebrated for its emphasis on adventure and exploration and it’s heartening to see Scarlet and Violet double down.

The “Let’s Go” command could also be a game changer, and clearly comes as a result of the shift towards open-world play. As seen in the trailer, this allows you to sic your Pokémon on targets in the wild, having them automatically battle.

Obviously, the success of this mechanic will depend a great deal on how organic it feels when used out in the world. At its best, it could potentially signal an end to tedious level grinding, while, at its worst, it could be consigned to the trash heap of forgotten Pokémon gimmicks*.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, open world map
(Image credit: Nintendo)

However, as heartening as it is to see Pokémon branch out into new territory for the series, I am forced to wonder if open-world mechanics will be a good fit for what is, essentially, a granular turn-based RPG.

From Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to Horizon Forbidden West, a significant tranche of modern video games seem to be committed to recreating the phenomenal open-world experiences of The Witcher 3. Both the Assassin’s Creed and Horizon series have done excellent things with the Witcherly formula and make for an excellent experience in their own right.

However, a part of me can’t help but wonder if this is dangerous territory for a whimsical turn-based RPG. While Pokémon Legends Arceus did push the envelope in some very cool ways, it would be a shame to see Scarlet and Violet dilute the whimsy and generosity of the traditional pocket monster formula in their pursuit of open-world mechanics. As a Pokémon fan for many, many years, I sincerely hope that my fears are unfounded.

*This is where the Sandwich mini-game is going. Trust me: nobody’s playing Pokémon because they want the authentic Subway experience. Sorry, sandwich fans.

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