Pokemon Scarlet Review Wallpaper
December 8, 2022

After years of demand from fans, Pokémon finally goes open-world! Explore the series’ most ambitious game to date in our Pokemon Scarlet review.

Whether you’re a full-on fanatic, or have somehow managed to avoid being caught up in the hype, there’s no denying the huge impact of Pokemon. Since its debut in 1995, the series has been an unmatched pop-culture phenomenon, spanning genres and generations. And for those of us who grew up playing Pokemon, we’ll all be familiar with the main series’ tried and true formula for gameplay.

Pokemon Scarlet Review visual comparison of generations

Two decades and eight generations of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

These linear adventures began in a small town and had you facing off against 8 gyms of varying types, all to culminate in a final showdown against the Pokemon League to become the new champion. That was until Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, the newest games in the mainline Pokemon series, and the very first to go against the expected format. Diverting away from linear gameplay, these games at last offer the first truly open-world experience.

So is the sprawling open world of Paldea Pokemon’s grandest adventure yet, or is it too little too late? Read ahead and explore to the (open) world of Pokemon in our Pokemon Scarlet review.

Pokemon Scarlet Review – Story

The sprawling continent of Paldea, home to a broad variety of cultures and environments, is known for one thing above all else: its Pokemon. And at the heart of Paldea, within the capital of Mesagoza, an academy entirely dedicated to the study Pokemon is one of the most respected institutes across all regions. I’m of course referring to Naranja Academy, where it just so happens to be your very first day as a student!

Pokemon Scarlet Review Mesagoza Naranja Academy

How did you know this was a Pokemon academy? What gave it away?

On your way to the academy, you’ll cross paths with three fascinating characters, all of whom play important roles in the story of Pokemon Scarlet. There’s Nemona, the student president and recently-crowned champion of Paldea who wants nothing in life but to battle. There’s Arven, the enthusiastic upperclassman on a quest to research the continent’s mystical herbs and heal his beloved companion. And lastly, you’ll encounter Penny, a softly spoken classmate who on the surface appears unassuming, but who’s more than meets the eye.

Let’s be real, Arven is best boy. Too sweet and pure for this world.

But there’s far more to Paldea than just Pokemon – as a disturbing series of events has led to the appearance of ancient creates appearing across the continent, wreaking havoc. While they might assume the appearance of Pokemon, these aptly-named “Titans” pose a threat to all life in Paldea if not stopped. So, on your very first day of school, after crossing paths with an ancient Pokemon, it’s your task to save the entire world, and alongside your friends uncover the secrets that lay deep beneath Paldea.

Pokemon Scarlet Review secret lab

Team up with your friends and uncover the hidden secrets of Paldea.

While Pokemon has never been a series known for its eloquently-crafted Shakespearean storylines (except maybe Gen V), the story of Pokemon Scarlet offers a deeply heart-warming plot that at times will feel undeniably relatable for many Pokemon fans. On multiple occasions I found myself genuinely connecting and empathising with many of the game’s characters, which is something the series hasn’t previously achieved.

Pokemon Scarlet Review – Gameplay

For the purpose of this review, I won’t delve deep into the mechanics of Pokemon. If you’ve played one, you’ve played them all, and should already be familiar with the concept of catching Pokemon to fill the Pokedex, training and evolving them, and sending them into turn-based battles. The one key difference in Scarlet is “Terastallizing“, this game’s battle gimmick turning Pokemon into crystal, altering their type and boosting the power of moves of the Pokemon’s Tera Type.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Terastallize gif

Woah, Nice Mega Evolution! Oh wait, I mean Dynamax! Oh wait, I mean…

Aside from this new mechanic, Pokemon Scarlet draws upon the familiar gameplay and divides it into three distinct components that can be completed in any chosen order: Victory RoadStarfall Street, and Path of Legends.

Gameplay – Victory Road

This aspect of Pokemon Scarlet is what most of us know to be the core of Pokemon, and comprises the game’s gyms and Pokemon League. Though unlike the previous titles, which has the player advance in a linear fashion, Pokemon Scarlet gives players completely free reign to challenge each gym in any order whatsoever. The traditional gyms themselves have now been replaced with “Gym Tests” – simple tasks that act as a qualifier before facing off against each gym leader. It’s a very different take on the formula, feeling like classic Pokemon but with a modern spin.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Gym Test

Some gym tests are painfully easy, like this one that required pressing the A button.

Observing the map and determining your next gym gives players a feeling of independence, as if you’re able to craft your own journey across Paldea. And while there’s no level scaling or specific guidance on how to progress, you’ll often find yourself observing the levels of wild Pokemon or trainers to determine if you’re headed in the right direction. Though throughout the experience I found the gyms to never pose much of a challenge.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Levincia Gym

Gym leaders are as full of colour and personality like more than ever before.

And while this might be the highlight of all previous Pokemon games, in Generation 9, Victory Road is merely one piece of the overall gameplay. As a result, it doesn’t seem to have quite have the same impact as taking on the powerful Elite 4 of Pokemon Red, or facing off against Cynthia in Platinum. Unfortunately, the Pokemon League in Scarlet ends up feeling quite underwhelming.

Gameplay – Starfall Street

Most games in the mainline series incorporate a Team of some sort, whether that’s OG Team Rocket, the futuristic Team Galactic, or my personal favourite, Gen V’s Team Plasma. Starfall Street places its focus on a brand new band of miscreants, Team Star, who appear to be causing a ruckus at Naranja Academy and have been encouraging students to unenroll from the academy.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Team Star Big Boss

No kidding, Team Star is led by “Big Boss”. Hmm, Metal Gear…

Team Star have established 5 separate squads with bases spread across Paldea, acting as strongholds each led by a Boss with a preference for a Pokemon type and a distinct visual flair. Taking down the base is a simple procedure, with the player facing off against waves of Pokemon before making their way to the boss. These aren’t traditional battles, however, but more Musou-style gameplay where multiple Pokemon are defeated in seconds at the press of a button. It’s painfully simple and requires no skill or thought at all.

Mash R to win.

Where the base battles fall short, the story and characters of Starfall Street go above and beyond. Some can actually be quite a challenge too! Each of the Bosses are engaging and entertaining, and once defeated give the player a heartfelt insight into why they ended up as part of Team Star.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Starfall Street

Gameplay – Path of Legends

Lastly, the most titanic addition to Pokemon Scarlet is the brand new Path of Legends, which focuses on the game’s legendary, Koraidon. The player teams up with Arven and is tasked with investigating the region’s five Titans which appear to be running rampant and must be defeated.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Path of Legends Titan

Attack on Titan!

Taking down each titan unlocks a new flavour of Herba Mystica, a powerful ancient herb that when ingested unlocks special abilities. Funnily enough, Koraidon has a taste for these herbs, and with each new flavour gains a new ability that helps you traverse the map. Eventually, with enough herbs, Koraidon will be able to dash, swim, glide, and even climb sheer cliffs.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Arven and Mabostiff

Path of Legends explores the bond between Arven and his beloved Mabostiff.

Whilst Path of Legends isn’t exactly challenging, with each of the titans being felled with ease, it does offer the most interesting gameplay of the entire game. This feels like a taste of what a modern Pokemon game could be, but is held back by one very important aspect where the game is lacking…

Pokemon Scarlet Review – Visuals

Unless you’ve been sleeping like a Snorlax, you would have seen significant drama surrounding Pokemon Scarlet’s visuals and technical performance, which are unpolished to say the least. The open world formula might be an ambitious step forward for the series, but with poor optimisation from Game Freak and the limitations of the Switch, feels as if the series has gone significantly backward.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Visual Glitch

Visual glitches are frequent and distracting.

The game’s vibrant art-style and new Pokemon designs do nothing to make up for its visual shortcomings. This is the worst performing Pokemon game to date, with horrendous draw distance, frequent pop-ins, inconsistent framerate, and an array of visual glitches ranging from minor and amusing all the way through to game-breaking.

Seeing Paldea from an entirely different perspective!

Considering the game’s complete lack of visual polish, it’s clear that Game Freak have rushed to get the game released. There have been promises of improvements to visuals in future patches, but for a triple-A videogame as part of the world’s biggest series, this is simply inexcusable. Other open-world games like Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild run perfectly on Switch thanks to the impressive efforts of Monolithsoft, so the blame cannot be placed entirely on Switch hardware either.


Where the game’s visuals require significant improvements, the same cannot be said for its soundtrack. This is one of the most impressive Pokemon soundtracks to date, thanks to a collaborative effort of no less than 7 different composers. Iconic Pokemon veterans like Junichi Masuda and Go Ichinose return alongside newer composers like Toby Fox, who has impressively gone from a silly little game about skeletons to co-composing the biggest series on the planet. It’s a brilliant soundtrack with a variety of styles and cultural influences. Just take a listen and you’ll hear just what I mean!

One of the overworld themes, which changes dynamically based on your actions.

Funk and jazz are incorporated into many of the tracks, like the Cascarrafa Gym theme.

Arven’s battle theme, which somehow gives off Bayonetta vibes.

Hands down the best track in the game – Nemona’s final battle theme brings unrivaled intensity as the game draws to a close.

Outside of the game’s soundtrack, the remainder of the audio isn’t really worthy of comment. Once again, the game is completely lacking voice acting of any variety, leaving certain interactions falling flat and feeling lifeless. For Pokemon to take a step towards an ambitious open-world style, it seems odd they’d not consider advancing the game’s audio to match.

Extras + Post-Game

As with any Pokemon game, there’s plenty more to the gameplay than just the story. For starters, returning from Pokemon Sword & Shield, Raid Battles now take place in the form of Tera Raids where players can face off against Terastallized Pokemon alongside 3 friends in local or online co-op. In fact, there’s even more of an emphasis on online play now, with the addition of the Union Circle, giving players the ability to battle, trade, and even explore and take pictures together using the in-built photo mode.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Union Circle Co-Op

And once you’ve finished the game, there’s still plenty more to do. You’ll be given the chance to have rematches with the gym leaders, partake in the Academy Ace Tournament, and take part in more difficult Tera Raids. There are also several legendary Pokemon waiting to be unlocked, but I won’t spoil the secret of how you track them down.

Pokemon Scarlet Review Sounds Kina Videogamey


Pokemon Scarlet is a conflicting experience to say the least – like a confused Pokemon. While it’s certainly the least polished Pokemon game to date, most fans of the series will still find plenty to enjoy in Paldea. The open world formula and fresh gameplay, even riddled with visual glitches, is clearly a step in the right direction for the franchise. Scarlet also treats players to not only a heartfelt story, but some of the best battle themes heart across the entire series. This is still a must-play for Pokemon fans, even if at times it hurts itself in confusion.

So, why should you play it?

  • The open world Pokemon game fans have been waiting for!
  • Freedom to explore is a welcome change to the series
  • Surprisingly heartfelt story with loveable characters
  • Plenty of new Pokemon with clever and amusing designs
  • Impressive soundtrack with some of the series’ best battle themes

But why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Easily the least polished mainline Pokemon game to date
  • Bland visuals and horrendous technical performance
  • Locales and towns feel lifeless and uninteresting

Get the best deal on a copy of Pokemon Scarlet here!

A review code for Pokemon Scarlet was kindly provided by Nintendo Australia for the purpose of our review. If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out more of our Nintendo Switch reviews.

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