It’s been a busy 12 months for The Pokemon Company. The company has announced Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, brand-new Gen-9 entries in the ongoing Pokemon franchise, are releasing in November. This comes hot off the heels of remakes Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl and the revolutionary Pokemon Legends: Arceus. That’s three massive Pokemon games all in roughly a year, so fans of pocket monsters are living well right now.
Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet are full generational sequels, meaning a new region, new starters, new variants, and tons of new Pokemon. But there are also lots of unanswered questions about how this next generation will iterate on the formula. In preparation for Scarlet and Violet, here’s everything we know, as well as what we’d like to see from the next mainline Pokemon games as we head into Not-E3, which as of yet does not have a Nintendo Direct scheduled.
As part of a new gameplay trailer shared in June, it was revealed that Pokemon Scarlet and Violet will release on November 18, 2022, exclusively for Nintendo Switch. Preorders for Scarlet and Violet are now live.
So far, the Pokemon Company has released two trailers detailing what we’ll see in Scarlet and Violet. The first is brief, but packed with enough details and information that we were able to draw some informed conclusions.
The second trailer was more detailed, showing off another handful of Pokemon, including the new legendaries, Koraidon and Miraidon, as well as the instant internet sensation Lechonk. It also showed more details on gameplay, and introduced new characters like the professors and your new friendly rival.
Every new mainline Pokemon game features a new region, and often these are based loosely on real-world locations. The very first Pokemon game, for example, took place in the Kanto region, which was modeled after Nintendo and The Pokemon Company’s home nation of Japan. Other regions have been inspired by France (Kalos), Hawaii (Alola), and most recently, the United Kingdom (Galar).
The new region in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet has not been named yet. But we do have some idea of what to expect based on the debut trailer. Fans have noted some architectural and geographical similarities with Spain, making it the likely inspiration for the next Pokemon game. This is bolstered by names of the new starters, which have phonemes similar to the Spanish language.
New and returning Pokemon
In the first trailer, we saw only three Pokemon: the starters that players will choose from at the beginning of their adventure. As usual, these fall into the core elemental types: Grass, Fire, and Water. This has been the case since the very first Pokemon game, so it’s not surprising to see Game Freak stick to tradition.
The three starters are Sprigatito, the Grass Cat; Fuecoco, the fire croc; and Quaxly, the water duckling. We’ve only seen their starter forms as well, so we don’t know how they’ll evolve. Some of the time as Pokemon evolve, they gain new types on top of their original elemental attributes.
The second trailer debuted five more new Pokemon: the pig Lechonk, the plant-type Smoliv, and the electric mouse Pawme, along with the legendaries Koraidon and Miraidon. That brings the grand total of new Pokemon we know of in Pokemon Scarlet up to eight. We’re sure to see many more leading up to release.
Aside from the new starters, we’ve seen glimpses of several other Pokemon returning for this region. Those include fan favorites like Pikachu, Meowth, Psyduck, and Lucario, among others. Notably, the trailer showed the Hisuian variant of Zoroark, introduced in Pokemon Legends: Arceus. We may be able to expect more Hisuian variants. And of course, we can probably expect to see new regional variants based on this new area of the world.
One major new feature promised by the promotional material so far is that this will take place in an open-world environment. According to the official site:
“Various towns blend seamlessly into the wilderness with no borders. You’ll be able to see the Pokémon of this region in the skies, in the seas, in the forests, on the streets–all over! You’ll be able to experience the true joy of the Pokémon series–battling against wild Pokémon in order to catch them–now in an open-world game that players of any age can enjoy.”
On that note, Game Freak has also promised that you can explore the world with up to four players. This would make a true open-world multiplayer game, as opposed to Sword and Shield, which simply had multiplayer raid battles on top of the traditional battling and trading features.
Game Freak has dabbled with more open environments in two of its most recent Pokemon games, Pokemon Sword/Shield and Pokemon Legends: Arceus. So naturally, this promise of an open-world structure has raised questions about the nature of the open world and how it will work, and more broadly, just how open it will be.
Finally, the second trailer debuted two different professors, Professor Sada and Turo. Those two will be exclusive to Scarlet and Violet, respectively, marking the first time the professor characters in a Pokemon game are version-exclusive. That may also mean we’ll see the story deviate between the two versions. There’s some indication in the visual design of both the legendaries and professors that the two versions symbolize a nature vs technology conflict. As usual, you’ll also be running into a friendly rival, this time a girl named Nemona.
More Sword/Shield or Arceus?
First, let’s take a moment to recap what the difference is between the open structures of Pokemon Sword/Shield and Pokemon Legends: Arceus.
In Pokemon Sword and Shield, there were open areas, most notably the new “Wild Areas” where Pokemon could be seen roaming freely. But there were still hard loads between certain areas, and battles were their own distinct battle screen that loaded in separately from the exploration.
In Pokemon Legends: Arceus, there were several open-world areas that would be loaded in individually as you chose to explore a region. But within those regions there was an enormous amount of flexibility. You could toss Poke Balls directly at a Pokemon to catch them without doing battle at all, and when you did get into battle, you could still move around freely.
So which should we expect for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet? It’s unknown at this point, but most likely we can expect it to resemble the Sword and Shield structure. The announcement promises “no borders” between towns and wilderness, which suggests you can just walk straight from a Pokemon Center to a Wild Area without hitting a load screen. That’s more similar to Sword and Shield than Arceus, with the slight modification that you’ll no longer hit loads between areas. In fact, a structure like Legends: Arceus, with distinct open regions to explore, would definitely contradict the promise of a single, seamless open world.
More practically, Pokemon Legends: Arceus only came out earlier this year. The design document and large structural decisions for a game like Scarlet and Violet had to be set ahead of time, well before The Pokemon Company had a chance to watch the fan reaction to Legends: Arceus. That game represented a massive change from the usual Pokemon formula, so it’s unlikely that it would apply that structural change to its mainline series before even having a chance to gauge how fans feel about the changes.
What we want to see
Though we don’t know much about Pokemon Scarlet and Violet yet, we can still dream about what we’d like to see. A full generational sequel for the Pokemon series usually includes some significant new features and changes, and let’s just say we have some ideas.
More variety for gym battles
By now, every Pokemon fan knows the basic structure–you want to be the very best (like no one ever was), so you set off on a grand adventure to best the Pokemon masters at each gym and prove yourself. Every gym has a theme and those themes can range from battle gauntlets to fiendish environmental puzzles. Game Freak has riffed on this simple concept in some creative ways, and for the next Pokemon game it should continue to iterate with constant surprises for gym battles. Sure, the very first one might just be a series of fights against a single type, but after that the design should go wild and experimental.
More evolutions and regional variants
This one is almost a guarantee since Scarlet and Violet are set in a whole new region, but we want to emphasize how awesome it is to see new versions of some of our favorite Pokemon. That can mean new pre-evolutions like Pichu or new final evolutions like Slowking and Steelix. The ability to introduce new variants just opens up the design space that much more. And although Game Freak has seemingly stepped back from Mega Evolutions, we’d love to see them return, too. Gigantimax was a fun way to introduce raid battles, but more standard Pokedex Entry evolutions would be even better.
What? Eevee is evolving again!
Eevee, the evolution Pokemon, is known for its wide variety of different evolution types. It’s up to eight different evolution forms now, but that’s far from all 18 Pokemon types that exist. The last new Eeveelution was Sylveon in Gen-6, so it’s certainly due for a new one. Eevee is one of the franchise’s most popular monsters, and new Eeveelutions are a great way to get people excited about new possibilities for the design. How about a Steel-type or Poison-type Eevee for a change?
A rich, inviting, and connected endgame
Plenty of Pokemon fans over the years have completed the campaign, but hardcore Pokemon fans know that’s just the beginning. To really become a Pokemon master, you need to catch all available Pokemon and do battle against other powerful trainers–including human opponents. This high-level stage of the Pokemon adventure can seem off-putting to some fans, so why not have the story itself gently on-ramp players to further exploring the world of Pokemon? Pokemon Legends: Arceus is a good example here, since the conclusion of the story just led to more story and adventures. And for this to work, you need good, repeatable content for players to constantly feel like they’re challenged. Game Freak should use the connected nature of the Switch console to constantly issue updates and new content, including challenges to conquer and new Pokemon to find. It would be a baby step toward the live game that seems like a perfect fit for Pokemon, and it would keep fans engaged long-term.