I was and still am hyper critical of Pokémon Sword and Shield, yet I still put a few hundred hours into collecting every ‘mon and climbing the online ranked ladder for most competitive seasons. I had plans to do the same with Pokémon Scarlet and Violet – explore every nook of Paldea, complete the Pokédex and hunt for some shiny Pokémon, maybe stream some ranked battles – but after stomping Geeta and her Glimmora, I haven’t really gone back to play. Not to beat the Gym Leaders once again. Not to search for the Treasures of Ruin. Not even to hit the Master Ball tier, and I love me some competitive Pokémon.
The game is just too janky to invest more time into. If you can’t tell, Game Freak’s latest effort left a bitter taste in my mouth, like it doesn’t respect its lifelong fans enough to give us the bare minimum on the technical side, yet I still had hopes a DLC reveal would reignite my love of the series like a Charizard lighting up an Oddish with Flamethrower.
It didn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. The February Pokémon Presents ended with Takato Utsunomiya revealing Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero DLC with two short live-action trailers followed by a handful of key art images. It was more of a tease than a proper reveal. Maybe if Scarlet and Violet were well received on release, tantalizing us with a little taste would’ve been fine. Look at what Elden Ring did a day later, for example: a single image announcement on a random Tuesday for the Game of the Year winner’s upcoming DLC, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Scarlet and Violet, however, are not on the level if Elden Ring; they look and play worse than any Pokémon game that came before, despite some cool ideas sprinkled in and a banger soundtrack, so such a sparse announcement – no gameplay, no new mechanics shown – has me cautiously pessimistic. Yes, cautiously pessimistic. Pragmatic and wary instead of intrigued and excited. Disappointed until proven otherwise.
A quick comparison to the timeline for Sword and Shield’s DLC shows this is probably the best approach to any new Pokémon content from here on out. Announced two months after the base game’s release in January 2020, the Pokémon Direct not only showed key art of new Pokémon, but it included snippets of gameplay and new mechanics, including Pokémon that followed you, new Gigantimax forms, and Galar versions of Legendary Pokémon. The first pack, The Isle of Armor, released about five months later in June. The Crown Tundra dropped soon after in October.
The two parts that make up Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero DLC are slated for fall and then winter 2023, making for an eight-month gap instead of five with far less shown during the reveal. For a game that still needs plenty of performance patches and quality-of-life updates, an extra three months of development tells me one of two things. Either Game Freak needs more time to make the expansion playable, or it’s bogged down with fixing the base game so it pushed the release date back. It’s speculation, yes, but nothing has gone right since Scarlet and Violet’s launch – I mean, we just got rotating stages for online Ranked Battles. The reign of the copy-and-pasted grandma model in the background has ended – finally.
I gave Pokémon Scarlet and Violet the benefit of the doubt leading up to its release, much the same way I did with the controversies surrounding Sword and Shield’s launch. I made excuses for the atrocious footage The Pokémon Company put out on its own official YouTube Channel. I brushed off negative impressions made by critics, justifying that the core gameplay loop and open world will surmount any performance. And I was wrong to do so – with the Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero DLC, I’m not going to make the same mistake. I’ll remain cautiously pessimistic until The Pokémon Company and Game Freak give us something to be optimistic about.