Four things Pokémon Scarlet and Violet need to learn from the older games

Pikachu looks on in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet
(Image credit: Game Freak)

There are hints in the Pokémon Scarlet and Violet reveal trailer that Nintendo and developer Game Freak are looking to their past for their new game. The whole reveal is a throwback to the old style of Pokémon trailer, blending the real world and Pokémon worlds. The video opens with a security guard investigating a disturbance at the developer’s offices and discovering a room filled with objects, maps, and drawings pulled from the Pokémon Scarlet and Violet region.

This throwback could well be a sign Game Freak will be returning to an older style of Pokémon game, even while pushing forward with the open-world format introduced in Sword and Shield.

If that is the case, here are four things we think need to make a return in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.

Unlock the open-world

Pokémon Sword and Shield

(Image credit: Game Freak)

Pokémon Sword and Shield’s Wild Areas were the games’ flagship feature. As far back as the N64 days, Pokémon fans had been asking for a full 3D open-world, where they could see pokémon interacting with the world and their trainers. The Wild Areas partially delivered on that promise, but those open environments were carefully controlled. It wasn’t the full open-world fans had been asking for.

Pokémon Legends: Arceus flung the doors open, making the entire game open-world, giving you the ability to trek wherever you desired. Also, we saw new pokémon behaviors - with some straight-up attacking you if it’s in their nature. Touches like that brought so much life to the series we’ve been playing for more than 25 years.

Game Freak should continue down this open-world road in Scarlet and Violet and give us a game where we can freely interact with roaming Pokémon and explore dark caves, sea floors, and villain hideouts in a new way.

Let us explore and give us complex puzzles

Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen

(Image credit: Game Freak)

Outside of Wild Areas, Sword and Shield felt oddly constrained, with towns like Hammerlocke allowing no room for exploration as you couldn’t leave the main roads. That wasn’t the case in the older Pokémon games; I remember searching the streets of Goldenrod City in Pokémon Gold and Silver, trying to find the bike shop, and discovering the subway where you could battle trainers and get your pokémon groomed.  

Another thing that changed for the worse compared to older Pokémon games are the puzzles; they’ve become easy or non-existent. Sword and Shield featured nothing remotely like navigating the Rocket Hideout in FireRed and LeafGreen. Remember that complex network or floor tiles where one wrong step could send you all the way back to the beginning?

I miss when battles were only one of the challenges you would face in a gym. Plus, with full 3D environments, there are a lot of new opportunities for puzzle designs - just look at Breath of the Wild’s shrines.

Give us an end-game

Pokémon Emerald

(Image credit: Game Freak)

Game Freak can’t decide if Pokémon should have a post-game or not. And the lack of Battle Frontier or World Tournament is a shame. Battle Frontier opened up after you completed Pokémon Emerald and had loads of differently-themed facilities to challenge you. And we’re not just talking battles, there are trivia tests and matches where the rules are changed - like the one where your Pokémon gets to call the shots on how to fight. In World Tournament, players could participate in different battle styles against prominent trainers from across the series.

Scarlet and Violet already appear to be leaning into the past, take it a step further, Game Freak, and bring back Battle Frontier or World Tournament. Better still: both. Imagine battling Hoenn region Pokémon League champion Steven in a rotation battle using rental Pokemon. Tough fights like that would be the real test of a Pokémon trainer.

Rediscover the sense of the unknown

Pokémon Legends Arceus

(Image credit: Game Freak)

The Pokémon games have always felt like journeys of discovery, from the very first game where you’re leaving home and finding out what’s hiding in the long grass of Route 1. That’s why when you find things for yourself, like the Old Chateau in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, it’s special and brings life into the game’s world. Pokémon Legends: Arceus’ side quests expand on the characters you meet, making the world richer.

Scarlet and Violet should lean into this. Game Freak, give us optional areas full of secrets and side quests in which we can lose ourselves. I want to pick through a dark ruin in a haunted forest, home to a rare Pokémon that’s been scaring the locals. Bring back the excitement of the unknown from the earlier games.

Pokemon has been around for more than twenty-five years. In that time, the series has grown a lot, often for the better, but Pokémon Scarlet and Violet can still learn from the past. There’s a reason the early Pokémon games are classics.