The latest Pokémon game is great for new fans and old, but if you’re not familiar with the series here’s what you need to get up to speed.
It’s been one of the most successful video game franchises in the world for over two decades, but Pokémon can be quite daunting and confusing for first time players. The new Scarlet and Violet games are more accessible than ever but if you still need a bit of help acclimatising yourself then these tips should prove useful.
Everyone knows the basics of the series: catch (mostly) cute little critters called pokémon and use them to fight others for profit and glory. The big change in Scarlet and Violet is that it’s set in a giant open world area, where you don’t have to tackle any of the quests in any particular order.
There are three main questlines: to become a Pokémon champion (the main goal in all previous games), to defeat Team Star and its misguided bosses, and to discover the secrets of the pokémon Titans. These quests are easily tracked from the main map but deciding on exactly how to tackle them isn’t always so obvious…
1. The first choice
It may seem odd to those that aren’t used to the convention, but mainline Pokémon games are always sold in two different versions – in this case Scarlet and Violet. Almost no one buys both though, as they’re nearly identical, with the few differences existing purely to encourage trading of pokémon between friends.
The main differences are a handful of exclusive pokémon, including cover stars Koraidon and Miraidon. They’re functionally identically though and most other changes are also cosmetic, including the academy you attend as part of the main plot and the Pokémon Professor you report to. There is a general theme, though, of Scarlet embodying the past and Violet the future, as you can see from the design of Koraidon and Miraidon and the clothing of the two professors.
2. Choosing your starter pokémon
Your first big decision in the game is one with no wrong answer: which starter pokémon to choose. You’ll be given three options: grass cat Sprigatito, fire croc Fuecoco, and duckling Quaxly. They have different elemental types (see later) but that shouldn’t influence your choice as by picking your battles you won’t be at a disadvantage with any of them. That means the only real criteria for choosing one is whether you think they look cute or not. Do remember that each will evolve into two other forms though, which can look decidedly less cute, although in this case it’s only Fuecoco’s final form that is in any way fierce looking.
3. Learn your types
The most important tactical consideration in Pokémon is elemental types, and that’s been the case in every game for the last 26 years. Every pokémon is at least one of 18 types, from grass and fire to dragon and fairy. These types have a complex relationship, where some are more or less susceptible to damage than others. So, for example, fire types take more damage from water, whereas ground types take less damage from electric attacks.
Each pokémon can learn up to four moves, which are used to attack and defend itself, and these are also one of the same 18 types. If the move is the same type as the pokémon using it, then it does extra damage but that still won’t do much good if the pokémon you’re battling is naturally resistant to that type of attack. Some of the relationships are easy to guess, like fire being good against grass, but others less so, so make sure you pay close attention to the grid below, when planning your attacks.
4. How to catch pokémon
Scarlet and Violet has a pretty good tutorial on catching pokémon but it can still be a bit vague for those that haven’t played one of the games before. Basically, you can throw a pokéball at a pokémon at any time and there’s a chance you’ll catch it, depending on what level it is. The most reliable method though is to injure it first, ideally so that its health is in the red. Even better is if it’s injured and it has a status like paralyzed, frozen or asleep.
The pokéball you use also plays a part: at first you’ll only have the standard type but as you progress you’ll come across others, including the great ball and ultra ball, as well as a number of speciality types that work best with particular pokémon or other factors such as the time of day.
5. Pick your fights
It doesn’t matter what starter pokémon you choose but it does matter what quests you take on at the start, when your pokémon will be very underpowered. Once you’ve been to the academy and first set out on your journey you’re free to choose any destination but make sure it’s one that makes sense. If you picked Sprigatito, for example, don’t try to take on Team Star’s Fire crew straight away or you’re going to get burned. Instead, head for somewhere like Cascarrafa Gym, where the theme is water.
As you get more and more pokémon, of higher and higher levels, your options will increase but it’s still important to make sure you have a team with useful types and moves. If you don’t then a slow walk to the destination you’re aiming for is always a good oppurntity to battle pokémon on the way to level up the ones you’ve got or catch more that might be useful in the coming battle.
6. Remember the Titans
Despite what we’ve just said, if you are going to focus on just one quest at the beginning then it should probably be the Path of Legends, which has you tracking down five ‘Titan’ pokémon at the behest of academy drop-out Arven. His motivations will soon become clear but the benefit for you, apart from some cool battles, is that each defeated Titan gives Koraidon/Miraidon a new ability, such as being able to swim or glide. This makes it much easier to get around and explore the world, which helps with beating the other quests.
7. Always pick up items
Much more than other Pokémon games, the world of Scarlet and Violet is littered with useful items. These can appear in the world in one of three forms: a red pokéball, a gold pokéball, or a little sparkle on the ground. The gold pokéballs are almost always TMs (see later) buy the others can be anything, including very useful items that can enhance or evolve pokémon and which in previous games were very rare. Here though, things like Charcoal, which enhances fire moves, or Hard Stone, which enhances Rock moves, are surprisingly common – if you remember to check for them. The little sparkles can be particularly easy to miss, so always keep an eye out for them.
8. Aim for the Pokémon Center
Fast travel is possible right from the beginning of the game, but you can only travel to places you’ve already visited on foot. This includes gyms and most locations of interest but in particular Pokémon Centers. That means it’s always important to visit one even if you don’t need it for anything, as then it becomes a fast travel point for later.
For that reason, not only should you visit Pokémon Centers even if they’re only relatively close by, but you should use them as navigation points when travelling long distances. Not only will they help you avoid getting lost but if all your pokémon faint you’ll return to the last Pokémon Center you visited, which could be a long way away.
9. Build a stockpile
It’s not the sort of advice you want to follow in the real world, especially now, but in Pokémon it’s always best to spend as much money as possible whenever you get the opportunity. Or to be more precise, always make sure you’ve got more pokéballs and health items then you think you’ll need, as you’re much more likely to run out of them than you are the money to pay for them.
The only qualification to this is that you can end up spending a lot of money on clothing, so be careful to not go overboard on that because, unlike the health items, it has no effect on your game and is purely cosmetic.
10. Technical assistance
Since there are 18 elemental types and you can only bring six pokémon with you at a time (plus Koraidon or Miraidon) it’s very important that you have a balanced team in terms of their types and the moves they have access to. Unless you’re just about to take on a particular boss or gym don’t have pokémon that are the same type and ideally try and make sure they have a variety of moves that aren’t the same type as them.
This is where TMs (technical machines) come in very handy, as they allow you to instantly teach a pokémon a move that it wouldn’t otherwise learn. In Scarlet and Violet there’s now a special machine at every Pokémon Center that allows you to craft multiple TMs of the same type, so as long as you have the resources to make them you can ensure as varied a team as possible.
11. Eat up
For some reason everyone in the land of Paldea is obsessed with sandwiches, specifically submarine sandwiches. You can buy other food – most towns are filled with restaurants and street sellers – but you’re very much encouraged to buy ingredients and make your own sandwiches. Ingredients can be bought in any town but you’ll also get a mountain of them for completing each Team Star mission.
All the food you eat in Scarlet and Violet has some kind of positive effect on you or your pokémon but the best sandwiches, with the rarest ingredients, can do things like making it easier to find shiny pokémon or increasing the amount of experience you earn in battle.
12. Life’s a picnic
As well as the sandwich obsession, Scarlet and Violet is also very big on picnics. Not just a blanket on the ground but a proper fold-out table and everything. It’s easy to forget this option exists (by pressing ‘X’ and selecting it from the main menu) but it can be very handy for healing your pokémon and removing status changes. By grooming an afflicted pokémon you can often remove the problem without needing to use an item and even if you don’t, your pokémon will become more friendly towards you – which can help in battle and is even used to trigger some evolutions.
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