Pokémon Scarlet and Violet performance issues infuriate Pokémon fans

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If you’ve been on Twitter lately, you probably noticed that the #ScarletViolet hashtag is trending, among other Twitter and FTX related drama that has been going on since Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. Elon’s Twitter is not our area of focus, Pokémon, or more specifically Scarlet and Violet are.

It is quite unfortunate, but it seems that the majority of tweets (and reddit threads, and third party reviews) are all talking about the same topic – performance issues, frame drops and terrible frame stutter in Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet.

Before we dive in, a visual demonstration of the issues is in order. Here’s what Alyse Stanley, of Washington Post’s Scarlet and Violet review, shared on Twitter yesterday: 

As you can see, the framerate, for what appears to be a bog standard Pokémon catching encounter is barely playable, with multiple frame skips, texture jumping errors, and a plethora of camera jerks, that seriously hurt gameplay and the overall fantasy of playing a video game.

We’ve played Pokémon video games on the Nintendo Switch, and I have never seen this before personally. Pokémon Snap was a wonderful experience through and through, Legends: Arceus was also pretty good (despite some technical issues as well), and to see this type of degraded graphical performance is quite a surprise.

We’re not talking about a FPS drop here and there, we’re talking about frame rates in the range of 10-15 frames per second at times.

Now, some Trainers found a way around this by restarting the game every few hours, as it seems to fix a couple of the performance issues, most likely due to a memory leak. Save, hard restart, and then play again.

To be frank, we thought that the Washington Post’s review was a bit on the unfair side when we saw the tweets, so we went out and started our own investigation, double checking what other reviewers are saying…. and Washington Post is not alone in this.

Nintendo Life gave a solid 3 minutes of reflection on game’s performance, with the wavering frame rate being highlighted as the single biggest issue at times. Watching the footage accompanying the review confirms this:

A similar story repeats with IGN, who published a separate video about the performance issues, with their full review coming next week:

Gamespot’s video review is not light on criticism either, mentioning that the game is essentially held back by poor technical execution – graphical execution to be precise, the sound and art design are marvelous:

Just to confirm – all of these reviews are with the day-one patched applied, and this is indeed the version of Scarlet and Violet you and I can play today or tomorrow.

Reactions from the playerbase

The Pokémon fan base was never an easy crowd to please, but this release has some Trainers in serious anger mode, with criticism seeping through the cracks on Reddit, Twitter and elsewhere. 

We are not the ones to throw rocks, as we care deeply about the Pokémon franchise, but at this point, we feel that this level of performance is not acceptable in 2023, and we do agree that this needs to improve.

With that being said, we are sharing one of the easier to read Reddit threads, titled “Scarlet and Violet are rough”:

Just want to start off by saying I’m a huge Pokémon fan. I have been since generation 1 and never really stopped playing it. I’ve played every mainline title and even both all editions of every generation.

I’m by no means a graphics or framerate snob.. but these games are so rough. I managed to get my copies early and I just cannot shake off the feeling of disappointment, at least in the technical department. I’ve only really played the games in docked mode so far but the resolution is low, textures are poor, animations aren’t really a step up from SwSh and the framerate is choppy/inconsistent. I think with this and just my low opinion on BDSP, I’m starting to lose faith in this franchise finally 😅

Author’s take

We are particularly concerned with the level of post launch support Scarlet and Violet will get. At this point, I still haven’t tried playing the games myself, mostly due to suffering through Cyberpunk’s buggy release – I don’t see myself spending time with the game before the performance issues are fixed.

I’ve given this some fairly extensive thought, as I’ve been watching the reviews and reading through Reddit for a while now. I am just getting too old for this, and I want a good experience when I finally sit down and play.

Scarlet and Violet for me has (had?) a special meaning, as this should have marked a carefree return to the main series games. After more than 6 years of covering Pokémon GO, I was looking forward to taking up a solid console game, spending a few weeks with it, and chugging some content for the Hub along that.

Right now, I cannot recommend you purchase and play Scarlet and Violet. Not because I don’t like the Pokémon designs, nor because I think open world and the way Game Freak is doing it is bad – quite the opposite, I love both of the things.

The reason is quite different, and it stems from my software engineering background: I don’t want to support rushed games, developed on a 5 year old console, with the excuse that they are games in a franchise I love.

The Pokémon franchise holds a really special place in the hearts of millions of gamers worldwide, and I don’t want my first experience with a new Pokémon generation to run at 15 FPS. It ruins the fantasy, it breaks immersion, and it is – frankly – just not acceptable in 2023.

With that being said, content and mechanic wise, both games are fantastic, the new Pokémon designs are terrific, and everything I’m seeing aside from the performance issues is amazing.

I seriously hope Gamefreak fixes the performance issues soon. My Koraidon will be waiting for a bit, but I have more frames to spend elsewhere at the moment – World of Warcraft: Dragonflight runs at 60 FPS all the time.

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