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Opinion: Nobody Asked - A Maniacal Engineer's Thoughts on Scarlet and Violet - Part 5: The Introduction and Victory Road

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Nobody Asked Maniacal Engineer
Gym Trial progress screen
The story of Scarlet and Violet can be broken into five storylines; the introduction, Victory Road, The Path of Legends, ★ Starfall Street ★, The Way Home, and the post-game. I’ll be going over each of the four major arcs and the post-game in their own articles, to make sure each gets the time and attention it deserves. Today, I want to briefly talk about the introduction, and then take my time discussing my thoughts on the Victory Road storyline.

Scarlet and Violet's introduction, where the player gets their starter Pokémon, and the other main characters, namely Clavell, Nemona, Arven, and Penny, are all introduced. The premise is short and straightforward, and sets up the clashes between the characters and their personalities very early on. There’s not much to say here, other than I think it does its job fairly well. The journey to Mesagoza and the first day in class seems a bit long, but that’s probably because I spent too much time wandering around, as one is wont to do in an open world. After the introduction, the player is given three paths, and each path is open ended and can be tackled in any order and interspersed with the other two paths. The main objective of each path is to travel around and defeat various bosses, though the specific mechanics of the boss battles differs from arc to arc. Each arc also unlocks various benefits that allows the player to progress through the story.

Its Ryme Time
The first main story arc of Scarlet and Violet, and the one most similar to the classic Pokémon story, is Victory Road, which allows you to catch higher level Pokémon without them disobeying you. The player, at the encouragement of Nemona, travels around Paldea to challenge the eight Gym Leaders and earn the right to take on the Champion Assessment. Along the way, we battle Nemona, and are introduced to the members of the Paldean Elite Four, and the Top Champion, Geeta. After collecting the eight required Gym Badges, the player returns to Mesagoza and is given the opportunity to challenge the Elite Four… provided they can pass an interview process first. I’ll discuss the interview itself in a later article, but, for right now, I’ll say that it was an odd decision and leave it at that. Once the player has triumphed over the Elite Four, they take on Geeta, in order to claim the rank of Champion, and finally earn the right to battle Nemona at her strongest.

Obviously, this is the most simplistic story, but it does what it does very well. We get to learn a lot about the Elite Four members, and the various Gym Leaders, through our battles and interactions with them, and the Gym Tests are all pretty decent. The Gym Leaders themselves all have unique personalities, and are definitely more well developed than the earliest generations of Gym Leaders, although I will admit that this is something I have come to expect since late Gen 4 and Gen 5. The Gym Leaders also make use of the regional gimmick, Terastalizing, to decent effect, but I’ll discuss that properly in another article when I go over the gimmick itself.

The Paldean Elite Four
I will also say that, hands down, the Paldean Elite Four is the best Elite Four from any generation. Honestly though, a lot of that doesn’t come down to just the fact that I like the individual characters, but to a somewhat controversial decision that many people have complained about. Traditionally, when we battled Elite Four members, they each had their own unique room, with its own theme that relates to the type they specialize in. This dates all the way back to Red and Blue, though the graphics and grandiosity of the rooms has improved over the years. In these games however, we instead face all of the Elite Four members in the same room, which is big and mostly empty. For a lot of people, this was a let down, and, I admit, it would have been nice to at least see the room change themes based on which member of the Elite Four we were facing. However, in my opinion, the benefits of this decision far outweigh that one, entirely aesthetic, loss. For the first time in literally any of the games, we actually got to see the members of the Elite Four interacting with each other, and their interactions are absolutely golden. From Rika’s wry nature, to Larry’s just done with everything attitude, actually seeing the members of the Elite Four in the same room means that we get to see them truly as a group, instead of as individuals. This is huge, and is, far and away, the main reason why Scarlet and Violet hit the nail on the head so perfectly for the Elite Four.

That isn’t to say that the individual characters of the Elite Four themselves are bad, either. I’ve already gone over my main points for Larry and Hassel in the previous article, though one thing that I will add is that Larry’s reveal as the third member of the Elite Four was probably one of the most hilarious moments in any Pokémon game that I have ever played. It fits in well with his “overworked and underpaid” attitude, and his change from Normal-type specialist to Flying-type specialist was an interesting twist, especially since the members of his Elite Four team are a lot more loud and flashy than his Gym Leader team.

Vs Rika
As for Rika, we meet her fairly early on during the Gym Challenge, and she makes an immediate positive impression. Her witty attitude, and upbeat nature are fun to watch, and her character design is on point. She’s also perfectly capable of being serious and stoic, as she displays during the interview, but she never abandons her more whimsical tendencies. Seriously, that twirl she does when she sends out a Pokémon is so extra, and yet, it’s a fun little detail that expresses loads about her personality. She also uses Clodsire as her ace Pokémon, which is a fantastic choice.

Cutesy Poppy
Poppy is the weak link in the chain here, which is ironic since she’s a Steel type specialist. Her childish personality and general bubbliness contrast nicely with Rika’s more subdued wittiness, and with Larry’s stoic and low energy attitude. It’s just that other than being a kid, she doesn’t really have any personality or character traits to speak of. She gives her Pokémon cutesy nicknames, gets highly competitive, has difficulty with certain words or phrases, and cries when she’s defeated. All standard characteristics of a child. It does make me wonder how she got to be so powerful, but I somewhat suspect that Geeta gave Poppy her team. For that matter, given how the flashiness of Larry's Flying team contrasts with his personality, and how being a Gym Leader and Elite Four member are only jobs to him, it's also entirely possible that Geeta gave him his Flying team as well.

Speaking of Geeta, we do learn a lot about her, as well. She has an eye for talent, and is very shrewd both in her position as chairwoman of the Pokémon League and Top Champion. This is evidenced by her "recruitment" of Poppy, as it is very likely that she was able to spot an incredibly talented youngster, and gave her the tools to cultivate that skill. Now, I say "recruited" because it’s very interesting that Rika specifically mentions that she, and the other members of the Elite Four were “strong-armed” into becoming Elite Four members. This, along with Larry’s fairly out in the open disdain for his boss, becomes a recurring theme regarding Geeta’s leadership skills. She’s strong, but not necessarily a good leader. I’ll discuss that more when writing about the postgame, as that’s where a lot of this comes to the forefront. In the end, though, I can’t say I’m particularly fond of her character.

The Happiest Ending
Of course, the breakout character for the Victory Road arc is Nemona. I went over what I like the most about her personality in the previous article, but a lot of it comes to bear in this arc. As you progress through the Gym Challenge, Nemona is always there to encourage you, provide helpful tips or items, and, occasionally, battle you. She serves as a guide and a mentor, and uses battling as a gauge to see how far you’ve come. Many criticize her as being too clingy, or stalkerish, as it always seems like she knows what Gym you’re going to be at. Which to be fair, given the fact that we can now take on Gyms in any order, is rather stranger than in previous generations. That said, plot contrivances like that have been happening since Gen 1, and it was implied that in previous games people could take on the Gym Leaders in any order (even if the player themself was stuck to a specific order). And yes, she does have the infamous “You’ll have all the battles you’ll ever need with me” line, and she doesn’t actually give you a choice about becoming her rival after you defeat Geeta.

Maniacal Engineer - signing off
But all of that is more or less consistent with her hyperfixation on battling, and her eye for talent. Nemona immediately spots the talent in you, and gets so excited that she wants to battle you at her full strength, and needs to be reminded that you’re a brand new trainer by Clavell. Nemona enjoys watching you grow during your journey, and wants to help cultivate your strength to your maximum potential. Once you’ve finally hit the pinnacle of Pokémon League, she is extremely proud, and, at that point, getting rejected as your rival would be a massive disappointment. As previously mentioned, battling her at her full strength is the perfect climax to this arc, and seeing how happy Nemona is after your battle is the ultimate culmination of her character, as she transitions from mentor to rival. She could not be more thrilled to have finally found someone who is able to keep up with her in battle, and actually defeat her at her best.

Final thoughts on this path: while this is the most traditional of the story arcs, it does have a lot to offer, and it is full of fun characters, Gym Tests, and delightful interpersonal moments that, in some cases, we never got from any previous Pokémon game. There is plenty of depth here, if people are able to notice it.
Maniacal Engineer

Maniacal Engineer

Bulbagarden Multimedia Executive
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