Pokemon Violet/Scarlet: A Literary Journey for Story-Driven Gamers

Entertainment Reviews Video Games

With Pokemon Violet/Pokemon Scarlet out for over two months, you’ve probably already seen several wonderful reviews, like the one GeekDad Z wrote.

For a story-driven gamer, Pokemon Violet (and Scarlet) is the adorable, pixelated animal-battling game we’ve wanted built around characters that you grow to love and story arcs that leave you a little teary-eyed, a bit devastated.

Thematically, however, all three story arcs combine for a lovely overarching narrative (no spoilers in here!) that give a literary feel. With the Pokemon Violet  and Pokemon Scarlet DLC now available for pre-order, I’m hoping that the upcoming releases give me more about these characters that I’ve grown to love. 

Competition Can Build Friendships, Not Make Enemies

Pokemon wouldn’t be Pokemon without battles and friendly rivalries.  However, as someone more internally than externally competitive, I don’t actually love the battling and continued narrative of “compete to become the best!”

Pokemon Violet/Pokemon Scarlet has this Champions storyline, through the friendly competition with Nemona. While previous Pokemon games provided characters who continuously tried to get you to battle them, the friendship with Nemona really gives me a level of joy that I didn’t expect.

In all honestly, my Nemona and Gym Battles were my least favorite part of the game because the stories are thin.

Although if I could ask for more about a Gym Leader, I’d really love to know more backstory on Grusha. I got the definite sense that she had some sort of tragic backstory, and I really wanted to know more about her.

Loss and Renewal

While Nemona fulfills a very focused role in the game, Arven, Penny, and Cassiopeia fulfill different ones.

With these characters, you build relationships based on how their past influences their present. Each character’s life experience informs their actions, mistakes, and, eventually, redemption.

Arven’s journey gives us the story of a boy seeking love and family, often feeling alone and lost. His actions are a response to loss and fear. His narrative arc reminds me of a less Gothic Jane Eyre. His personal growth, especially as the only male storyline character, resonated to me as someone who consistently dislikes the toxic masculinity that I see in gaming and speculative fiction.

The mysterious Cassiopeia appears to be a destructive avenger but ultimately becomes someone who proves herself. More than anything, she seeks to protect her friends, hoping to give them back what she feels she’s taken from them. Rather than acting out of revenge, she acts out of love, hoping to redeem herself by undoing harm she believes that she’s caused.

With Penny, we see a quiet, geeky tech genius who seems to hide in the shadows, unsure of how to build the relationships that she so desperately wants. Her actions seem to come from a history of being bullied and a bit of social awkwardness. Penny tends to isolate herself with a hinting belief that she’s not worthy of friendship, something that resonates with adults and kids alike. As her relationship with you evolves, she begins to trust you more and becomes a valued member of your larger “squad.”

Grownups Make Mistakes, Too

Finally, as the parent playing the game, Director Clavell and his alter-ego, Clive, were a truly delightful narrative arc. At the beginning of the game, Clavell is the typical starched-collar, no-nonsense, uptight Academy Director that you expect to see at an elite private school. However, as he joins you on part of your journey, he realizes that he has misunderstood the Academy’s social atmosphere.

While not well-hidden as Clive, Director Clavell talks to students and realizes that his actions and inactions have allowed for bullying within the hallowed school’s walls. As his arc continues, Clavell gives players what many real-world adults fail to provide – an admission of regret, a request for forgiveness, and a promise to make changes.

For parents playing the game, Clavell’s storyline is a powerful reminder that we may not always see our kids’ pain, but we should always seek to be the adults that they need us to be.

Build a Chosen Family

For me, the overarching narrative thread in Pokemon Violet/Scarlet is one that resonates personally. Throughout the game, you make friends, learn about their pasts, and unfold relationships. Each character, even the teachers, adds to your experience as a “person” in the game. 

All three storylines truly build on this concept of friendship being the ultimate treasure in life.

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