With co-op, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet misses a golden opportunity

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet
(Image credit: Nintendo)

One of my favorite childhood photos perfectly captures my long standing history with the Pokemon series. My sibling and I are sitting on bunk beds aboard an overnight train to Venice. Neither of us are looking at the camera, our attention is instead wholly focused on the Game Boy Advance consoles we both have in our hands. And the games that have us so engrossed are Pokemon Sapphire and Ruby. 

I can remember playing Sapphire for hours over the course of that holiday back in 2003, trying all the while to keep pace with my sibling as we set out to defeat gym leaders and catch all the critters. Times may have changed since then, and the Pokemon has evolved along with it, but the time-honored tradition us Wald siblings share remains the same. Whenever new games in the series come out, we each pick up a different version and play it together – no matter how old we get. 

From sitting next to one another on our original Game Boys as kids playing Pokemon Red and Blue, to experiencing Pokemon Gold and Silver on Christmas Day, and talking over the phone as we dived into Pokemon Sword and Shield in different parts of the country. As a result, I've long since dreamed about the idea of being able to join forces in the same game world as we set out on our quest to be the very best together.

Imagine my excitement, then, when I discovered Pokemon Scarlet and Violet could turn that dream into a reality with the introduction of four-player co-op.  It still feels wild to me that we can step into the same world, granted, warts and all, thanks to Pokemon Scarlet and Violet co-op support. But after jumping into the games together, it hasn't quite turned out as I was expecting it to in practice.

Now you see me, now you don't 

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet

(Image credit: Nintendo)

As soon as I came across the first Union Circle in Scarlet and Violet at a little pitstop in the opening area, there was no holding back my excitement. Nor could I stop the joy I felt when I saw my sibling's trainer appear before me in-game, and wave. All I could think about was how my kid self would absolutely lose it over the thought of such a possibility. After running around for a while and messing about with the various emotes, though, it wasn't long before we came up against some of the limitations of co-op support which is also undoubtedly held back by some of the problems that crop up in the open-world. 

My sibling's trainer, for example, suffered from what we called resting unamused face, whereby their expression was forever stuck. This meant that anytime we tried to take a selfie in-game, their trainer looked perpetually unimpressed – as glitches go, this did make for some funny screenshots and pales in comparison to some of the horrors that have surfaced in recent weeks

In the lead up to launch, co-op was actually the biggest draw for me when it came to picking up a copy of Pokemon Violet. As the first open-world games in the long-running RPG series, I couldn't help but admire the ambitious direction of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet – even if I went in with cautious optimism about the prospect. Hot on the heels of Pokemon Legends Arceus, it's not hard to see how the latest adventures in Paldea developed and expanded on the open areas of the Hisui region – and the wild areas of Sword and Shield to some extent. 

The execution of the world, though, and some of its features leaves a lot to be desired. Over the past weeks, there have been scores of examples from players online that showcase some of the wonky, stilted animations – with Pokemon and characters popping in and out of view – framerate drops, performance issues, and some funky glitches that take away from the magic. 

The co-op support itself is also quite limited. Having always dreamed about sharing my Pokemon journey, I'd hoped to be able to see my sibling battle trainers, or take on gyms. It's certainly neat to be able to explore the world together and even see them try to catch a Pokemon out in the open, but whenever they went into battle against another trainer or did a gym test, they'd pop in and out of view or disappear altogether. 

That's not to say that I haven't been enjoying Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. In spite of some of the disappointing aspects of the open-world, co-op made it easier than ever to share the experience with my sibling. The fact that we could just go about our own adventures in the same world and talk as we went brought a touch of magic to the experience and we made our own fun by simply racing about the place with our Pokemon Scarlet and Violet Legendaries. That alone is something I could only imagine as that little kid on a train playing Sapphire all those years ago. It may be far from perfect and pretty limited, but it brought me just a little closer to realizing that long held dream of mine. 

Tucking in to the adventure yourself? Check out our guide to the Pokemon Scarlet and Violet gym leaders, or be the perfect pupil with our Pokemon Scarlet and Violet class answers.

Heather Wald
Senior staff writer

I started out writing for the games section of a student-run website as an undergrad, and continued to write about games in my free time during retail and temp jobs for a number of years. Eventually, I earned an MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, and soon after got my first official role in the industry as a content editor for Stuff magazine. After writing about all things tech and games-related, I then did a brief stint as a freelancer before I landed my role as a staff writer here at GamesRadar+. Now I get to write features, previews, and reviews, and when I'm not doing that, you can usually find me lost in any one of the Dragon Age or Mass Effect games, tucking into another delightful indie, or drinking far too much tea for my own good.