Last year was a huge year for fans of the Pokemon franchise. The game-changing Pokemon Legends Arceus was released in February and Pokemon Scarlet and Violet was released in November. While new Pokemon games coming out close together isn’t unheard of, it’s rare to get such hugely groundbreaking mainline games released in the same year.
Now that both games have been out for a while, it’s time to compare and contrast. Pokemon Legends Arceus (or PLA) and Pokemon Scarlet and Violet (or PSV) have a lot in common, but there are some key differences.
Open World vs Open Areas
When the first trailers were released for Pokemon Legends Arceus it was not hard for fans to speculate that it would be the first open world Pokemon game. This did not end up being the case. Although, Arceus had several large areas to explore freely, traveling between areas still required returning to Jubilife Village and selecting a new destination, sitting through at least two loading screens.
It turned out that fans hoping for an open-world Pokemon game only had to wait until later the same year. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet delivered on that concept, having a fully explorable open world right from the start with areas only blocked off if the player hadn’t unlocked climbing or swimming yet.
While Arceus’ individual areas were great to explore, something was certainly lost the moment the player wanted to visit somewhere new. Jubilife Village was a great home base, but it would have been more immersive to travel seamlessly around the Hisui region. But at least the small pockets of explorable areas were great to dive into.
Methods of Progression
Despite bringing the series to a true open-world environment, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet still largely kept to the usual progression structure. In order to complete the game players still had to defeat eight gym leaders, the elite four, and the champion, as well as defeat the “Team Rocket” equivalent, Team Star. Pokemon Legends Arceus was a serious departure from this.
Scarlet and Violet did take a note from Arceus’ playbook and had players face off against Titan Pokemon to unlock Herba Mystica and therefore improve Koraidon or Miraidon’s ability to explore the world. Rather than gym leaders, Arceus had players face off against raging Noble Pokemon that were stronger and larger than the average Pokemon. But, there was no emphasis on traditional Pokemon battles versus other trainers.
Instead, PLA put a real emphasis on completing the Pokedex. This required players to catch many of the same Pokemon and interact with them outside of battles in various ways. In more traditional games, PSV included, the player could theoretically complete the game with the starter Pokemon and avoid catching anything else. This difference in primary progression mechanics can make or break the game for certain players.
Boss Pokemon Battles
While on the topic, it really is worth noting that both Pokemon Legends Arceus and Pokemon Scarlet and Violet did have battles versus larger-than-life Pokemon. In Arceus a strange power is causing Noble Pokemon to become enraged, and the player must calm them in each area of the world. Meanwhile, in Scarlet and Violet, players defeat Titan Pokemon in order to upgrade their ridable Pokemon and reach new areas of the map.
There are certainly a lot of similarities here, but there is one key difference. In PSV players will battle the Titans in a typical Pokemon battle, that is to say, a turn-based battle. While in PLA, the trainer themselves have to dodge attacks from the Noble in a 3-D space. Players will eventually get the chance to engage the Noble in a turn-based battle, but only if they are able to avoid its attacks and hit it with enough balms to temporarily calm it down.
Both types of battles lend themselves to different styles of gameplay. Players who are more interested in slower-paced, turn-based battles might prefer the Titan battles in Scarlet and Violet, while players that enjoy the more mobile and action-heavy Noble battles might prefer Arceus.
Brand New Pokemon
Of course, with any new Pokemon game, there will always be a focus on what new Pokemon are available. Both Pokemon Legends Arceus and Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have new Pokemon but in slightly different ways. Scarlet and Violet has over a hundred new Pokemon, between brand new and regional forms. Arceus has a smaller number, at only about twenty-four new Pokemon, with the majority of them being regional forms.
Scarlet and Violet has a few new regional forms as well, not to mention a handful of new evolutions, but of course, it is far and away the choice when it comes to number of brand new Pokemon. PLA is set in the Hisui region, which is a past version of Diamond & Pearl’s Sinnoh region. Thanks to the time jump, there are some never-before-seen evolutions and regional forms, but, for the most part, the game is populated with familiar faces.
Both games have some great designs, particularly with the starter Pokemon. PLA starters put a regional twist on established Pokemon, giving them new secondary typings and new designs. While the starters in Scarlet and Violet are creative, unique, and powerful as well. Though, on the subject of starters, Arceus was the first game to give the player the remaining two starter options at the end of the game. Hopefully, this is a decision that will continue to appear in future titles.
Single Player vs Multiplayer
One of the most significant differences between these two games is that Pokemon Legends Arceus is primarily a single-player experience. Players cannot battle each other online and they can’t join each other’s games, such as in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. Trading Pokemon is allowed, and players can recover lost items that their friends have dropped, but that is about it.
On the other hand, Scarlet and Violet can be both. Online features are entirely optional, but they are also much more available. Players can trade, battle, and team up in Tera raids, but also jump into each other’s worlds. Being able to run around an open-world Pokemon game with friends is a very liberating experience from the usual Pokemon online experience.
Like many of the differences, this one again comes down to preference. Some players will want to engage with friends, some will want to play by themselves. What is nice about Scarlet and Violet is that players have the option to do either. While Arceus is fun on its own, it would have been nice to at least have some of the same options in terms of online play.
Interestingly, both Pokemon Legends Arceus and Pokemon Scarlet and Violet touch on the idea of time travel, or at least something close to it. As the protagonist of Arceus, the player is thrust into the past and must convince people of the past that Pokemon are valuable allies all while creating the first Pokedex for the Hisui region.
Meanwhile, the climactic scene of Scarlet and Violet reveals that the professor has been working on traveling to alternate pasts or futures, depending on if you are playing Scarlet or Violet. This is where the Paradox Pokemon come from. They are past and future versions of existing Pokemon. While the games do suggest that these paradoxes come from alternate timelines, it is still interesting that both games touch on the subject of different times.
So if that sounds like an interesting concept, both games will deliver. Of course, with the protagonist being from the future in Arceus, it comes up pretty regularly. NPCs will comment on your strange clothes, some will wonder how you got here, etc. Whereas in Scarlet and Violet the time travel element of the plot is more of a mystery waiting to be solved at the end than anything else.
Because Pokemon Legends Arceus focuses more on completing the Pokedex and exploring a wild and untamed environment, it does make the game somewhat more immersive than Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. Wild Pokemon can be caught without initiating a battle, and the trainer is in actual danger from wild Pokemon as well. This encourages players to hide in tall grass to avoid unwanted attention, essentially flipping the classic Pokemon formula on its head, where trainers could only encounter wild Pokemon by entering the tall grass.
While Scarlet and Violet does have the advantage of a seamless open-world environment, exploring that environment often feels more like a game than being immersed in a Pokemon world, at least compared to Arceus. The player is never at risk from wild Pokemon dealing damage directly to them, and wild Pokemon cannot be caught without engaging in a direct, turn-based battle.
But, immersion isn’t for everyone! Arceus’ gameplay may be able to better immerse a player in the world of the game, but it also requires patience and often repetition to complete the Pokedex. So, even though you don’t need to complete the entire Pokedex, it can still be a little painstaking for certain players. Scarlet and Violet might be the better choice for players that just want to blaze their way through battles without worrying about the story or game world itself quite so much.
Speaking of battles, Pokemon Legends Arceus also introduced an entirely different style of battling, introducing styles. In Arceus there is the normal attacking that any Pokemon player will be familiar with, but then there is Strong Style and Agile Style. These styles came into play with the new turn system implemented in PLA. To the side of the battle was a short list that showed which Pokemon would move next, and then which would move after that, and after that, and so on for the next half dozen turns or so.
Certain moves, along with the Agile Style, would sometimes allow the user to attack twice before the opponent had a chance to react, at the cost of weakening the strength of the affected move. This could change the flow of a Pokemon battle entirely. Strong style, conversely would sometimes allow the opponent to move more frequently, in exchange for upping the power of the affected move.
These styles did not continue to Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, instead, the latest entry in the Pokemon series returned to the classic turn-based style of battle. Oh, and also, in Arceus, starting a battle with other hostile wild Pokemon nearby might result in the player facing off against multiple wild Pokemon at once. This is not something that can happen in Scarlet and Violet.
Traversing the Environment
Koraidon for Pokemon Scarlet and Miraidon for Pokemon Violet quickly became iconic for these games. They are on the cover and they are the primary mode of transportation across Scarlet and Violet’s Paldea region. Throughout the game, the legendary bike Pokemon can do it all. It can dash, jump, climb, swim, and even glide.
Pokemon Legends Arceus had all of this and more, but it didn’t have either of the legendary Pokemon from Scarlet or Violet. Instead, Arceus had an ensemble of new Pokemon to utilize. Wyrdeer would let players dash across the landscape, Sneasler would give players the ability to climb up sheer cliff faces, Basculegion ferried players across water, and Braviary let players glide through the air. Arceus even had players utilize Ursaluna to sniff out hidden treasure. Even the player had more options in PLA, able to dash and dodge-roll without the aid of a Pokemon.
Both versions of movement have their strengths and weaknesses. PLA’s ensemble of Pokemon taking center stage is fun, but it is somewhat less intuitive than being able to do it all with one Pokemon, like in Scarlet and Violet. Building a bond with a single Pokemon is great, but it also makes sense in a world filled with magical creatures, that some would be better swimmers, fliers, or climbers.
Pokemon Legends Arceus and Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are both great Pokemon games. While they might seem similar at first glance, there is actually a lot that makes them stand apart from each other.
Arceus was a huge departure from the normal Pokemon games, so it makes sense that it would stand out. And even though Scarlet and Violet remains similar to its predecessors in a lot of ways, it was still a huge step forward for the series. It brought the game into a fully realized open world, and it finally let players visit each other’s worlds in real-time through online play.
So there’s no wrong choice here, and in fact, many Pokemon fans probably have played both. But if you are trying to decide which one is right for you, hopefully, this has helped somewhat. Even if you’re not deciding, maybe it was still fun to read about the major differences between two huge Pokemon games that came out the same year.
If you’ve played both, which one is your favorite and why? What differences or similarities have you noticed? Leave a comment below letting us know your thoughts!