A parent's guide to Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet

Pokemon Scarlet
Pokemon Scarlet /

Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet are the most recent chapter in Nintendo's best-selling line of Pokemon games. If you are a newcomer to the franchise, it's important to note that Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet are, essentially, the same game. The primary difference is a changed character or two, a slightly different color scheme in the clothing, and a few of the Pokemon that appear. Most mainline Pokemon games release like that to encourage people to trade with others if they want all of them. But by no means is your kid missing out if they don't have both. Though, I will say, as a father of two, getting one of each is a great way to have your kiddos work together.

In Pokemon Scarlet and Pokemon Violet, your character (whom you create) starts off life at a new school in the Paldea region of their universe. As you head out your characters finds themselves tasked with many quests from finding and cataloging the area's Pokemon, discovering the story behind a weird band of misfits known as Team Star, and uncovering the secrets of the mysterious crater at the center of the island. And that's just a few things you'll be tasked with.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Violence

The Pokemon games, at their core, usually involve battling your Pokemon against other Pokemon. While they are mostly adorable creatures, these adorable creatures are casually creating blasts of fire and causing psychic attacks to occur. While there isn't blood or anything like that, this game is ultimately in a world where people solve their problems by having animals attack each other till they black out. Probably worth a conversation with the kiddos.

There is also a lot of implied violence. Your character, for example, gets threatened a few times (though never personally attacked). There is also a lot of lore in the game's Pokedex (the tool that you use to research Pokemon) that give backstory to violent and sometimes dark things that have occurred in the past.

For example, the adorable balloon Pokemon known as Drifblum, while cut, has a recorded habit of tricking children into grabbing the string hanging below it and flying away with the child to take the child into the unknown. Depending on your kid it might be something you'll want to sit with them as they play if they get creeped out really easily by conceptual thoughts like this.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Creepiness

The world of Pokemon is a bright and colorful affair littered with adorable critters. For the most part this world is far from creepy (though as I mentioned, some of the flavor text can send some shivers up the spine). There are, however, a few scenes in the game that are somewhat creepy, made all the more creepy by how out of place it is with the rest of the game.

One task you get into later in the game that is optional involves you having to find 32 mysterious stakes driven into the ground at various points in the game world. These help you unlock four very rare Pokemon that were locked away because they, according to the text, cursed a kingdom and brought death and ruin upon it wiping it out of existence. So that's fun.

Another major story point, spoiler alert, later in the game involves a character finding out that not only did his parents die years ago, but the parent he's been talking to over video for several years, is actually a malfunctioning robot clone that, eventually, starts glitching and twitching wildly before attacking you. It's definitely an unsettling scene that got a big vocal "YIKES" from my 9-year-old.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Diversity

The Pokemon games are fairly diverse in certain regards and overly conservative in others.

While the game does good by featuring characters of widely varying skin tones and body types, the game also fails in its lack of depicting relationships outside the default one man, one woman. In fairness, however, there are pretty much no relationships present in the game. But the very few you encounter are basic hetero to the point where, despite the many guides I've created for the game elsewhere, I had to struggle to remember even a single couple depicted in the game.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Romance

While Pokemon is a series that often focuses VERY heavily on the powers of friendship and teamwork, as I mentioned early, the series is also amazingly avoidant of relationships. The schools that take place in this game are quite possibly the ONLY school that ever existed in which there is no talk of dating. Adult characters never mention spouses nor are they seen. In fact, as far as I remember the only couple I encountered were the aforementioned dead parents. Even your character lives with a single mother.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Substance Usage

Nope. You're not going to find that in a mainline Pokemon game. No references to drugs or alcohol are present. However, one thing you need to remember is that this game makes your child's character constantly stock up on medicine to give your Pokemon.

The medicine are miracle cures that can immediately cure poison, remove burns, and, surprisingly, cure paralysis. It might be important to talk with your child about not abusing medication and the limits of modern medicine before you get into a situation like mine when my child was younger and asked someone in a wheelchair why didn't just take medicine to cure their partial paralysis. Oof.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Swearing

You don't need to worry about anything like that here. Even the villains in this game try to avoid any sort of hurtful terminology. No swearing here. Everyone in the game tends to be a total sweetheart for the most part.

Pokemon Scarlet Violet Photograph
Pokemon Scarlet /

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Microtransactions

Thankfully the Pokemon games have always worked hard to stay away from microtransactions. Well, not the ones on mobile devices, don't get me started on those. But mainline Pokemon games at least don't have microtransactions.

There is, however, a season pass available for the upcoming additions to the game coming out later this year. This big guy will run you $35 and automatically download all the additional story content, areas, and any new Pokemon. It's not necessary to get it now as the add-ons don't come out till later in the year and increase the size of the game. But they do give you a pre-purchase bonus of four extra outfits for your character and will absolutely make sure that the player is aware of the additional clothing. Just make sure your credit card isn't attached to the Switch or that you have a purchase password because they make it VERY easy to purchase the pass from the game.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Positive Messages

The game's got quite a few positive messages in it. A lot of them have to deal with friendship and the positive effects of working with others. The game also features an impressive in-game school (which is optional) but if you take the courses they actually will teach a few words in other languages and things of that sort. Impressively the math class not only teaches you some basic math but also immediately shows how knowing that kind of math can help you in the game helping your kid realize they haven't just learned a school topic but a skill they can immediately put to use.

One of the main storylines also focuses very heavily on a group of kids who were the victims of some heavy bullying. Over the course of their story, they learn to embrace what makes them unique and use that power to make friends and lead better lives.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Negative Messages

There are a couple of issues I had with the story. While the game seems to teach about friendship and teamwork, it also makes it almost seem bad that sometimes people might want to go it alone. Which is odd for a game you play mostly by yourself.

There is, also, the fact that so many of this world's problems seem to be resolved by capturing wild animals and having them fight each other which, depending on how you approach it can look like anything from the promotion of violence, to a look at a power dynamic in which as long as you can overpower the person you're debating you're correct. As always, conversations with your kids are key.

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet parents guide: Age Barriers

Despite the fact that many of the early trailers for the game had characters vocally talking, all the dialogue in Pokemon Scarlet & Violet is delivered only via text with no voice acting at any point. If your child has difficulty reading it's going to be VERY easy for them to have little to no clue what they should be doing at any given time.

The game also asks you if you'd like to teach your Pokemon new moves and you have to read a small paragraph to understand what the new move might do. If your child can't read there's a possibility that you might swap your Pokemon's sole attack with a move that simply makes it rainy outside.

There is also some online play in the game where you can team up with other people online. While there isn't any voice chat, there's also no limit to what you can name your character and it's not entirely uncommon to encounter other players that have wildly inappropriate names.