Who says you can’t go home?
The new generation of Pokemon is out in the wild, and avid trainers have been battling and collecting their way across Paldea. Like with all of the mainline Pokemon games, it takes around 20 hours to see the end credits roll on this adventure. So if you’ve been playing since launch, you’ve likely already reached the ending of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet.
Our reviews for the new Pokemon games went live yesterday. But seeing as it’s difficult to talk about something so spoiler-laden in a review, we wanted to specifically talk about the ending. Because the final moments of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet really is something unique, it’s worth dissecting and discussing.
So, after the jump down, we’ll go into a spoiler-filled chat about the last 90 minutes or so of the new Pokemon. Whether you’ve seen it yourself or just can’t resist the curiosity, we will be talking full spoilers. You’ve been adequately warned.
Welcome to Area Zero
After seeing all three main storyline paths to their conclusion, the finale is made available. Though depending on which path you finished first, you might have figured it out quickly. At the conclusion of Arven’s storyline, the pair of you learn that his parent (Sada or Turo, depending on the version) wants Arven and his friend (you) to descend into Area Zero.
The AZ is a deep crater at the center of Paldea. And much like our own AZ, it is a giant canyon with unknown horrors lurking below. The whole game you’ve been told not to go there, so we are obviously ending the game by going there.
Of course, you’ll need help. And here’s where the routes link up in an interesting way: Nemona and Penny, two pals whose friendship you’ve garnered over the course of the other storyline paths, join your crew. Pokemon Scarlet and Violet were essentially building the crew for your eventual Poke-heist the whole time.
A whole new (old) world
It’s at this point that Scarlet and Violet shift gears a bit. Up to this point, it’s been an open-world and solitary affair. Run around, catch Pokemon, and tackle the paths in any way you see fit.
Once you’ve descended to Area Zero, though, you’re not alone. Nemona, Penny, and Arven run alongside you as you descend into a vast, open canyon. Your goal is to find different research stations on the way down, picking up pieces of lore and more info on what happened to the Professor along the way.
It is, simply put, astonishing. It’s a Pokemon experience for sure; you’re still battling Pokemon and catching them. But the atmosphere and surroundings are completely different, even from the main Paldea region you’ve just left.
In the crater, you can see the strata above and below you. Each level contains a new research station, but also new untold mysteries. Dangerous Pokemon, carrying either futuristic or prehistoric touches to the usual Pokemon you’ve come to know, wander these areas. They’re familiar, but a little off.
I can’t stress enough how much work the music does here. The Area Zero field theme, alongside the battle theme, builds this air of unease and tension. I truly felt like I was walking into a place out of time. This was a land inhabited by wild, dangerous monsters I didn’t fully understand.
This whole area is filled with Pokemon from either the far past or far-flung future. As it turns out, Sada / Turo’s research wasn’t on modern Pokemon, but those from another time. And in their search, they managed to build a time machine, and started catching Pokemon through it. These experiments soon went awry, though, and now you need to get down to their lab at the bottom of the crater to fix everything.
A true party
But I wasn’t alone in this search. The crew the player builds up across those three paths follows them around, like members of an RPG party. I seriously got some flashbacks to games like the Xenoblade Chronicles series or Final Fantasy XV here.
Every Pokemon game has a party, to be fair. Your Pocket Monster arsenal is its own RPG party. But having a group of Trainers just walking around and chatting about current events or their past feels like new ground for Pokemon. It also calls to attention the glaring lack of voice acting, but that’s one of the broader issues in Scarlet and Violet, not just in Area Zero.
This party works so well because it gives you this group to travel with, building up the story as you dig into more lore. And then, when you reach the endpoint of this dive into the abyss, it’s time for the group battle.
The segment where each member is pitching in to help hold off a horde of past or future Pokemon, flooding in through the Professor’s still-active time machine, is fantastic. It’s a narrative framing that other studios, like BioWare, have used in the past to amp up the stakes for individual party members during a climactic fight. And here we have it in a Pokemon game, and it’s actually working.
The final fight
Of course, there’s the final battle with the (as you have now learned, artificial) Professor Sada or Turo. The reveal that the true professor died years ago and we’re attempting to dismantle the last vestiges of their project is one surprise.
But the part of it I loved was facing off against unknown Pokemon in their lineup. First off, the image of the Professor dropping Master Balls down from their perch is incredible. And then you’re faced with some new creature; in some cases, you have to figure out the typing and weaknesses on the fly. It’s a great test of your Trainer abilities up to that point.
It all culminates in your Koraidon or Miraidon taking down their counterpart, with an absolutely fantastic mechanic for putting them into battle in the first place. It’s a big, cinematic fight, and Pokemon isn’t wholly unaccustomed to those.
The mysterious dungeon
What’s fascinating is how it all comes together. This is a Pokemon dungeon, essentially. It felt like Game Freak utilizing so much of its tech for a focused purpose. Running around on the overworld with friends, seeing ominous and imposing Pokemon silhouettes lurking around corners, and the open-world design letting you look up from the bottom and see the levels you’ve traversed crisscrossing over your head.
It’s a frankly fantastic finale, one that managed to assuage some of the negative feelings I had coming in from the previous parts of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. To be clear, I don’t think it lets the game completely off the hook for its technical issues.
But the last 90 or so minutes of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet lay out an impressive blueprint for what a future single-player game could look like. An adventuring party of Trainers, teaming up to take on big threats in dangerous areas.
Maybe that’s a bit more suited to the Legends line than the main Pokemon series. But it’s quite a swing to take right before Ed Sheeran plays the game out. And if nothing else, I’m glad Game Freak went for it in those final moments. Even alongside my qualms with large chunks of the game, even ones that affect Area Zero, the finale of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet is pretty darn impressive.