“Pokémon Crimson” played: Playfully forward, technically backwards

Shortly after our first mission begins, “The Treasure Hunt” begins – the main quest of the open world of the new “Pokémon Crimson and Crimson”. From the eastern gate of the capital, you enter vast areas filled with hundreds of Pokémon. To the west, on the other hand, we head on a more straightforward path to familiar arenas and their arena leaders. Always by our side: our starter Pokémon and the freedom to set any goal for ourselves.

New to the series, the video game approaches the typical fantasy of the classic 90’s anime with Ash Ketchum, Misty and Rocco. A free-roaming world where we catch what and when we want. The pocket monsters of the same name do not hide in the tall grass, but frolic directly into the game world as in “Pokémon Arceus”. There we will also find other characters and trainers and duel in battles without a separate loading time.

The main plot and dialogues without sound are at the level typical of the series and therefore predictable for fans and adults. The world makes a varied impression. But no one should expect a mysterious journey of discovery like in “Zelda: Breath of the Wild”.

Our in-game mentor, the Academy Professor, asks us early on if we know what “cringe” means. We answer that it stands for something incongruous, weird and strange. Quite “cringe”, the question, much like the technical framework of “Crimson and Purple”. The title never exceeds 30 frames per second and the frame rate often remains far below that. In the cooperative online mode for up to four players, the frame rate drops to a maximum of 10 frames per second.

But that is not everything. The Game Freak development team is responsible for lags where the game runs like chewing gum, sound doublers in the otherwise beautifully orchestrated soundtrack, or embarrassing graphical errors like missing textures and disappearing shadows. The range of vision is severely limited and characters at close range only move with two animation phases.

Judging by the profit that Pokémon games have brought in for decades, those responsible should be ashamed of what is being offered. They deliver less than necessary. In still images, “Crimson and Purpur” looks much nicer and more detailed than its predecessors “Sword and Shield” or “Arceus”. The design of the menus and the operation is also pleasantly fast.

The core elements of the gameplay loop of seek, find, fight, catch and sort are extremely comfortable in “Crimson and Crimson”. Newly caught Pokemon can be merged, boxed, or healed without going through three different menus. If desired, battles take place automatically with reduced experience gains.

We’ve never had more different Pokémon in the balls after the first few hours of play than in “Crimson and Crimson”. The special attacks (TMs), attitudes and stats behind the element types, traditionally only relevant later in the game, are also revealed much earlier. Here the series takes a few steps towards experienced fans who do not want to have every detail explained again, even if the mandatory tutorial at the beginning of the game again offers unnecessary lengths.

The Gigamax forms equivalent of “Sword and Shield” is the Teracrystallization in “Crimson and Crimson”. This allows Trainers to extract additional element types from their Pokémon that induce a certain element of surprise. For example, a Pikachu, which is electric by default, is also assigned the type of Flight or Normal.

Pokémon Crimson and Crimson are now available for the Nintendo Switch for just under 60 euros and are approved by the USK for children from 6 years old. The versions vary in color shades, naming and some exclusive monsters to catch.

In terms of technology, the new Pokémon Crimson and Crimson are a breeze. We don’t see the Nintendo Switch’s aging hardware as the reason for the disaster on offer. In the future, developers should urgently be given more time and resources for optimization and fine-tuning. Patches are needed.

In terms of gameplay, the series is developing well. Here the correct conclusions were drawn from the open world experiment “Arceus” and intertwined with the motivating basic principle of the previous main titles. I especially like the playful freedom. Almost everything can be skipped. Unfortunately, it’s part of the game that you overlevel yourself for some areas or aren’t strong enough. A dynamic adjustment of the difficulty would be attractive here.

It is not yet clear whether the title will eventually become the standard in the player-versus-player scene with its complex duels. That depends on Nintendo’s long-term support and endgame balance. Since the technical stumbling block of the title is not the combat, but the open world, “Crimson and Purpur” could also convince in this area.


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