Ever since Arceus made the world in its image, Pokémon fans have had to grapple with a huge choice for every mainline game: which version to get. That quandary will remain in place for the latest games, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, with many more unique features than usual, some even pertaining to the distant past or the far-flung future. We’re breaking down every difference between the two, to help you know which version to pick up.
Every generation of Nintendo’s monster-hunting RPGs splits up some of its roster of Pokémon, with a handful showing up in one game while remaining absent from the counterpart (and vice versa). This strategy makes a certain degree of sense, if somewhat cynically. Making some Pokémon available in one version but not the other certainly drives some to buy two copies of essentially the same game. Or, less cynically, it forces players to actually engage with each other and trade. But in Scarlet & Violet, there are many other core differences that might influence your decision, including whether you want things prehistorically themed, or perhaps decorated by the distant future.
Koraidon (“ride-on,” geddit?) will be the motorcycle-inspired dragon beast that comes with Scarlet. Like it’s partner Poké Miraidon, it’s described as having “powers that far surpass those of other Pokémon,” but Nintendo has deliberately kept much about them both a mystery.
Koraidon is, as you might imagine, a mostly red monster, sporting what unquestionably look like a pair of wheels. Wheels it...doesn’t use. Instead, Koraidon gallops on its legs, which raises so many evolutionary questions. It has a feathery appearance, a bit like a prehistoric bird. Rideable, this Legendary can also fly and swim, making it quite the means of transport as you explore Scarlet’s open world.
Miraidon is Violet’s far more futuristic Legendary, and as you’d expect, it’s predominantly purple. Like Koraidon, it can take three different forms (formes?), using Drive Mode, Aquatic Mode, and Glide Mode. It too has a vehicular style, also sporting (albeit more subtle) vestigial wheels. Seeming like the lovechild of Pokémon and a Transformer, it has a metallic sheen, and a pixel display for eyes.
Quite where either Legendary will appear in the game is unclear, given we’ll now be able to tackle the game’s gyms in any order—perhaps they’ll simply trigger once you’ve done whichever proves to be your eighth. Or maybe we’ll get lucky, and they’ll be introduced earlier to make movement around the large game easier.
- Larvitar, a rock-ground-type lizard creature who first debuted in Pokémon Gold and Silver.
- Pupitar, the second-stage evolution of Larvitar. It floats for some reason. Though Pupitar hasn’t been officially confirmed, we’re including it since it evolves from a confirmed Pokémon. (One caveat though: In Pokémon Sword and Shield, Slowpoke, who has been part of the series since the days of Red and Blue, could not evolve unless you picked up the expansions.)
- Tyrannitar, the final stage of Larvitar’s evolution chain. Unlike the prior two evolutions, Tyrannitar drops the ground-type affiliation and is rock-dark-type.
- Stonjourner, a rock-type from Pokémon Sword and Shield who, I guess, is supposed to be a play on the famous Stonehenge monument in England.
- Armarouge, a fire/psychic-type, brand new for Gen 9, with the appearance of a knight.
- Koraidon, Scarlet’s legendary Pokémon and cover model.
- Bagon, a dragon-type Pokémon who debuted in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire
- Shelgon, the second-stage evolution of Bagon. The same logic that applies to Larvitar’s evolution chain applies to Bagon’s, too.
- Salamence, a dragon-flying type Pokémon and the final stage of Bagon’s evolution chain. Some people (guilty as charged) are convinced Salamence is the coolest Pokémon of all time, ever.
- Eiscue, an ice-type penguin Pokémon with a giant ice cube for a face.
- Ceruledge, not a relation of Honege, but a brand-new bipedal Pokémon with dual types, fire and ghost. With blades for arms, it’s a terrifying futuristic counterpart to Scarlet’s more Medieval Armarouge.
- Miraidon, Violet’s legendary Pokémon and cover model.
For Scarlet players, you’ll be guided through your times in Paldea by Professor Sada. Given the Spanish influences on Paldea, it’s no coincidence that the Spanish for “past” is “pasada”—in other translations, her name varies between other words for “past” and “ancient,” while the Japanese original is Olim, the Latin for “once upon a time.”
Sada, like her partner Professor, Turo, is involved in researching Terastal Pokémon, and the phenomena of Terastallisation. She also appears to be dressed like a scientist from The Flintstones.
Meanwhile, Violet players will be accompanied by ol’ smoothy-chops, Professor Turo. Again, the Spanish for “future” is “futuro,” and his name in the Japanese version is Futu, seemingly derived from the Latin for “future”, “futūrum.”
While Sada is dressed in cavewoman clothing, Turo is garbed in a space-age bodysuit beneath his lab coat. He too is studying the crystalline nature of Terastal Pokémon. Hmmmm, might time travel also come into this story in some way?
As you set out in the world of Pokémon Scarlet or Violet, you’ll discover that your own character’s clothing is determined by the version you bought. If you get Scarlet, you’ll be dressed in orange, but if you picked up Violet you’ll be decked out in purple. Both are uniforms for the school you’ll attend.
You can change your outfits in the game, however, once you find a shop to buy new clothes from.
Even the school you’ll attend is determined by the version you buy. Your school, where you’re taught about Pokémon, is in the largest town of Paldea, Mesagoza. However, if you get Scarlet it will have a different name, emblem and color-scheme than if you got Violet.
In Scarlet, the school is called the Naranja Academy, with an orange emblem featuring a spoked orange shape on its shield. (Naranja is, of course, Spanish for Orange.)
In Violet, you’ll instead go to the Uva Academy, where the emblem is purple, featuring some grandly displayed grapes. (And yes, Uva is Grape in Spanish.)
Funnily enough, both academies are run by the same person—Clavell—but he’ll be in orange or purple depending on the version.
And why orange and not red? Well, it’s Nintendo.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are set to reimagine other long-standing aspects of the series. Set in a region called Paldea, inspired by the IRL Iberian Peninsula, these games are fully open-world for the first time in series history. There’s four-player co-op. Gyms are back, with one leader in particular leaving many fans sexually confused. And in lieu of debatably silly features like “Mega Evolution,” some Pokémon are capable of a thing called—this is a very real word, by the way—“terastallizing,” which means they cover themselves in crystals and can change their type on the fly.
Updated: 11/18/2022, 11:15 a.m. ET: Well, Scarlet and Violet are now upon us. If you’re venturing out into the Paldea region, we wish you happy hunting. If you’re still on the fence about which version to buy or whether you even want to take the plunge into the latest Pokémon adventure, you should know that, although the gameplay fundamentals seem more than sound, Nintendo’s five-year-old hybrid console sure seems to be struggling with the game on a technical level.