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Completing The Pokedex Is Still The Most Fun Challenge In Gaming

I must be the last one of my friends to complete the Pokedex in Scarlet & Violet. All my pals are currently running around with their shiny charm, hunting miscoloured monsters and showing off in group chats. I haven’t found a single shiny yet, although to be fair I haven’t hunted, but I’m finally making some progress on my ‘dex.

Two days ago at the time of writing, I beat the final boss of Pokemon Scarlet & Violet. I won’t spoil who that is, but I was surprised with how much I enjoyed my time with Gen 9. Despite the rampant performance issues and the fact it looks like a chimp’s arse, there are heartwarming stories in there, and twists on the classic Pokemon formula that shake things up just enough to keep the game interesting while retaining that ‘Pokemon’ feel. The open world is great to explore, and although I’d prefer level scaling, the final, climatic battle was suitably challenging.

Two days ago, my Pokedex was at 70 – that’s just under 18 percent completion. For a regular playthrough where I basically only caught new ‘mons, that’s not bad, but I wasn’t really paying attention to it. Right now, after two evenings of catching and leveling galore, my ‘dex has hit 310, coming up on 80 percent complete. Having retraced my steps and Quick Balled everything that moved, I’m now into the Wild West of catching Pokemon, and faced with the difficult evolutions.

After grinding Dondozo around Casseroya Lake, I’ve evolved every Pokemon in my possession, from Arctibax to Zorua. I have a kind friend who traded me all the Scarlet exclusives, but I still need to grab some trade evolutions. However, Pokemon Scarlet & Violet also has not one, not two, but three Pokemon that evolve after you’ve *checks notes* walked around with them? It seems a little excessive, but I’ll do it. 1,000 steps each for the little guys. How will I know when I’ve walked far enough? Is there a little notification or do they instantly evolve? No, you just have to guess. Great. Thanks for that. Then you get to Tandemaus and Primeape, which are on another level. Have you evolved Bisharp yet? You’re in for a treat. And by ‘treat’ I mean ‘terrible, terrible time’.

I appreciate that completing the Pokedex is a lot easier these days than when I was a kid – I can head to a guide to work out the unnecessarily complicated Finizen evolution conditions (saved you a Google) rather than bang my head against my bedroom wall for hours on end – but it’s still a grind. The word ‘grind’ conjures bad feelings, I get that, but this is somewhat enjoyable. I marathoned Sword & Shield, putting in 100 hours of playtime in the first week alone, completing its Pokedex in under half that time. While I’m only at around 35 hours in Violet, I’m on course to complete the Pokedex in a similar time. I’m not racing myself, I’m just aware that I wouldn’t spend this long on a relatively thankless task – all you get is a certificate and a Shiny Charm – in any other game.

Completing the Pokedex is a wonderful experience, and not just for the moment of elation at the end. It starts with revisiting the different areas of your journey, starting at home. This was the first time I’d talked to my mum since setting off from the master bedroom of her house, and she was kind enough to give me some sandwich recipes that I’m sure would have been helpful right at the start. With Miraidon’s newfound climbing abilities, I found new areas and explored dark caverns that were inaccessible before.

Paldea was a new region, and instead of being motivated by Titans and Gym Leaders, I was studying the Pokemon themselves. Did I catch a Houndour before? Should I evolve my Slowpoke or just catch a Slowbro? Pokemon really fit their habitats in Violet’s open world, and hunting them down so they can become indentured to my service and live the rest of their lives in a box is immense fun – plus seeing the numbers tick up on the Dex does wonders for the old serotonin. It’s a long process that sometimes feels slow and tedious in equal measure, but it’s one of the best challenges in all of gaming.

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