clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet co-op could change everything

Explore Paldea with your pals(dea)

A group of four players, and each is riding a Legendary Pokémon (either Koraidon or Miraidon) in their motorcycle forms. Image: Game Freak/Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Nicole Clark (she/her) is a culture editor at Polygon, and a critic covering internet culture, video games, books, and TV, with work in the NY Times, Vice, and Catapult.

On Wednesday, The Pokémon Company released a new trailer showcasing Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet. Like previous titles, the game will have familiar multiplayer features like trading Pokémon and battling trainers from all over the world. But Scarlet and Violet will also have co-op play for up to four total trainers, expanding the ways you and your friends can enjoy the new region of Paldea.

Scarlet and Violet are shaking up the familiar Pokémon format, as the series’ first open-world RPG titles — and you’ll be able to play them with your friends. Just head to Union Circle and invite up to three others for cooperative play. Together you can “battle wild Pokémon,” adventure “through the open fields of the Paldea region,” and “spend time with your friends how you want to,” according to a release. You and your friends can also work together to beat Tera Pokémon in Tera Raid Battles, fighting to add Terastal Pokémon — the new gem-looking form of Pokémon, unique to the Paldea region — to your Pokédex.

Four Pokémon trainers standing outside a shop in Paldea. Image: Game Freak/Nintendo, The Pokémon Company

It’s unclear whether Scarlet and Violet co-op is specific to regional areas, discrete events, or otherwise gated, but the trailer revealed players riding Legendary Pokémon Koraidon and Miraidon together, hanging out in a town square while showing off Pokémon, and standing outside a shop. All of this emphasizes adventure and exploration, and feels like a departure from more basic multiplayer features in prior Pokémon games. Sword and Shield Max Raid Battles, for example, pit trainers and three others (NPCs or three other players) against an enormous Dynamax or Gigantamax Pokémon. Sword and Shield also had Wild Areas, which allowed trainers to see other players, but didn’t specify whether it was happening in real-time and didn’t allow for actual engagement.

Scarlet and Violet allowing real-time multiplayer exploration, especially in the mainline portions of the game, would be a significant step forward. Pokémon games have always had a collaborative heart — collecting, trading, and obsessing with your friends was encouraged, as completing a Pokédex becomes much easier when you work together. Genuine, real-time multiplayer — even if only in discrete instances or regions — would be a continuation of this ethos, and a culmination of these past cooperative features.

As in past games, you can also trade Pokémon with other players in Scarlet and Violet. Just use the Poké Portal to do Link Trades, which let you trade with a specific player. You can also Surprise Trade, which will let you select a Pokémon and trade with a random player.

A word of caution: Surprise Trade was originally introduced in Sword and Shield — formerly called “Wonder Trade” — and resulted in a number of unintended consequences. Players hacked Sword and Shield to add Pokémon that were not part of the region’s Pokédex. (This predated the release of Pokémon Home for those titles, which would have allowed players to import their own pocket monsters from other games.) Hacking also caused crashes for a number of players. In March 2020, The Pokémon Company released a patch attempting to fix these crashes, and in Jan. 2021, The Pokémon Company said they would ban anyone playing with “illegally modified data.”

Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet will also have Link Battles, as in previous titles. (It was a part of Sword and Shield, but not in the more recently released Pokémon Legends: Arceus.) In Scarlet and Violet, you’ll be able to battle other players by selecting that option at the Poké Portal.