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Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have condemned us all to wearing a school uniform

Why does everyone else look so good? Why do we look so bad?

An image of four Pokémon trainers in Scarlet and Violet taking a selfie in a town. They are all wearing variations of the same school uniform. One wears a sport jacket with a tie, another wears shorts with a puffer vest and tie for some reason. None of the outfits look particularly cute. Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo
Ana Diaz (she/her) is a culture writer at Polygon, covering internet culture, fandom, and video games. Her work has previously appeared at NPR, Wired, and The Verge.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet expand on the world of Pokémon in so many ways. The games are set in the giant, sprawling world of Paldea, one of the biggest regions the franchise has ever featured. The games also widen the core adventure by providing players with alternate routes in addition to challenging gym leaders. While the vision and scope are well beyond what we’ve seen in prior mainline Pokémon games, there is one key aspect where they take a clear step backward: character design.

That’s because, for the first time since Pokémon X and Y, you can’t customize the full outfit of your trainer. You can customize the look of your character with a range of non-gender-locked hairstyles, four skin tones, and various accessories, but you only have four options of outfits to pick from.

In Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, you play as a newly minted trainer attending an ultra-elite school. You can accessorize your trainer with items like backpacks, sunglasses, socks, shoes, or hats that you can buy in various cities. But you can’t change your character out of the school uniform. As it is now, there are four base uniform options: a pants-and-suspenders situation, a puffer vest with shorts (shorts!), a sort of wrinkly beach shorts look, and finally a more formal pants and winter coat over your white button-up combo. All of these outfits riff on the school’s stiff look of a white button-up and tie.

Additionally, buying accessories can be cumbersome. Each town has its own set of shops, and you have to find each individual shop and buy different kinds of accessories one by one. You’re forced to store hop as you buy each and every item — from the sock shop to the backpack shop and to the hat shop — in each town. The games’ technical issues also impact the ability to shop. When I entered a shop menu, I would have to set my Switch down and wait around a minute for the outfit and trainer avatar to load so I could see what my trainer looked like with pink stockings on.

But even this frustrating process is eclipsed by other limitations. I selected a curly hairstyle for my character and wasn’t able to wear many of the hats. This removed an entire section of an already limited set of customization options. I liked the options I did have — I settled on some hip round sunglasses, but I just wished I could put her in a skirt or dress or something other than the four basic options.

The game does justify the outfit with its story. You are a student, and while you can skip out on school after a few hours of hanging out there at the beginning, you are technically doing independent study in which you explore the larger world. Still, I just wished it would have even let me choose a skirt. I love my character and I love the cute selfies she takes with others, but it’s just a bummer to see that cute outfits didn’t seem to be a priority in this particular adventure.

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