Since their launch on 18th November 2022, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have gone on to promote document numbers, surpassing a few of the most beloved entries of the long-running franchise regardless of the fairly lukewarm reception they obtained in some corners resulting from poor optimisation and efficiency points. With The Hidden Treasures of Space Zero, the video games are persevering with a development began with the earlier era in delivering DLC post-launch somewhat than re-releasing the titles with some minor modifications and extra content material. The Teal Masks is the primary half of this, with The Indigo Disk resulting from be launched later this yr. However is that this providing a worthwhile funding, and does it do sufficient to offset the assorted points current within the video games?
The Teal Masks tells a brand new story by which your character goes on a subject journey to the area of Kitakami, a extra rustic and conventional land that celebrates a trio of Pokemon referred to as the Loyal Three, who in historical occasions are stated to have defended them from the Ogre. After arriving in Kitakami and assembly two locals, Carmine and her youthful brother Kieran, you’re tasked with an orienteering train of visiting three signposts throughout Kitakami that inform the story of the area.
To keep away from spoilers I received’t be going into any additional element, however The Teal Masks advantages enormously from having just one story to concentrate on, which is devoted totally to exploring the lore of the area and the 2 new characters, Carmine and Kieran. Kieran specifically receives lots of character improvement because the story progresses, being of an analogous age to your character in addition to your assigned companion for the orienteering train. Different characters may also seem from time-to-time to put some very fundamental groundwork for half two of the DLC, The Indigo Disk, however The Teal Masks tells a narrative that’s totally unconnected to the three quest traces from Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, and is straightforward to observe.
It’s unlucky that regardless of having a powerful and self-contained story, The Teal Masks fails to ship a correct conclusion, with a somewhat abrupt ending and a “to be continued” display screen closing out the proceedings. Time will inform if The Indigo Disk can choose up the place this left off and supply a satisfying conclusion, however regardless, this seems like a disservice to what’s offered right here. The small story beats scattered all through the sport arrange hints for The Indigo Disk (and probably past) with out compromising the story because it unfolds, and because the second half of the DLC can be set in a unique location with a brand new solid, it’s disappointing that they couldn’t conclude this a part of the story in a extra particular trend.
The Teal Masks provides you a completely new area to discover with Kitakami, and it’s offered in the identical method as Paldea; the minute you’re off the bus, the world is yours to discover, and it’s simply as simple to overlook about the primary quest and lose your self within the area right here because it was within the base sport. The smaller scale makes the world really feel much less empty and extra dense, with environments extra akin to Hisui from Pokemon Legends: Arceus as a result of lack of human settlements. This helps Kitakami to really feel like its personal distinctive area, somewhat than only a scaled-back Paldea with its personal Pokedex.
Landmarks function quick journey factors this time round, and these are maybe a little bit too few and far-between to make traversal as handy because it might be, significantly should you’re coming into the DLC with out the talents you’ll achieve doing The Path of Legends questline. Nevertheless, Kitakami is certainly a area finest explored from as near the start of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet as potential. Degree scaling within the sport coming from a recent save state feels fairly balanced, with Pokemon and trainers being at a stage that can really feel prefer it naturally progresses with your personal until you are taking outing to grind.
Sadly that is offset by the extent disobedience mechanic, that means that should you catch a Pokemon above a particular stage comparable to the badges you personal, it’ll disobey you when battling. In the event you’re coming into the DLC with a brand new save file, you’ll have to usually depart Kitakami to return to Paldea for Health club Badges, in order that wild Pokemon you encounter and need to use that you simply catch above stage 20 will obey you. The Teal Masks was clearly designed to be a self-contained expertise from a narrative perspective, and needing to depart the area to progress the Victory Highway story of the primary video games may disrupt the tempo of the expertise for newcomers.
Taking part in with an already current crew, particularly should you’ve already accomplished the bottom sport, lacks any type of problem, as a result of wild Pokemon and coach battles will nearly definitely be a number of ranges under your personal. This can be a downside that was current within the DLC from the earlier era titles, so it’s not shocking that it’s current in The Teal Masks, nevertheless it’s unlucky that no effort has been made to make the expertise right here tougher for returning gamers.
The Teal Masks can also be disappointingly brief, with a narrative round 5 hours lengthy should you don’t take the time to discover Kitakami, which doesn’t provide a lot in the way in which of significant content material. Exploration is meant to be its personal reward, which won’t swimsuit everybody, and there’s little or no content material to actively have interaction with outdoors of the primary story and transient put up sport story. There are a complete of seven new Pokemon to catch, with 4 of those being tied to the primary story, and 102 getting back from earlier generations. The Teal Masks additionally has a brand new minigame, Ogre Oustin, which includes popping colored balloons for meals to hold again to the aim inside the time restrict, being aware of the Greedent that can come to steal it. This may be pleasurable in brief bursts with buddies on-line, however the gadgets you’ll get for doing it don’t make it really feel significantly rewarding as a single-player exercise.
The efficiency points current in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have additionally carried over to The Teal Masks. Regardless of being significantly smaller in scale, Kitakami suffers from the identical issues that plagued Paldea; it continuously drops under 30fps and has a noticeable quantity of pop-in, making traversal a nightmare as you’ll continuously stroll proper into wild Pokemon and have to sit down via a noticeable pause earlier than a battle you most likely don’t need to have interaction in ensues. It isn’t unusual for this to occur a number of occasions in a row, as exiting one battle will see you instantly thrown into one other one with a Pokemon that has spawned subsequent to your character; with the identical awkward pause as the sport masses again into fight.
Pokemon fashions in battle stay crisp and top quality, and transfer animations can at occasions look beautiful and be very satisfying to observe. However that is offset by the blocky, murky visuals of Kitakami itself, with poor lighting results and low decision a continuing presence as you discover, with the overworld fashions of Pokemon and NPC characters displaying some somewhat janky animations. Nevertheless, there are glimmers of upper high quality visuals right here and there, as draw distance is surprisingly good (you may typically simply see the sunshine of raid dens lengthy earlier than you see the den itself, though at occasions this will also be as a result of the den has did not load till you’re nearer to it) and there are a pleasant number of biomes to discover throughout the area.
It’s value noting that at no level throughout my playthrough did I expertise any crashes or game-breaking glitches, however the sport stays as poorly optimized because it was when it was first launched. This isn’t surprising, however it’s disappointing. With Kitakami being a a lot much less bold area than Paldea, and the video games having been out for nearly a yr now with quite a few patches, it’s changing into more durable to miss these points, and with different first-party Nintendo franchises delivering rather more bold worlds and gameplay experiences – The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Pikmin 4 each spring to thoughts right here – the type of high quality on show right here feels as disappointing because it was when the video games first launched.
The Teal Masks is, for higher and for worse, extra of the identical. It tells an pleasurable story with some glorious lore that makes Kitakami really feel as alive as any previous area, and gives the identical freedom of exploration that made Paldea so fascinating. Sadly, it additionally comes with all of the efficiency points and poor optimisation that made Paldea so irritating, and its brief size, poorly-designed stage scaling, and failure to ship a correct conclusion to its story make it a much less satisfying expertise than it may have been, significantly should you’re coming into it from an endgame save state with a strong crew. The worth of The Hidden Treasures of Space Zero as a package deal will after all be decided by each elements of it, however The Teal Masks will not be as sturdy of a begin because it may have been.
A duplicate of Pokemon Violet – The Hidden Treasures of Space Zero Half One: The Teal Masks was offered by Nintendo UK for the aim of this overview