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Pokémon Scarlet & Violet - The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero (Switch) - Review-in-Progress [Part One: The Teal Mask]


Stumbling first steps into the greater world of Paldeahttp://www.nintendoworldreport.com/review/64938/pokemon-scarlet-n-violet-the-hidden-treasure-of-area-zero-switch-review-in-progress-part-one-the-teal-mask Editor’s Note: We’ve chosen to make the review for the DLC for Pokémon Scarlet & Violet, The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero, a review-in-progress. This is due to the fact that the DLC consists of two parts that cannot be purchased separately. Additionally the DLC tells a continuous story, so it feels unjust to review a DLC with a story that hasn’t been concluded yet. The final review will review both pieces of DLC and the overall experience. After writing a pretty substantial editorial piece on why Pokémon Scarlet and Violet still suck I have to admit that I was at the very least slightly curious as to how the upcoming DLC, dubbed the Hidden Treasure of Area Zero, would fare. Taking place in smaller, separate locations, it might even improve some of the dreaded performance issues of the base games. But, if this first piece of DLC is anything to go by, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet still have quite some way to go to win me back over. The Teal Mask does a lot of table setting, but leaves the setting itself ringing slightly hollow. The Teal Mask picks up immediately after concluding the base game and the story revelations therein. After having explored the fabled Area Zero, probably leaving with more questions than answers, the player is selected as part of an exclusive field trip to the land of Kitakami. This new region is home to a lot of returning pokémon that hadn’t made their way to Paldea quite yet, as well as some new regional forms and creatures. As you set out to learn more about the Kitakami region you are joined by several new characters including the siblings Kieran and Carmine. At first they are definitely not happy with foreigners entering their lands, but as you battle them with your pokémon they grow to like you more and more over time. Of course, there are signature pokémon as well, in this particular case Ogrepon, the wearer of the titular Teal Mask. As you go about, you learn more about the history of Ogrepon and its relation to “The Loyal Three”, a group of Pokémon that once fought against Ogrepon. Let’s get the major things out of the way. The Teal Mask is pretty much another smaller explorable region that is very similar to Paldea. A big mountain in the center surrounded by ravines, woods and lakes on all sides. Gameplay wise there are no notable changes to the core gameplay loop. You still have access to Koraidon/Miraidon and are able to freely travel as you wish and find new pokémon. The returning cast of pokémon that were absent in Scarlet and Violet are a bit of a mixed bag. Fan favorites like the original Wooper, Snorlax, Milotic, Litwick, Cramorant and even Alolan and Hisuian forms of certain Pokémon can be found and added to your party. But also a few less obvious, and frankly not that useful, inclusions are here like Noctowl, Ariados, Slugma, Volbeat, Chingling, Vullaby and Cutiefly can be found in the wilds of Kitakami. Important of note is that the levels of these wild pokémon start around their 60’s, meaning you are encouraged to bring your previous party members and may have a hard time building up an entirely new team. The new pokémon are quite rad, including a twist on a recent Pokémon I wasn’t expecting. I think that the Loyal Three are probably the most disappointing, sporting fun abilities, but their designs and interaction with the player just are not clicking right.I think that Kitakami falls flat for me because, even though it is clearly inspire by the smaller rural communities of Japan, it doesn’t do much with that premise. Kitakami holds a festival, but outside of a, frankly middling, minigame, the festival barely has any impact on the goings on in Kitakami. Some local food can be purchased and there is one important scene that is relevant to the story, but other than that Kitakami feels even more barren than Scarlet and Violet did. There is one community center that functions as a town, but that leaves very little room for engagement with the culture of Kitakami. While your main story progression is based on reading actual post signs with some of the history of the region, there is barely anything that harkens back to what sets it apart from Paldea outside of its creatures. This is particularly disappointing after the fantastic storytelling and setup that was done to promote one of the new pokémon found here, Poltchageist. This one trailer had so much more buildup and myth behind it than any of the other stories found in Kitakami. The one notable exception to this is a side-quest given to you by Perrin, an enthusiastic photographer that is visiting the region from Sinnoh. Perrin is not very subtle in both her design and interests for the Hisui region that was featured in Pokémon Legends: Arceus. She has a small side-quest but her story left much more of an impression on me than that of Carmine and Kieran. Now granted, Kieran is set up to play a larger role in the next part of the DLC, the Indigo Disk, but it is such a contrast with Perrin. During her sidequest there is even a little segment that harkened back to the observing of pokémon for the pokédex in Pokémon Legends. I do hope that another counterpart of her appears in the Indigo Disk to represent the Pearl clan, because this segment felt refreshing and wanted to somewhat bridge the gap between Legends and Scarlet and Violet. Something that was definitely missing in the base game. Something else that is missing in this DLC are frames. It is frankly astonishing that after almost a full year of updates, including one introduced with this DLC that fixes some notable issues with the dex and boxes, The Teal Mask still runs at an abysmal framerate. It is a smaller region with a lot less Pokémon than Scarlet and Violet and still the performance and visual glitches are unavoidable. From the camera spacing out during battles with wild pokémon or other trainers, to the low draw distances the pumping of the brakes on the framerate when jumping or gliding through the air. Even that great sidequest I mentioned earlier is barely holding it together as you are tasked with finding certain pokémon in a small, closed off environment. I wasn’t expecting the DLC to fix any of the core issues, but the fact that it comes across as if no lessons had been learned from the reception of the core games makes it even more jarring how this DLC was sold to potential buyers.So far, the conclusion about the Hidden Treasure of Area Zero is very simple. If you liked Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, including exploring the world and catching pokémon, you will probably have fun with this DLC. But all The Teal Mask does is set-up for the next DLC, the Indigo Disk. It has very little truly its own to offer with the exception of Perrin’s sidequest and the Ogre Oustin’ minigame. You may add some new pokémon to your collection, but this smaller area does very little to elevate any of the core issues at the heart of Scarlet and Violet. In particular this region comes across as barren with not nearly anything as promising as the stories that were told before its release. Here’s to hoping that the Indigo Disk can bring these broken pieces together and possibly even find a bow to wrap it all up. But if this first DLC is anything to go by, I am nervously holding my breath for that a little while longer…


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