As a collection, Pokémon is one which has held onto custom fairly firmly. Within the 25+ years since Crimson & Blue’s launch, the basics of the sport haven’t actually modified – you discover a world, you combat Pokémon, you catch Pokémon. Final yr’s Pokémon Scarlet & Violet was the mainline collection’ first massive try to vary issues up a bit, increasing exploration to an open-world setting and letting you progress in your personal manner. However essentially it was nonetheless Pokémon, warts and all.
It’s maybe becoming, then, that the primary a part of The Hidden Treasure of Space Zero DLC, The Teal Masks, is ready in a land besotted with custom. The folks inform folks tales, new native Pokémon are steeped in historical past, and with the Kitakami area’s clear Japanese inspirations, it appears like a throwback to the older days. This does imply that whereas The Teal Masks is a enjoyable time that builds on Scarlet & Violet’s strengths, it additionally exposes the bottom sport’s – and the collection’ – weaknesses that rather more.
Your character embarks on a faculty journey to Kitakami. Whereas there, you’ll study concerning the tradition and discover the rice paddies and grassy fields, all whereas listening to about The Loyal Three and Ogerpon, a fearsome legendary Pokémon of the area. The lighter story right here is smart provided that The Teal Masks will be accessed throughout the first 5 hours of the principle sport, however your journey in Kitakami does really feel like one massive sidequest – albeit one which ends with an enormous carrot dangling for the second half of the Enlargement Move, The Indigo Disk.
Now we have to speak concerning the DLC’s new characters, Carmen and Kieran. These siblings proceed the bottom sport’s development of characters with unbelievable improvement. This duo takes some warming as much as, however each actually grew on us by the top of the DLC. Now we have a mushy spot for Kieran and his character arc, which leaves us with loads of questions for half two.
It’s unattainable to return to Scarlet & Violet, even on this new area, and never speak concerning the much-maligned visuals and efficiency points. If you happen to’re anticipating any enhancements right here, you then’re out of luck – The Teal Masks appears to be like simply as fuzzy and struggles to keep up a constant body fee simply as a lot as the bottom sport does. Miraidon nonetheless hops at a sluggish tempo, pop-in from characters, ‘mons, and vegetation are as pervasive as ever, and any NPC or Pokémon that’s various ft away will transfer round at a slideshow tempo.
Returning to the sport virtually a yr after its launch to nonetheless discover it on this kind of state is extremely irritating. It notably stings in a yr the place we’ve seen each Tears of the Kingdom, which pushes the Change to its limits, and Pikmin 4, which reveals the system’s visuals at their best possible. However hey, packing containers now load with out lagging horrendously. That’s one thing, proper?
The Teal Masks is Pokémon very a lot as we all know it. Run round, combat Pokémon, combat trainers (if you want), and catch ‘em all – together with a brand new batch of returners from earlier generations. In an analogous method to the bottom sport’s Treasure Hunts, you go round and are given targets, which contain you exploring the Kitakami area. You’ll study concerning the folks story of The Loyal Three and see how folks have fun their tradition and the historical past that got here earlier than it.
Consequently, Kitakami does really feel extra alive than Paldea. Although there’s just one city in Mossui and one other populated space within the Kitakami Corridor, there are much more NPCs strolling round with extra assorted buildings. The landscapes additionally really feel extra populated and convey some much-needed variety; the sheer verticality of the area is enjoyable to expertise. Mountain caves and paths lead as much as hidden springs and huge vistas make climbing and heading up really feel extraordinarily rewarding, though there are nonetheless a couple of too many barren spots and open areas with too few Pokémon idling about.
When it comes to new issues to do, there’s a complete sidequest line that includes Pirrin the photographer, which helps change the tempo of the DLC up a bit, and a minigame in Ogre Oustin’ – which we’re probably not in love with given how uneven the visuals are on this specific part and the way irritating it’s if you’re taking part in it alone.
Past that, new options are few and much between, which implies that sore factors stick out all of the extra, notably with battles. Flip-based fight continues to be extremely gradual, with stiff animations taking you out of the motion. However in case you’ve overwhelmed the principle story and also you occur to have a celebration of high-levelled Pokémon, you’ll in all probability wipe the ground with many of the battles – which is a disgrace as a result of there are some doubtlessly difficult encounters. The collection’ age-old issues and its need to stay to its roots usually come again to chew, and it is in battle that that is most noticeable.
Luckily, the Pokémon and the world do a number of heavy lifting that helped us nonetheless benefit from the DLC. If we have been to choose one true spotlight of The Teal Masks, it will be the brand new legendary Pokémon Ogerpon, who may probably be within the working for probably the most lovely legendary of all time. We gained’t spoil why, however we’re critical. Truthfully, the entire new Pokémon listed here are nice, with the legendaries being closely tied to the story, and each Dipplin and Poltchageist having good designs and being nice to make use of in battle.
When all is claimed and achieved, nevertheless, Kitakami left us wanting extra, in each a great and a foul manner. On the one hand, The Teal Masks’s story is lighthearted and pleasant to undergo, and the 2 principal characters and the legendary Pokémon actually shine. However Sport Freak’s refusal to let go of the previous, and this entry’s continued efficiency woes, means we’re nonetheless wishing for extra.
The Teal Masks is a enjoyable diversion for Pokémon Scarlet & Violet gamers that builds on the bottom sport’s strengths, but in addition exposes its weaknesses that rather more. Luckily, these strengths sparkle and Terastalize right into a breezy, enjoyable expertise that delivers some wealthy regional storytelling, nice characters, and a few unbelievable new Pokémon. We wished extra, although — extra love and care put into the visuals and the battles. The Indigo Disk has an opportunity to construct on the foundations The Teal Masks has laid, and we hope that is precisely what it’ll do.