Pokémon Scarlet/Violet: The Teal Masks overview: diminishing returns

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Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Teal Masks

MSRP $35.00

“The Teal Masks comprises your common monster catching enjoyable, but it surely does not do sufficient to handle Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s greatest issues.”

Professionals

  • Endearing story
  • Plenty of returning monsters
  • Catching is as enjoyable as at all times

Cons

  • Boring quests
  • Uninspired new world
  • Continued technical points

Whereas there have been a plethora of Pokémon video games over the previous decade, every of which twists the RPG formulation in its personal method, it’s a single DLC that sticks with me most. Pokémon Sword and Protect’s Isle of Armor is a powerful growth that will set the stage for Scarlet and Violet’s full open-world pivot. An intricately designed island stuffed with side-activities and enjoyable scavenger hunts would persuade me that developer Recreation Freak was headed in the appropriate route.

Three years later, it looks like I’m again at Space Zero with The Teal Masks. The primary growth for final 12 months’s Scarlet and Violet is much like Isle of Armor on paper; gamers are tossed right into a bite-sized open world stuffed with new monsters to catch and a self-contained story to finish. It’s a confirmed formulation for Recreation Freak at this level – and that could be the issue. What was as soon as recent for an growing old sequence is already beginning to really feel outdated as I spend hours retreading acquainted landscapes. We’ve traded one formulation for one more.

The Teal Masks exhibits diminishing returns for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s messy groundwork. The bottom video games’ technical points really feel worse than ever right here, regardless of coping with a much less bold world. Whereas there’s nonetheless enjoyable available catching acquainted monsters, I’m left hoping {that a} leap to a extra succesful console would be the spark the sequence must correctly ship on its open-world pivot.

Cultural training

The Teal Masks is the primary half of a bigger DLC story titled The Hidden Treasure of Space Zero, which can conclude with The Indigo Disk. As a setup for a grand story, Teal Masks isn’t a lot of a component one. The four-hour story barely hints on the bigger story Recreation Freak is weaving right here, as a substitute specializing in what looks like a reasonably self-contained journey. Fortuitously, that story is charming. The DLC is ready up like an unbiased examine, as gamers are whisked away to a brand new space known as Kitakami and paired up with college students from the native Blueberry Academy.

It’s a honest technique to speak about youngsters’ feelings via colourful monsters.

The self-guided course has gamers wandering a small open world, studying native customs, and uncovering a folktale concerning the legendary Ogerpon. That central story doubles down on Scarlet and Violet’s storytelling strengths by telling an endearing story that’s custom-built for younger gamers. It facilities round a shy, misunderstood Pokémon that’s been handled as an outcast for all its life, forcing it to cover behind a masks. That connects to a extra human story, as one of many younger Blueberry Academy college students goes via the identical journey. It’s a honest technique to speak about youngsters’ feelings via colourful monsters.

The precise quest surrounding that story isn’t fairly as thrilling. The fast journey largely has me discovering signposts on the earth that specify the folktale and battling the identical two trainers a number of occasions. There’s not less than a splash of selection in a superbly fantastic berry-collecting minigame, a memorable last boss struggle, and a late-game pictures sidequest. Plus, it does carry a complete batch of returning monsters to the sport alongside some enjoyable new designs, just like the Matcha ghost whistleblower. Nonetheless, nothing I do ever has me as engaged as I used to be whereas enjoying Isle of Armor, with its collectible Digletts, dojo upgrading, and tower battles.

Characters take a selfie together in Pokemon: The Teal Mask.
Nintendo

It doesn’t assist that Kitakami is certainly one of Recreation Freak’s least thrilling Pokémon worlds up to now. The pretty bland open world largely appears like Paldea, with some grassy fields surrounding a central mountain. There are tiny splashes of additional element, like an apple orchard or a crystal lake, but it surely largely looks like I’m acquainted property rearranged. It’s one other unusual step again from Isle of Armor’s glorious world, which seamlessly weaved collectively seashores, grassy wetlands, and deserts. For a narrative about cultural training, it doesn’t really feel like there’s a lot to be taught.

Extra efficiency points

With a much less partaking journey to latch onto, Teal Masks lays Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s shortcomings naked. I didn’t understand how a lot I valued the choice-driven construction of these video games (during which I may full three questlines in any order) till I used to be locked into a reasonably linear, uneventful quest. With out that selection, the open-world construction of the bottom sport feels a lot much less releasing.

I’m nonetheless enjoying a sport that feels prefer it’s going to shatter at any second …

With my thoughts much less occupied by a wealth of issues to do and see, technical points caught out to me much more than they did in Paldea. Property flashing out and in of existence, body price slowdowns, muddy textures throughout — each ugly concern that bugged me in Scarlet and Violet feels much more prevalent right here. I had hoped that almost a 12 months of time between the bottom sport’s launch and the arrival of the DLC would give Recreation Freak a while to optimize the expertise, however that isn’t the case. I’m nonetheless enjoying a sport that feels prefer it’s going to shatter at any second, one thing that appears particularly puzzling after the technically spectacular The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

Opposite to what some cynics could say, the Nintendo Swap is a succesful platform. We’ve seen it excel with video games like Hearth Emblem Have interaction and Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Whether or not it’s a shaky basis or rushed improvement timelines, it’s been clear since Sword and Protect that one thing wants to alter at Recreation Freak. Hopefully Nintendo’s subsequent console, which can be proper across the nook, might help.

The hub town in The Teal Mask appears.
Nintendo

Although these technical deficiencies solely get extra disappointing with every launch, it’s a testomony to the ability of Pokémon that I nonetheless breezed via Teal Masks’s predominant story in a single sitting. There’s an inherent pleasure in gathering new monsters and watching my Pokédex refill. Even within the franchise’s weakest moments, that loop I beloved as a child nonetheless retains its energy right here. I nonetheless get a bit of thrill anytime I see a brand new buddy out on the earth, rigorously knock its HP down, and toss my Pokéball. That also holds up right here and can most likely get me to obtain The Indigo Disk later this 12 months (which can not less than carry a few of the high-level challenges which are missing right here).

Recreation Freak is on the verge of a great factor with its present era. It’s cracked how you can inform good kids’s tales within the Pokémon universe, all whereas breaking apart the same old “highway to Elite 4” construction that had gotten stale. Nevertheless, I really feel the identical frustration right here as I do once I can’t fairly catch a Pokémon. At any time when my ball shakes twice earlier than the monster breaks free, I get cussed. As an alternative of whittling down its well being or making an attempt to inflict a standing impact, I simply preserve throwing extra balls till one works. Generally I get fortunate with my subsequent throw; different occasions, I’m downgraded to at least one shake. Teal Masks feels just like the latter.

Pokémon Scarlet — The Hidden Treasure of Space Zero: The Teal Masks was examined on a Nintendo Swap OLED in handheld mode and on a TCL 6-Sequence R635 when docked.

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