Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are undeniably flawed games. No matter how much you claim to love the series, it’s hard to argue that there’s not something wrong when players start falling through the map, finding Pokémon lodged in walls, and lagging so badly that you could probably count the frame rate on one hand.
Despite this, Pokémon Violet was one of my favorite games of 2022. Being able to challenge the gyms, Team Star bases, and Titan Pokémon in any order was freeing, and like Legends: Arceus and the Let’s Go games, being able to see wild Pokémon populating the world made the region feel alive. Not only that but Scarlet and Violet are the first main-series Pokémon games to include co-op play - a feature which I used extensively with my friends as we embarked on our journeys through Paldea.
Ultimately, playing Pokémon Violet felt like I was finally playing the Pokémon game I’d been dreaming of since I was a kid - albeit a version that was a bit rough around the edges. Dare I say it, the current ninth-generation titles are two of the most fun games in the series to date, and with the release of the first part of the Hidden Treasure of Area Zero DLC, The Teal Mask, my thoughts on this matter have only been solidified further, regardless of the fact that it does very little to fix the base game’s glaring problems.
Upon stepping foot into the expansion’s new area of Kitakami, I was immediately enchanted. Filling out my Pokédex and hunting for rare shiny Pokémon (sparkly variants of Pokémon with different color palettes) have always been my favorite things to do in these games, and so simply having more to catch was exciting from the get-go. With seven totally new additions (including Polchageist and Dipplin) and 102 returning from previous generations, there are plenty of new friends to add to your team (and Boxes). I’ve already spent far too much time looking for twinkling versions of the newbies, and I regret nothing.
The DLC is home to some of the prettiest locations we’ve seen in Scarlet and Violet, too. While they’re still far from the best-looking games on Nintendo Switch, the Crystal Pool is particularly pleasing to the eyes, Mossui Town and its surrounding areas feel vibrant and lived in, and Kitakami Hall looks lovely under the moonlight during the Festival of Masks.
Speaking of the Festival of Masks, the new story is wholly enjoyable. Without getting into spoilers, the characters - namely Kieran and Carmine - are charming, and each has compelling development arcs over the course of the short but sweet five-hour plot. It wraps up on a genuinely fascinating cliffhanger, which is set to be resolved with the release of the second half of the expansion, The Indigo Disk, later this year.
That’s more or less all the DLC offers in terms of new things, though. It truly is just more Scarlet and Violet, for better or worse.
Slopes in Kitakami are just as problematic as they are in Paldea when it comes to battling - depending on the camera angle, you can sometimes see through the floor during battles, which is far from ideal. Some parts of the expansion can be very laggy on occasion, and distant NPCs and Pokémon move at such low frame rates that they stick out like sore thumbs.
It’s impossible to play without noticing other random issues, too. I was lucky enough to find a random shiny Wooper during my time playing, and after I ran into it to enter the battle, the screen was pretty much entirely taken up by my trainer and her Miraidon rather than the Pokémon fighting. Oh, and after I caught it, one of my team members evolved, and while doing so, merged into the nearby wall in a bizarre fashion (which, admittedly, was very funny).
For some, these continued performance issues may come as a surprise. After all, Kitakami is a self-contained location that’s much smaller than Paldea, so there’s less for the game to load whenever you’re there. On a technical level, there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s substandard, but for anyone like me who unabashedly loved the experience of Scarlet and Violet in spite of its troubles, The Teal Mask is fun enough to outweigh that. Just don’t expect any negative opinion you hold of the base games to be altered.
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Catherine is a News Writer for TechRadar Gaming. Armed with a journalism degree from The University of Sheffield, she was sucked into the games media industry after spending far too much time on her university newspaper writing about Pokémon and cool indie games, and realising that was a very cool job, actually. She previously spent 19 months working at GAMINGbible as a full-time journalist. She loves all things Nintendo, and will never stop talking about Xenoblade Chronicles.