Pokémon Scarlet and Violet did a lot right when they launched. With a fully open world and the ability to explore the region freely alongside friends for the first time in the series, on paper, it was the evolution of the franchise that many fans had been wanting for years.
Co-op play is the main feature that not only enhanced my experience of wandering through the Paldea region for the first time but also continues to play a huge part in its replayability. Generally speaking, I’d argue that it’s what Scarlet and Violet does best. I’ve spent more hours than I can count running around the various locales with my friends, fighting in Tera Raid Battles, and looking for shiny Pokémon (extremely rare, differently colored Pokémon variants) together - and yes, that latter activity has caused arguments in the past. Playing alongside someone with the opposite version of the game to your own even allows you to encounter their version-exclusive Pokémon, rather than having to trade for them. All in all, it’s always made the world feel more alive to adventure together, chatting about the things we’ve found and battles we’ve fought.
In Scarlet and Violet’s latest downloadable content (DLC), The Indigo Disk, which is the second part of The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero expansion, that cooperative element shines brighter than ever before with the addition of Blueberry Quests, or ‘BBQs’. These are simple, randomized quests such as knocking out a certain number of Pokémon, or taking photos of specific things, that can be completed while exploring the DLC area - the Blueberry Academy’s enormous, man-made ‘Terarium’.
Completing BBQs earns Blueberry Points (BP), a currency that can be used to unlock a plethora of new things. That includes decorations for the new League Club Room, buying important items, and even unleashing starter Pokémon (like Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle) into the wild. Needless to say, they’re well worth earning, and it’s a much quicker and enjoyable affair to do so with friends.
When playing co-op in The Indigo Disk DLC, all your ongoing BBQs are combined into one list, which everyone can contribute to simultaneously. Need to knock out 20 Pokémon with the auto-battle feature? Two people playing at the same time can get that done twice as fast, or, alternatively, one person can focus on that quest while the other completes a different task. Even better, the BP earned is awarded to everyone, regardless of whether they participated in a specific quest. This means you can potentially quadruple your earnings if you play with a full group.
Playing in a group of two or more also unlocks special Group Quests, which can only be accessed alongside other people. These are more challenging and require you to work together to complete them. For example, you might be tasked with tracking down and catching a mystery Pokémon, figuring out its identity using the different hints you’re all given. Or you might simply have to group up and take a picture together. These earn tons of BP, and are far more exciting than the standard fodder you get when playing alone. It’s incredibly easy to get sucked into completing ‘just one more,’ and their existence has given players a fresh new way to interact in the world together.
Taking a turn for the worse
Unfortunately though, The Indigo Disk isn’t without its issues. If you picked up Scarlet or Violet at release, or just happened to exist on the internet around that time, chances are that you’ll know the performance of the games leaves a lot to be desired. Despite the updates that have been rolled out since launch, exploring the Paldea region still isn’t smooth sailing, and things seem even worse in the latest expansion.
Without a doubt, the stuttering and frame drops I’ve experienced here are far more noticeable than they have been in the main region and the other DLC area, Kitakami. This is rather surprising, as, like the previous The Teal Mask expansion, The Indigo Disk’s setting has an entirely different, standalone map. It can’t be wandered into from Paldea or Kitakami, and it’s significantly smaller than Paldea to boot, with far fewer points of interest like buildings and landmarks scattered around it.
Even in the cutscene in which players take in the sights of the Terarium for the first time, I saw what appeared to be the sky randomly flashing on the beach and mountains. Not only that, but as the camera panned over the different biomes, there was noticeable pop-in as the environment slowly loaded in properly. Needless to say, it was hardly a glamorous introduction to the area, and my time actually playing has largely followed suit.
Sadly, performance issues aren't a new problem for The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero expansion - I noted similar issues when I played through part one, The Teal Mask. Some areas could be a bit laggy, and distant NPCs moved at such a low frame rate that they stuck out horribly. As an enormous Pokémon fan, it’s disheartening to see that these issues persist in Scarlet and Violet, over a year on from the launch of the base games.
With this latest expansion, I believe more strongly than ever before that these are the best Pokémon games to play with friends, and for the most part, a dip in your frame rate isn’t going to stop that. However, I sincerely hope that by the time the next game rolls around, we won’t have to look for that diamond in the rough.
If you love Pokémon, be sure to check out our ranking of the best Pokémon games to see where your favorite sits. You can check out more fantastic games to play on Nintendo Switch with our roundup of the best Nintendo Switch games.
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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.