Pokémon Scarlet/Violet DLC Part 1: The Teal Mask Review - Worth the School Trip
Beginning with Pokémon Sword and Shield, Game Freak released DLC for the generation of games rather than a 3rd version as they have done in the past. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet have continued that modern trend and have recently released the first of two parts for Generation 9’s DLC – The Teal Mask.
Let’s get the negatives out the road straight away. If you were looking for patches to come along with this DLC to improve the performance of the games, you aren’t going to find it here. The games continue to lag in places when there is a lot going on in one area and the frame rate drops considerably to the point where even I, who doesn’t really care about frame rates that much, can see that the software is struggling to meet the Switch hardware. When you can see a Pokémon in the distance moving frame by frame, then you know that it is not working well at all.
Onto the content of the DLC itself. Part 1 – The Teal Mask – is set in the land of Kitakami, where you and a group of students from your academy set out on a school trip to learn about new cultures and to immerse yourself in a land that is unknown to you. From the outset, the game implies that Kitakami is a fair distance away from Paldea. When you arrive, you are greeted by rice fields, apple orchards, and numerous NPCs in local attire. You start out in Mossui Town, which is the main centre for this part of the DLC and from here you are introduced to the two main characters who are going to be involved in your story, Carmine – a strong-willed girl who is willing to push others away to keep things as they are; and Kieran – a reserved boy who cowers in Carmine’s shadow. From here, the students along with Carmine and Kieran are split into pairs and are set out to learn about the fabled story of how an event called The Festival of Masks came to be.
As the story progresses, you learn more about Carmine and Kieran’s family history and soon begin to realise that the fabled story may not be as truthful as it is being told. There is a lot of progression for Carmine and Kieran as characters as the story unravels to the point where Carmine becomes more helpful to the player and less antagonistic, while Kieran becomes obsessive once the true story is revealed. The story is intriguing in places but can be a bit stop-start with prompts between cutscenes to start additional cutscenes when these could have been made more seamless.
The world presents well at first, as I mentioned earlier, apple orchards, rice fields, and other agricultural activities, however apart from that, there are only a few areas that stand out and be places of curiosity and interest whereas the remaining areas are quite bland with your standard fields, hills, forests, and mountains. The Pokémon choices are also a bit flat in that you will see the same 5 or 6 Pokémon in each relevant area, which really asks for some variety. While there are 200 Pokémon total to fill in the Kitakami Pokédex, there are a lot of crossovers with the Paldea Pokedex, which is a bit unusual considering the physical separation of Kitakami and Paldea. The few new Pokémon have great designs and tie into the ideas that were implemented in the base games as well as using the local culture of Kitakami as the premise how these new Pokémon have been created.
The one thing I hope to see for Part 2 of the DLC is that the ideas from Part 1 are expanded upon and to give us a lot more variety in both the Pokémon available as well as increasing the amount of quests to do as once you have completed the main story of The Teal Mask, there isn’t much more to do apart from one really neat side quest that you can complete once you meet certain requirements.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet DLC Part 1 – The Teal Mask is the stepping stone in the full DLC package with the main quest being very story driven and while the world of Kitakami can be very interesting in places, it can be dull in others. More variety in the Pokémon available to choose from and more additional quests to complete would have been nice additions to round out this part of the DLC. However, the content that has been provided is about satisfactory for only being half of the whole package and that once Part 2 has been released, The Teal Mask will feel much better once it is joined with its remaining counterpart.