JRPG Review

Pokémon Scarlet/Violet DLC: The Teal Mask – Review

Enjoyed Pokémon Scarlet or Violet and want more? The Teal Mask DLC adds a new story, a new region, and plenty more as part 1 of The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero DLC.

Not played Pokémon Scarlet or Violet yet? Go check out our review of that first. This review assumes you’re familiar with the original game and will focus on The Teal Mask DLC.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet - The Teal Mask - Festival

Welcome to Kitakami

Pokémon Scarlet/Violet: The Teal Mask takes you to the faraway land of Kitakami on a school trip. This region is based on Japan, specifically inspired by the Tohoku region. Its mythology and festivals are drawn from there, and we can see it in the inspirations for several new Pokémon. In terms of aesthetics, it’s reminiscent of rural Japan, with older Japanese-style buildings, rice paddies, and shrines. While there’s no direct mentions, there are some similarities and hints of links with Hisui and Sinnoh from Pokémon Legends: Arceus and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl.

Coming from Paldea in the base game of Pokémon Scarlet or Violet, it seems very small. But there’s still plenty to explore and do, with over 100 Pokémon to catch that can’t be found in the Paldea region. You’ll find fan favorites like Vulpix and Clefairy, a few new exclusive Pokémon, and even the chance to add a Sinnoh starter to your Pokédex.

I should mention that Kitakami is a rather mountainous region, with Pokémon levels starting at around level 55 (slightly lower than Area Zero in the Pokémon Scarlet/Violet endgame). While you don’t need to wait until you’ve completed the original game, having all of the Koraidon or Miraidon unlocks to move around the area and a strong team will help here. That said, pulling out your level 100 Raid Charizard might be a bit much, at least until you get to the final battles of this DLC.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet - The Teal Mask - Kieran

Students from Blueberry Academy

You won’t be joined by Nemona, Arven, or anyone familiar while playing The Teal Mask. The DLC instead focuses on a new story and has you joined by two new characters.

Carmine and Kieran are siblings from Blueberry Academy who were born in Kitakami. They’re there to join the school trip, but act more as guides to explain the history and mythology of the area.

Carmine is the older sister and acts as the archetypical tough but kind big sister. While she can be rude and pushy, she always has protecting her brother in mind. Unfortunately, she’s not exactly pleased to see us at first. Kitakami is quite an insular place and Carmine has issues with outsiders.

Kieran is the younger brother and is painfully shy. He does open up as time goes on, and we see his character change quite a bit, sometimes in unexpected ways. His character arc revolves around being different than others.

Both stand out for being multifaceted characters, having hidden depths beyond the first impression they give. This really helps to make the story more interesting, as we discover this and see them evolve as time goes on. In comparison, certain characters in Scarlet and Violet were perhaps a little simple at times.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet - The Teal Mask - Ogerpon

Ogerpon and the Loyal Three

The story of The Teal Mask has you exploring the local legend about four Pokémon, one characterized as an evil ogre, and three as heroic Pokémon who fought it off. But we soon find out that things aren’t as they seem.

It includes themes about the fear of outsiders and those different from you, prejudice towards those who look different, and how it’s an issue in small communities. It never goes too far with it, after all, Pokémon is intended for children too, but it uses these themes well.

This nicely ties in with Carmine and Kieran too, as we can see Carmine opening up toward outsiders and there’s a lot of focus on Kieran and his feelings about Ogerpon who the other villagers are scared of.

The story isn’t particularly eventful, but it has some strong character moments. It also feels a lot more focused than the story in the original game, with a lot of narrative and little wasted time between plot events.

By the end of the story, most of the events are wrapped up, but it does leave a few elements unanswered, with one in particular barely explored. It also ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger. I imagine this is to keep people hooked for The Indigo Disk, the second part of the DLC where we go to visit Blueberry Academy.

The story itself only takes a few hours to wrap up, but as with Pokémon Scarlet/Violet, it’s very easy to get distracted by things along the way, and post-game content is included too.

Exploring the Region

As mentioned, there are plenty of new Pokémon to catch in Kitakami, so my level 100 Scizor with False Swipe has been serving me well. This comes with a new Pokédex for the region too and several unique Pokémon to catch in the post-game.

Getting most evolutions is fairly easy since all Pokémon caught are already at a high level, but there are new evolution items hidden away in Kitakami and others with special requirements such as movesets and happiness evolutions.

Beyond filling out the Pokédex, there are plenty of new trainer battles dotted around the map. There are also some small quests like tracking down a pair of trainers repeatedly or the classic presenting someone a Pokémon that they want to see.

The Teal Mask includes a couple of new minigames too. I didn’t particularly enjoy running about collecting berries while Pokémon tried to steal them, but there are quite a few of those activities for those who do like it. The other is a photography activity, which is part of a longer quest that’s locked behind having caught 150 Kitakami Pokémon.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet - The Teal Mask - Selfie at the Festival

You can also get new selfie poses (and a selfie stick), some new outfits to unlock which is great considering the lack of them in the base game, and other cosmetics such as menu skins.

While the DLC sounds quite short based on the story, there is quite a lot to find here. It does well at adding to the content of the original for those who enjoy exploring the world and finding everything. If this doesn’t interest you, then you might find The Teal Mask to be somewhat pricey to only experience the new story.

Performance Woes (Redux)

If you read our original Pokémon Scarlet/Violet review (or pretty much any of the other coverage of the title), you’ll recall the major performance issues with the game. Pop-in, low framerate, issues with textures and shadows, and more.

It seems even worse in The Teal Mask. It’s more of the same for the most part, but pop-in and low framerate seem to occur more frequently.

On top of that, I’ve even had a couple times where I’ve closed a menu and it essentially stopped taking input, taking about 30 seconds to get back into the game.

It’s not the end of the world, but it does make me wish for better optimization. I hold out hope that it might run better on the successor of the Nintendo Switch if backwards compatibility is included.

Verdict

I enjoyed Pokémon Scarlet/Violet: The Teal Mask. The story had some strong character moments and interesting mythology, despite being shorter than I’d expect for the price. That said, both DLCs are included in the cost of The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero. The second part may justify it further, along with the additional non-story content found here.

It added nicely to the original game, especially for those who enjoy collecting and filling out the Pokédex though. It’s a pity about the performance issues, but they’re certainly bearable, much as they were in the original.

POKÉMON SCARLET/VIOLET: THE TEAL MASK IS RECOMMENDED

Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Purchase: Nintendo Store

If you would like to see more JRPGs, you may be interested in our review of Shin Megami Tensei V or Persona 5 Royal. You can also check out our review of Pokémon Legends: Arceus or our look at some Pokémon Blind Boxes.

Many thanks go to Nintendo for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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