The Pokémon franchise has a good track record of making lengthy, engaging stories for your gameplay adventure that take the sting out of the big price tag most Nintendo games carry. However, Pokémon’s first half of its “Scarlet and Violet: Hidden Treasures of Area Zero” downloadable content add-on, “The Teal Mask,” surprised me with how soon the journey ended.
“The Teal Mask’s” small land of Kitakami marks the beginning of the adventure’s shortcomings. The cramped play area does not give a sense of exploration to the player — Kitakami’s size pales in comparison to the base game’s gigantic Paldea region.
Your character begins their adventure partnering with Kieran, a student native to Kitakami, to explore three signboards across the land. The seemingly straightforward task is riddled with obstacles, like rival battles with Kieran and his older sister and learning about the dreaded ogre of the land.
The pace of the initial objective feels pretty good; it doesn’t rush you through things unless you want to rush. You aren’t forced into completing the objective either. If you want to explore the area first, you aren’t prevented from doing so.
After your character finds the second signboard, the journey takes a bit of a detour. Your character is thrust into the story of Ogerpon, the aforementioned ogre of Kitakami, and the Loyal Three, three mischievous Pokémon the village hail as heroes.
The story isn’t too complicated, but the creators didn’t really have a choice. With such a short playthrough, it would have been difficult making the plot any more intricate, and the story already feels a touch rushed as is.
As nearly every Pokémon game goes, this story ends with you defeating the villain, catching the hero Pokémon and defeating your rival. Afterward, the world is your sandbox, and you can travel around Kitakami to catch ‘em all.
The game’s biggest downfall
Before getting into the game’s cons, I will say this game follows Pokémon’s trend of featuring better endgame boss fights. Much like “Legends: Arceus” and “Scarlet and Violet,” “The Teal Mask’s” final boss fight is engaging while fun, and can be a challenge even to veteran players — something older titles lack.
The two-parter DLC cost $35, and a four-hour story does not satisfy me or my wallet. Of course there is plenty more I have unlocked with this purchase — Kitakami is an interesting place, albeit small — but the story itself is too brief.
“The Isle of Armor,” the previous Pokémon generation’s DLC first-parter, carries much more content in its story and provides much more land to explore. It also features a longer playthrough thanks to its longer story.
As the name suggests, “The Isle of Armor” takes place on an isle, and the game uses that to its advantage, placing small islands out in the sea for players to spend hours traveling via bike. Although many found the pursuing Sharpedo — the shark Pokémon — in the waters annoying, they make exploring the islands much more exhilarating and give character to the land. This water experience both beefs up the exploration time of “The Isle of Armor” and gives something for the player to remember it by.
Players should appreciate Pokémon cutting fat and not dragging a story on. Too many games bloat their stories with unfulfilling quests and roadblocks. However, “The Teal Mask” definitely had the breathing room to add more quests, and therefore more story. In fact, it needed them to make certain plot points more convincing.
Nintendo and Game Freak Co. Ltd. have proven they can deliver a good and fulfilling story with their DLC projects. For this go-around, they missed the mark with a story that lacked playtime and, as a result, depth.
The second part to this DLC, “The Indigo Disk,” could help redeem its lackluster predecessor. However, until it releases this winter, “The Teal Mask” will remain an unimpressive, inadequate story expansion on the “Scarlet and Violet” adventure.
Editor’s note: Added quotes around “The Indigo Disk.”