An intriguing story can't hide how appallingly poor The Teal Mask DLC runs on the Switch system.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet DLC: The Teal Mask Game Review - Anime News Network

Game Review

by MrAJCosplay,

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet

DLC: The Teal Mask

Step out of the Paldea region as you take a school trip to the land of Kitakami. There, you'll meet new people and Pokémon while unraveling the mysteries behind the area's folk tales.

It has been almost a year since the release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet . It might not be my favorite game on the Nintendo Switch, but I have put the most time into it. As a Pokémon game, it does almost everything right to update the material and bring it to a new generation, only held back by the fact that it is probably the worst-performing Pokémon game ever since the original Game Boy titles. "The Teal Mask" is the first half of a DLC set where our young trainer character travels to the land of Kitakami, being introduced to new characters, new Pokémon, and a rich culture. While the campaign isn't necessarily lengthy, as you can probably complete most of the story and side quests in about four hours, Teal Mask exemplifies both the best and worst aspects of the main game.

The Teal Mask has a lot of callbacks to various aspects of the Pokémon franchise. Kitakami as a region is reminiscent of certain elements of Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver , like the cultural feel, building architecture, and rich, historic atmosphere. Then we have the return of select Pokémon from across different regions, but the Sinnoh starters' return reminds me the most of that region, specifically from Diamond and Pearl and Pokémon Legends: Arceus . There's also a character named Perrin, a direct descendant of Adaman, the head of the Diamond Clan from Arceus . The callbacks extend to some mini-games. Perrin's photo quest feels pulled from other games like Pokémon SNAP , and familiar musical themes are brought back to amazing effect with an overall soundtrack that is just a joy to listen to.

The gameplay layout is still very open, with players able to progress through the main story at their leisure or just screw around catching Pokémon and doing events to kill time. There are some fun mini-games like Ogre Oustin' where you drive around to pop balloons, and instead of gym battles, we have battles with the Ogre Clan to take their place. The rewards don't feel as substantial as gym battles from the mainline game since you're just given battle items that you might already have, like Ability Capsules, whereas gym battles give you a reward in the form of narrative progression. But they'll give players something to do if they want to start from scratch with some of the new and old Pokémon available. I tried to mix it up a bit by retraining new Pokémon while keeping one or two maxed Pokémon that I trained these past couple of months for the sake of Raid Battles. Even with that advantage, some battles, like the Titan Boss Battles with the new Legendary Trio, were surprisingly tricky, utilizing strategy and combinations that feel more thought out than just building a bigger stick to hit you.

Speaking of strategy, it feels like a GAME FREAK listened to idiots like me who were upset about many Pokémon getting nerfed with the jump to the new generation. The developers updated a couple of different moves that Pokémon can learn to make them feel like the powerhouses they were originally meant to be, like Toxic and Knock Off, with Pokémon like Empoleon and Shiftry getting great new abilities that will make them a lot of fun to play around with in the online competitive scene. I never thought I'd be so happy about Torterra getting Shell Smash! The newly introduced Pokémon are scarce, but what is present works. Dipplin is cute, and Ogerpon is so precious I would die for her. I do like how the designs of the new Pokémon tie into the cultural aesthetic of the Kitakami region but a few more new Pokémon or variants would have been enticing (there are literally less than 10). What we lack in numbers, though, we make up for in lore, particularly around the "Loyal Three" Fezandipiti, Okidogi, and Munkidori. These three strike an intriguing balance between fun and mischievousness reminiscent of early Pokémon entries, and their relationship to Ogerpon was a highlight of the story. Things don't get nearly as dark as some of the more intense moments of the main games finale, but one or two events towards the end managed to be delightfully unsettling.

The writing team makes things feel fresh and relatable for modern Pokémon fans, regardless of whether you're a veteran or a newcomer. The new characters are fun and similar to the main trio that you befriend in the main story; how you feel about these new characters in the DLC might change towards the end compared to your initial impressions. All the new characters introduced here cover a wide range of intrigue, with Kieran going from a gentle, shy kid to a bitter rival while his older sister Carmine goes through the inverse, starting off cold but eventually opening up as more about her culture is revealed. I related deeply to the character Perrin, whose creative rut leads her to question why she works so hard to achieve something she may have fallen out of love with. That hit extremely close to home, and there's some pretty thoughtful and poignant social commentary about how history can be misconstrued or how heroes of the past might not be what they appear, which feels appropriate considering some of the recent stuff happening in the world. It's nice to know that the heart and variety in the Scarlet and Violet story wasn't just a one-off.

Now we have to discuss how the new DLC will run on the Nintendo Switch because this expansion's performance is abysmal. I mentioned before how The Teal Mask featured the best and worst elements of the main game. The story and characters were some of the best parts of Scarlet and Violet , and that continues into The Teal Mask DLC. Does everyone remember what the worst part of the original game was? Yeah, the performance is still garbage. It's probably worse here than in the original game because Scarlet and Violet had framerate and draw distance issues, but it was far more manageable comparatively.

Granted, it didn't crash while I was playing, but it might as well have been in slow motion. The framerate rarely reached thirty frames per second, and I could hear the fan on my Switch screaming for dear life as it tried to load a room with two NPCs. Cutscenes run at a low framerate, and I noticed quite a few more glitches, even when I was offline. Frankly, this is just inexcusable, especially when you consider the fact that, to this day, we never got any substantial performance patches since the original game came out. Some things are more accessible, like PC box navigation, but that's minor compared to basic game performance. I am appalled at how The Teal Mask runs, and the fact that GAME FREAK was willing to release this without addressing or fixing previous mistakes tells me that optimization is far from their foremost priority.

Once again, I am in a similar position to where I was when I finished the main game. If you were a fan of Scarlet and Violet , warts and all, then this DLC is worth the price tag. The second half of the DLC will probably deliver a similar level of quality from a writing and gameplay perspective. But if you couldn't get that far in the main game because of the performance issues, stay away. I wish I could advocate not to support this release until it runs better. However, Scarlet and Violet sold well despite these issues. Players deserve better than barely pushing through lackluster performance and presentation. But unfortunately, this is where we find ourselves.

Overall : B-
Graphics : B-
Sound/Music : A
Gameplay : B
Presentation : D-

+ Kitakami is a region with a lot of fun to offer, story and new characters are on par with what we had before, great music and callbacks
− How does this game run even WORSE then before?

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