Save State Examines The Teal Mask DLC

Welcome back to Save State, where I have returned after a brief and unfortunate hiatus. In my time of absence, I have procured the latest expansion of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, The Teal Mask, and gave it a quick playthrough since I was riding high from Emerald Rogue last week. The Teal Mask gives players a new region to explore, a handful of brand new Pokemon, an absolute treasure trove of returning Pokemon who weren’t present in Paldea, and a brief story to unveil involving a village folktale and its misconception of an ogre from long ago.

The Teal Mask has players meet with new characters from Blueberry Academy in the Kitakami region. You’ll largely be sent to various corners of this newer, small open area and will discover the story of a folktale passed down through Kitakami’s legends. In Kitakami, you’ll encounter several new legendary Pokemon, unravel the tale of a misunderstood ogre, and have the delightful opportunity to add around a hundred Pokemon that were missing from Paldea, like Gliscor, Ninetales, Politoed, and Clefable.

In the Kitakami region, you’ll traverse the land to visit signs and shrines detailing an event that led to the local townspeople revering the Loyal Three, three Pokemon that saved a village from a villainous ogre at the expense of their own lives. During the course of this adventure, you’ll bump into Carmine and Kieran, an excitable pair of siblings who will spend around half the adventure yelling at and demeaning you, and spend the other half challenging you to battles. They’re a strange pair, though it does seem like developer Game Freak’s intending to potentially do more with the characters when The Indigo Disk DLC releases later this year, so they could wind up being much more endearing than their first interactions in The Teal Mask DLC.

The major draw to Kitakami is simply having a new region to explore, new Pokemon to catch, and some mini-games to play. It’s worth noting that if you want to even remotely be challenged in The Teal Mask, you’ll need to curate your experience a bit and catch Pokemon with levels either in the teens or high fifties to use in battle. This is largely because Kitakami has some slight level scaling- if you haven’t finished the title, the Pokemon you encounter will be lower level than if you’ve beaten it, though it’s just low levels or high levels with no in-between. It’s strange that there’s still no legitimate level scaling for such a brief DLC adventure, but at least there was an attempt… even if it results in battling a level 60 Poochyena.

The region of Kitakami is very similar looking to Paldea, consisting of grassy fields with the occasional rice paddy, all surrounding a central mountain. There’s also an apple orchard and very shiny lake, but the environment you get to explore in Kitakami would be right at home in Paldea; it’s not a substantial difference in design like Sword and Shield’s Isle of Armor or Crowned Tundra. Kitakami’s familiarity may be disappointing for some, but The Teal Mask does provide a nice, wide open zone to catch Pokemon and participate in raids, so it’s great at offering more of the Pokemon Scarlet and Violet experience.

One thing to just get out of the way: The Teal Mask didn’t address any of Scarlet and Violet’s performance issues (which, these issues are things Nintendo apologized for and confirmed they’d be working on improvements in Scarlet and Violet’s 1.1.0 patch notes). In fact, performance is more often than not worse than in the base game, with docked mode producing frame skips and low frame rates happening all over the Kitakami region, especially when near any source of water such as the aforementioned shiny lake. If you skip days forward to try and catch shiny Pokemon from an outbreak, the frame rate will reach single digits eventually. There’s clearly some memory leak issue with it that gets aggravated when moving from one day to the next, so it may be better to save and close the software out entirely rather than simply putting your Switch to sleep when you’re done playing.

That being said, if you go into The Teal Mask with the expectation that it’s a Sims-style Stuff pack for Scarlet and Violet, the DLC winds up being a reasonably enjoyable time. The inherent joy of collecting new creatures, filling up your Pokedex, finding new TMs and move tutors who can give your already powerful Pokemon even stronger move sets is simply addicting, and has shaken up competitive mode considerably. The new legendary Pokemon are amazing as well, with Ogerpon being able to stand with Zacian, Miraidon, and Koraidon in how freakishly strong it is. Raids in Kitami are pretty enjoyable too, as it seems in the months since release that issues with raids have been addressed on some level where desync issues occur substantially less, so while catching new Pokemon in raids, you should see many fewer instances of the raid Pokemon dropping to 0 health and then back to half.

The Teal Mask is overall a pretty enjoyable time if you can overlook some obvious deficiencies, such as performance. The 4 to 5 hour experience lays the brickwork for a greater narrative impact in their next expansion DLC, and gives you a bunch of new things to catch and activities to occupy yourself with for some hours thereafter. While this is a mostly self-contained adventure, the player’s time conducting independent study in Kitakami will result in loads of new monsters, moves, and items in your back pocket for either competitive play or for when The Indigo Disk DLC releases later this year.

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