The first half of Pokémon Scarlet & Violet’s expansion, The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero, The Teal Mask is out now. While it doesn’t exactly make Pokémon Scarlet & Violet a better game, it is a very worthy expansion, adding a great deal of content both in terms of story, new locations and extra Pokémon to collect. What more could you ask for from a Pokémon expansion, really?
It’s a rhetorical question, of course, but the answer would still be “not much”. Whether you’ve exhausted Pokémon Scarlet or Violet or you’re just getting started with your monster-catching career, you’ll find The Teal Mask to be a worthy addition. It’s integrated cleverly into the game, framed as a school trip to a new region. If you’ve completed Scarlet or Violet or progressed significantly, you can jump straight into the DLC. If you’re new, you’ll need to play approximately the first three hours of the game, reaching the point the first Treasure Hunt begins.
You’ll receive a call on your in-game phone, informing you that you’ve been invited onto a school trip to the region of Kitakami. Head to your school’s entrance hall, and you’ll find a group waiting, ready to whisk you off on a new chapter of your adventure. Do you jump in straight away or progress through the main game first? That’s entirely up to you, but the good news is The Teal Mask is completely accessible even if your monsters are low level – the DLC content scales to match your level.
Kitakami is a beautiful region. This Japanese countryside-inspired region feels a lot more laid-back and sleepy than Paldea. You won’t find any of the larger, built-up towns here. There’s still everything you need, with plenty of interesting places to explore, such as rice paddies, orchards and an impressive rocky mountain range. And, most importantly, it’s absolutely teeming with Pokémon to battle against and collect.
For players who’ve “gotta catch ’em all”, you’ll be pleased to know that The Teal Mask adds in several brand new Pokémon. There’s Okidogi, Munkidori and Fezandipiti, a legendary trio of monsters native to the region. You’ll also encounter Poltchageist alongside some new evolutions to existing monsters. The key new addition to The Teal Mask, though, is Ogerpon, who comes in four forms and is central to the story.
That’s not all, though. More than 100 Pokémon from previous games make a return in The Teal Mask including plenty of well-known favourites like Clefairy, Poliwag and Snorlax. You’ve got your work cut out for you, then, if your quest is to complete your Pokédex.
The story content of Pokémon Scarlet & Violet: The Teal Mask is an excellent addition, too – it’s not all about the new pocket monster varieties. You’ll meet two new key characters, brother and sister duo Kieran and Carmine. Carmine has a rather spiky personality so she’ll take some time to warm to you (and you to her). Her brother, on the other hand, is rather timid but becomes rather attached to you quickly. Expect to battle against both of them several times throughout the course of the game.
Other characters also add plenty of personality to The Teal Mask. There’s teacher Briar and photographer Perrin, to name just a couple – and of course there are plenty of townsfolk and other trainers to fight against and engage in small talk with. It may be somewhat sleepy, but Kitakami feels alive and lived-in thanks to its population.
Let’s talk technicalities for a minute. Pokémon Scarlet & Violet was criticised at launch due to its performance issues, most notably its framerate which had a habit of slowing to a snail’s pace at times. While The Teal Mask isn’t perfect – the framerate certainly isn’t as smooth as we’d like – we’ve not encountered anything game-breaking or experience-ruining. Thanks to the scope of its open world, this is a demanding game given the technical limitations of the Switch, and while any player shouldn’t be expected to settle for sub-par performance, we’ve been mostly satisfied with how the game has performed in handheld mode on our OLED Switch.
The Teal Mask doesn’t revolutionise Pokémon Scarlet & Violet, it simply expands upon it in a meaningful way, offering up a generous-sized helping of new monsters to battle against and collect, and an enjoyable story featuring a new bunch of well-crafted characters. If you enjoyed the base game, it’s safe to say you’re going to relish this new adventure, too – and it’ll leave you eager for the second part of The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero to drop this winter.