Pokemon Scarlet & Violet: The Teal Mask DLC review - Performance issues unmasked

Pokemon Scarlet & Violet: The Teal Mask DLC review - Performance issues unmasked
Images via Game Freak

Written by 

Ben Williams

Published 

19th Sep 2023 09:25

The Teal Mask is the first entry in a two-part 'Hidden Treasure of Area Zero' DLC for Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, and going into it makes it easy to remind us of our review of the base game. However, instead of “one step forward, two steps back” as we put it, this expansion feels more the other around. 

Whilst still riddled with performance issues that have held Scarlet & Violet back since its release, much of everything else you get from its setting, story, and characters to numerous new Pokemon to catch makes this Part 1 chapter hit the mark far better than expected.

GGRecon Verdict

If you’re the type of Pokemon player who isn’t bothered about a game’s technical shortcomings, you’ll have a good time regardless. Otherwise, you might want to wait for the next batch of patches Game Freak have surely added to its to-do list.

Solid story

The Kitakami Mask festival in The Teal Mask DLC for Pokemon Scarlet & Violet
Click to enlarge

Accessible after around three hours of playing through Pokemon Scarlet & Violet’s story, The Teal Mask takes you on a school trip to the land of Kitakami - a rural, naturally tranquil land which holds a festival honouring its three heroic legendary Pokemon - one that you just happen to be in time for. 

Along with two students also visiting from Blueberry Academy, the collaborative sister school where the upcoming Part 2: The Indigo Disk DLC is based, you’ll be thrown into discovering the truths behind Kitakami’s mysteries. Soon enough, you’ll be knee-deep into finding the source of the legends, making new friends, and exploring the land to also catch as many new Pokemon as you wish.

Good setting, great characters

Metting Carmine and Kieran in The Teal Mask DLC for Pokemon Scarlet & Violet
Click to enlarge

A short and sweet campaign that will take players from four to five hours to complete at a minimum, the story is undoubtedly The Teal Mask’s greatest strength. After starting the DLC and arriving in Mossui - Kitakami’s one town at the foot of a great mountain - you’ll be quickly introduced to Blueberry Acadmedy students Carmine and Kieran, two of the best characters we’ve seen from Pokemon Scarlet & Violet so far. 

What starts off from there as a tour-turned-class assignment to learn about the island and its folklore before their annual festival, becomes a quest for the truth as you dig into the long-celebrated legend of a fearsome ogre that was thwarted by the Loyal Three - a trio a legendary Pokemon who were said to give their lives to save Kitakami and its people. 

Even with a lavish soundtrack and slightly fun Ogre Oustin’ mini-game, Kitakami’s eagerly hyped festival, traditions, and culture as a whole, don’t entirely feel as delved into as they're built up to be, eventually giving way to the events at play. On the other hand, what you do see - like in the festival - feels much more vibrant and unique compared to other places in the main game.

What's more, in their roles as Kitakami natives who’ve returned for the school trip, Carmine and Kieran fill in the gaps both in the wider narrative and character arcs altogether. 

Utilising their own affiliations with the legend of the ogre and the Loyal Three, The Teal Mask’s campaign as a whole feels surprisingly personal. What some Pokemon fans might have been expecting as an overly wholesome hunt for legendaries ends up being one laden with twists and drama, backed with emotion, tension, and heartfelt moments during the big story beats - even touching on mental health issues in places. 

Each goes through their own trips of character development throughout The Teal Mask, and having Carmine and Kieran as the stars of the two-part DLC altogether works fantastically. Not only will you leave The Teal Mask eager for what individual plot Part 2: The Indigo Disk will immerse you into, but how the personal arcs of this sister-brother duo will continue and tie into it all as well.

A nice balance of countryside & Pokemon

Yanma and rice paddies in front of Mossui Town in The Teal Mask
Click to enlarge

Although playing through the story could only take you as little as four hours, it’s highly likely you’ll get distracted more than once exploring Kitakami’s well-designed natural landscapes and most importantly, catching Pokemon. 

Some of the island’s environments seem a little bare minimum with the one town itself being fairly small and other areas feeling slightly barren like in the base game. Nevertheless, spots like the mountain’s central Crystal Pool, rice paddies, and apple orchards are still unique and make you feel like a tourist in the northern countryside parts of Japan’s Tohoku region the game is seemingly based on. 

Even if you’re not bothered about how nice a lake in a Pokemon game looks, the approximately 100 new 'mon - most of which are from past-gen titles - is a nice mix of older-generation Pocket Monsters to venture around the island and discover which ones you can find. 

Along with some delightful brand new creatures to get, half of the 200 Pokemon making up the Kitakami Pokedex being from the base game means you’ll likely be on your way to completion if you’ve already beaten Scarlet & Violet’s campaign. 

Whilst additions like the candy apple-like Dipplin, or the Matcha Pokemon, Poltchageist, are the standouts, the design of other new Pokemon like the Ogerpon and the Loyal Three; Okidogi, Munkidori, and Fezandipiti; have great joint themes and individual looks to fit their roles and unique personalities. With the Kitakami Pokedex overall, it seems a lot of thought was put into which Pokemon old and new to Scarlet & Violet would fit in with the island as well as its individual environments.

With both the motivation to complete your new smaller Pokedex and those needed to complete some of The Teal Mask’s decent side quests, you’ve got the components for hours of extra enjoyment even after you’re done with the story. 

Masking the real problem

The Crystal Pool in The Teal Mask DLC for Pokemon Scarlet & Violet
Click to enlarge

As surprising as how good the story in The Teal Mask is, what’s equally so is the major downfall of this Pokemon Scarlet & Violet DLC which is the element that can take away from most of what you’ll enjoy about it: rough performance. 

Adding to such a hot-button issue for the base game that’s been met with numerous patches since release, it’d have been thought that The Teal Mask’s much lesser scope would’ve meant a much higher quality for the release of this DLC. 

However, the smaller size of the Teal Mask and its setting seems to have made those original issues somehow more noticeable. Rampant frame rate drops, stuttering assets, pop-in of wild Pokemon, and many of the new TMs and other items up to even a close distance, and even the occasional brief freeze will make anyone wonder - in the same way as Scarlet & Violet themselves - how they could be released in such a state they did, even more so after the backlash received last time. 

In further comparison though, The Teal Mask isn’t riddled with abhorrent bugs in the way its base games were, but when performance is so disappointing, it makes the rest of the adventure tougher to enjoy.

The Verdict

The Loyal Three; Okidogi, Munkidori, and Fezandipiti; in The Teal Mask DLC for Pokemon Scarlet & Violet
Click to enlarge

When considering solely the content from a narrative perspective, The Teal Mask is some of the best DLC you could’ve expected for Pokemon Scarlet & Violet. When measured to scale along its base game, the story of which didn’t really get interesting until the end of the campaign, The Teal Mask hits you from the get-go with sharp dramatic writing and colourful but-fleshed-out characters who’ll get you even more excited for what’s to come in the second half of this two-parter. 

As a whole though, even if you kept exploring and catching The Teal Mask’s great selection of new and returning Pokemon to a minimum, the blatant performance issues will still lessen the experience to at least some degree. 

If you’re the type of Pokemon player who isn’t bothered about a game’s technical shortcomings, you’ll have a good time regardless. Otherwise, you might want to wait for the next batch of patches Game Freak have surely added to its to-do list.

3.5/5

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Review code provided by the publisher.

Ben is a Senior Guides Writer at GGRecon. Alongside his BA (Hons) in Business Management is a wealth of gaming and entertainment writing experience, having previously occupied roles as a Copywriter in e-commerce at Overclockers and Guides & SEO Writer at GameByte and FragHero. When not whipping up guides and reviews, Ben’ll be off playing the latest Pokemon games, Overwatch 2, Spider-Man, The Witcher, and Final Fantasy - all before reading manga and listening to Ice Nine Kills.