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Pokemon Scarlet & Violet: The Teal Mask review

The Teal Mask is the first DLC for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet that builds on both the main game's strengths and weaknesses

Given how Sword & Shield’s DLCs were by far the best part of those games, my expectations were high for The Teal Mask, the first of two DLCs for Pokémon Scarlet & Violet.

With the main game’s greatest strength being its open-ended freedom, this DLC had to find a way to capture that in a much smaller space, and for the most part, I feel satisfied with what it pulls off. The world is very strictly segmented into different biomes surrounding a massive mountain that drove me to explore each area and see what Pokémon I could find – as well as gathering more items and TMs than I knew what to do with.

There are plenty of little caves and nooks in the world of Kitakami, but they aren’t as rewarding as the ones you can find in the main game. Most caves just have a few standard items and maybe a TM at best, which takes away from the thrill of exploration the main game offers.

A cave in Pokemon SV DLC.

One thing does stay true to the main game though: the framerate when roaming the world. If you, like me, think that the smaller world might help improve Scarlet & Violet’s performance, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.

The game struggles just as hard in Kitakami as it does in Paldea, as panning the camera up to look at the wide open spaces often drags the framerate painfully low, and if you do things like slip on a slope in the wrong location you’ll experience seconds-long stutters. If you can put up with it in the main game, then it’s only a bit worse here, but it’s upsetting that such a great experience is once again marred by issues like this.

And it is a great experience. Aside from the usual wandering, catching, and battling, The Teal Mask’s story is a lot stronger than Sword & Shield’s offering. The main game’s focus on character growth and engaging personal stories remains, with the narrative getting a really big focus this time around.

Pokémon SV DLC Perrin

The two main companions, Keiran and Carmine, start off feeling like Pokémon’s standard one-note personalities, but eventually evolve into something more complex. Keiran in particular is one of Pokémon’s better rival characters, touching on things the series never really has before, including conflict between friends over who gets to capture the legendary Pokémon. It’s nice that the entire world doesn’t just bend to the whims of our silent protagonist for once.

It’s not just a self-contained story in this DLC either, as things end on an ominous note that will be picked up in The Indigo Disk DLC later this year, showing that this generation’s commitment to plot isn’t an accident.

Game Freak unfortunately still hasn’t worked out how to balance this kind of post-game content. Most trainers’ Pokémon are levels 60-75, which is fine if you start it straight after beating the main game, but if you’ve been playing all the raid events like Nintendo wants you to, your team of level 90+ ‘mons are going to wipe the floor with everything in their path.

A newly evolved Sinistcha in Pokemon SV DLC.

It’s a shame because some of the end-game battles might be a genuine challenge if you have a similarly leveled team as your opponent. Unfortunately, the only way long-time players will have that is if they go out of their way to build a whole new team specifically for it. It’s not an easy problem to solve, but the Teal Mask’s approach seems to be the same as the Sword & Shield DLCs, which isn’t very good.

I’m left struggling with how to talk about The Teal Mask. Like the main game, it is one of the most enjoyable mainline Pokémon games ever produced, but the series’ old problems keep rearing their ugly heads and dragging the experience down from both a technical and gameplay standpoint. I love this DLC and I love Scarlet & Violet, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Score: 7/10

  • Visuals: 6/10
  • Story: 8/10
  • Audio: 9/10
  • Gameplay: 7/10

Version tested: Nintendo Switch

Pokémon Scarlet & Violet: The Teal Mask technical breakdown

The Teal Mask doesn’t improve on Scarlet & Violet’s performance despite a significantly smaller scope. While I didn’t encounter any outright bugs, framerate drops are constant whenever the game has more than a small patch of terrain to render. Things like the Ogre Ousting minigame are horrendous for their performance issues, which is embarrassing for a minigame where speed is the entire point.

Something is just fundamentally broken with this game. Whether it’s problems with the engine, or Game Freak rubbing up against the limitations of the hardware, something has to change before the next mainline entry.