April 15, 2024

I’ve put over 120 hours into final November’s Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, and I feel in some unspecified time in the future between then and now, I should have mentally suppressed simply how poorly these open-world Swap video games run. Both that, or their first DLC, The Teal Masks, is in some way worse at holding itself collectively than the bottom video games have been.

At a look, I’m unsure why strolling by way of Kitakami, the DLC’s tiny new area, threatened to interrupt the sport, however I skilled among the worst framerate dips (typically even full stoppage) I’ve ever skilled on Nintendo’s hybrid handheld. The Teal Masks runs so poorly that it leaves me as soon as once more bewildered that the unique video games launched within the state they did. Maybe unsurprisingly, The Teal Masks appears like a microcosm of the bottom video games’ bigger points, in addition to their strengths.

Coming off Scarlet and Violet’s Yoko Taro-ass finale and going into The Teal Masks’s comparatively low-stakes Pokémon story appears like a pleasant palate cleanser. We’re not coping with life-and-death proper now, with the DLC as an alternative bringing issues again to your character’s college life. You get dragged into an trade program (all by your self, too, so don’t count on to see Nemona, Penny, or Arven) with college students from Blueberry Academy, a sister college to your Naranja Academy/Uva Academy (recreation model relying). You’re all to satisfy on the distant area of Kitakami and study in regards to the native tradition and legends and partake in a pageant to have a good time among the Pokémon folklore. The story is the place The Teal Masks shines despite the technical troubles, so maybe fittingly, this DLC embodies each the very best and worst elements of Scarlet and Violet.

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Screenshot: The Pokémon Firm / Kotaku

The Teal Masks is at its greatest in its writing. New characters just like the brother and sister duo Kieran and Carmine stand tall subsequent to Scarlet and Violet’s already great solid. Carmine is a hoot and a holler as she provides indignant massive sister vitality and steadily softens additional time. Kieran, in the meantime, is the brand new enlargement’s emotional core. A lot of the DLC is about how kind-hearted persons are excluded, and that extends each to the grander lore of Kitakami and its particular person villages.

I’m actually loving how a lot Scarlet and Violet delves into these actually poignant tales, and even when Teal Masks by no means reaches the dramatic heights of the bottom video games’ last hours, it feels reassuring to see Recreation Freak nonetheless writing Pokémon tales that construct the world and its individuals out slightly than feeling like automobiles to ship extra aggressive tweaks and catchable critters. In that, The Teal Masks is already making a stable first impression for the broader expanded story the studio is including by way of this collective Hidden Treasure of Space Zero enlargement, which might be concluding in The Indigo Disk DLC set to launch later this 12 months.

These themes lengthen to the story of Ogerpon, the enigmatic legendary Pokémon who’s the headliner of the DLC and proprietor of the titular masks. The grass-type, mask-wearing little man is a part of native city legends that, as you play by way of The Teal Masks, reveal themselves to be half-truths, and circle again into the story of disenfranchisement the DLC illustrates with Kieran. The story is compelling, and even when it doesn’t dig too deep, its tackle the cognitive dissonance the locals really feel towards custom within the face of latest info is a fairly cool use of Pokémon lore. I’m not tremendous compelled by Ogerpon as a Pokémon, and its unique mechanic of with the ability to swap typings and different properties by carrying totally different masks doesn’t really feel tremendous novel after the Scarlet and Violet base video games launched modular typings with the Terastalize mechanic. Nonetheless, its story makes for an attention-grabbing cultural touchstone that helps fill out this new area.

Ogerpon is shown standing at the end of a flight of stairs.

Screenshot: The Pokémon Firm / Kotaku

The Teal Masks’s low stakes really feel like tablesetting for The Indigo Disk, which seems to be delving additional into the hanging threads left by Scarlet and Violet. Even so, Teal Masks harbors darker undercurrents that go away me extra trying ahead to that DLC we don’t but have. However Teal Masks and Indigo Disk have been marketed as a two-parter, in order that’s not terribly stunning, and I did discover so much to like within the ground-level conflicts and relationships on this opening chapter. The ultimate scene of the DLC, which I gained’t spoil right here, did not less than trace that these smaller tales might quickly escalate into one thing bigger, and given how effectively Scarlet and Violet’s writing has dealt with tales of trauma, particularly that felt by youngsters, I’m actually wanting to see how Recreation Freak concludes this story within the subsequent obtain.

However goddamn, attending to it’s so tough. Strolling by way of Kitakami’s open world is an absolute slog, with me and my Raichu making an attempt to stroll by way of fairly barren environments peppered with only some civilians. I’m unsure why The Teal Masks gave me even worse efficiency points than the primary recreation, however regardless of the purpose, its framerate drops are even worse than Scarlet and Violet’s. The wild factor is, I do know that is how Scarlet and Violet have been. I’m keenly conscious that regardless of my love of these video games’ last hours, this was what I skilled for 25-30 hours as I made my method by way of Paldea to get to Space Zero. So why was it so stunning to witness The Teal Masks barely holding itself collectively as I sauntered by way of a GameCube-looking atmosphere?

Purchase The Hidden Treasure of Space Zero: Amazon | Finest Purchase |GameStop

Possibly it’s as a result of there had been so many patches between Scarlet and Violet’s launch and now that I assumed I’d see some enchancment—or possibly it’s as a result of I’m additionally taking part in Cyberpunk 2077’s 2.0 replace that I’m reflecting on how a once-broken recreation can get its act collectively—nevertheless it simply looks as if in spite of everything that point and lip service, Scarlet and Violet are nonetheless the identical technically hobbled video games they have been 9 months in the past. They’ve numerous nice qualities; the world-spanning co-op is a childhood dream of exploring the Pokémon world along with your greatest mates realized; the tales they weave are among the greatest the sequence has ever had; and there’s numerous attention-grabbing aggressive interaction that may now get some new wrinkles with all the brand new (and returning) Pokémon the DLC is including.

But it surely’s additionally nonetheless this. Scarlet and Violet already confirmed main indicators of technical stress, and the bulging seams are much more obvious in The Teal Masks. As a lot as I loved this DLC, it stays disappointing that a few of Pokémon’s greatest stuff is being dragged down by a recreation engine that feels prefer it’s only a slight breeze away from falling aside.

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