Title: Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero: The Teal Mask
Developer: Game Freak
Release Date: September 13, 2023
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Price: $34.99 USD (includes part one and part two)
I was on the fence about getting the DLC. The main hesitation that caused me pause was the price. Coming fresh off of Fae Farm, where I didn’t feel as if I got my money’s worth, I wondered if a two-part DLC that costs almost as much as a full game (for example, Detective Pikachu Returns is only $15 more) would be worth it.
In the end, I did get it. If for no other reason than to evaluate if the price is worth it. Unfortunately, that answer is still forthcoming as a second part is coming out at a yet-to-be-announced date.
It may be an uncommon opinion, but I enjoyed Pokémon Scarlet more than I’ve enjoyed mainline games in a long time. That was another factor that caused me to pick up the DLC.
You get a call telling you you’ve been selected to go on a class trip with a few classmates. Once you get more information, you find that this is a joint class between your Naranja Academy and the Blueberry Academy.
The first part of the trip is going to the land of Kitakami. While there, you get to explore a local legend and take part in a festival that’s occurring there. You learn more about this legend while making new friends and potentially a new rival.
This is little more than the setup for Part 2, which leads one to wonder what lies ahead.
Nothing new was added between the base game and the DLC. Unlike many people, I never experienced major problems with Pokémon Scarlet. They created a world that fully took advantage of the skills that Koraidon gained during the base game. There is water to explore, walls to climb, and areas to soar over. New Pokémon were added, but none that you couldn’t transfer over with Pokémon Home.
This DLC marks the first time a video game’s story mechanic genuinely makes me uncomfortable. It involves the two new characters, Karmine and Kieran. You start the DLC getting closer to Kieran, but as you get into the story, it takes a hard shift towards Karmine in a way I didn’t like.
Essentially, you get put in a position where you aid Karmine and her grandfather in lying to Kieran. He catches you in the lie, but the game doesn’t give you the option to not go along with the plan despite your misgivings.
Being careful to avoid spoilers, you learn as you study Kitakami’s myth that things are not what they seem. As it’s based on historical events, Karmine and Kieran’s family have passed down what truly happened across the generations. When Karmine’s grandfather tells her the truth, you are also there to hear it.
Kieran has always suspected that what you learn is the case. But instead of allowing him to be in on it and to tell him he’s right, you are forced to lie to him and stand by as Karmine belittles him and makes him feel he needs to be elsewhere while events are going on. Karmine and her grandfather claim he is too young to hear this, and they’ll tell him when he’s older even though he’s just as involved in events as they are.
After the first cutscene, Kieran approaches you and allows you to be honest with him. But instead of giving you that option, the game forces you to keep up the lie and push him away. His anger at the situation and your role will carry into the second part.
In a way, Karmine and her grandfather gaslight Kieran and the game forces you to be an accomplice. And as it unfolded on the screen before me, I was not okay with it. The whole sequence of events made me feel uncomfortable. I don’t think it is okay for a game to portray that in a way that is so flippant and doesn’t later acknowledge that it is wrong.
Gaslighting is a problem, and I don’t mind a game depicting it to make a stand against it. To allow you, as the playable character, to have the chance to stand up against it and point out that it’s wrong; or even to let you sit with a situation like that, seeing it depicted but not endorsed. But that’s not what happens here. Instead, you are railroaded into being an accomplice and given no chance at redeeming yourself (beyond a sorry that doesn’t do anything towards the end). It is treated flippantly and in poor taste.
This is done solely to drive a wedge between you and Kieran to create a rival for part two of the DLC.
There will be an argument by some that what happened in this DLC is not gaslighting. But let me refer you to the Merriam-Webster definition.
Psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.Merriam-Webster
Too many of those boxes are shown through Kieran’s actions and dialogue as the story concludes for me to believe that what Karmine and her grandfather did was innocent lying. They did it knowing how he felt about the situation because they believed he wasn’t ready for the story. And when confronted about it, he was blown off.
In addition, the story itself is half-baked. Things happen with no discernible reason. Because they’re so desperate to set up the second part, The Teal Mask feels unsatisfying to play. I don’t feel like two-part DLCs should be used like that. If anything, it feels like an excuse for a money grab more than a desire to tell a story within their franchise. I’d rather have a contained story and then a contained sequel rather than one story divided in half.
Because they’re so desperate to set up the second part, The Teal Mask feels unsatisfying to play. I don’t feel like two-part DLCs should be used like that. If anything it feels like an excuse for a money grab more than a desire to tell a story within their franchise.
Like any recent 3D Pokémon game, there is nothing special about the graphics. As I mentioned earlier, I never had the problems other players had.
Seeing some Pokémon in the 3D style that hadn’t appeared in games was fun. A couple crossed my path as I played, and as a long-time fan of the franchise, I did enjoy them in this new art style.
Compared to reports of the base game, the DLC played well. I encountered no glitches or errors throughout the game. Of course, I’m also among the small number of players who didn’t experience significant issues with the base game. Because I may have been lucky again, take that with a grain of salt.
At this time, I don’t feel as if this has been worth the money I spent on it. While this DLC includes Pokémon you cannot get in the base game; these Pokémon are ones you can easily collect in others and transfer over via Pokémon Home.
In addition, the half-baked story (which included elements that left a bad taste in my mouth) didn’t hold my attention. In theory, I could have played this in a day, but it took me the better part of a week because it didn’t hold my interest.
In addition, I completed the main storyline in under 10 hours. Which means I paid more than a dollar for every hour I played, even dividing the cost in half for the two-part DLC.
There were some things I did like about this game. But the truth is there is a lot that didn’t. Perhaps my view on this will change with the release of part 2, but unless they pivot with Kieran and resolve his storyline in a way that makes me less uncomfortable, I sincerely doubt it.
In addition, the story was half-baked – more of an outline than a story with fully realized elements. Considering they are asking me to pay $34.99 for this (granted half that since this is part one), I did expect more of a story out of this adventure. Other DLCs have done so, and for cheaper, too.