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Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Teal Mask offers more of the same, for better or for worse

The Teal Mask takes players to the Kitakami Region to make friends, capture Pokémon, and uncover the truth behind legends.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet received a decidedly mixed reception when they released last year. Personally, I was particularly fond of Pokémon’s ninth generation, calling it “addicting and damn fun” in my full review. I was excited when an expansion for the games was announced, and now that I’ve finished up my time in the Kitakami region, I’m happy to report The Teal Mask continues the fun of the base game, even as it’s a little light on content.

The premise of The Teal Mask is simple: Your trainer, along with a couple other students from your version’s school, is selected to go on a trip to the Kitakami region to study with students from the Blueberry Academy. It’s home to a small rural village that looks straight out of decades past when compared to some of the more robust cities of Paldea and other regions.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Teal Mask offers more of the same, for better or for worse

Uncovering the truth behind The Loyal Three makes for a strong story in The Teal Mask.

Kitakami is something of a tourist destination as its Kitakami Mask Festival draws attention with its celebration of the region’s history. Much in the same way the story of Sword and Shield is tied directly to the Galar region’s history, for example, the story of The Teal Masks concerns the history of the Kitakami region. You’ll learn about the Royal Three, Pokémon from generations ago who saved the village from an evil ogre…or so the story goes. The region now celebrates those Pokémon with a festival each year, but, as your trainer befriends Blueberry Academy students and learns the true story of the region, you’ll realize history isn’t always as it’s presented.

The story is simple, and mostly has your trainer bouncing between the small town, Kitakami Hall, and a monument to the Loyal Three with the Blueberry students, Kieran and Carmine. The character work is good enough, and I enjoyed how so much of the expansion has your trainer interacting with their newfound friends. Each objective during the story has you alongside one of the siblings, and their wildly different personalities and approaches to Kitakami’s Pokémon of legend offer unique perspectives on the DLC’s events. Nimona, Penny, and Arven were all fun characters and strengths in the base game, and The Teal Mask continues to have interesting NPCs for your trainer to interact with and befriend. The character work and story, though brief, are definitely the highlights of The Teal Mask.

Kitakami as a region is a tad disappointing. Nothing about it really sticks out in comparison to the base game’s map of Paldea. You see the same cliff and lake assets reused, and there’s nothing truly unique environmentally about Kitakami. Most sections of its map are indistinguishable from the base game. It even features a mountain at its center with dark caverns to explore like Paldea. I would have loved for more interesting locales, but it seems like truly unique locations to explore will have to wait for The Indigo Disk (hopefully).

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Teal Mask offers more of the same, for better or for worse

You’ll befriend Ogerpon and eventually get the opportunity to add it to your team.

In terms of Pokémon to capture, Kitakami is a pretty mixed bag. Only eight brand-new Pokémon are introduced to gen nine, and four of them are mythical/legendaries (I can never get the difference straight) with rather unremarkable designs. Ogerpon has a unique terastal gimmick which makes it easy to plug into any Pokémon lineup. Poltchageist and its evolution Sinistcha are cute, and I’m never going to complain about having more ghost Pokémon. The Bloodmoon Beast is easily my favorite new ‘mon, and I can definitely see it becoming a regular in my team’s rotation.

Ninety-one Pokémon from past generations return, making up almost half of Kitakami’s Pokédex (just over a hundred of Paldea’s Pokémon roam Kitakami). As someone who skipped a few of Pokémon’s middle generations, a good chunk of Kitakami’s ‘dex were new to me, just like with the base game. However, even if some of these Pokémon were new to me, they won’t be new to the die-hards purchasing the expansion. Now that Pokémon Home is integrated with Scarlet and Violet, trainers will be able to import their favorite pocket monsters from past generations, so I’m not sure if the allure of catching them all over again will really be so exciting to someone who’s been battling with the same Chandelure or Leavanny for years.

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet: The Teal Mask offers more of the same, for better or for worse

Milotic is a fan-favorite ‘mon who makes its generation nine debut in The Teal Mask.

Paradox Pokémon were the most interesting part of the base game for me, so I was a bit miffed when I realized The Teal Mask wouldn’t include any new Paradox ‘mons. Sure, Kitakami doesn’t have an Area Zero of its own, but they could have explained away a unique Paradox Pokémon in a similar manner to the Blood Moon Beast’s inclusion. A single Paradox Pokémon could have escaped Area Zero and wandered over to Kitakami, and now it’s on your trainer to capture it – easy peasy. Alas, we’ll have to wait until The Indigo Disk releases in the winter to capture new Paradox Pokémon. Raging Bolt, an ancient version of Raikou, and Iron Crown, a futuristic version of Cobalion, will be catchable during version-specific events during The Indigo Disk.

I certainly had fun with The Teal Mask, though it did leave me wanting more – not in the “I can’t get enough of it!” way, but more in the “Was that all?” way. It brought me back to one of my favorite games of 2022 and gave me a good excuse to continue trying to complete my first-ever Pokédex (only 18 away!). However, as the first half of a $35 expansion, I don’t think it does enough to justify a purchase just yet. This puts a lot of pressure on The Indigo Disk, and we’ll have to wait and see if The Indigo Disk’s hidden treasures make the expansion essential or skippable.

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