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The Media Man Reviews: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero Part 1: The Teal Mask

Updated: Nov 15, 2023


Title card

Feels like yesterday since I reviewed Pokémon Scarlet and Violet and now here I am about to review its DLC.


Much like Pokémon Sword and Shield before them, Scarlet and Violet have also received the DLC treatment. First announced in a Pokémon Presents livestream back in February, fans were naturally excited to see their adventures in Paldea weren't over yet and that Sword and Shield wouldn't be the only titles with DLC. And much like Sword and Shield, it's a two-part DLC each with a new location to visit, a new story to tell, familiar Pokémon returning and some new ones to catch and some new features to play around with. I pre-ordered the DLC for both Scarlet and Violet a while back and come September the 13th, I was quick to begin playing the first part of the DLC, which is titled The Teal Mask. The second half, The Indigo Disk, will come out in Winter 2023 so I'll review that in due time.


So is The Teal Mask a fantastic mask that hides great quality? Or is the face behind the mask not worth looking at? Let's review this DLC and find out...


Section 1: The Story


I'll give The Teal Mask this...it actually HAS a story. That's already an improvement over the last DLC where they had a series of fetch quests disguised as a story. XD


Anyway, the story sees our character being invited on a school trip to the island of Kitakami, a place far off from Paldea. While there, we meet two students from Blueberry Academy named Kieran and Carmine, indulge in the local culture of Kitakami, partake in the Festival of Masks celebration and uncover a long hidden truth about the island's mysterious ogre and legendary heroes...


As mentioned already, The Isle of Armour, the first DLC from Sword and Shield didn't really have a plot. All it was was a series of battles and fetch quests with a thinly woven narrative tying them together, so you can imagine my surprise when The Teal Mask actually gave us a proper story to tell with this DLC. Is it a good story though? For the most part, it is. I'll cover what I didn't like in a moment but first, the good stuff.


Like Scarlet and Violet before it, the story has more to it than what you might expect for your average Pokémon story. We get ancient conspiracies, a twist on the legends we're told and most surprising of all, a theme of how our consequences have actions. Seriously, I was NOT expecting to see a damnation arc in a story for a DLC chapter of all things but we got one! It has some issues with the execution but again, I'll get to that later. They really didn't need to put all this effort into the story but they did it anyway and I commend the writers for going the extra mile to make the DLC feel worth the price in the end.


The story also continues Pokémon's incredible track record of great world-building and creating interesting cultures to lose ourselves in and indulge with. Kitakami is a beautiful island to explore and throughout the story I was constantly getting lost in the island's culture and being interested in what stories they had to tell. Granted what we learn about Ogerpon and the Loyal Three is nothing but a lie but the true backstory is still interesting to learn regardless. One of my favourite parts of the story is when we just...indulge in the Festival of Masks celebrations and get absorbed into the festival and what it entails. It's that level of immersion that makes for a fun experience with the story.


And given this is Part 1 of a two part DLC expansion, the story naturally has the kind of ending where it wraps up well enough but leaves stuff open for next time. That was a wise move on the writer's parts as it gets the player hyped up for Part 2 when that eventually releases and shows that the DLC isn't just two separate stories being told here, it's all one big story split into two. And with the fact our actions have consequences in this story, it has me curious to see said consequences once Part 2 comes out...


As is, while I appreciate the DLC putting more effort into the story, it does have some teething issues that hold it back for me. First of all, the twist behind Ogerpon and the Loyal Three. They could not have gone for a more obvious twist if they tried. The Pokémon Company LOVES using the "Not Evil, Just Misunderstood trope" and it's frankly rather tiring at this point. I thought Ogerpon was going to be our first genuinely evil Pokémon in a game but no, she's actually the victim and she's not evil at all. However, the Loyal Three ARE genuinely evil Pokémon so we still got them at least. They probably shouldn't have made them look so shifty though given many players called it that they were the bad guys just from their appearances. Honestly it would've been more surprising if they WERE the good guys after all and Ogerpon really was evil.


Also as I mentioned before, the "actions have consequences" theme is great here...but the execution leaves a little to be desired. I totally understand what they were going with here: Kieran is obsessed with Ogerpon and he takes a liking to the player character but as we routinely defeat him in battle and Ogerpon takes a shining to us instead of him, that causes him to have an emotional breakdown and become more aloof and determined to best us. That's great! But why oh why did we need that unnecessary plot point where we have to keep the truth about Ogerpon a secret from Kieran? I'm genuinely asking why that was necessary because Kieran's damnation arc could've happened exactly the same way it did WITHOUT it! All it did was create forced, unnecessary drama that only wasted time in the end because Kieran found out anyway and Ogerpon's story got blurted out to the village and they accepted the truth so quickly that it beggars belief why it was ever kept a secret in the first place. Had I been writing this story, everything would stay the same EXCEPT for the keeping secrets part. I would've dropped that entirely because it was so unnecessary in the end and only creates problems that could've been avoided while also making his grandfather look like the biggest asshole in the game for doing this to his own grandson.


Also does anyone other than me find it really annoying how the Loyal Three just...come back to life and it's NEVER explained how they did it? Seriously, an explanation would've been nice here. You can't just have them come back to life and not explain how they did it! Why do you think people ridicule The Rise of Skywalker so much? Because of this, I'm half expecting the player character to run into the village and announce "Somehow...the Loyal Three returned." XD


And finally, we have some features in the game that should've played a part in the narrative but...don't. Perrin's side quest is completely irrelevant to the main story and the Ogre Clan are just a bunch of NPCs you have to track down and battle. The Ogre Clan could've easily been a part of the story as say a bunch of troublemakers who preach Ogerpon's innocence that we have to battle to stop them causing trouble and then they help out in spreading the word of Ogerpon's innocence and Perrin could've played a part in the story by taking photos to further prove the Loyal Three are the villains. Heck, Perrin's story with the Bloodmoon Ursaluna could've also been involved with the main plot like say, the Loyal Three run into it and make a deal with it to cause havoc and in the resulting chaos, they help themselves to whatever they can steal or even just team up with it to kill Ogerpon, just SOMETHING at least! Had I written the story, I would've done that so they're not just NPCs with irrelevant side-quests. The story-potential for them is sitting right there and is just...not being taken advantage of.


The Teal Mask deserves points for actually having a story to make the DLC experience more worthwhile. But the story loses points for how it clearly needed a few more drafts to iron out the creases here and there...


Section 2: The Characters


Going into this, I did NOT expect the directions they took these characters in.


Let's start with the main new characters of the DLC, Carmine and Kieran. They're a sibling duo who attend the Blueberry Academy (which The Teal Mask reveals is located in Unova and not anywhere near Paldea surprisingly) and they're on this school trip to Kitakami as well.


Carmine starts off as very aloof and unwelcoming given she doesn't particularly like outsiders coming to her home turf and she's also a bit of a bully to her younger brother. As Carmine spends time with the player, she does mellow out over time and become nicer and it's clear she DOES have her moral values straight for she's outright PEEVED when she hears the Loyal Three are the real villains and Ogerpon is the innocent one. The trouble with her is that Carmine leans too heavily on the "jerk" side and thus what's meant to be a Jerk With A Heart of Gold just comes off as...a jerk. She treats Kieran too harshly for my liking and is completely flippant about his behaviour, dismissing it as "teenage angst" when it's a lot deeper than that. And she has the gall to be surprised that her brother's become moodier and more withdrawn by the time the story is over. I hope The Indigo Disk will fix the problems with her because Carmine has NOT set a good first impression for me, even with her character development.


Kieran by contrast is way more sympathetic, even if he's the one that goes down while Carmine goes up. Kieran is a shy and meek boy who is fascinated with Ogerpon to the point of it being a borderline obsession but with us, the player, kicking his butt time and time again, being forced to lie to his face about Ogerpon's true colours, Carmine being a jerk to him one time too many and Ogerpon choosing us over him in the end...it's no wonder he's become a darker person over the course of the game. I even look at Kieran and say "Look at this Thomas Astruc, THIS is how you do a damnation arc!" because unlike Chloe Bourgeois from Miraculous Ladybug, Kieran's fall from grace makes perfect sense and I genuinely feel guilty for playing a part in it. Thanks GameFreak, you're making me feel bad for destroying this poor boy's dreams and taking away everything he desired. I'M SUCH A BAD PERSON FOR THAT!!! X( Still, I'm curious, and kinda worried, to see what will become of him in Part 2 later this year...


We have Kieran's grandparents in where the only part they play is the grandmother giving us blue and white jinbei to wear and the grandfather reveals the truth behind Ogerpon. Despite Carmine's horrible behaviour, I actually think Kieran's grandfather is the most hateable character in the game. Why? Because he knows Kieran is obsessed with Ogerpon and he KNOWS the truth behind Ogerpon...yet he chooses to keep it a secret from him but is perfectly fine sharing it with his granddaughter and a total stranger visiting from a school trip! Like what? Why are WE, the player, allowed to know this but Kieran gets a "when the time is right" excuse? Get lost you old fart. Your stupidity ended up causing your grandson to take a dive off Mount Sanity and into Lake Crazy so if anyone's to blame for Kieran going nuts, it's you for treating him this way, keeping the truth a secret from him and then telling his own sister and someone he thought he'd found a friend in to keep it from him! Go sit on a Cacturne you asshole... X(


Speaking of, let's talk about Ogerpon and the Loyal Three. While I hate how obvious the twist with them was, I still think they're well handled for the most part. Ogerpon is insanely endearing thanks to her adorable appearance and sympathetic backstory and she gives us a really awesome boss fight with her mask gimmick so that's cool. I wish we had more of a focus on bonding with her a little like how we bonded with Kubfu/Urshifu in the Isle of Armour but I still like Ogerpon. I was happy to catch her at the end. The Loyal Three, consisting of Okidogi, Munkidori and Fezandipiti, deserve mention for being some of the few genuinely evil Pokémon in the franchise. While they're more or less just petty thieves, it's still refreshing to have villainous Pokémon for a change and they pose a genuine threat for the player and Ogerpon. I wish we could get evil Pokémon more often in the franchise because evil humans are a dime-a-dozen so I'm glad we got them in the end.


There's Perrin who aside from being utterly gorgeous and very obviously being a descendant of Adaman from Legends Arceus, she was honestly not worth including in the end. She's part of a side-quest that is completely disconnected from the main plot when she and Bloodmoon Ursaluna could've EASILY been integrated into it no problem. I like her backstory with her lacking that spark she once had in photographing as it's relatable to people like me who've once hit a slump in our lives and it also gives me Kikki's Delivery Service vibes but aside from that, her side-quest is just that, a side-quest and it kinda feels like she exists purely to please Rule 34 artists and also pander to the Pokémon Snap crowd. Either she needed to be included in the main story as well or they shouldn't have bothered.


There's also Briar, a teacher at Blueberry Academy who brings us on this trip in the first place. She's really curious about the Terestal Phenomenon and is even descended from Heath, the man who discovered Area Zero in the first place. While she doesn't really play a role in this DLC, I have a feeling she'll be doing more in the second DLC. As is, I don't trust that woman. Those eyes are the eyes of evil if you ask me and her curiosity in the Terestal Phenomenon and her desire to fine Terapagos don't exactly inspire confidence in me. She's totally going to be a villain my friends, I'm calling it now!


Aside from that, there's not much else to discuss in term of the characters. Some of them are either unintentionally hateable or pointless to include with only Kieran and the new legendries being well used here. Hopefully the cast of Part 2 will be better executed...


Section 3: The Gameplay


Now for the important part that'll determine if the DLC is worth the price of admission for you. Is the gameplay any good and what new stuff do they bring to the table?


Much like The Isle of Armour, The Teal Mask's gameplay consists of the player exploring an island habitat and going through the story while also catching Pokémon along the way and maybe doing a few things on the side. In order to play The Teal Mask, you need to have started your treasure hunt in Paldea so you won't be able to go to Kitakami immediately. Once again, it's like how in the Isle of Armour you can't go there until you catch a Galarian Slowpoke at Wedgehurst Station. Once you're in Kitakami, you can ride around on Koraidon/Miraidon as normal to traverse the island and see what's what. You have the town of Moussi as your home base with the only Pokémon Centre and TM Machine you'll find on the island located there and there's a nearby shop to get your Pokémon requirements instead of an actual PokéMart. While this bit of gameplay enhances how Kitakami is only a small island with not a lot of resources, it can get a bit tiresome having to go back to this one town all the time to use the Pokémon Centre if your Pokémon need healing up. Still, there's always the picnic feature to help with that too.


Like in the Sword and Shield DLC, The Teal Mask features returning Pokémon with a lot of old favourites now available to catch such as Yanmega, Mamoswine, Golem, Ninetales and more. You can even get an egg from Jaq and it'll hatch into one of the Sinnoh starters, which is a nice bonus. Weirdly enough though, they REALLY dropped the ball when it comes to version exclusives. No joke, both Scarlet and Violet only have THREE exclusive Pokémon each with Scarlet players getting Gligar, Gliscor and Cramorant while Violet players get Aipom, Ambipom and Morpeko. Why even have version exclusives at this point if there's only going to be three? I didn't even need to play on Scarlet to get a Gligar because I had one spare on Legends Arceus I transferred over from Pokémon HOME so that saved me a job! XD Still, there's a good amount of returning Pokémon to catch and I'm sure many players will have fun finding their favourites among them.


In terms of new Pokémon to catch, there's not really a lot here. You only get Dipplin, a new evolution for Applin, Poltchageist and Sinistcha (distaff counterparts to Sinistea and Polteagiest), the four new Legendries I mentioned before and an alternate version of Ursaluna. Those who may be interested to see what new Pokémon we can catch may be disappointed because there's not a lot to offer in that department. At the least I can say the Legendries and Bloodmoon Ursaluna are worth it as they're awesome new additions to the franchise.


In terms of new stuff to collect, you also get new outfits to wear in the form of Festival Jinbei which is a nice change from the school uniforms in Paldea, you get a card that allows you to unlock new clothes and hairstyles to try out, you get the EXP charm like you do in the Isle of Armour, you can wear masks like those celebrating the Festival of Masks do, you get a Glimmering Charm that increases the amount of Tera Shards you win in Tera Raids if you 100% complete the PokéDex and of course, you get the Rotom Stick. The Rotom Stick is a very welcome addition to the game that makes taking photos much more fun and easy than before as you can take wider shots and get your Pokémon to stand still by playing some music but I can't help but ask why this stuff wasn't already in the game to start with. These features SHOULD have been there in the first place and it feels like they only included the Rotom Stick and the improved features on taking photos here to justify selling the DLC to people, which feels a bit stingy if you ask me. What's more annoying is that the DLC now adds a feature where Team Star's bases actually show up on the Paldea map when THAT should've been a feature in the base game from the start! What the heck GameFreak?


As for the difficulty level, The Teal Mask actually throws you for a loop a bit with how challenging some of these trainer battles are. The level scaling is dependant on if you've beaten the three main storylines or not so like with Sword and Shield, you're going in with LV100 Pokémon at this rate but if you did what I did and make a new team based on returning mons, the game becomes a lot more challenging! Kieran and Carmine have pretty strong teams that actually gave me a challenge at times and unlike the main game of Scarlet and Violet, they'll sometimes use held items to make them more challenging! Kieran's last battle even has him use a team of six Pokémon with all of them holding an item of some kind and his Pokémon are all pretty heavy hitters, especially his Yanmega which gave me a lot of trouble in the game. Weirdly enough, his final battle has him use a team of six but Carmine only uses five in her final battle. What's that about? Also nobody on Kitakami terastilizes their Pokémon in the boss fights. The only time that ever happens is the boss fight with Ogerpon. I wonder why that is. You'd think Kieran and Carmine's final fights would have them terastilize their Pokémon but no, they never do it. I really don't know why that is. Still, it's nice that they're a legitimate threat to unprepared trainers and that if you start with a new team, you're not going to have an easy time against them.


Speaking of difficult, the Ogre Clan NPCs prove some of the toughest challenges you'll face. All seven members have high-level teams with hard-hitting Pokémon that have useful abilities and they even have competitive style move sets that make them a real challenge. It's like these guys fell out of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl as a result of this! I actually ended up losing to one and used my LV100 team just to get him back afterwards. XD Still, these are some of the strongest NPCs you'll face in Scarlet and Violet thus far with the leader of the clan's strongest Pokémon reaching Level 80! Gosh, imagine how strong the NPCs will be in The Indigo Disk...


As mentioned before, you have a side-quest with Perrin in where you need to find the Bloodmoon Ursaluna so she can get a photo of it. No doubt GameFreak was still riding high on New Pokémon Snap's success because this side-quest feels like it's there to pander to that crowd. I did enjoy going around photographing Pokémon and catching the Bloodmoon Ursaluna at least but I wish they did more with Periin than just this sidequest. Making her a boss fight you can rematch daily like they did with Honey, Mustard and the rival character in the Isle of Armour would've been nice at least. Instead we only fight her ONCE where she uses only a Noctowl and a Leafeon and then never again. She finishes off her story by giving us a Choice Scarf and a Hisuian Growlithe and...that's it. She vanishes never to be seen again. Hopefully the Indigo Disk will bring her back as a boss battle since that one allows us to rematch characters we've met in the game...


While we're on that subject, Perrin is one example I have of the DLC's biggest flaw...lack of replay value. I'm not joking when I say this DLC is practically barren once you've done the main story and all the stuff on the side. Once you've caught all the Pokémon you're after, done the main plot, done Perrin's side-quest, beaten the Ogre Clan...that's it. You've done everything. There's LITERALLY nothing else to do to keep you coming back to play more. No re-playable boss battles, no tournaments like the Isle of Armour's Restricted Sparring, nothing at all. Once you're done, you're done and that really sucks because the DLC feels not worth the price in the end. The Isle of Armour at least gives you bosses you can rematch on a daily basis or the Restricted Sparring to play around with to earn League Points but the Teal Mask doesn't even have any of that. If Perrin and the Ogre Clan were re-playable boss battles, that would've been something at least. The only re-playable aspect of the DLC is Ogre Oustin', but I'd rather having something else to do than just this berry collecting minigame where my prize is a bunch of mochi. I do like how if you beat it on Hard Mode, you get a Shiny Munchlax. That's quite a prize, but for solo players like me, Ogre Oustin's a lot harder to beat on Hard Mode. So yeah, I'm not too fussed on doing that over and over.


Also why the hell did they put in that stupid side-quest with Billy & O'Nare? Seriously, those two shouldn't have been created at all. We didn't need two pointless NPCs to throw money at us for finding them, we can make money very easily already! Such a waste of time and effort that could've been put towards the characters that actually matter...


So yeah, the gameplay has a lot to offer when you first play but then dries up quickly and by the end you're left with nothing else by the time it's all over. It does give you more to do after you've beaten Scarlet and Violet but the lack of replay value does kinda hurt The Teal Mask's quality a little. The Indigo Disk will hopefully make up for that...


I'm skipping the graphics section because the graphics are no different from last time. Aside from commenting on how Kitakami looks and going over the designs of the new Pokémon, there's not much more to add so I won't be covering the graphics.


Conclusion


The Teal Mask feels more like a big extra side quest to add to the main game than anything else. The story has its strong moments but is hindered by some unnecessary plot points, most of the new cast are either unlikeable or pointless, there's not a lot of new Pokémon to justify its existence and the gameplay gives us a lot at once but fizzes out quickly once you've done everything. I wouldn't say the DLC was a waste of time as I did enjoy playing it and catching all the returning Pokémon I wanted but I wouldn't say it was worth the £30 price tag I paid for it. The Indigo Disk will likely make that price tag worth it but then all that'll do is just make The Teal Mask feel more worthless as a result. The best way to enjoy this game is if you see The Teal Mask as say, an unofficial fourth story to play alongside the three main stories in Paldea. As an expansion of the Paldea story, it adds a fun extra chapter to playthrough. On its own, it's proabably best you wait until both DLCs are available so you can play them both at once. Roll on Part 2 everyone. Hopefully it'll be worth the wait...


And that's all I have for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and I want you all to share your thoughts in the comments below. Did you enjoy The Teal Mask? Did you not enjoy it? I'd love to hear all about it. Next week we reach the penultimate chapter of my countdown to Disney's 100th anniversary as we cover ten more facts from 81-90. See you then media fans!

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Did enjoy the Teal Mask, but you said it best. I hate plotlines where secrets are being kept unnecessarily and agree Carmine isn't as likeable as she could have been. It feels more like a prelude to the next part of the DLC. But there is still a lot to enjoy

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