It takes a lot for me to really dislike a Pokémon game. I have somehow managed to derive a lot of joy from even the games in the series that diehard fans, much like myself, have often agreed are pretty bad. I don’t even think the “bad” games are truly awful. I just think they’re disappointing. At the time I am writing this, Pokémon is the number one highest grossing intellectual property ever invented. The popularity of its dozens of games, spin-offs of those games, trading cards, anime, movies, merchandise, etc., cannot be exaggerated. So when you have a franchise as absurdly profitable as Pokémon has been, you would imagine that the games would have a little more budget and respect for the consumer.
Pokémon has always been about “catching ’em all” however, that hasn’t been a thing since Sword and Shield. Those were the first mainline games in the series where you couldn’t obtain every single Pokémon. A lot of people figured that once Nintendo and GameFreak were able to release a mainline game onto their latest console, The Nintendo Switch, that we would go back to having every single little guy to catch. Unfortunately for everyone who thought that would be the case, that is just not so. The base games for Scarlet and Violet have 400 available Pokémon to catch. That might like seem a lot (and it is) but when comparing it to the whopping 1021 Pokémon that exist, it feels a little small. The new Pokémon DLC, The Teal Mask adds 102 Pokémon. The vast majority of those returning are from previous generations. There are 9 brand new Pokémon and each of them feel interesting and strong (some a little too strong.) If you are only interested in having new Pokémon to catch, or perhaps are looking for some new guys to add to your team, then you do get that here. Whether it be some of the silly new legendary Pokémon based off of Japanese folklore, or the menacing new form of Ursaluna from Legends Arceus… there’s a decent little chunk of new toys to play with.
I think it’s pretty unanimously agreed upon that the worst part of the Scarlet and Violet base games was the performance and overall look of the game. The graphics were… there. Somehow the graphics and overall aesthetic was much stronger in the previous games Sword and Shield, even though those were made a few years back. You’d think with a game under their belt on the current hardware that GameFreak would have made a more optimized and interesting game to look at. You would be wrong in thinking that, but it’d make a lot of sense for your mind to work that way. Scarlet and Violet don’t look great and they perform even worse.
During my main playthrough of the base game I experienced an insane amount of frame drops. Some of those FPS drops would dangle into the single digits. There were also bugs galore. I once got into a battle right next to a lake. Due to the angle I was facing, my Dreadnaw dropped into the lake and went downstream with the current. The battle continued up until Dreadnaw fell from the sky right in front of me. Visual bugs like this are everywhere, and the amount of popup is genuinely shocking. After GameFreak explained that they wanted to keep this issues at the forefront and fix them, we all thought that maybe Teal Mask would alleviate some of these problems. That is not what happened. Somehow the game runs even worse after the DLC is installed. FPS drops happen more often, I’ve ran into way more camera issues and bugs during battle. It seriously halts enjoyment and leaves you scratching your head thinking “how the fuck did this happen?”
The story of The Teal Mask DLC is also a total letdown. You are told that you were randomly selected to go on a school trip to the land of Kitakami. You are introduced right away to a pair of siblings named Carmine and Kieran. Carmine is the aggressive and protective older sister who doesn’t take kindly to strangers. Kieran on the other hand, is an annoying little dork that you have to fight over and over again. I cannot stress how much I disliked Kieran and how big of a part he has in the story. I just found it impossible to change how I felt about that kid. Carmine is okay, but she does not add anything exciting to the story and I don’t find her particularly interesting. Both characters have the wildest hair maybe ever put in a Pokémon game, so at least they’ve got that.
The most interesting character is Perrin, the local photographer. She is very clearly a descendant of Adaman from Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Her quest requires you to capture 150 Pokémon while on your journey. Doing so will give you the opportunity to capture Blood Moon Ursaluna. It makes sense that her quest would lead you to a Pokémon from the past, though I do think it’s a bit of a missed opportunity to not have provided a different character/quest/Pokémon from the future in Pokémon Violet. It makes sense for Scarlet, as that game is all about the past. But it doesn’t make as much sense in Violet. Still, this quest is probably the standout of the DLC because Blood Moon Ursaluna is just so cool (and competitively viable!)
Pokémon was terrific for such a ridiculously long time. Not to say that it is currently BAD, but it is certainly heading in a downward trajectory. I sincerely hope that Nintendo’s next system that is currently making its way through the rumour mill has the power and capability for a more polished Pokémon experience. We’ve seen some truly stunning games on the Nintendo Switch, so unfortunately, I don’t believe it’s a hardware issue. GameFreak needs to utilize that money and apply more elbow-grease and effort to create a fully functioning game. I can only hope that there are updates to make the game run properly in the next DLC, The Indigo Disk. I do not have the faith, as this DLC made the game run worse, but a boy can hope. I am tired of being letdown by Pokémon releases. This return to Pokémon Violet felt underbaked, lazy, and overall kind of boring. With only one town to visit, and very forgettable biomes to roam around in, it’s hard to recommend purchasing the DLC as it stands. Maybe Indigo Disk will fix the game’s issues and add in some more fan favourite Pokémon. Until then, maybe skip on this one.