Pokémon Scarlet And Violet: The Indigo Disk: The Kotaku Review

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Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s second DLC, The Indigo Disk, is a far less damning encapsulation of the base game than The Teal Mask expansion. The second half of The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero embodies the best parts of Scarlet and Violet—even if it never quite matches its highest highs. It’s still the buggy, ugly open world from a year ago, but The Indigo Disk is jam-packed with new things to do, Pokémon to catch, some closure on hanging plot threads. Ultimately, it makes slogging through The Teal Mask’s paltry offerings worth the effort.

The Indigo Disk picks up with new characters Kieran and Carmine returning to their Unova-based school, Blueberry Academy. The school invites you to be an exchange student, and Blueberry Academy is a Pokémon trainer’s dream facility, as it’s built around a terarium that emulates four different biomes. Students capture and study Pokémon in habitats analogous to their natural homes. It’s a decent enough framing for a reasonably sized open-world environment, while also bringing some familiar Pokémon back into the fray.

Buy The Hidden Treasure Of Area Zero: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

Shep walks into the terarium.

Back to school

Blueberry Academy is practically a workshop for building teams, customizing your character, and rounding up Legendary Pokémon for competitive play. Every trainer showdown is a double battle based around a competitive strategy. Sure, you can over-level and beat most of them with a super-effective move, but The Indigo Disk takes a refreshingly larger view of what Pokémon battles can be, rather than the tutorial-level strategies you tend to find in the base game.

Even after finishing the main story, I’m having a lot of fun diving into Blueberry Academy’s extracurricular activities beyond catching and battling. The school has plenty of engaging systems and additional storylines to follow, such as inviting coaches from Scarlet and Violet’s Paldea region to visit me at the school, customizing my character with new haircuts and Poké Ball throwing styles, and tracking down Legendary Pokémon in the most absurd version of the endgame Legendary Feast in the series yet.

It’s a shame that getting to all those clever features and side stories is a bit of a hassle. Part of that is because navigating the terarium is just as broken and buggy as any other version of Scarlet and Violet. What’s more, The Indigo Disk implements Blueberry Quests that become the basis of everything you do in the DLC. While they do expand in complexity, these are pretty much the equivalent of a live-service game’s dailies, where you do menial tasks to earn microscopic amounts of in-game currency.

Larry says "Calling me all the way out to another region... Is a certain chairwoman rubbing off on you?"

Thankfully, these assignments rotate out as you do them, so you don’t have to wait a day before earning more. But it does mean I spent swaths of The Indigo Disk doing silly little chores like defeating 10 Pokémon with quick battles, traveling an arbitrary distance, or crafting a technical machine just to satisfy the app on my character’s phone to give me the school’s made-up money. (Note: all money is made up.) It feels like unnecessary padding rather than a rewarding grind.

Everything you do in Blueberry Academy, from the main quest to the character customization, is tied to doing banal tasks just to make your BP number go up. Every time I realize I don’t have enough BP, I run to the closest group of wild Pokémon and send my Raichu after them until the app beeps in my favor. Sure, it makes you engage with the world, but it’s never in a way that feels meaningful. Scarlet and Violet give you a lot of verbs to use in a shallow world, and this loop of grinding quests to get the smallest amount of BP is the most blatant it’s ever felt.

Terapagos smiles at something off-screen.

From ambition to reality

I can forgive the mindlessness of The Indigo Disk’s weird, grindy loop because there’s some really cool features hidden behind them, and the DLC does have a pretty great finale. It doesn’t come close to Scarlet and Violet’s mind-blowing Yoko Taro-ass ending, but it does wrap up some of the mysteries of the Paldea region with some flair and emotional weight. I was disappointed by The Indigo Disk’s centering of new characters instead of the base game’s cast, but, its use of key players like Kieran—who has turned into an unhinged, Joffrey Game of Thrones-like bully after the events of The Teal Mask—still hit.

I’m not thrilled The Indigo Disk doesn’t go especially deep into the lore that fans have been speculating over for the past year, such as how its mascot, the Legendary multi-colored turtle Terapagos, could have factored into the events of the original games’ ending. Still, it is at least nice to put a face to what makes the Paldea region special. In the end, you find out what the titular Hidden Treasure of Area Zero is, but there are still parts of Paldean lore that remain a mystery. Maybe it’s fine that fans can continue to theorycraft about some pillars of Scarlet and Violet’s story, but I would have liked to have seen a finale that went as hard as the main game.

Pokémon Scarlet And Violet: The Indigo Disk

Pokémon Scarlet And Violet: The Indigo Disk

BACK OF THE BOX QUOTE

“The real Treasure of Area Zero is this fucking Ed Sheeran song showing up again”

TYPE OF GAME

Expansion for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet that adds new features, monsters to catch, and concludes the Area Zero story

LIKED

Lots of cool added features, music, Pokemon, strong emotional core

DISLIKED

Games are still busted, and the BP system is an annoying grind

DEVELOPER

Game Freak

PLATFORMS

Switch

RELEASE DATE

December 13, 2023

PLAYED

~10 hours

Now that I’ve seen credits and am still grinding through Blueberry Academy’s myriad attractions, I’m running into all the same issues I have been since Scarlet and Violet launched last year. It’s still buggy, it’s still ugly, it still has some very Game Freak quality-of-life issues I can’t believe got through to the final product. (Why do I have to pay for each Poké Ball throwing style to see what it looks like?)

But I also see the flashes of Pokémon’s untapped potential that Scarlet and Violet have always showcased. The open world isn’t deep, but riding around it seamlessly with your friends is still a childhood dream made reality. The Terapagos storyline has some underwhelming conclusions, but it’s presented with a strong emotional core and is a reminder that there are always discoveries to be made in the Pokémon world.

Shep stands at the Blueberry Academy entrance.

That said, I’m getting bored of looking at Game Freak’s RPGs and saying “wow, this team has some really ambitious ideas,” when I’d rather be able to say “this is a stellar Pokémon game.” Pokémon Legends: Arceus is the closest we’ve gotten in over a decade. The Indigo Disk may have some great concepts, but ultimately, the game still feels like a concept that hasn’t been fully realized. It has all the features of a great evolution of Pokémon’s design and narratives, buried by a game barely holding together.

Buy The Hidden Treasure Of Area Zero: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop

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