Review: Pokemon Scarlet & Violet – The Hidden Treasures of Area Zero: Part Two: The Indigo Disk

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Note: This review contains some mild spoilers for the story of The Indigo Disk. Although no specific details will be discussed, overall impressions are given. 

For better or worse, Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have been a marked departure from some of the norms of the franchise. Most notably, these are the first titles to offer a fully open world to explore, while also presenting three different story threads for the player to experience before bringing them all together for a final, climactic confrontation within Area Zero. The Hidden Treasures of Area Zero DLC expansion promised to continue exploring that narrative within its two parts, and although the first episode, The Teal Mask, did not answer any of the burning questions fans may have had in the aftermath of the final story chapter, it introduced new characters and laid the groundwork for a more definitive conclusion to come. Join us as we dive into the second half of the story, the Indigo Disk, and discover whether it can live up to expectations and also address the shortcomings we highlighted in our review of the first half of the package.

The Indigo Disk picks up after the events of Scarlet and Violet, and you will need to complete both the main story and The Teal Mask before you can experience the story here. Your character has been selected to become an exchange student at Blueberry Academy, a sister school to the academy you’re transferring from that is based in the Unova region. This academy happens to be the school of Carmine and Kieran, who have both returned to their old stomping grounds, with Kieran having risen to become the champion in the aftermath of the events of The Teal Mask. After some discussion, your character is allowed to participate in the Blueberry League, prompting you to venture out into the Terarium to defeat each of the Elite Four in their home biome before you can challenge Kieran again.

Despite being set after all previous story events and serving as a conclusion, the narrative takes a notable backseat in The Indigo Disk. You encounter the new Elite Four members only when challenging them, characters from the main game do not show up at all as part of the story, and Kieran remains mostly absent until your final battle with him. Considering the heavy focus on his character in The Teal Mask, it’s particularly disappointing that they don’t give Kieran much of a role beyond being the newly-crowned champion of the academy. The second part of the story also feels notably rushed; being less than an hour long. This makes the narrative feel more like an afterthought, and The Indigo Disk consequently feels notably weaker in this area than its predecessors. Whilst the recently announced epilogue may address this, those hoping for a satisfying conclusion to the storylines from Scarlet/Violet and The Teal Mask will likely come away feeling disappointed by what is present here.

The focus of The Indigo Disk is more on the battles against the Blueberry Elite Four, and in this it doesn’t disappoint, providing a surprisingly robust challenge. The Elite Four all have Pokemon with levels in the high-70s range and movesets that cover their type disadvantages, as well as useful items or abilities, meaning that there will be some interplay between you and your opponent regardless of how well prepared you are. This is something that veteran players will no doubt appreciate, although it is still entirely possible to brute force your way through each encounter with a fully trained team, making this accessible to those unfamiliar with Pokemon’s more advanced gameplay mechanics. Overall, the Indigo Disk strikes a nice balance between challenge and accessibility in this regard.

Before taking on each member of the Elite Four you’re given a new open world to discover in the Terarium, which you’re allowed to explore to your heart’s content after the initial opening story events. The Terarium is divided into four distinct biomes and is a fairly straightforward map, featuring little in the way of hidden secret areas the way that Paldea and Kitakami were, but has a wide variety of Pokemon, including several regional variants, that makes each area feel unique and worth exploring. The lack of fast travel points can make it a little difficult to navigate at times however, and often means that you’ll need to spend a lot of time traversing the area to reach a specific point. The main appeal for long-time series fans in the Terarium will be its connection to the Unova region, and the numerous easter eggs scattered throughout the land (with the most overt being the wild battle theme being a remix of the one from Black and White) will no doubt delight those longing for remakes of those titles. 

Alongside a new location comes several new gameplay features, which add some variety to the core gameplay of battling and catching Pokemon. One such feature is the Synchro Machine, which allows you to take direct control of your Pokemon whilst you explore. Movement animation is impressively unique, and you can also attack wild Pokemon similar to how auto-battles play out on the map. This is a nice feature that can make exploring the Terarium feel more interesting, but it feels like a wasted opportunity to not have it utilised more actively in-game, either as part of the story or even for specific BBQs. 

Blueberry Quests, or BBQs, are another new gameplay inclusion. These come in three different types: Blue, Red, and Gold. Blue BBQs are small and mundane tasks such as picking up items as you explore, or catching a specific type of Pokemon. Completing ten of these will unlock a Red BBQ, which is a slightly more challenging task with greater rewards. Gold BBQs are only available in the Union Circle after completing ten other quests, and are the most complex, but offer significantly more rewards for completion.

All BBQs reward you with BP upon completion, which can be spent on new items at the school store and contributed towards club activities for various benefits, including cosmetic changes to the club room and boosting the biodiversity of the Terarium’s biomes. Blue BBQs can mostly be accomplished naturally by playing the game without much direct investment, and can be reset with a small BP cost at any time. These are more akin to daily activities in an MMO than they are traditional RPG side quests, and although there is a notable lack of variety in them, there is no upper limit on how many you can do in a given period of time. 

Unfortunately, everything in The Indigo Disk revolves around BP, and although you will only need 50 BP to challenge each member of the Blueberry Elite Four, this is merely the tip of the iceberg if you want to experience everything that the DLC has to offer. Optional tasks such as unlocking additional Pokemon require significantly more BP (boosting biodiversity actually requires 3000 BP per region) and the lack of variety to these quests coupled with the miniscule rewards for doing them makes the process an unnecessarily tedious grind. Blue BBQs give you less than 100 BP upon completion, and red BBQs reward you with 100-200 BP at most. In comparison, Gold BBQs can reward you with up to 600 BP at a time, which feels particularly frustrating if you are more focused on a single player experience. 

As you might expect, performance issues are prominent in The Indigo Disk, and visually the game is disappointingly inconsistent. Despite the diversity of the biomes, there is a lot of empty space in each of them, with poor textures and lighting effects making the environments feel notably flat. Despite this, there is a unique artificial aesthetic to each area thanks to the building blocks that are littered across the landscape, very cleanly dividing the map into its four biomes and occasionally serving as small arenas for students to gather. This makes the Terarium feel distinct from both Paldea and Kitakami, even if it remains visually lacking in places.

As with the base game, framerates hover around 30 FPS at best and are notably erratic. The poor draw distance and pop-in also means that you can still run straight into Pokemon without realising that they are there, forcing you to wait as the game slowly loads into a battle you didn’t ask for. However, I did notice a reduction in the number of Pokemon spawning in clusters when compared to The Teal Mask, meaning that it was rare that I was thrown into an unwanted battle with a second Pokemon after exiting the first. Despite the inconsistent performance, I did not experience any glitches or crashes during my playthrough. Overall, there is nothing here that will surprise players who have stuck with the game for this long, and although not much has improved, it hasn’t noticeably worsened either. Animations remain inconsistent in quality, and this is only more noticeable thanks to the Synchronisation feature that lets you take control of Pokemon and attack with them directly.

The main story of The Indigo Disk is of similar length to The Teal Mask, lasting around 5 hours if you don’t take the time to fully explore the Terarium. This feels particularly disappointing, as it serves as a conclusion to both Carmine and Kieran’s story in The Teal Mask and an explanation for the origins of Area Zero and Terastalization. Not enough time was devoted to either part of the narrative to make it feel particularly satisfying. There is more content in The Indigo Disk to engage with that has the potential to extend your playtime significantly, including a postgame subplot with Perrin that introduces two additional Paradox Pokemon for each version. Unfortunately, unless you have a group of friends to play with, much of your time will be spent grinding BP to unlock it all, such as the previous Legendary Pokemon and starters that are available for capture. 

The Indigo Disk is a surprisingly challenging inclusion to Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, and in this respect at least, it is extremely satisfying, and will no doubt delight long-time series fans who have been asking for something more difficult than the norm. However, as a conclusion to the story of The Hidden Treasures of Area Zero, it falls short, being disappointingly sparse in both character development and narrative. It fails to capitalise on the setup from both Pokemon Scarlet/Violet and The Teal Mask, largely ignoring its returning characters and rushing its conclusion. Although it goes some way towards making up for the shortcomings of The Teal Mask, there is a lot of missed potential and slightly off execution in its new ideas (most notably the grind for BP to access some of its features) that hold it back from being as enjoyable as it could have been. 

6.5/10

A copy of Pokemon Violet – The Hidden Treasures of Area Zero Part Two: The Indigo Disk was provided by Nintendo UK for the purpose of this review

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Article source https://mynintendonews.com/2023/12/22/review-pokemon-scarlet-violet-the-hidden-treasures-of-area-zero-part-two-the-indigo-disk/

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