Despite some issues, Pokémon Scarlet and Violet games have innovated a lot of things for the franchise. At the time of this writing, these are the Pokémon games I have spent the most hours on. The recent Teal Mask DLC was enjoyable for its simple story and interesting character interactions but held back by the scope being confined to a relatively small island. The new Pokémon Scarlet and Violet DLC, The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero Part 2, is set to be released in mid-December. Nintendo offered us a preview for this installment. Based on what I can share, Part 2 will be the best Pokémon experience.
The preview was split up into two parts. The first part introduced some of the opening minutes of the DLC when the player first arrived at Blueberry Academy as an exchange student. Some characters are introduced, such as fellow students Lacey and Cyrano, the director of Blueberry Academy. Afterward, I was directed to a specific area but allowed to roam freely between designated points. Similar to the Teal Mask DLC and the base game, we are still in an open-world setting where the Pokémon appear to interact with the overworld. However, this area is much larger, with the map roughly half the size of the main game.
The gimmick of Blueberry Academy is that it takes place in a Terarium, a biodome used to recreate specific environments artificially. The map is circular and divided explicitly into four equal sections, each with a specific climate, from tropical to winter. This aspect provided a good reason for certain Pokémon to make a return, including specific regional variants like the Alolan Pokémon. It was nice to see some of them again, like Alolan Exeggutor. While I would like an even more extensive Pokémon roster, it is a massive step up from what we got in the Teal Mask.
Healing stations replace Pokémon Centers, and vending machines replace shops, so you can stop by them quickly to boost your Pokémon‘s recovery. There are challenges that you’re able to participate in throughout the overworld. I was only allowed to participate in the Flying Time Trial, which allowed me to take my riding Pokémon (which gained the temporary ability to fly) and fly through specific rings quickly. The controls took a moment to get used to, but I beat the challenge on the first try with plenty of time to spare.
Because this preview was premade, I couldn’t use my own copy of the game or bring over any of the Pokémon I have personally trained. However, Nintendo gave me access to a well-rounded team with held items. Most of my team consisted of returning Pokémon except for Archaludon, who I was looking forward to utilizing ever since the evolution was first revealed in trailers. I would’ve liked to use him more, but I was only allowed to battle one trainer, and if this fight was supposed to set the tone for what future story-based trainer battles are going to look like, then I am beyond excited.
The identity and team composition of the trainer are a secret. Still, it was probably one of the more difficult NPC battles in the game outside of the final battle in the main campaign against the robotic professor. This battle was difficult for different reasons. In the original game, the final battle was difficult because you were going up against Paradox Pokémon with stats and type compositions that were different from usual. In this instance, the battle was difficult because the AI used competitive strategies. Pokémon has a thriving and in-depth competitive scene. While I have not participated in any tournaments, I am aware of how to competitively train Pokémon and many commonly used strategies with certain type combinations.
This battle isn’t comparable to battling a real-life regional champion, but despite the high-level cap of my team, I struggled a little bit and was caught off guard. Some Pokémon used move combinations that specifically countered the type of Pokémon I used, while others made great use of items to get the upper hand. I still won without using any items (something that the observers for the preview found impressive), but it was more intense than I expected.
Players need to beat the main game and the Teal Mask DLC to access Part 2. This DLC is set up to be noticeably more demanding than earlier game entries. Of course, a lot of this is speculation because this is only a taste of what is setting up to be a more extensive additional campaign. With updated battle mechanics, a whole new region to explore with mysteries of its own and a new extensive cast of characters, I am very excited to sink my teeth when it is officially released!