Pokemon Scarlet and Violet introduced some of the most radical changes to the core Pokemon formula in years, including a wide-open world to explore and free-roaming Pokemon to capture. For the first of its two-part expansion, The Teal Mask, you ventured away from the massive landmass of Paldea and into a new, self-contained biome – a sort of miniaturized version of the open world. Based on a brief hands-on, part two, titled The Indigo Disk, seems to echo this approach, albeit with more challenge for experienced Pokémon masters.
The Teal Mask introduced us to the land of Kitakami during its Mask Festival, where we discovered a long-buried secret about its culture while befriending two of the locals, Carmine and Kieran. Although it completed its own Kitakami story, it also ended on a cliffhanger for the second half of the expansion. In Indigo Disk, you are a visiting student at Blueberry Academy, where Carmine goes to school.
Blueberry Academy is a high-tech, expensive-looking place frequented by the best and brightest trainers, and its main feature is a massive terrarium at its center. It’s essentially a wilderness area with Pokémon roaming free, but it’s significantly denser than the open world of Paldea. To capture the variety of biomes, the terrarium is separated into quadrants with different environment types, like snow or canyons. These quadrants are separated by glowing doors that resemble Rainbow Road from Mario Kart.
This means that if you’re still on a quest to catch them all, you can easily explore a wide variety of environments and their own corresponding Pokémon types without a lot of legwork or fast travel. The snowy landscape is just a short walk from the beach, so it’s easy to pass through different types of biomes in the blink of an eye. The terrarium includes at least a few regional variants and would also include all the starter Pokémon from previous games, in case you still need to capture a Bulbasaur.
Blueberry Academy specializes in dual battles, paying homage to official, real-life Pokémon League battles. This means that your clashes with your trainers will take place in a two-on-two format, adding an extra layer of strategy and complexity to the usual battle types. Nintendo promises that you will also be able to invite trainers from the Paldea region to come and compete against you at the Blueberry Academy, which could also mean new variants with double battles.
Trainer battles in Blueberry are meant to be endgame content, so Pokémon tend to be around level 70-80. To make things even more difficult, Blueberry also has its own Elite Four, and since they too use dual battles, this allows them to take advantage of more complicated combos than you’d typically see in single-player Pokémon. The one I sampled, for example, resulted in a terrastallized Metagross partnered with a Reuniclus that used Trick Room, thus making the ultra-slow Metagross the fastest. Usually, Metagross’ slow speed helps offset its strength, but the ability to create clever combos like this means you may need to carefully formulate teams and strategies beyond the usual matchups. I completed the battle, but I was using a premade team for the demo and spent a small fortune on Full Heals and Max Revives.
I also got a brief taste of a new flight mechanic by taking a simple flight test through a set of rings on the back of my winged Koraidon. It felt less like the normal game’s gliding feature and more like actual Star Fox-style flying, and it seemed likely that once you unlocked it you’d be able to fly more freely around the terrarium area of Blueberry. While the ring-crossing minigame acted as a simple tutorial to help you understand the concept, actually flying around the open world is definitely an engaging concept. I hope he can also be transferred to Paldea, but this remains to be confirmed.
While the additions are welcome, it’s still Scarlet and Violet, and the same visual bugs persist. Blueberry Academy’s panning shots often looked rough, with uneven textures, frame rate drops, and pop-in. It’s no worse than you’d expect if you played Scarlet and Violet proper, and perhaps it could even be improved before launch. But it was very distracting for the moment, and if you’re able to hover freely over the environment, I imagine it will bring these imperfections to the forefront.
Those issues aside, The Indigo Disk seems like a good way to close out the first mainline open-world Pokémon game. The new biome is a clever way to pack many types of Pokémon into one space, and dual battles provide a new level of challenge not typically seen in single-player Pokémon adventures. Overall, this seems like a fitting bookend for an experimental Pokémon game, and one that should keep fans busy as they wait for what the franchise has in store next.
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