The time has come: the second and final chapter of Pokémon Scarlet & Violet‘s Hidden Treasure of Area Zero DLC is here in the form of The Indigo Disk. What does it offer players? My colleague Niki argued that the game didn’t need “more” so much as it needed “better” in her review of The Teal Mask. I went into The Indigo Disk hoping to find something better: a treasure that would redeem the ninth-generation flagship title.
I’m not sure that’s what I found. I found *something,* but a treasure that heightens the experience of Scarlet & Violet? Hmm… I cannot say for sure. Note that this review also covers the brief epilogue scenario released in January 2024, Mochi Mayhem, which introduces the mythical Pokémon Pecharunt.
The Indigo Disk is a direct follow-up to The Teal Mask. The two stories are intertwined so closely that the player can’t access The Indigo Disk until they complete The Teal Mask‘s main scenario. From a plot perspective, this makes good sense: the story follows siblings Kieran and Carmine upon their return from their hometown, Kitakami, to their Pokémon-centric artificial-island-slash-boarding-school “Blueberry Academy.” At the end of The Teal Mask, the player witnesses a drastic shift in personality for the younger Kieran; his transformation into a zealous, power-hungry trainer creates a rift between himself and his sister, and he manages to shake up the pecking order in the school’s “BB league” as he becomes obsessed with being—wait for it—the very best!
From a story perspective, much of Indigo Disk is a condensed version of a typical Pokémon main series game. You’re essentially facing gym challenges, though there are only four instead of eight. These are the elite four of the BB League who fall just under Kieran. They are all good-natured individuals who are actually rooting for you because they too are concerned about Kieran’s power-hungry disposition. Nonetheless, in series tradition, you take on in-game challenges and then an epic battle with each of these four.
If there is anything that adds value to this game’s story, it is the four BB League elites and their undeniable charm. For example, Amarys is a steel-type gym leader who thinks and speaks in absolutes and with concrete language. She’s also an inventor, having created the “Synchro Machine” that allows you to explore the “Terarium” (intentionally spelled this way to reference Tera Types) of BB Academy as a Pokémon! It’s a novelty gimmick, but it is fitting for someone as quirky and technically apt as Amarys.
The other three also have their unique quirks, including known relation to past figures in Pokémon lore. For example, the elite dragon-type trainer Drayton is the grandson of Drayden, gym leader of Opelucid Gym in the gen five Unova games (Black, Black 2 & White 2). This trainer acts laid-back, but he is clearly the one most interested in overthrowing Kieran. Fairy-type trainer Lacey is the daughter of Clay, another Unova region gym leader. She is obsessed with “all things cute,” and her training grounds are in the picturesque Coastal Biome where one can relax on the beach. These Unova connections make sense as Blueberry Academy itself is established as an offshore artificial island tied with the Unova region.
(The heavy Unova emphasis also has fans clamoring for a Black & White remake, which would fall right on schedule with remakes thus far, as Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl of gen four were the most recent set remade.)
While much of Indigo Disk‘s plot takes place in the Blueberry Academy proper, the events after taking on the BB Elite Four lead the player and other significant NPCs to delve even deeper into Area Zero, as the overarching DLC title has been hinting for over a year, to find the source of the Terastallizing phenomenon. And though, like most Pokémon games, the ending leaves just as many questions as answers, the player will walk away with a fun new legendary Pokémon on their side: the aptly named “Terapagos” turtle (who, ironically, does not evolve, but it does have a unique Tera type!).
Past this static endpoint, there are two more story beats for the player to experience. One is the “hidden ending” at Kitakami’s Crystal Pool, which reintroduces the player to a very important time-traveling NPC—though this, like the main ending, leaves more questions than answers. The other is the “Mochi Mayhem” epilogue scenario, only accessible after clearing Teal Mask and Indigo Disk. In this brief epilogue, the leading trio of NPCs from Paldea (Penny, Arven, Nemona) join the player in Kitakami to meet Kieran and Carmine. However, something isn’t quite right—townspeople are losing control of their senses, doing the chicken dance, and rambling on about how good mochi is. Solving the riddle doesn’t take long, and it results in a guaranteed capture of the game’s one and only mythical Pokémon, Pecharunt. This is a poison/ghost cutie, and I am definitely a fan of their design.
Also, a quick aside about mythical Pokémon—they are known to be rare, hard-to-find endgame critters. But one of the hardest ones to get these days was gen five Meloetta. However, there is a guaranteed method to catch Meloetta in the Terarium (specifically the Coastal Biome), and the process is more weird and convoluted than entering the Konami code. I recommend anyone who plays this DLC to catch their very own Meloetta!
I would like to shift now from the central plot of Indigo Disk to its world and features. First and foremost, Blueberry Academy and its four biomes are impressive. The concept is simple enough: start with a circular base dome, chop it into four equal quadrants, and give each quadrant a habitat mimicking the world of nature. The four biomes of BB Academy are Savannah, Coastal, Polar, and Canyon. These biomes are wildly fun to explore, and the Pokédex for this region is expansive, making for a great adventure.
Through the main story, the player also gains access to a new ability for their faithful riding legendary (Koraidon or Miraidon): actual flight. Prior to this point, the most your rider could do was glide long distances, slowly losing altitude. Now, actual flight is available, and it is not limited to the Terarium! Being able to fly in Paldea and Kitakami is a major convenience, and while the controls can be a little janky at times (turning left or right while changing camera angle is messy), it’s plenty better than, say, trying to fly a dragon in Skyrim.
Another thing I enjoyed while playing The Indigo Disk was the heavy focus on doubles matches. Almost every fight in the game—Trainer encounters, Elite Four, Kieran, more—feature the player putting up two of their Pokémon against two of the opposing trainer’s Pokémon. What’s more, these battles are sufficiently challenging for DLC content released a year after the base game, with most opponents offering a level range between 75 and 85, plus plenty of clever one-use items and paired opening strategies that make fights legitimately interesting.
The new “Stellar” tera, unlocked alongside clearing the game and catching Terapagos, is a mechanic that doesn’t really play like the others. Typically, when you set a Tera Type for your Pokémon, it gives significant stat boosts to moves of that same type, but it also overwrites defense to that one type. For example, if you’re playing as Skeledirge (fire/ghost) and you Terastallize to fire, you no longer have the defensive principles of the ghost type (immune to normal, weak to ghost, weak to dark, etc). If that same Skeledirge sets to a completely different type—say, fairy—it overrides fire and ghost and defensive buffs and debuffs set to fairy alone. “Stellar” doesn’t change the Pokémon’s defensive type at all, so this takes away an entire aspect of the Terastal feature. What it does do, however, is give one significant boost to each type in that Pokémon’s move-set. However, Terapagos is not subject to the “one time only” rule. This critter can just break out non-stop power moves while Stellar-Terastallized.
For series fans, you may notice Stellar tera type is a lot like the “Z moves” from gen 7 (Sun & Moon). I absolutely agree, that’s basically what this is, just with some versatility attached. It’s interesting, it’s fun, but it’s nothing to lose your mind over.
Now, I think I’ve noted pretty much everything fun and enjoyable about this game (except for the music—yes, I’m getting there). However, there is one absolutely painful aspect that needs to be discussed: the “BP” (blueberry point) currency and the “BBQ” (blueberry quest) system. The gameplay loop here is simple: complete auto-assigned tasks that are no fun for minimal points.
The sole purpose of this system is to artificially extend gameplay, lock out all the best stuff (starter Pokémon, Legendary bonuses through the Snacksworth NPC), and incentivize group play. That last part wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that all you’re really doing is getting 2-4 people to parallel play online and rack up bonus points as a result—and heaven help you if you or your friends have connection issues.
A miniaturized version of Persona‘s social link system is tied inextricably to the collection of Blueberry Points, allowing the player to invite key Paldea NPCs (gym leaders, teachers, etc) to Blueberry Academy. You have to invite each one three times, but you only battle each once. This, too, feels like artificial padding. Why not just invite each one once? Is it so I spend more of my precious BP? Probably.
Finally, the music. And I think this is where I, a recent Pokémon series mega-fan, have to face the music. There’s a part of me that loves Scarlet & Violet, including both episodes of the Hidden Treasure of Area Zero DLC pack. I have been looking forward to Indigo Disk for months, having enjoyed Teal Mask but yearning for more. However, it is in the music that I notice something tugging at me.
When the player beats the main story of Scarlet & Violet, said player is treated to a song by Ed Sheeran during the end credits: “Celestial.” After clearing Indigo Disk (and thus, the Area Zero DLC as a whole), something special happens. Another end credits roll pops up, as does “Celestial.” But this time, it’s a remix of the song, with the credits themselves displaying that Toby Fox created the remix. Yes, that Toby Fox: he’s written some music for the franchise since Sword & Shield, and he’s definitely done some amazing stuff for Scarlet & Violet. In this case, however, Fox did something intriguing with Sheeran’s original. This lo-fi acoustic track waxes and wanes with a string ensemble, and it’s lovely to listen to, yes. However, the lyrics are where I want to focus.
In the original song, Sheeran offers up the following chorus:
“You make me feel / Like my troubled heart is a million miles away / You make me feel / Like I’m drunk on stars and we’re dancing out into space / Celestial”
This chorus is entirely absent. The new refrain? Fox uses a line from the first verse, carefully splicing it with other parts of the song:
“Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat / I get lost, I get lost / Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat / I get stuck, I get stuck”
What is this all about? Perhaps Fox is just emphasizing the power of these lyrics in their original context: that life can be monotonous, draining, confusing, and the simple joy of something like a Pokémon game can be “Celestial” in contrast. But that’s not how I’m hearing it. Rather, I ask you: is this a subtle jab at the Pokémon formula losing its magic? Is “rinse and repeat” the monotony of filling the Pokédex? Or, at the very least, the monotony of clearing hundreds of BBQs in Indigo Disk? Is Fox being subversive, or am I overreaching?
I don’t know. What I do know is that, no matter how much I enjoyed The Indigo Disk from moment to moment, the flaws from the base game and the painful BBQ gameplay loop prevent me from considering this DLC as something “better.” It is different content, and it is more content, but it is not fundamentally improved content.