'Pokémon: Let's Go!' Is Going to be Special. Here's Why.
There are less than three months until Pokémon: Let's Go! drops on the Nintendo Switch, and the whirlwind of hype has reached tremendous levels, with newcomers and vets of the franchise alike, all commenting on how the game will be received. With the blistering success of Pokémon over the last two decades, the most recent being the $1.8 billion-generating Pokémon: GO, it's entirely understandable that Poké-fans would be foaming at the mouth to speculate on (and argue over) the newest game. Will the game stay true to the franchise's roots? Will it feel like a genuine installment, or just a weak attempt to hook newer, more casual players into an established brand? With the 16th of November squarely in sight, we'll have our answers soon enough. Wading through all the build up leading to the game's release, one thing has remained clear: Pokémon: Let's Go will bridge entire generations of fans in a way that very few previous games has been able to. Despite the confusion about whether or not it is a "core" entry, this game will be something very special.
From new gameplay mechanics to 15+ year-old callbacks, there's a lot to chew through in what we know about the Let's Go games--which means a lot that has many fans excited, and others notably upset. The most obvious of these is that the game is a virtual remake of the original Yellow Version. While some details are debated, Director Junichi Masuda confirmed that the Let's Go games are "inspired and based on" the original Yellow Version. With this knowledge alone, the original player base (90's kids, where y'all at) is all but secured. World design, combat mechanics, gym battles--it's all there. Even the in-game music is inspired from the original three installments. And since Pokémon Yellow was an enhanced version of the original Blue and Red editions, the Let's Go games are a clear nod to the titles that started it all. Nintendo and Game Freak are making an overt effort to reach older fans that are responsible for the shattering success of Pokémon in the mid/late-90s, and with good reason: we have money now. The gamers that were once asking their parents to buy them the Blue and Red editions are now buying Switches for their own children. Reaching that demographic (and their wallets) with a legitimate Pokémon experience, overflowing with nostalgia? Sounds like a very smart move.
What about younger gamers who have entered the Poké-fandom more recently? The Let's Go games have them covered too. With new mechanics like actually seeing Pokémon out in the wild (rather than the original "surprise" encounters), and riding around on larger Pokémon, the original gameplay of the Yellow Version is tweaked to allow newer (and yes, perhaps more casual) players the chance to face less of a learning curve. The biggest change, and perhaps most controversial, is the erasure of battling wild Pokémon. In Pokémon: Let's Go, players will catch wild beasts using a simple Pokéball throwing mechanic, nearly identical to that of the Pokémon: GO. And with the mobile game boasting a player base of 147 Million, it's no wonder Nintendo would aim to convert new players to the Switch. Armies of would-be Pokémon trainers are running around catching pocket monsters with their smart phones, and inviting them to the Poké-party with familiar, user-friendly mechanics. The introduction of the Pokéball Plus is pretty genius as well: this $50 part-Joycon-part-childhood dream toy is a marketing power move that lets players literally feel the thrill of using one of the most iconic pop culture objects in history--and it resonates heavily with ages all across the Pokémon fan base. Oh, and did they mention it comes pre-loaded with one of the most elusive Pokémon to ever exist inside of it? Because it does. If I hadn't pre-ordered this plastic periphery immediately upon announcement, my ten year-old self would hate the man I've become.
At the end of the day, Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu and Pokémon: Let's Go Eevee are bridging a generational gap in gaming populations that not many franchises have done, or are even remotely able to do. So why not enjoy it? Are the wild encounters really a deal breaker? They shouldn't be. For a game that promises to offer so much, any Poké-fan would be robbing themselves of a wonderfully familiar, yet fresh experience. Whether you're a veteran trainer who remembers playing Pokémon on a color-less screen, or a mobile gamer who spends your days on an iPhone hunting Celebi in your neighbors backyard--Team Rocket isn't going to defeat itself. We might as well join up and catch 'em all.
Put simply: this game is going to fundamentally change Pokémon's place in gaming history. And Nintendo is banking on it--might be why they're stocking the shelves with more copies of the Pokémon: Let's Go games than any other Nintendo Switch game to date.
So let's go. I'll see you on Victory Road.