Pokémon Let's Go: Review
The latest entry in the long-running and largely successful Pokémon franchise found its way to the Nintendo Switch on November 14th. Staying true to the previous installments on the various GameBoy consoles, two versions were released: Pokémon Let’s Go: Eevee and Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu. As usual, both games are mechanically the same while also sharing the same overall story — which is simply a remaster of Pokémon Yellow for GameBoy Color. Combining the original 151 Pokémon with streamlined gameplay, Let’s Go serves as a perfect bit of nostalgia for returning Pokémon masters, and provides a user-friendly on-ramp for new players trying to be the very best in the Kanto region.
Considering these entries are a revamped version of Yellow, the story is familiar to anyone who played the early GameBoy installments. Your goal is to catch as many Pokémon as you can while battling gym leaders on route to eventually becoming champion of the Pokémon League. The main difference between the Eevee and Pikachu versions is simply which Pokémon you will start your journey with. Regardless of which version you choose, you are able to catch the other starter Pokémon out in the wild fairly early on in your adventure. The catch is, whichever Pokémon you start with, you will not be able to evolve them. If you’re looking to add a Jolteon, Vaporeon, or Flareon to your roster, then your best bet is to go with the Pikachu version.
Just like the previous entries, you’ll be paired up with another person to compare your journeys. Unlike the original version, this counterpart serves as your friend rather than your rival. The alteration replaces the sense of fierce competition with a friendly rivalry that adds a nice dose of lightheartedness to an already family-friendly game. Throughout your journey to the Pokémon League, you will encounter your friend, leading to battles or just friendly conversation that typically ends with you being gifted items.
While there are no new, groundbreaking story elements, the modernization of these games is an incredibly welcome change. Instead of having to rank up each individual Pokémon in battle, all of the Pokémon you are carrying on your roster (up to six, as usual) will gain XP when you battle other trainers or catch wild Pokémon, regardless of whether or not your Pokémon see battle. This mechanic is a favorite of mine as it shows a respect for the player’s time. Let’s Go isn’t about creating an overwhelming challenge for players; instead, it’s all about providing a friendly experience that’s easy to pick up whether you can play for an hour or ten. That’s not to say there is no challenge whatsoever. As you progress throughout the story, the battles do get tougher and it’s important to continually rank up your Pokémon as well as balance out a diverse roster to ensure you can handle any Pokémon the opposing trainers throw your way.
Speaking of battles, Let’s Go has, hands down, the best looking battle scenes in the series. Each attack has its own animation, adding a slight sense of immersion that never could have existed in the older entries. Watching Raichu obliterate Pidgeot with a Thunderbolt, or Charizard burrow into the ground to perform the devastating Dig move never got old, even after 20+ hours of play. Keeping with the traditions of the original games, you’ll recognize the familiar sounds that accompany Pokémon when you encounter them in the wild or when they’re called into battle. The intertwined new mechanics with familiar moments is what makes this game ooze with nostalgia but appeal to a new audience at the same time.
One of the biggest new features is the commingling of Pokémon Go features. You’re able to connect your Go account with your Let’s Go game in order to transfer Pokémon you’ve already collected. In the same vein, the catching mechanic is very similar to that found in Go. Gone are the days of completely random Pokémon encounters that would border on annoying. Instead you are able to view every single Pokémon that’s out in the wild and determine if you’d like to attempt to add him or her to your collection. This is another feature that really respects the player’s time and allows you to strategically catch the Pokémon that you either need or want. One of the few qualms I have with the game is within the catching mechanic. Barring only a few instances, when you encounter a wild Pokémon there is no longer a battle to wear them down and catch them. Instead it works like it does in Go. You are able to toss as many Poké-balls as you can at them in hopes of catching them, and you are able to calm them down by feeding them various berries. The only issue is, whether you catch the Pokémon or not seems to be completely random. I’ve had instances where low level monsters break out of Ultra Balls time after time, even if I feed them berries. Other moments I’ve seen high level Pokémon be caught with just one Great Ball. This type of inconsistency can be frustrating, especially if it leads to one of them scurrying away.
If you were a fan of these games when you were a kid, then Let’s Go will scratch every nostalgia itch you have. The soundtrack, story, and the Pokémon you catch will all bring back fond memories of your gaming past. If you’ve never played a Pokémon game and have been thinking about hopping in on the fun, then these games will be the perfect first experience for you. They are far from an intense challenge, but they will cause you to use strategy and spend time with your squad in an effort to get them ready for the Pokémon League. For the first Pokémon entry on the Switch, this is a great sign of things to come.