Release Date: November 16, 2018Platform: SwitchDeveloper: Game FreakPublisher: NintendoGenre: RPG
When Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee! and Let’s Go, Pikachu! were initially revealed for the Nintendo Switch, it wouldn’t be remiss to describe some people’s responses as emotional. After all, these two new entries aren’t totally new in essence, but rather fully remade versions of the original Game Boy titles, which many look back on and remember so fondly.
Remasters and remakes of games might be a common occurrence these days, but in doing so, you’re always at risk of tampering with (or dare we say tainting) what made the classic version so special. Still, it’s with this in mind that we’re pleased to report that both iterations of Pokémon Let’s Go easily avoid this, maintaining the essence of what originally made “catching them all” so addictive – albeit with a few slight overhauls to make the process less daunting for newcomers.
Being a remake of the 20-year-old Pokémon Yellow, the story Let’s Go sets you on shouldn’t surprise anyone with even the faintest familiarity with the series. Cast in the role of a budding Pokémon Trainer within a world full of collectible critters, you’ll make your way through the classic region of Kanto, battling and catching the loveable pocket monsters to become the very best.
Doing so is made much more engaging this time around, however, not least due to the 21st-century coat of paint applied. Pokémon games have always looked good and pushed the power of the mobile hardware they’re running on, but this particular upgrade to full 3D visuals does a great job of envisioning areas and monsters just how you imagined them as a kid. Walking through such iconic locales as Victory Road and Lavender Town in colorful HD will no doubt give veteran players a good hit in the nostalgic feels.
Those looking for the perfect entry point into the franchise are in luck, too. You see, much of the remit that developer GameFreak seems to have had with Pokémon Let’s Go comes down to one word: simplification. Quite clearly looking to capitalize on the continuing success of Pokémon in its mobile iteration, Pokémon Go, Let’s Go represents a mixture of classic and modern elements. There are multiple ways this new approach impacts the format. For one, the need to battle Pokémon in the wild is entirely done away with, instead replaced with motion-based catching mechanics.
Much like how Pokémon Go has you raise your smartphone up in the real world to track a Pokémon, hurling Pokéball after Pokéball in the hope of a catch, Pokémon Let’s Go challenges you to aim your throws precisely in the center. As you do so, a colored circle will constantly shrink – the smaller the circle, the more likely you’ll catch the Pokémon.
While definitely much more approachable than having you engage in Pokémon’s traditional rock, paper, scissors-eqsue battle system, transplanting Pokémon Go’s catching system into this new title soon grows tiresome. This is especially the case when you do everything perfectly and are greeted with an “Excellent!” message as your Pokéball clamps down, only to discover that the Pokémon you’re trying to collect isn’t having any of it and bursts back out.
Thankfully, the tedium that comes from catching can at least be offset by breaking off a Joy-Con from your Nintendo Switch, and timing your swings exactly. However, those not wanting to punch a fellow commuter on the bus each morning can rest easy, as Pokémon Let’s Go works perfectly fine with the gyroscope motion while in handheld mode. Because of this emphasis on tracking rather than battling (outside of NPC trainers, of course), Pokéballs, health potions, and berries you can use to calm down any wild Pokémon are now much more precious a commodity. This is where the slight move to accessibility can be appreciated and is best felt, as it lessens the importance of currency which felt quite redundant in previous games.
The way you’re able to traverse this time around has also been livened up for Pokémon Let’s Go. In a nice nod to Pokémon Yellow, the deluxe version to originals Red and Blue, your choice of either Let’s Go Eevee! or Let’s Go Pikachu! will determine which of the titular two will accompany you on your journey. In addition to Pikachu or Eevee, however, you can have any other of the original 150 also follow you around. This means there’s a constant desire to see how each one will move and look when selected – whether it’s how you grapple onto a waddling Snorlax or fly overhead on the back of a Charizard. It’s in subtle details like this where Let’s Go engrosses you more than any other Pokémon game before it, bringing the relationship between you and your pocket companions a little closer.
The last major change to mention is all the added customization. As part of the increased Go-ness of this game, you’re now able to dress, take care of, and improve the mood of your respective titular Pokémon. Doing so has the chance to affect how they perform when engaged in trainer-to-trainer battles, often times leading to Pikachu/Eevee gaining a sudden ounce of gusto when on the brink of fainting. Pokémon Go was all about community and respecting others upon release, so it’s nice to see that GameFreak has found a way to make you do the same, and reward it in a more traditional format. It’s also cool to dress your Pikachu or Eevee like a sailor, just saying!
While long-time Pokémon fans had a right to be reasonably critical about the Switch’s first entry being slightly tweaked to appeal to newcomers, Let’s Go manages to perfectly tread a line between the classic series elements people love and new features that refine the experience. This isn’t a misjudged spin-off, but a fully-fledged Pokémon game. And there’s nothing quite like seeing what were once merely pixels fully reimagined and updated for a new generation of players. The catching mechanics may cause a slight annoyance, but never has the act of collecting the original 150 Pokémon been so approachable and fun.
Pokémon Let’s Go is available now for the Nintendo Switch.