Pokemon makes a very safe jump to HD in its first home-console (hybrid) RPG, Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu. It’s not the free-roaming, ‘Breath of the Wild’ style installment fans have been crying out for, but Let’s Go is far more than a simple remake of the Gameboy’s Pokemon Yellow.
20 years after everybody’s favourite electric-mouse first followed Red around Kanto, Game Freak has sought to capitalise on the popularity of Pokemon Go by bringing its handheld series back to the roots of its original 151 pocket monsters.
The biggest formula shake-up comes in the way the player encounters and captures wild Pokemon. Gone are the annoyingly random battles as wild Pokemon can now be seen roaming the oceans, caves and routes between towns. You can avoid them entirely if you wish, but coming into contact with a Pokemon will trigger your chance to capture the critters.
Whittling down a wild Pokemon’s health is no longer necessary as the new capture system echoes that found in Pokemon Go. In fact, the Pokemon in your party aren’t necessary at all! All you need to do is time an accurate throw with a shrinking circle to give yourself the best chance of a catch. Feeding the Pokemon berries and Pokeball selection can improve your chances, as can teaming up with a buddy in co-op.
Perfectly timing an ‘excellent’ throw between two players is a sure-fire way to guarantee a catch and lends itself to the some of the funniest moments I’ve had playing the game: laughing at your partner’s horrible throw, apologising for your own mistake or celebrating together after the perfect catch.
It’s such an addictive gameplay loop that I never missed the grind of battling wild Pokemon. Having every Pokemon in your party of six share in experience after a successful catch is also a much welcomed time-saver.
A second player can jump in on the action at any time with a shake of the joycon. I played the entire game this way while letting my girlfriend take the reigns as player one. The second player can’t interact with NPCs, trigger wild Pokemon encounters or be responsible for walking through doors, which could be frustrating, but it forced me to play at her pace as a first-timer and see Kanto in a different light as she stopped to talk to NPCs I would have happily blasted past.
SIDE-NOTE: I understand why the second player would be programmed to warp in and out of the sky before and after every cut-scene, but doing so while entering and exiting every door is a bit much..
Having two players team up on a single Pokemon during trainer battles makes things laughably easy, but it did speed up the beat-for-beat recreation of the original story-line. Likewise, the eight gym leaders and the Elite Four provide little challenge if you’re conscious of what Pokemon-types are strong and weak against others.
Pokemon Let’s Go – in my humble opinion – focuses instead on falling in love with collecting and nurturing the 151 (171 if you count the Ahlolan variants) Pokemon on offer. A connection Game Freak goes to added lengths to make sure you feel with the lovable mascots on the front of the game-box.
Pikachu and Eevee are adorable and the bond you have with them as your ‘first’ is front and center. Tiny interactions scattered throughout the world, like an opportunity to have your own ‘Titantic’ moment at the front of a cruise ship, help endear the player to the cutesy partners. For a 26-year-old man, I was way too excited to dress Pikachu up in its little outfits and give him an awesome spiky fringe. It’s a small level of personalisation that goes a long way.
Despite their lovable appearance, Pikachu and Eevee will likely be the deadliest Pokemon in your team. After building a bond through cut-scenes, hair cuts and pats, there’s little incentive to swap them out of your party, meaning that they’re quickly over-powered. Our Pikachu didn’t faint in battle once until we made it to the Elite Four! I know I said the game is easy, but this did make battling a little stale at times when the only Pokemon I needed against most trainers was my furry, yellow friend.
As expected, online trading and battling friends has made its way over from the 3DS installments. It works adequately and is sure as hell easier than finding a link cable like in the OG days.
A Pokemon Park for players to transfer Pokemon they captured in the real-world with Pokemon Go into Let’s Go, was a big selling point when the Switch game was revealed. Those who pumped dozens of hours into the mobile game might be disappointed to hear that you can’t do this until you reach the Safari Zone near Fuschia City, which takes about 15 hours. I played, but was never swept up in the Pokemon Go craze so it’s not something I’ve bothered with, meaning I haven’t been able to test the connection issues people are claiming to have online.
Overall, Pokemon Let’s Go is a charming recreation of the original game I feel in love with as a kid. There’s 20 years of improvements stuffed into this game, but after two-decades and with all the extra power available to Game Freak on the Switch, it doesn’t do enough to earn a ‘Must Play’.
With Generation Eight coming in 2019, Let’s Go is the perfect installment for new or lapsed fans brought in by the mobile title. For those waiting for the franchise to become the free-roaming, immersive world we know is possible on modern day consoles, it amounts to little more than a ‘Good Play’.