“Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu” and “Let’s Go, Eeeve” are a great addition to the Switch’s library as well as the Pokemon franchise. Most changes refresh the established formula for the better, but a couple of missteps stop it being the very best, like no one ever was.
Like putting on a pair of comfortable slippers, “Let’s Go” is a cosy return to a familiar feeling. A retelling of 1998’s Pokemon Yellow, and the first RPG in the franchise to be playable on a television in HD, “Let’s Go” is as bright, colourful and friendly as you imagined it to be twenty years ago. Almost everything is as it should be – from Mount Moon, to Pallet Town, to the Viridian Forest.
The world would be meaningless without the Pokemon that inhabit it, and “Let’s Go” sees the return of the original 150 (with Mew a bonus for those that purchase the optional Pokeball Plus accessory). As the generation that many fell in love with, there’s a strange magic to seeing Charizard square up to a Jigglypuff, no longer just black and white sprites but now with a sense of scale and personality that simply wasn’t possible before. The same soundtrack is here too, albeit modernised and reproduced faithfully – even down to the tedium of hearing it ad nauseam for a long play session.
In the twenty years since Yellow’s original release, Pokemon has flourished and reached out to new platforms, particularly Pokemon Go which became a mobile phenomenon. This influence is felt throughout “Let’s Go”, most notably in the way in which Pokemon are now caught. Using motion controls with the Joy-Con controllers (or button presses and gyroscope movements in handheld mode), you’ll no longer battle monsters to attempt to catch them – just throw the ball and hope for the best.
While there are some positives (the game progresses at a much quicker rate without random battles and it means the days of knocking out Pokemon that you wanted to catch are long gone), the new system will be a difficult pill to swallow for purists. The motion controls are serviceable but not entirely reliable, while catching often comes down to random chance (similar to Pokemon Go).
Thankfully, trainer battles still form a fair portion of “Let’s Go”. You’ll need to monitor Pokemon types within your party to be ready for anything the opposition throws at you, and formulating a party for the tougher endgame challenges (which I won’t spoil here) should keep you busy. Battles are now beautifully animated, with unique animations for your partner Pokemon.
Aside from being adorable, your starter Pokemon are able to be customised in outfits and petted to maintain morale. It may seem pointless to those that have been playing for a while, but for younger players it’s a great chance to bond with their new virtual friend.
Speaking of your partner, Pikachu or Eevee are found in the wild so if you’re planning to buy one version, this doesn’t mean you can’t grab both of them. That said, there are some Pokemon that are exclusive to each title, so if you have some favourites it might be worth doing your research first. Needless to say, you’ll need to trade to catch them all.
While the idea of two versions is now a tradition, “Let’s Go” has some smart ideas all of it’s own. One of these is the ability to swap Pokemon in and out of your party at any time – no longer will you need to log into a PC at a Pokemon centre to shuffle them around. This allows for much more flexibility when changing your party for a new battle, something boosted by experience points being shared among all six of your party members.
For the first time in the series’ history, you can explore with friends using a Joy-Con each. One player initiates the catching and battles, but having backup to catch a troublesome Pokemon is fun if not particularly exciting for player two. Again, it’s a step in the direction of accessibility that opens up the franchise for new players.
There is depth to be found, however, just not in the ways you may be expecting if you’ve been playing for a few years. While Pokemon can no longer hold items or breed, using various types of candy to boost stats allows for more granular control of each Pokemon’s attributes. The rebranding of “HMs” (previously special moves that aided in traversal) as “Secret Techniques” mean you no longer have to keep a Pokemon with you simply to be able to use an ability, something which is no small mercy for those familiar with the original.
“Let’s Go” is a beautiful and faithful reimagining of a piece of gaming royalty. Playing on a TV or in handheld mode, Pokemon feels more alive than it has in years. The new catching mechanic could use some work both in depth and utility, but for those looking to step back in time, “Let’s Go” is like an old friend ready to reminisce. For those who haven’t stepped into the Viridian Forest before, there is no time like the present.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*