Now it’s not a definitive rule, but overall, there seem to be two types of Pokémon player; the younger newer gamer, wide-eyed with excitement and eager to start out on their first magical adventure; and the older, more seasoned player, high on nostalgia and looking to recreate some of their favourite childhood memories. Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee! are games made distinctly for the former and considering the (surprisingly consistent) popularity of Pokémon Go, the mobile game which had a considerable influence on these two new entries in the Pokémon franchise, it is really no surprise.
The Pokémon games have never been known for their willingness to deviate from their usual formula and Let’s Go, Pikachu! (c’mon, you have to go with Pikachu) is really no exception. Remakes of Pokémon Yellow Version, these latest two games take the player back to the Kanto region, the place where the entire franchise began, and revisiting previously explored towns and cities in HD is a real treat.
As per tradition, Let’s Go sees the player set off on an adventure to become a Pokémon master, capturing the titular creatures and using them to battle other trainers, facing off against 8 gym leaders in hopes of eventually beating the Elite Four, the most powerful trainers in the region. To say Pokémon games are formulaic is an understatement, but that’s always been part of their charm and one of the reasons they appeal to such a wide audience. Playing that familiar formula on a big screen however, adds a satisfying new level to the usual handheld adventure and undocking the Nintendo Switch and taking it with you is a nice way to make it feel like you’re playing on your Game Boy Color, recreating your adventure from 20 years ago (damn, I’m getting old).
From the plot to the creatures, there is certainly a lot here that we’ve seen before, and the biggest difference to past games in the series is the new, Pokémon Go inspired catching system, which forgoes the usual battle-to-catch system of earlier games and has players using the Switch’s joycon controller to simulate throwing a pokéball upon encounter, without having to lower their health, similar to the mobile game phenomenon, which, surprisingly, millions of people are still playing around the world. Purists of the franchise may be wary of this change, as roaming around and nuking wild Pokémon has always been a great way to train up your team, however as the format of regular battles stays the same, and your team get experience points from successful captures, this change won’t leave your companions at an EXP disadvantage. Now the new, motion-based catching controls may not affect your Pokémon’s lives too much, but they are pretty much guaranteed to affect yours; throwing a ball at a ‘mon directly in front of you is pretty simple (straightforward, if you will) however when your target starts moving around is where things get tricky; the joycon controls struggle to register throws to the left or right, so many encounters evolve waiting until the wild Pokémon jumps back to the center of the screen to be able to attempt capture. This is only an issue if you are playing on a big screen, however, as the Switch’s handheld catching system is easier to manage and you are able to turn the console in the direction of the Pokémon, similar to aiming a camera.
Let’s Go is a game that places a lot of emphasis on friendship, and battling and general interaction prompts you to form a bond with your partner Pokémon (Pikachu or Eevee depending on the version). You can stroke them, dress them up, feed them berries and your level of friendship affects how they perform in battle, for example: if your Pikachu likes you then they’re more likely to heal themselves from a status condition or pull through after a super effective attack. Whereas this friendship is a nice touch to the game and helps you feel more connected to these fictional, computer-generated creatures, it is also the basis of one of the game’s weakest elements; Pikachu is just too damn powerful.
Your character’s connection to their partner allows the tutoring of secret moves exclusive to this Pokémon, so from an early level Pikachu learns Zippy Zap (bad name for a great move) an attack which always lands a critical hit and always goes first: moves like this along with boosted stats make it very unlikely you’ll lose a battle if you are using the Pokémon on the front of the game box. With such an overpowered partner, you’ll find that the element of challenge is significantly removed from a lot of the game, which does take away from the joy of building a powerful and thoughtfully considered team, however, we must remember that Let’s Go is aimed at a younger audience than usual, so it’s hard to be surprised that Nintendo doesn’t want every kid playing their expensive, newly released games to be getting destroyed by the NPCs every time they pick up a joycon.
It is also important to remember that although priced like them, the Let’s Go games are not ‘core’ entries in the Pokémon franchise and new, non-remake games are expected in late 2019; this ‘Generation VIII’ of the now decades-old series will most likely visit a brand new region and be aimed a slightly older audience, although let’s be honest, probably not men and women in their mid-twenties who seem to make up a large portion of the Pokémon audience.
Overall Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! are enjoyable games that have undoubtedly introduced a new generation to the franchise and managed to recapture the magic of those early adventures for nostalgic players like myself, yearning for the days when I didn’t have to worry about things like paying council tax; sure, they are a little on the easy side, but in today’s world is taking it easy and playing through a good-natured video game really such a bad thing?