Pokemon Let’s Go Review
It’s been over 20 years Pokémon Yellow released, and Nintendo has brought back so many memories with the release of Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee! From my first moments in Pallet Town to the completion of the Elite Four, and even into the post game matches against master trainers, Pokemon Let’s Go gave me enough to remind me I’m playing something I loved decades ago, while offering enough new game play to make me excited to see what was next. But does the whole package come together in the end? Let’s dive in!
A copy of Let’s Go Pikachu and a Pokeball Plus were provided to us by Nintendo of Canada.
For those that played Pokémon Yellow all those years ago, there will be a ton of familiarity when jumping into these new releases. You’ll start with Pikachu – or Eevee, which is a slight change of pace from the original – while your rival will take the other character, the opposite of what game you chose to purchase. After the obligatory opening moments where you learn how to play – catching Pokémon, using items, playing with your partner Pokémon, etc – you are let loose on the world of Kanto, your Pokémon adventure before you.
And the changes to the formula come at you fast and early. As there are no trainer battles between Pallet Town and Brock’s Gym – outside of a quick battle with your rival while learning the ins and outs of Pokémon Let’s Go – you’ll be free to check out the games biggest change: no more random encounters and no more wild Pokémon battles. All Pokémon are now displayed on the screen for you to see, so you can avoid, or attempt to capture, whatever you heart desires. You’ll see regular Pokémon, tiny Pokémon (noted by the blue sparkles surrounding the Pokémon), and huge Pokémon (noted by the red sparkles surrounding the Pokémon). Once encountering the Pokémon, you enter a Pokemon Go style animation and your capturing journey begins!
Like in Pokémon Go, the difficulty of catching any given Pokemon is noted by the circle that surrounds the Pokemon itself, whether green, yellow or red. And like in Pokémon Go, you can use berries to calm Pokemon, make them easier to catch, and so on. The type of ball you use is also important, as that can also have a great impact on your catch ability. Ultimately, however, this is where my first criticism comes with the game. Deeper into your adventure, you will encounter new Pokémon, as well as Pokémon you’ve already seen. Despite being the same level and potentially have the same coloured ring conditions surrounding them, some still seemed easier to catch than others, and there didn’t seem to be any consistency with that.
It’s a minor concern to be sure, as I never stopped enjoying catching new Pokémon. And ultimately, this one single change is the biggest reason people are skeptical about Pokémon Let’s Go, and they shouldn’t be. Not once in my 35 hours with the game have I missed random Pokémon encounters or wild Pokémon battles. In fact, in many instances, I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I could purposefully avoid Pokémon and continue on with my adventure. Remember trying to make it through caves in early Pokémon games? With an encounter every 10 steps it seemed? That’s gone, and an hour trek through Mount Moon is now a 20 to 30 minute trek, which keeps the game’s pacing up, and makes it more accessible.
And again, we come to yet another positive in my opinion: Pokémon Let’s Go might be the most accessible Pokemon title since Pokémon Go, and with 100’s of millions of people playing that game, there should be a tangible connection between that experience and this release that will pay dividends for Nintendo and The Pokémon Company International, but also to the popularity of the franchise as a whole. This release might be one of the easier Pokemon games to complete to be sure, but Game Freak has included enough to add different levels of optional – and required at times – challenges as well, which helps balance out the experience for everyone.
This is best seen in optional Trainer Coach battles. Trainer Coaches are more powerful trainers that won’t fight you on the spot like others. You need to engage with them and accept their challenge. They are spread around the Kanto region, and are always slightly more powerful than other trainers in the area. For those looking for an added challenge – and the possibility at obtaining items and TMs! – fighting these trainers is a great way to keep that challenge alive, in a game that overall is much easier than the original Yellow release.
Other optional challenges await trainers in the end game as well, including fighting Master Trainers who will have high-level, powerful Pokemon for you to defeat. There is also an opportunity to engage in other, difficult post-game content which we won’t spoil here.
Ultimately, there is a great balance in Pokémon Let’s Go. The option to bring a second player into your game to help with catching Pokemon and beating trainers is definitely there, and it is the easiest path to victory. But when used well – for example, when playing with my eight-year-old son – it can be a great bonding activity, and the lack of challenge is offset by the ability to play a franchise I’m passionate about with my own children.
There are also other added advantages which are optional, but can make the game easier, including the ability to teach Pikachu and Eevee moves that normally they wouldn’t learn. The advantage here definitely sways towards Eevee, as Eevee can learn fire, water, electric and grass moves, which could potentially turn him into an over-powered super Pokémon for the entirety of your adventure. Pikachu can learn some fantastic moves as well, but nothing nearly as powerful as Eevee. Ultimately, playing through Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee might be the easiest experience.
Thankfully, Game Freak does not disappoint in the game’s visuals, and those who are playing the Pokémon franchise on console/handheld for the first time are going to be wowed by the fantastic look this game has. All of the Pokémon have never looked better, most of which draw on their animations from Pokémon Go, but with a little added flair. The moves of the Pokémon are also wonderfully animated, with a personal favourite being Seismic Toss which sees the Pokémon floating high above earth before being thrown down towards the ground. It’s a fantastic animation, but one of many throughout the game! Yes, Pikachu can learn a move that will see him floating with balloons!
The throwing and catching animations are well done as well, but of course nothing we haven’t already see in the mobile Pokémon adventure. The use of the Joy-Con to toss Pokéballs at the wild Pokemon works really well, but it is not the ideal way to play the game. For the best experience – in my opinion at least – Pokémon Let’s Go needs to be played with the Pokéball Plus, which is unfortunate because of hte high price tag attached to the peripheral. Purchasing this fantastic peripheral will double the cost of your entry into this title, which might be cost prohibitive to some. If you can swing the extra money, however, it gets a big recommendation from us!
The ball fits perfectly in the hand of a smaller adult and any young child; those with larger hands need to apply, as the ball just won’t work well for long periods of time. For those that can use the ball, however, they are in for a real treat. Playing with the Pokéball Plus just feels natural, and allows for a more relaxed way of playing with your Nintendo Switch. The throw animations feel great, and depending on where your wrist turns, will determine where the ball flies, which is hand for those Pokemon that love to move around. The Pokeball plus only has two buttons – one via clicking in the joystick, and the other on the front of the ball where you index finger naturally falls – but when playing the game, you’ll notice it could have use one more.
Often, you will be given the option to see more details about something by pressing Y, but ultimately that button does not exist on the Pokéball Plus, a major oversight in my opinion. Nintendo has always been great about going above and beyond when it comes to their titles, so it was equally disappointing for me to not see the on screen help image of a Joy-Con replaced by the Pokéball Plus, when using the brand new peripheral.
Ultimately, Pokémon Let’s Go is a fantastic experience that shouldn’t be overlooked, even by those who are not thrilled about the lack of wild Pokémon battles. The package as it stands by itself is fantastic and easily deserving of your time and money, and this value only gets increased if you play Pokémon Go on mobile, and can take more of an advantage from the GoPark found deeper in the console game. While we plan to have more coverage on the connectivity between Pokémon Let’s Go and Pokémon Go in the future, feel confident that if you are purchasing Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu or Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee on day 1, you are getting a fantastic experience!