Over 20 years later and we’re still trying to catch ’em all. Isn’t that wild? I first entered the Pokémon series as a boy with Red Version, and here I am, pushing 30 years old and still throwing red and white balls at little animals on a screen. That definitely says something about the longevity of a series like Pokémon.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! And Let’s Go, Eevee! mark the RPG series’ first big entry on the Nintendo Switch. And while this isn’t a mainline Pokémon story to push the franchise forward with 100-plus new monsters, it is definitely worth your time and money.
Nintendo promises the next big entry in the Pokémon series is waiting in the wings—somewhere towards the end of 2019. The Let’s Go games are like a proof of concept that this series translates well to console and that Nintendo has somehow not yet exhausted this addictive franchise.
You can think of Pokémon: Let’s Go as a solid transition for the series from handheld to console in spin-off form. It’s a mix of Pokémon Yellow and Pokémon GO in a neatly presented package made for younger and more casual gamers, but it’s still just as fun as any Pokémon game in years past.
Long-time fans ill be disappointed if they expect something entirely new from Let’s Go. The storyline is a slightly remixed version of the one from 1998’s Pokémon Yellow. Intentional or not, it’s a nice little homage to the game’s 20th anniversary.
You know how the rest goes—you start out in Pallet Town and begin your journey to collect eight gym badges with the goal of taking on the Pokémon League’s Elite Four. The main difference here is that you will choose, via which version of the game you buy, between Pikachu and Eevee as your starter. Just like in the past, both versions of the game have exclusive Pokémon as well.
Whichever cute little rascal you choose, they become the star of the game. Pikachu will sit on your shoulder while Eevee rests on players’ hats. They stay by your side throughout the entire journey. You can play with them at any point in the game, too, using either the console’s touch screen or motion controls to pet them and feed them. Both creatures giggle and smile and do all sorts of overly cute stuff that makes you feel warm and gooey inside.
The original 151 Pokémon are all here (including the Poké Ball Plus controller-exclusive Mew) and they’re as beautiful as ever. Every monster you remember from the anime and the original Red, Blue, and Yellow games are here to catch and train. Each even sports its original growls and roars (outside of Pikachu and Eevee, who are fully “voiced” as you’d expect).
Let’s Go’s story isn’t a direct translation of Yellow‘s, but it’s pretty close. Gym leaders like Brock and Misty make multiple appearances. So do Jessie and James of Team Rocket, who are once again the central antagonists of the story. Team Rocket’s Meowth is also here. Although he (frustratingly) does not speak English.
The callbacks are a sweet hit of nostalgia for long-time Pokémon players. Let’s Go simultaneously feels geared toward a new generation of players who most likely got their first taste of the franchise with Pokémon GO.
The one huge difference between Let’s Go and its source material is its clear influence from Pokémon GO. Niantic’s worldwide hit is all over this entry in the series. That’s never more apparent than when catching monsters.
In past games, you fought and weakened wild Pokémon before you could capture them. Now you can see the wild monsters walking around grassy areas and choose whether or not to engage them. When you do, Pokémon GO’s circular ball-throwing interface pops up. There are no wild, random battles. It’s just the catching.
To catch Pokémon, you must time your throw (either with JoyCon motion or by aiming the console in handheld mode) with a shrinking circle on-screen. Factors like Poké Ball type, the wild creature’s level, and more dictate whether or not you catch it successfully. You can even use berries, just like in Pokémon GO, to make the monsters more willing.
Only Wild at Heart
The lack of wild Pokémon battles is a frustrating omission. It removes the ability to battle for extra experience points. You still get XP for capturing creatures, of course. You can even send duplicates to Professor Oak, who will trade them for candies to upgrade Pokémon stats. That’s another clear tie-in to the mobile game. It would just be nice to choose between battling and GO-like capture mechanics.
The more I played the game, though, the more I got used to the new system. I even think it would be cool to mix wild battles and motion-controlled throwing together. But if Game Freak wanted to make the game more accessible to younger players, the developer definitely succeeded.
There are still plenty of battles to fight, too. Each zone houses a glut of trainers scattered throughout the world. New types of trainers, called Coach Trainers, present an extra challenge for their respective locations. Beating them awards TMs: items that teach Pokémon new moves.
Next Steps Forward
Once you reach the endgame, you can also hunt down the classic legendary creatures of the past. Mewtwo is still around, naturally, but the hunt doesn’t end there. Shiny Pokémon are now more accessible than ever. Catching many of the same monster in a row increases the odds of a shiny spawning in-world. The “gotta catch ’em all” spirit is stronger than ever.
Outside of Pikachu and Eevee, you can also select another Pokémon from your roster to follow you around outside its Poké Ball. That includes riding on bigger monsters like Charizard or Arcanine. It’s a really sweet new addition that helps customize your journey (and make it that much cuter).
Speaking of customization, both your trainer and Pikachu or Eevee will get plenty of outfits to wear. You can dress them up in Team Rocket outfits or Safari Zone gear, and each outfit is cuter than the last.
That charm might not be enough for some players. Let’s Go will definitely feel like a retread to many hardcore fans. Even so, it’s also a wonderful marriage of two different eras of Pokémon. The spin-off title is a great bridging of the gap between Pokémon games of the past and whatever Nintendo and Game Freak have planned for the future.