Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee Review – Kanto Wait To Catch ‘Em All
Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu and EeveeNovember 16th, 2018
For the last year or so, Pokémon has been a regular staple of how I get to sleep. In my younger years, I loved Pokémon. It was my first RPG experience, and I would play through the game, start a new save, and repeat, seemingly endlessly. At this point, I have a borderline encyclopedic knowledge of the first two generations of games, and therefore, they make a great way to get to sleep. I can switch off my brain, and before you know it I'm walking in the correct directions, finding hidden items, and using super effective attacks while struggling to keep my eyes open. It's like reading a good book, one you've read a dozen times before already, and memorised where small print errors made the text look odd around 70 pages in.
So, understandably, my experience with Pokémon's Kanto is different from what younger gamers or those new to Pokémon will be playing. In Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee, I'm taking note of areas Pokémon never used to appear in, or how items have been moved, re-hidden, or kept in place. Small, seemingly inconsequential item placements and decisions are intensely noticeable to me.
But it's all of these small changes, in a world that is broadly both so familiar and so fresh, which incites that feeling of nostalgia. I had assumed that Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee would, for me, essentially be another game I can play while falling asleep. Half paying attention, still smashing through the entirety of the game without breaking a sweat. And that is actually not quite how things have gone down.
Let's start at the beginning. Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee are remakes of the classic Pokémon Yellow that we played nearly 20 years ago, running with the traditional Pokémon formula of eight gyms to defeat, multiple dungeons to explore, 151 Pokémon to catch and hundreds of trainers to beat down. A lot has changed in the Pokémon series in 20 years - not least of all 3D graphics - and of course, Kanto has changed to accommodate them. The entire world looks better and better realised than ever before, despite still mostly conforming to a Game Boy-inspired angular feel to the towns, cities and routes you'll travel.
In the Game Boy era, you would have to half guess or suspend your disbelief when looking at sprites. Even the Pokémon themselves looked a bit worse for wear back then. Now? Everything is fully modelled in 3D and looks, well, fantastic, frankly. No, they're not super detailed, built for HD, but every area and Pokémon looks the way you thought it would when looking at those sprites so long ago. There are a few incredibly minor details that make me think not everything was built from the ground up for the Switch - for example, the character models you'll find are identical to the ones found in Pokémon GO, and with Pokémon like Arcanine, whose fur texture shows signs of low res pixels, which are much harder to spot either in handheld mode or of course on a mobile device.
So it looks beautiful then, but how does it play? After all, this has been fairly divisive for Pokémon fans. Hardcore fans have rejected Pokémon: Let's Go, pointing towards the new catching mechanic which is essentially taken directly from Pokémon GO, and the changes to the competitive metagame. Well no, this is not the next big Pokémon mainline title, but Pokémon fans are likely to be blown away by how competent it actually is.
When it comes to travelling routes, battling Pokémon, raising the ones you've caught, it's, well, it's Pokémon. It's not broken. It's not bad. It's actually incredibly faithful. And with the advancements and changes made to the battle system over the last 20 years, it's one of the best ways to go through Kanto, frankly. The new moves added to Pokémon and changes to when Pokémon learn attacks have made it so that with whichever bunch of Pokémon you choose to raise, you'll be equipped with powerful attacks to battle with as your progress. Each route now even has Coach Trainers - more powerful trainers that will take you on with the ferocity of a gym leader, and offer up a TM afterward as a reward for your victory.
Catching Pokémon is the biggest move away from how Pokémon traditionally works though. Once upon a time you would battle them, lower their health, inflict status ailments, and then throw balls until you've caught them. Here, you won't be battling. Instead, you'll be using berries to appease the Pokémon, and then throwing balls with finesse in order to catch them. With the Switch in handheld mode, you'll be using the gyroscopic features of the console to aim the balls you throw at the Pokémon, while when docked you'll be using a more approximate aiming scheme by waggling your JoyCon. Throwing balls isn't amazing and you'll be wasting a fair few when you miss, but trainers now also reward you with Pokéballs after almost every battle, so it evens out.
And it's a good thing trainers reward you with balls, because adding Pokémon to your Pokédex actually offers up a surprising amount of experience. With the option to battle and faint wild Pokémon repeatedly for experience removed, you can now catch them endlessly for experience points. Interestingly this has multiple functions. You can earn candy for catching them, which you can actually use on your party Pokémon to increase their base stats. In addition to that, if you catch similar Pokémon over and over again, you'll earn catch bonuses, giving you even more candy as a reward, experience, and increases your chances of encountering shiny Pokémon. Not bad at all.
Wild Pokémon now appear on the overworld instead of random encounters happening as you wander through caves or grass, and this certainly speeds moving through the game world up, in addition to making it far easier to find and catch Pokémon you actually want instead of encountering Tentacool and Zubat a dozen times over. It feels streamlined, which is something that carries over to much of the game. Did you know you can change your stored and party Pokémon from the menu screen now? That's right, you don't have to go to a PC to change up your party, you can do it from absolutely anywhere. It's incredible.
But all of these attempts at making things more streamlined and simple are actually a little bit deceptive. Pokémon Let's Go is actually really, really hard? This, of all of the changes made to the game, is the single thing that blew me away the most. The scaling of difficulty throughout Pokémon: Let's Go has been completely changed. The levels of trainer Pokémon have all been boosted heavily, and the attacks they'll be using are far more formidable than you might expect. I never anticipate losing more than maybe one or two Pokémon against even the toughest of trainers just lurking on a random route, but multiple times, average trainers took out my Pokémon with a single hit. Often, normal trainers had higher level Pokémon than I did - and this was after keeping the same team of six Pokémon consistently, in addition to defeating every trainer I came across thus far. I repeat. Every trainer. Every single one. And yet, on the run towards Fuchsia City, trainers had stronger Pokémon than me and were beating me down regularly.
This reinforces how important catching Pokémon is in this game, even if you've already caught the species before. You'll get loads of Pokéballs, loads of experience, and it will help ensure you can continue to stay ahead of the competition. Sure, random encounters may be gone, but that certainly doesn't mean you should avoid the Pokémon in your path, rare or not.
Not to mention, catching Pokémon in this way makes more sense. I've always thought that the key messages of friendship and bonding present in Pokémon weren't exactly congruous with the fact you'll beat them into subjugation before capturing them and forcing them to do battle for you. This, at least, makes more sense than that - all the way up until you first encounter Snorlax, the first Pokémon boss battle. Similar to the Totem Pokémon in Sun and Moon, here you'll be doing battle against a single stronger wild Pokémon, before getting the chance to capture them afterward. A bit like Raids in Pokémon GO, actually.
But one thing I've mostly avoided here is the Pokémon GO integration. Yes, I've mentioned Pokémon GO several times, but that's because ultimately Pokémon: Let's Go is heavily inspired by and made to interact with it. You can send Pokémon from GO to Let's Go, and even the Poké Ball Plus peripheral interacts with Pokémon GO in the way that dedicated peripherals do. It feels like a full RPG experience for those Pokémon GO players that have never truly gotten to grips with a legitimate Pokémon game. And for those people, it's great, but that's not to undermine how much classic Pokémon veterans will likely enjoy this game too. Is this going to be a great place for competitive Pokémon gameplay? Unlikely. But for catching them all with friends? Absolutely.
Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee has had dozens of small changes from the original generation, or the other mainline Pokémon games, but honestly, none of those changes feel negative. Nothing I've played in Pokémon: Let's Go has made me wish for something the older games gave me. Everything here is, well, great. Built for a purpose. Enjoyable. And it hasn't made me long for a more traditional style of Pokémon game at all. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty positive I'll enjoy the next, mainline games even more than this, but right now, I can't complain. Honestly, all I actually want is to jump back into Pokémon: Let's Go, raise my Pokémon and complete my Pokédex. Everything I've ever wanted from Pokémon.
Review code provided by the publisher. You can purchase your favorite edition of the game via Amazon.
My nostalgia for this series is strong and could've destroyed the fun I had with Pokémon: Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee, but instead galvanised it. This is the classic original generation of Pokémon, but it looks better, plays better, and feels incredibly refreshing. Pokémon on Nintendo Switch isn't just a Pokémon GO companion piece, it's a fantastic RPG in its own right, and with any luck, will spawn its own series of Pokémon games for the future. A great Pokémon game for veterans and newcomers. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a Pokédex to complete.
- Nostalgic with plenty of new elements
- Coach trainers and Master trainers up the difficulty
- Feels more cinematic than ever
- Catching Pokémon feels less involved than before
- Going back to 151 Pokémon feels limiting