Pokemon Let’s Go, Pikachu! Review
A funny thing happens when you play the same franchise for 20 years. You start noticing every little thing they do differently, every nod to previous efforts, and every potential mistake. I’m waist-deep in Pokemon games at this point in my life, which is why I had rather low expectations of this newest installment. No more battling wild Pokemon? Madness! Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the Pokemon Let’s Go! games.
Sadly, what you’ve heard is true: battling wild Pokemon is out, catching them like crazy is in. And yet, I welcome this shift in mechanics. Battling wild Pokemon in Red and Blue was a murderous slog. Every cave you wandered into was a haven for thousands of Zubats and Geodudes. Not only is battling wild Pokemon off the table, but random encounters are altogether nixed. This means that you can power up your team and expand your roster at your preferred pace.
Not As Simple As It Looks
Constantly catching Pokemon isn’t the only thing these games inherit from the Pokemon Go formula. There’s also the candy system. Every Pokemon you send to the professor gets you candy in return. Different Pokemon yield different kinds of candy, and there’s bonuses for sending in large numbers of the same species. What this actually means is that crafting the ideal version of your favorite Pokemon is incredibly simple. If you get good enough at chucking Pokeballs you can bring in huge loads of this candy every hour. I have a feeling that the endgame online battles are going to be utterly ridiculous.
There’s a few different ways you can control Pokemon Let’s Go!, including the Pokeball peripheral. I was sent one of these along with the game and it’s…. okay? You can play the game quite easily with only two buttons and an analog stick. On top of that, “throwing” it to catch Pokemon is truly satisfying. Unfortunately, you have to click the stick to press the A button. This led to me choosing the wrong menu option multiple times per play session. Still, it’s an awesome way to play the game if you want authenticity over accuracy.
Another new feature Let’s Go! brings in is multiplayer. If a second person grabs a Joy-Con, the two of you can run around and battle together. Player two just takes the second Pokemon in your party whenever a fight begins. There’s not a lot of double battles in the game, which means the two of you are often ganging up on a solo opponent. This led to fights that were so one-sided I actually felt a little bad for my opponents. On the other hand, catching Pokemon with two people is an interesting challenge. Mis-timed throws can make it much harder, but synchronized throws earn you a nice bonus.
If you’re worried about missing out on the traditional starters, you can scoop them all without too much trouble. At first I was overjoyed, but there’s something off about using a starter Pokemon you didn’t start with. Instead of Bulbasaur, Squirtle, or Charmander, you start with Pikachu or Eevee. Neither one is usually a contender in any form of battle, but these games are built around these two Pokemon. After playing for less than two hours, I came across someone in a Pokemon center who offered to teach Pikachu a move I’d never heard of before. Zippy Zap instantly transformed Pikachu into a terrifying powerhouse. Plus, you can use the aforementioned candies to boost his stats to respectable levels.
A Tiny Electric Terror
Even if you’ve played Red and Blue (or Fire Red and Leaf Green for that matter) a dozen times, this version of Kanto looks and feels distinct. I’m not in love with the new rival, but Gary (or Blue in this case) still makes some appearances. Certain sequences have more life than ever before, such as your encounter with Bill outside of Cerulean City. Plus, Jessie and James are in this version, which is a major bonus. I’ve yet to see much of the endgame content, but I’m excited to face off against the Master Trainers scattered around the map.
I’ll never get tired of Pokemon. I’ll always have time for one more journey to become a Pokemon master, one more starting town, one more region to conquer. If the Let’s Go! games were just a reunion tour with Kanto and its denizens, that would have been more than enough. Thankfully, this is more than just a simple remake. The catching mechanics, the upgraded box system, the new HMs and the effortless min-maxing are all excellent additions to a timeless classic. The combat isn’t as feature complete as other modern Pokemon games, and the gen 1 pokedex might turn some people off, but this is a fantastic rendition of Red and Blue that I can easily recommend. Whether it’s your first time or fortieth, Pokemon Let’s Go, Pikachu and Eevee are a trip to Kanto you won’t want to miss.
***A retail copy of the game was provided by the publisher***
- New mechanics are terrific
- Multiplayer is seamless
- No more random encounters
- Some battle features missing
- Pokedex is a little bare
- Maybe you’re sick of Kanto