'Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee' Review: More Good Than Bad

9/10 (Switch)

Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Pokémon Let's Go Eevee is the first Pokémon RPG for Nintendo Switch. It acts as a bridge for Pokémon Go players to get into the 20-year-old franchise, and while longtime fans feel it will favors beginners, it's surprisingly balanced.

On the surface, Let's Go appears to cater to the Pokémon Go player. It does away with Abilities and hold items, and the catch mechanic is the same as Pokémon Go where players only need to find Pokémon, not battle them. But Let's Go delivers an experience that Pokémon purists can appreciate, and even welcome, as the main games make its way to home consoles for the first time.

Note: The Pokémon Go Park feature was not available during the review period. Will update this review with a score when it is up.

pokemon lets go pikachu
Go on an adventure with Pikachu or Eevee in 'Pokemon Let's Go' Nintendo

PRESENTATION/STORY

I played a few demos of Let's Go before and the gameplay didn't capture me. However, the visuals of Let's Go always stood out. Seeing Pokémon and beloved characters in full 3D was amazing, and the new ways in which players could interact with Pikachu, Charmander and the rest of the original 151 were especially refreshing.

One of the biggest changes to the franchise formula is how trainers interact with wild Pokémon. Random encounters are left in the past; instead players can see just what Pokémon are around. They walk, run, jump, fly and swim throughout environments, allowing players to choose when to interact or capture. It's a welcome departure from the Zubat-induced rage longtime players will recall from getting an encounter every step in Rock Tunnel.

This aspect of the game, more than any other, makes Let's Go's world feel alive. The Pokémon cries and seeing the monsters to scale is really impressive and immersive. You don't realize how small or big certain Pokémon really are until you encounter one in Let's Go.

Story wise, there's not much deviation from Red, Blue and Yellow. You're a trainer in the Kanto region tasked with catching 'em all, defeating the Gym Leaders and Elite Four to become Champion, and stopping Team Rocket's many efforts to rule the Pokémon world.

Longtime Pokémon fans will know the story well, but there are little interactions with NPCs that weren't there before. Fans will also appreciate seeing certain parts of the plot like the Lavender Town/Cubone story told visually and getting more time to develop than in the GameBoy days. Even those who aren't familiar with the plot will find this straightforward tale truly showcases the character of the Pokémon world.

pokemon lets go ss anne captain
We get more scenes like this in 'Pokemon Let's Go' Nintendo

GAMEPLAY

Changing the formula of a Pokémon game is risky, but Let's Go handles it well. However, the gameplay will ultimately decide if you are on board with the games or not.

The aforementioned removal of wild battles in favor of roaming Pokémon is a great touch and one that Pokémon fans new and old will want from games moving forward. On the other hand, taking out Abilities and hold items takes too much of the strategy away and leaves battling boring and bland. Even so, veteran trainers expecting a dumbed-down version may be surprised with the deeper mechanics that were left in. Individual Values (IVs) are still a thing, as well as Natures, so there is some strategy to be had. Effort Values (EVs) are determined through Candies that increase certain stats. There is an effective way to hunt Shiny Pokémon

Let's Go places a clear emphasis on catching mechanics over battling, though. Like in Pokémon Go, catching is determined by your aim and timing. Flicking PokeBalls while using Berries to increase odds is standard in the mobile game and those mechanics are largely unchanged here. Most of the early game is focused on catching, as it's the main source of experience for your team with little opportunity for actual Pokémon battles. This also leads to item conservation, because while the mechanics are largely the same as in Pokémon Go, there are some minor changes. There were times when I'd feed a Pokémon a berry and it runs away anyway, or it runs away when I'm throwing a PokéBall. This does make catching feel more "real" and unpredictable, but if Game Freak and The Pokémon Company are trying to appeal to the Go audience, these kinds of tweaks in the core catching mechanic, however slight, could turn people off.

pokemon lets go dratini catching
Prepare to see this screen a lot Nintendo

Eventually, you get used to how the catching mechanic works and how to conserve your items. As the game progresses, more opportunities to battle present themselves.

As for the difficulty, Let's Go is very easy to start and you get through the first three Gyms rather quickly. Pokémon that were unavailable in the early game in past versions (like Oddish) are available before your fight with Brock in Pewter City, making a lot of the first Gym Battles a cinch.

One gripe is that you can't play Let's Go using a Pro Controller. You either have to use the PokeBall Plus, the Joy-Cons or play in handheld mode (my preferred method). I know they want you to experience motion controls and whatnot, but I'd love to play a Pokémon game on a big screen using a traditional controller.

pokemon lets go rapidash run
Nintendo

There are some noticeable frame rate drops in various parts of the game while in handheld mode, especially in Viridian Forest. While it doesn't detract too much from the experience, it needs to be mentioned.

Let's Go also marks the first time you can play local co-op. While it works well, it's not the typical co-op experience. Your "support trainer" uses your Pokémon and really can't do much outside of choosing their Pokémon's attacks. It's great to play with young gamers or those who aren't familiar with Pokémon battling, but it's far from the co-op experience most longtime series fans would want.

As for post-game content, you'll be able to take on the Master Trainers (which are surprisingly difficult) and fill up the PokeDex. You can sink dozens of hours into this game just by discovering its secrets.

VERDICT

I was a huge skeptic of Let's Go. The trailers didn't pull me in, and my few demos didn't scratch that Pokémon itch I've had since first playing Pokémon Red. But after an extended period of time I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, and welcome the new changes. While the loss of abilities and hold items is a bummer, and will likely cause many competitive Pokémon players to skip this game, there's a lot more depth than what's been shown on the surface. If you're a Pokémon fan, you should at least give Let's Go a shot. Take it from a fellow fan, it's definitely worth it.

'Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee' Review: More Good Than Bad | Gaming