The first generation of Pokémon games has had its remakes in the form of Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green, as a part of the third generation of core RPGs. However, many fans were clamoring for a remake of the highest selling of the first generation titles, Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition. Beyond that, Pokémon fans have been talking about getting a console core RPG, and with the Nintendo Switch being a reality, Pokémon fans will be getting that in 2019. But as for the remake of Pokémon Yellow Version, Nintendo decided to take advantage of the popularity of Pokémon Go, and give us an early taste of what could be on the Nintendo Switch, while still attracting the casual fanbase that left with the original four games of Gen 1. For a proof of concept title, Pokémon Let’s Go is phenomenal in many different ways. 

Game Name: Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Publisher(s): Nintendo/The Pokemon Company International
Developer(s): Game Freak
Release Date: November 16, 2018
Price: $59.99

I quickly reviewed Pokémon Yellow Version when it released for the 3DS Virtual Console, and Pokémon Let’s Go is largely the same game. The main difference is the interaction between yourself and your Partner Pokémon, depending on the game you purchase. This also marks the first time that Eevee has ever been made available for a core RPG title or remake, which is special in its own right. Much like Pokémon Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow, you travel throughout the Kanto region after leaving Pallet Town, fighting trainers, catching and training Pokémon and earning Gym Badges on your way to the top of the Elite Four and the Pokémon League, all with your partner by your side throughout your journey. Sounds simple, yeah?

Not so much, and very much so at the same time.

The wild Pokémon battles have been eschewed in favor of a Pokémon Go-styled catching mechanics that give your party experience via a multiplier. This multiplier is based on how you catch the Pokémon, and it isn’t the simplest formula either. Whether you use the Joy-Con/Pokéball Plus to catch Pokémon or hold your Switch in handheld mode can and will be a major difference to how high your multiplier goes. Catching Pokémon with the Joy-Con can be infuriating at times, because of the inaccuracy that there is at times, but it generates that Technique Bonus that can be the difference. Add on to the fact that your target can move horizontally and vertically from time to time, it makes things that much harder at times to catch them. I like playing primarily in handheld mode, as you can easily re-center your target using the left stick or the built-in gyroscope. The experience multiplier also factors in whether or not you got a Nice, Great, or Excellent catch, indicated by where the center of your Pokéball hits, as well as if you only used one ball to catch the target. There’s a lot going on, and it can be extremely frustrating to narrowly miss that Excellent catch, or have the target pop out of your Pokéball. Critical Catches exist in this game as well, just as a heads up.

Staring down a certain ex-Gym Leader…and boss of Team (Rainbow) Rocket!

I certainly find myself enjoying catching multiple Pokémon in a row and building my catch combo and multipliers as I get better at the catching mechanic. It’s also a very low effort way of training your Pokémon, especially if you reach a point where you don’t have the type coverage to pass a certain Gym – aka me once I got to Fuschia City. I learned my lesson, leveling up my Onix and Haunter to prep for Koga and Sabrina. I had a Vaporeon and Vileplume on deck for Blaine and Giovanni, so I was good going into the final Gym Battles. I also enjoyed using the Lure and Super Lures to increase the rare Pokémon encounter rate in places such as the Pokémon Road – older fans will know Route 16 as the Cycling Road. The amount of Eevee I caught blew my mind, considering that your Partner Eevee will not evolve. Nor will your Partner Pikachu, but based Viridian Forest. I still haven’t catch-comboed my way to a shiny Eevee or 3 yet. I NEED SHINY VAPOREON, FLAREON AND JOLTEON!

Speaking of catching Pokémon, you’re only able to catch the first 150 Pokémon, 5 of which must be caught via a special battle/catch system. Mew is available to everyone who buys a New Pokéball Plus. You know what that means…no Umbreon, no Espeon, Leafeon, Glaceon or Sylveon – the lack of Sylveon makes me cry. Also, no Electivire, no Scizor, no Steelix, no Politoed, no Slowking, and no Bellossom. You are stuck with the original 151, however, you can trade infinitely for Alolan variants of Geodude, Diglett, Grimer, Exeggutor, Marowak, Vulpix, Sandshrew, Meowth, Rattata and Raichu. Meowth and Vulpix are exclusive to Let’s Go Eevee, while Grimer and Sandshrew are exclusive to Let’s Go Pikachu. There are several more Pokémon exclusive to each version as well, in typical franchise fashion.

It’s Jessie and James! Team Rocket’s Blasting Off Again!

Trainer Battles are still the same, with the addition of Coach Trainers who test your abilities before key sections of your journey, as well as Master Trainers, who test one of your Pokémon’s abilities in a mirror match. Additionally, some of the Gyms have requirements that you MUST fulfill before even entering the Gym. Honestly, it’s a nice touch to avoid new players from making mistakes, and older fans from going completely brain-dead playing this game. The difficulty doesn’t truly ramp up, making the game somewhat easy for everyone, a very nice compromise. A neat bonus that The Pokémon Company and Game Freak added was the ability to shake the Joy-Con to have your partner perform a special move to boost up your battling Pokémon’s stats. It’s disappointing that there’s no way to do this in handheld mode, but what can you do?

Pikachu looks cool, doesn’t he?

One thing I have to say is that I truly enjoy interacting with my Pikachu. I loved Pokémon-Amie in Pokemon X/Y, and I love it here too. Giving Pikachu belly and head rubs are very soothing, especially when Pikachu coos while you’re doing it. Giving your partner a bunch of high fives are fun and having your partner surprise you with gifts, pranks and all around fun just seems to put a big smile on your face no matter how you may be feeling. Same goes for feeding berries to your partner. So much fun.

One quick note, all five of the original HMs have been replaced by Secret Techniques. Fly is known as Sky Dash, Strength is Strong Push, Cut is Chop Down, Surf is Sea Skim and Flash is Light Up. All five are still moves in the regular movesets, as well as TMs you can find in the overworld, as HMs don’t exist in Generation VII (the Pokémon Let’s Go titles are part of Generation 7, hence the retention of the Steel, Dark, and Fairy typings for Pokémon.)

To say that Pokémon Let’s Go is a beautiful re-imagining of Kanto is probably the understatement of the franchise. There is a beauty to how the artists brought a lot of what makes Kanto beautiful out in these two entries. The plumage, the waving grass, the wind, the water, the little clouds of dust that appear under your feet as you run, it’s all eye-popping and impressive. I love the sheer detail of the buildings, both inside and out. Going into Pewter City’s Gym for the first time and just seeing its redesign, with spectators in their seats watching as I battled blew my mind. It’s not just visual either. The remixed soundtrack is amazing as well, with my favorite track being the Cerulean and Fuschia City BGM. The high fidelity rearrangements that Pokémon Let’s Go employ are probably the best in the franchise, and I really love the Gold/Silver/Crystal soundtrack, especially Dark Cave’s BGM.

Erika inside of Celadon City’s Gym. Just a sample of how beautiful this game is visually.

I think the true disappointment of this game – and it’s somewhat of a small, yet consequential one – is the lack of Pro Controller support when docked. While I’m tolerant of the single Joy-Con control scheme, it can get a touch uncomfortable. I found myself going back to playing in handheld mode more often than not in order to play the game, especially since that’s how I play the game while traveling to work during the week. If there was a way to incorporate pro controller support – with motion controls integrated – I think lots of players would be appreciative of that gesture. I’d certainly play more on my TV. I might still get the Pokéball Plus and play around with it to see if the experience is better. Plus, I want that Mew. There are small foibles here and there, such as frame drops in the menu after switching from docked to handheld and vice versa, but that’s usually fixed with a quick closing and reopening of the software before making the switch – no pun intended.

Review Disclosure Statement: Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee was purchased at retail for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

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Summary

For a proof of concept title, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee execute wonderfully. Pokémon X, Y, Sun and Moon did this exceptionally well with the limited hardware that they had in the 3DS, but to see this fully realized running at 1080p60 (docked, 720p60 handheld) on the Nintendo Switch is a dream come true for this Pokémon fan. There’s a lot to be taken here, especially if we’re to move into the eighth generation of Pokémon titles in 2019. The catch mechanic is beautiful when it works, and should at least be an option for Gen 8. I loved dressing my Pikachu up in new outfits, playing with his hair and just traveling with him and all of my other Pokémon throughout Kanto. Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee both have something for everyone, and that truly hits the spot as a fan of this franchise.

Pros

  • Updated visuals look great on the big screen
  • Something for everyone
  • I get to play and have fun with Pikachu and Eevee!

Cons

  • No Pro Controller support
Overall
4.5