|Release Date||November 16, 2018|
|Developer||GAME FREAK Inc.|
|Price||$59.99 USD Base Game
$99.99 USD With PokéBall Plus Accessory
For many Pokémon fans, their first experience with the wonderful world of Pokémon was in Kanto, with Pokémon Red, Blue, or Yellow. Exploring the world with the goal of catching all of the available Pokémon is a common theme for fans. However, with the rising popularity of Pokémon GO!, Nintendo seems to have capitalized on the player base that maybe hasn’t played a mainline game on a console before. For the first Pokémon game on both handheld and console, they’ve blown it out of the park. Pokémon Let’s Go! is a visual treat, with simpler gameplay and easier-to-understand mechanics compared to the previous entrants to the series.
Setting out on your journey with your trusted pal, either Pikachu or Eevee depending on which game chosen, the game in terms of story is extremely similar to both the original trio of Red, Blue and Yellow, as well as the Fire Red and Leaf Green remakes. You’re given a Pokémon, some PokéBalls, a PokéDex, and off you go! Catch Pokémon, defeat the eight gym leaders across Kanto, challenge the Elite Four to become the Champion, and maybe even solve some problems along the way. For most fans, this might be stale and boring, because not much has changed in the story at all. Team Rocket still plagues Kanto, Cubone is still lonely in Lavender Town, and your rival battles you along the way to make sure you’re strong enough. Knowing this, Pokémon Let’s Go! shines in it’s differences.
Right off the bat, the first thing you’ll likely notice is that Pokémon are no longer completely hidden in grass. They run, splash, and fly across the overworld in plain sight for you to see as you play. This is a refreshing change that did take some time to get used to, but quickly became how I’d like Pokémon to look in the future. Running into Pidgey for the fifteenth time on Rt. 2 was one of my most pesky dislikes of Pokémon games, but this eliminates it completely. Rare Pokémon are still rare on the overworld, but they do show up and make it significantly easier to fill up your Dex and truly become a Pokémon Master. You can also choose a Pokémon from your party to accompany you. Some will hop in front of you, some walking behind you, even monstrous ones like Onix.
One of the most striking differences in Pokémon Let’s Go! is how wild Pokémon are approached and caught. Unlike the other mainline games, there are no wild Pokémon battles – instead, players toss PokéBalls at an ever-moving circle on the screen surrounding the Pokémon. This is exactly the same as Pokémon GO!, down to giving the wild Pokémon berries to calm it down or receive more items. I honestly thought this would be extremely annoying, but it was easy and intuitive. You’re given PokéBalls often through trainer battles and random spots in the overworld, and they’re pretty cheap in the PokéMart. Money is also way easier to obtain. Players obtain EXP for every Pokémon caught, and there are even multipliers for the size of the Pokémon (represented by a blue or red aura in the overworld), the first throw, or making it into the smallest inner circle possible. Catching multiples of the same Pokémon also give bigger EXP bonuses and better chances for a shiny Pokémon in the wild. Leveling Pokémon this way is, in my opinion, more fun than having to battle wild Pokémon. It’s also one of the many reasons that this review is a little “late”, as I spent two days compulsively catching Diglett for that cute little blue-nosed shiny. (It took a streak of 215 in a row, not too shabby!) Catching Pokémon, and subsequently handing them over en masse to the Professor, also gives Candy that can be used to power up your Pokémon almost limitlessly.
Nintendo did remove things like Pokémon Eggs, breeding, bicycles, and fishing from the game, seemingly to make it more simple for new players to the series. You can still leave your Pokémon at the Day Care to level up, but they’ll no longer breed for eggs. Since some Pokémon can be ridden for faster movement speed, removing the bicycle seemed to be an easy choice. Besides, riding around on Snorlax or Arcanine is way more fun than a bike. Fishing, however, doesn’t seem to have a clear reason for being removed besides removing the aspect of seeing Pokémon in the overworld. It makes it pretty hard to get a water-type Pokémon that isn’t given to you until over halfway in the game when the game’s equivalent of Surf is learned.
Some players craving accessibility options may be turned down when it comes to playing Pokémon Let’s Go! The game can only be played with a single Joy-Con controller (or two if playing couch co-op), the PokéBall Plus Accessory, or in handheld mode with Joy-Cons attached. No Pro controller for Pokémon Let’s Go! Using the PokéBall Plus accessory is pretty fun and immersive, but the controls are lacking with the lack of dedicated buttons. Single Joy-Con is also fun, but not very accurate when it comes to throwing PokéBalls consistently.
Battling trainers and Gym Leaders is the same as previous games. Each Pokémon has a choice of four moves, with types and weaknesses to those types. Trainers spot you through grass and across pathways, so steer clear if you don’t want to battle. New to Pokémon Let’s Go! is the added “gatekeeping” of each Gym as you get to it. One requires you to know the Special Technique Chop Down (a replacement of an HM in previous games), or have at least one Pokémon of a specific level to enter the Gym. In a normal playthrough, this didn’t seem to be a problem and each hurdle was easy to cross.
Taking advantage of the Switch’s more powerful hardware, Pokémon Let’s Go! also features full cutscenes for certain story elements. The world of Pokémon seems closer to “reality” than it’s ever been before, with clear-cut sprites for characters and simpler pathways. The 3DS has made some headway in the past with improved graphics, but this version is better than ever.
Replacing the Safari Zone from previous versions, Pokémon Let’s Go! features the new GO! Park, where players can transfer and interact with Pokémon from Pokémon GO! The two games intermix, allowing players to transfer any Pokémon caught in GO! to Let’s Go! This makes it significantly easier to complete the PokéDex, provided you’ve kept up with catching them all in GO! There are also mini-games that can be played in GO! Park if enough Pokémon are caught and transferred into Let’s Go!
The PokéBall Plus accessory also functions as more than a controller for Let’s Go! The accessory can be paired with GO! and can be used to spin PokéStops automatically and catch Pokémon without ever using your phone. This was very helpful while visiting Chicago for a day, racking up a bunch of extra PokéBalls and items to use when I was in a dry spell. In Let’s Go!, the accessory can store a single Pokémon which levels up as you walk and can be transferred back into your game to reap maximum rewards. I’m still not sure if it’s worth the $50 price tag by itself, but for more serious GO! players, might very well be worth it.
|Easier, less intrusive gameplay||Accessibility concerns|
|New, updated graphics||May be too easy for longtime core fans|
|Fun, reinvented gameplay||Might be pricy for a 3rd release|