On November 16, we got two new Pokémon games–not mainstream games, but two that are remakes of the Gen 1 games, aimed primarily at Pokémon Go fans, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!. Being that I will buy literally anything Nintendo slaps an Eevee on (I even bought Pokémon Conquest), I had to have a copy.
The game is essentially a remake of the Gen 1 games, as I said above, though it has the most in common with Pokémon Yellow because of the fixed companion model and the elements that are specifically linked to the anime, like the presence of Jessie and James.
As always, let’s start with how it looks: of course the graphics have been updated. The style is similar in type to the most recent 3DS games, but it’s a little rounder, a little smoother. The style is more consistent from battle to world screens, so it’s a little more simplified than those 3DS games. And, of course, that Eevee is so cute I can’t stand it.
The music has also been updated and orchestrated. There’s not much to say other than it sounds amazing. You can also hear wild Pokémon calls as you approach them, which is a cool touch first utilized in the Pokémon Sun and Moon and Ultra Sun games.
Of course, much has been made of how the game elements have been updated. Wild Pokémon encounters are made by running into Pokémon that you actually see wandering around in the wild, which is cool because it gives players a somewhat more realistic version of the Pokémon world. For the most part, wild Pokémon encounters no longer involve fighting. Instead, you have a catching system that is basically identical to that of Pokémon Go. If you catch the Pokémon, you earn some experience points. This makes “safe” grinding extremely difficult unless you’re willing to catch loads and loads of the same species over and over, which, well, I wasn’t.
The primary method for catching Pokémon is using motion controls with your JoyCons. You can flick your wrists up or down to toss the ball of your choice. This game’s motion tracking seemed to be all over the place, however. If I tried flicking my wrist harder or faster to make the ball go further, the ball would go flying into random directions off of the screen. Aimin, in general,l was difficult – about half the time it felt as if the ball would just brush past the hit zone. The only time I didn’t have these problems with motion controls was when I would detach the JoyCons to play while I had the Switch in my hands instead of docked. (Note: I did not purchase the Pokéball Plus controller, so I cannot speak for how well those motion controls work.)
Although I appreciated not having to do all of the set up a Wii needs, the motion controls don’t feel any more developed than your average Wii game. In fact, this felt much worse, considering how simple the motion controls in Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! are. This isn’t exactly Skyward Sword, here! Fortunately, you can just catch Pokémon with the A button (and “play” via the touch screen) when the Switch is undocked, so the challenge isn’t insurmountable.
Other than that, the controls are pretty simple, almost exactly the same as any other Pokémon game. I think the only other thing that threw me in terms of controls was that the shoulder buttons worked as equivalents to A and B, rather than scrolling buttons.
The game also has some other, more convenient changes. Need to get into a Pokémon box? You can access it from your backpack. Your partner Pokémon learns equivalents to all the HMs, so there’s no need to waste a party spot on an HM slave (the offensive HMs can still be learned or obtained as TMs). You can also change your Pokémon’s nickname at a whim, by your own volition–it’s wonderful!
Another big change I absolutely loved was how the rival acted. He’s introduced as your rival and friend, so I was scared he was going to be another “buddy.” The last few mainstream games–starting with Pokémon Black and White, so far as I remember–you don’t have a rival, you have a BFF who is always… helping. They’re always so happy to see you. And they’re so good-natured! I only wanted another Gary Oak that hates me and I hate him. I wanted a rival that inspired me to get stronger (to get better at pounding him into the ground), not somebody that makes me feel like I’m kicking a Chihuahua.
Your rival in this game isn’t exactly a Gary Oak (though he is here, as Blue), but he’s closer to a real rival. He lends you items, but he isn’t up in your face about the power of friendship. Good enough for me! Besides, I was looking at my final team which includes my Eevee, a Nidoking, and an Arcanine, so I guess, in the end, I sort of became my own Gary Oak. Just as Nietzsche predicted.
Obviously, the biggest piece for me was the presence of Eevee. It’s great to see Eevee gets its due as such a popular Pokémon (well, not great for my wallet) and it’s so fun to get to play with him specially, dress him up, and feed him. Some parts of the game are also modified to include Eevee more as well. At one point you have to infiltrate a Rocket base as Eevee–cute, and admittedly very easy, but it does give Eevee a chance to shine and is an example of bringing something new to the so-familiar-it’s-ingrained-in-your-soul story.
That kind of encompasses all of my feelings about this game. I played the original Pokémon Red when it came out in the US over and over and over. I had Pokémon Yellow, Pokémon Leaf Green, and even bought the virtual console release of Red. I know this game better than the back of my hand. However, with updated graphics and updated elements (some as simple as a bag that doesn’t have a limit), the game expanded to what I had always imagined it was, a vibrant world populated by present and visible Pokémon that you can bond with as if they really are your buddies and pets. It feels like a natural culmination of efforts that started with Pokémon SoulSilver and HeartGold.
Though there are some technical oddities, there are a few ways to circumvent the issues and nothing I encountered broke the game. I don’t love the new catching style, but I don’t hate it, either. I mean, I’ve been using it in Pokémon Go for years now, and I suspect that this game is aimed at an audience closer with that game rather than the mainstream games, anyways. It works as a game for that audience that may not even know about the older games (I.E. Pokémon’s target audience, actual children) and as a game for older fans as well: although I saw many complaints about divergences from traditional gameplay online before the release of these games, I think that if these people tried the Let’s Go! games out, they would be pleasantly surprised.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! are both currently available for the Nintendo Switch.