Hands-On Preview: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! (Switch)

We played the new reimagining of Pokémon Yellow!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/22/2018 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

One of the frustrations of this burgeoning age of social media is that many people are quick to cling to a Tweet versus doing actual research on a topic. Case in point: some people clearly don’t get what Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! are all about. “Nintendo is slaughtering my childhood!” “I want a REAL Pokémon game!” Cool your jets if these two games have been giving you conniptions. Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu! and Eevee! shouldn’t be bothering anyone, as they’re officially not the next mainline RPGs in the series and they’re also not the abomination that pundits are trying to make them out to be.

For those who don’t know, the Let’s Go duo are effectively a remake/reimagining of Pokémon Yellow. Yes, one of the classic, original Pokémon games from Game Boy. It’s hard to destroy the legacy of the series when using one of the first three games as a blueprint. Don’t let the three-dimensional character models and game world fool you, as you are indeed looking at Kanto reborn. While we’ve already gotten a full taste of Pokémon Red and Blue Versions remade in the forms of Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen on Game Boy Advance, Let’s Go represents a much more modern and robust rejiggering of the games that hooked so many of us, so many years ago.

While Pokémon games have been popping up on Nintendo’s home consoles as far back as Nintendo 64, there have only been a couple of times that the series has attempted to do an actual RPG beyond the handhelds. Those two games were Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness on GameCube. While they have their fans, the pair of titles were nowhere near as ambitious as what the portable Pokémon games have to offer. At the same time, however, the duo of GameCube Pokémon RPGs brought the 3D visuals and sense of grandeur that many fans of the series had longed for. Colosseum and Gale of Darkness were certainly flawed experiences, but they inched the franchise closer to the dream of a true Pokémon RPG on home consoles.

With the advent of Switch, many fans have been eager to see what Nintendo and Game Freak would do with the franchise on the new hardware. The system represents a natural intersection for the sorts of Pokémon experiences that have been reserved for portable platforms like 3DS and the glimpse of the series “grown up” that was last seen on GameCube. The duo of Let’s Go games have totally embraced being on Switch, employing some of the most gorgeous visuals yet seen in a Pokémon game. Unlike on GameCube, though, these games offer a more thematically appropriate mix of HD, three-dimensional characters and environments with the cartoony, bubbly aesthetics that the franchise is known for.

I personally am really digging the look of Let’s Go. I loved the GameCube Pokémon games, but the series has evolved (no pun intended) over the years, to the point that the look of these two Switch titles is more natural and representative of what Pokémon is. Grass waves in the breeze, the lighting is gorgeous, and the Pocket Monsters themselves all look like they were stripped straight from the anime. The development team has done an incredible job of advancing the stunning visuals of the 3DS iterations of the series. While I certainly miss the pixelated days of yore, Let’s Go is hands down the prettiest looking set of ‘Mon games yet seen.

From a gameplay standpoint, let’s put another worry to rest: yes, Let’s Go has some elements of Pokémon Go, but they’re not as intrusive as some might think. Random battles are out for Let’s Go. Rather than run around in tall grass and taking on wave after wave of lurking Pokémon, Let’s Go shows you exactly which Pocket Monsters are out in the field. Instead of engaging these rando-mon in battle, though, now players are expected to hurl Poké Balls at the creatures much like in Go. As in that title, the Pokémon can be softened up with berries to make them more pliable for capture.

It’s a fun system, but there’s no denying that a lot of fans will be split on this. For one thing, there’s an entire segment of “true” Pokémon fans who despise Go and don’t want anything to do with it. I’m going to be frank: I’m pretty tired of the high and mighty Go haters. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no different than any other Pokémon spin-off. I also think that it does a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the series, albeit in a simplified way. While I certainly enjoy the thrill of shaving a wild Pokémon’s health down to a sliver and lobbing a Poké Ball at them for a tidy capture, I’m also fully aware that Let’s Go isn’t a mainline Pokémon RPG. I had fun tossing Poké Balls around in the demo I played and am willing to roll with this deviation because it’s entertaining and (for now) doesn’t seem to be impacting the Pokémon RPG coming in 2019.

In any event, remember that battling is only gone in the wild. There are still proper Pokémon battles with trainers throughout the game, including the gyms that are a staple of the series. If you’re worried about being underpowered when these encounters happen because of the lack of wild Pokémon battles, note that capturing the creatures bestows experience, so you won’t be left desperately underpowered. There’s also the requisite trading that fans love so much as well as the ability to transport in Pokémon from Go, so there will be plenty of ways to beef up your team as the game progresses. The Poké Ball Plus is also very fun to use, by the way. It’s essentially a spherical Joy-Con and makes the act of “throwing” a Poké Ball all the more authentic feeling.

Hopefully we’ve given you a glimpse into Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! that puts some of your worries to bed, if you found yourself in the camp of people thinking the games are an evil abomination. This duo of games that mark Pokémon’s first steps onto Switch are going to be must-haves. Bridging the gap between Pokémon Go and the RPGs is a bold and brilliant step to bring even more players to Nintendo’s latest console. While some of the changes will never satisfy the “hardcore” Pokémon crowd, there’s a good shot that if even the most jaded amongst us gives the games a try, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by how genuine and fun a time they are.

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