Pokémon Let’s Go is meant for the original 151 fan, and while that direction may be hard to swallow for the more hardcore trainers, it’s still a robust title.
If you’ve played all of the main series Pokémon games, then you will simply breeze through Pokémon Let’s Go‘s story. There are too many exploits and known means of winning to make it a fair fight for those poor Bug Catchers and Lasses in this remake of 1997’s Pokémon Yellow Game Boy title.
As Pokémon GO continues to break records and make incredible sales, Pokémon Let’s Go was inevitable. That reintroduced, nostalgia-driven GO player will love Pokémon Let’s Go. There are simple, clear instructions on what to do next and how to defeat the Gym Leaders, making it more of an exercise in bringing Pokémon GO to a home console.
The motion control catching mechanic is a lot less frustrating than you were probably imagining it to be. As someone who still struggles to get the perfect spin ball on Pokémon GO, I can happily report that catching Pokémon using the Joy-Cons is a treat. You cannot be lazy with your throws, because if you are, the game knows it. You’re simply not allowed to only flick your wrist. Rather, you need to get your whole arm into the motion to make an arc in the air, putting you right in the shoes of a Pokémon Trainer.
Along with the addictive quality of the motion controls for catching Pokémon, it also ends up being the best way to grind for experience. This is a first for any Pokémon, because instead of battling wild Pokémon, you can only capture them (save for some notable exceptions). Your reward for landing an “excellent!” throw is a major EXP gain, and it feels great.
Unlike the button mashing madness that is grinding for EXP in every other Pokémon game, you’re treated to a full Pokémon Trainer experience that yields fun and practical results.
As the Pokémon series ages, it seems like it’s learning as much as it can from past iterations. No longer do you need to visit the PC to change up your party, as all of the Pokémon you own are accessible from the game’s menu. This is, once again, something that makes Pokémon Let’s Go very, very easy. There is nearly no excuse to die at the Elite Four, seeing as you can just switch in a healthy ‘mon in for the one lacking in PP or HP. Similarly, the mechanic of reusable TMs is here to stay, making PP a non-issue for moves that can be relearned via the technical machine items.
Even though Pokémon Let’s Go presents itself in a very light, comical manner, the game does sprinkle in optional challenges for veteran players. Coach Trainers have tougher Pokémon with a smarter AI, but they only battle you when you speak to them. Also, there is a fun challenge post-game wherein players can have battles with creature-specific Master Trainers. These Master Trainer battles allow only the same Pokémon on each side to be used. It’s a fun twist on becoming a Pokémon master, and presents a very difficult challenge for some less fortunate ‘mons (Magikarp, Metapod, ect.).
The Pokémon GO connectivity in Fushia City was simple, with it taking over for the Safari Zone. There is nothing flashy about the connection with the mobile game, wherein you are set to re-capture your Pokémon in large empty fields. It worked seamlessly with my phone’s Bluetooth, although the Switch did need my phone to be within a couple of feet of itself in order to recognize the signal.
There are some light challenges in Pokémon Let’s Go‘s main story, but there are more cute moments than anything else. Your partner Pokémon (being Eevee or Pikachu, depending on which version you purchased) is precious, and can replicate all field HM moves with its Secret Techniques. You can pet, style, feed, and dress your Partner Pokémon, along with the ability to teach them new battle moves not of their type. Their consistent encouragement as you plod through Team Rocket Hideout #2 and Rock Cave #3 helps you feel a little less lonely in the game’s sprawling dungeons.
Releasing a given ‘mon from its ball to follow you (or carry you) was often hilarious and cute. Maps of towns, routes, and dungeons are tweaked just enough to keep veteran players on their toes, but most of the original puzzles remain intact. Gym Leaders are equipped with more balanced teams, which either makes them very easy or somewhat more difficult. I’ll leave any Elite Four and post-game battle specifics as a surprise for players, but do know that Nintendo listened to many fan requests.
I can’t help but wonder how that Pokémon GO fanatic that lost touch with the series after Pokémon Yellow feels after becoming the Elite Four Champion. Would they be happy to recognize so many creatures, locations, and characters? I can only assume as much, because Nintendo put in their very best effort to sway GO players into purchasing what ended up being a well polished Pokémon game.
Was it easy? Yeah, it was. I was able to skip past any and all optional trainers without ever having to grind, seeing as EXP share was always on.
Was it fun? Very much so. I’ve had a lot more fun with the extremely fantastic Black 2 and White 2 titles, and have enjoyed the new challenges present in the Sun and Moon games. As a side-game to tide us over until the 2019 main series Pokémon Switch title, I’ll happily take this cute distraction.
One thing is for sure: Nintendo locked their sights on an incredibly vivacious subset of its fanbase, and delivered the exact title that those newbies didn’t even know they needed. With a series that is over two decades old, that sort of effort can be just the thing Pokémon needs to secure 20 more years of pop culture dominance.