Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Game Freak

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: November 16th 2018

Price as of Article: £49.99 GBP and $59.99 USD

Game code provided by Nintendo for review

Introduction

Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee represent a big landmark for the series. The legendary monster catching games have always been very set in their ways; they’ve slowly evolved, refined and tweaked over 20 years, but it’s pretty much been a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” type of thing. Let’s Go, however, is the biggest shake up yet.

While not technically part of the mainline series, this Let’s Go release is genuinely the closest game we’ve come to be considered one. Taking heavy inspiration from the mobile phenomenon Pokémon Go, this is a more casual re-imagining of the original releases; Red, Green, Blue and more closely – Yellow.

Story

The story for Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee is a very familiar one. Starting off in your sleepy home town, your main protagonist has reached their coming-of-age in this gaming world. As is customary for citizens of this world, the young adults can go on an adventure to become the Pokémon Champion by capturing and then battling the cheery creatures that inhabit it.

Along the adventure, you’ll meet a fair few folk you can help, as well as hinder, such as the dastardly Team Rocket who want all the Pokémon for themselves, to use in nefarious ways. Despite a deep rooted darkness, the story and concept of the series has mostly been shielded by a bright and cheerful atmosphere that is especially present here, where they’re expecting younger children to be present than ever.

It’s all a bit too nice. Long gone are the days where your rivals were actually that, either bitter or just full on jerks. Here, we have the happy-go-lucky rival, who probably gives you a high five after you demolish them every time and promises to be best friends forever. It really could do with a little bit of edge, instead of the unbearable cuddly cushion that it is.

Being a remake, too, it provides very little in the way of twists or turns. There are a few additional cutscenes and tidbits to tie parts of the world together, but nothing major. It’s a fine enough adventure for youngsters, though, and I’m sure there will be lots of the same imaginative fun I had 20 years ago for a new generation of wannabe Pokémon masters.

Gameplay

Pokémon is Pokémon. You and your faithful set of allies – whether it be James, the Eevee, or any of my other Pokémon named after the SwitchWatch team – travel together on a merry adventure, capturing and battling others like you. If you’ve played a mainline Pokémon game before, however, then Let’s Go may provide the greatest shock to you. Without wanting to be too blunt, they’ve ripped out the age-old, time-honored gameplay, and streamlined it to bring the Pokémon franchise to you from a different angle. It’s everything you know about the original Pokémon games, but in a refocused manner.

Taking a lot of inspiration from Pokémon Go, Let’s Go has given massive attention to the capturing aspect instead of the battling, which really took a hold of the series for the hardcore fans and the older series veterans. I mean, let’s face it, with an original tag line of “Gotta Catch ‘em All”, that was always the spirit of the game, wrapped up in a JRPG. They’ve really trimmed the fighting aspect though, which could be for better or for worse, depending on your outlook.

Battles are present in the form of trainer battles, but now there are no random Pokémon encounter battles. I think even the most stubborn fans will admit that the random battles often slowed the games down horrendously, at times. I know what you’ll shout though: “That’s what Pokémon has always been and should always be!” Not necessarily. The pace and flow of this entry is so much better than the games before it. You feel like you’re free and not walking through mud trying to get from A to B.

The difficulty hasn’t suffered, either. The random encounters were never the tough part of an already easy series. It was always the trainer battles and gym leaders that provided the small semblance of a test for an adult gamer. I feel like they are treated almost the same way here. To make up for the lost random encounters, your experience points and Pokémon levels are bolstered by capturing wild Pokémon. Indeed, often more so by capturing than battling.

I’m not sure if it’s entirely balanced out in terms of gameplay reward. I guess it does feel like there’s been less effort to get to your destination, so I do think they could have found some middle ground where amongst the scurrying wild Pokémon there could have been extra aggressive ones every now and again, who would battle you if you come near them. I think this could have brought some togetherness in what always would be a divisive game, no matter how good it turned out. There are a few special Pokémon like that here and there (you can probably guess which ones) but I feel this could have been used for some wild Pokémon too.

The battles themselves are pretty much how they’ve always been, except looking a lot better. Generally, a 1 v 1 battle with up to five Pokémon in reserve. Each of your Pokémon has up to 4 moves they can use to take the opponent out before they take you out. Considering Pokémon type and move type is important to crushing your opponent. I mean, I feel a bit daft explaining Pokémon battles but knowing the age range of our readers, it’s not out of the question that some of you were a little older when the Pokémon phenomenon started, so maybe this could be your first one.

I won’t say any more because I’d be here all day explaining a lot of the hidden depth and strategy, especially when it comes to playing against real people, but just know that it’s incredibly simple for even young children to understand, but still has a lot of depth to it, should you want to delve that far into it. I mean, many of the mainline Pokémon games could be considered eSports at this point, if they’re not already.

So, on to the capturing aspect, which is actually the main focus this time around. When wandering around the environments in the roads between cities and destinations, wild Pokémon will be skulking around, appearing and disappearing. This is unlike previous games as they appear on the overworld now, and it’s a welcome change. It brings more believability to the universe with such a simple addition. Making contact with them will initiate the the capture sequence. 

This is where Nintendo decided to go full-on gimmick, as they often try to do so. Motion controls are at the forefront of the experience here, whereby you gesture a throwing motion with the Joy-Con in order to capture the Pokémon before you.

There is a bit of skill involved in this process; for a start, you need to actually aim. If you swing wildly, the Pokéball will fly off to nowhere. It’s also timing based too. Timing your throw perfectly as the circular indicator decreases can give your capture attempt a boost. From Nice, to Great, to Excellent; you can increase your chances of success by quite a lot. The timing does take a little getting used to, but once you’ve thrown 20 or so, you’ll get the hang of it. Still, it can be a little finicky about which grades it awards you. There were plenty of times I thought – according to the timing circle – my throw was perfect, but I didn’t get a grade at all. It seemed odd, but not a huge problem.

Some Pokémon are obviously more difficult to capture than others and this is where my initial trepidation of it being too baby-like went away. There are many Pokémon out there that will refuse to lay down and be caught. Some will flap or run around the screen, making it difficult to get the ball on target, as well as intermittently taking a swipe at you to repel any Pokéball thrown at that time. This is where you’ll have to feed them berries as bait. One will calm them down, stopping them from going nuts all over the screen, while another will slow down the timing circle as well as bringing them down a capture difficulty level. Green timing circle means they are easy while yellow and red means they are increasingly more difficult.

While there is a slight bit of mindlessness to it all at first, after a few hours you’ll lock horns with some fairly tough beasts to capture. It took me ages to get a Clefairy, and that’s pretty early on. I kind of wish there wasn’t so much constant capturing though. It makes those tougher captures less significant when you’re capturing your fifth Pidgey or sixth Vulpix.

You’ll be catching a lot of Pokémon. It’s not entirely necessary, due to the easy nature of the game, but when they’re there and you’ve got a hundred Pokéballs spare, you think “Why not?”. To combat the overload of Pokémon in your box, you can cart off dozens at a time to Professor Oak for him to study. As a reward, you’ll gain candies that can increase stats of your Pokémon. I didn’t use this too often because I didn’t find it necessary, but this will be great for kids who need a helping hand.

What I did find astonishing is that Pokémon Let’s Go is played entirely with one Joy-Con, held vertically. Basically half a controller. It’s almost refreshing in a way and doesn’t feel compromised at all. It may be a bit niche to say, but these games are perfect for some disabled gamers out there.

This is only for docked mode however, in portable mode you have your standard control set up. Catching is done with the touch of a button but aiming is done with gyro controls. It’s less gimmicky for sure and may be the way many of you will prefer to play it. I found it much easier too.

I should probably talk about a third controller option, which comes in the form of the Pokéball accessory. Sold separately – or in a bundle – this little controller assists, or at least enhances, the immersion in the catching part of the game. Sadly, I didn’t have a unit to actually review for this video.

You battle and capture your way to victory across the Kanto region, earning gym badges and then making a run for the Pokémon Champion. It’s slick and expertly refined as an experience, it’s almost as though they’ve done this a few times before. It’s still as enjoyable as it was 20 years ago and it will always be full of charm.

There are a few cute things in here to really hem in the more child-orientated aspect of this release. While nothing exactly new, you can pet your main Pokémon, whether that be Eevee or Pikachu. You can even give them a few new hairstyles and dress them up with accessories, even coordinating their fashion with your main character.

There’s even a two player mode, a first when it comes to Pokémon. I do think this is going to be used by kids or those playing with kids, rather than adults. The second player can join in any time and run around the overworld with you – it’s a little limited and hardly the massive online multiplayer Pokémon game we all dreamed about, but it’s a start. The second player can join in and help out with catching Pokémon, as well as in battles. It makes the game even easier as the Pokéballs thrown combine in their power, if they synchronise up. Battles also become a joke as you can 2 v 1 enemies. The second player takes the second Pokémon in the line up to use. Again, this is only going to be used by children, but I can see that being a tonne of fun for families. Especially siblings who can play together.

So far, so very promising, but it’s not without an oversight or two, though. Firstly, there’s no Pro Controller support to speak of, possibly due to the Joy Con usage during capturing, but that’s not a full explanation as you can just use the buttons anyway in handheld mode. It’s downright peculiar. I’m not a Pro Controller user much myself, but I feel for those who are.

I hate to bring this as a negativity, but it really is too easy. I understand that Pokémon games are for children, but it’s entirely possible for GameFreak to include a hard mode for veteran gamers that remixes enemy levels, Pokémon locations, enemy tactics and so on. At least to make the game require being played in an awakened state, not like now where you really can play the game half comatose, at least for the first 10-15 hours. Only really far into the game does it bring any challenge and even then it’s nothing fans of the series can’t handle.

I should mention that there is online play for Let’s Go, which will certainly please the hardcore fans and will probably make you get it regardless of what you feel about the simplified core game. You can trade as well as battle, although you will need to be paying up for Nintendo’s Online Service.

Audio

The music is great as you’d expect from any Pokémon game. There’s a lot of familiar, almost pop culture themes throughout this game – obviously remixes of the original score, they add a lot of production value to the classic tunes many of you will have so ingrained in your memory from your childhood. There’s not much else to say in this regard. It’s the classics we love, just updated.

There’s no voice acting sadly, aside from the odd Pokémon call. This is something the franchise should address sooner rather than later, I think.

Visuals & Performance

Visually, the game is fantastic, especially compared to what has come before. Sure, it’s not the exceptional level of the Pokken game, but that was hardly going to happen first time around. It’s bright and colourful, almost to a fault. Indeed, although I can wholeheartedly say it looks great, it’s almost too sickly sweet for me. I would have preferred something a little grittier, but again, that was never going to happen. This is hardly going to look as fantastic as the Detective Pikachu movie (and yes, I said that, it looks awesome).

It’s far more cinematic than it’s ever been, some nice camera cuts and directing here. Nothing major, but it’s a big step up in many regards. The attention to detail is great too. Just seeing all the posters and paintings on the wall makes this the most believable Pokémon world yet.

As far as performance goes, normally for a massive Nintendo title you don’t have to worry, though the 3DS Pokémon games were incredibly taxing on that system. I’m happy to report the extra grunt the Switch has will take away any worries that you may have. There may have been a frame or two lost in a couple of the cities, but nothing that hindered the experience even slightly.

Value

For value, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee come in at a full-fat $59.99 in the US and £49.99 in the UK. It’s more expensive than what Pokémon games have usually gone for and that might irk some consumers, especially considering the viewpoint of those that feel it’s a watered down experience. There’s enough budget and value in this one though, and I think even the most ardent of gamer would concede that the Pokémon mainline games have always been great value for money, and this is no exception. I would suggest going for a cheap physical version though and if you’re going to be buying this game then consider supporting the site by using our Amazon shop link. It would help us out a little, if you’re planning on buying it anyway.

Pros

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No random battles

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Great music

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Perfect for kids

Cons

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Way too easy

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A little too safe despite the changes