The initial announcement of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! made everyone at WayTooManyGames utter a collective “huh?” instead being excited or angry about it. Were they a spinoff? Was this the new direction the series was taking from now on? What the hell is that pokeball controller? Why Kanto yet again? Those were a few of the many questions raised by our team, the vast majority of which went unanswered until I had the chance to play the upcoming Switch titles at an exclusive Nintendo showcase at Brasil Game Show 2018.
I have to admit that I enjoyed that demo more than I could have ever expected, but I’m still not exactly excited for the final product. But that’s fine, as this is not aimed at us 90’s kids who grew up with Game Boy cartridges and Link cables.
The demo was quite short, but it had more than enough to showcase how the game will actually work. Nintendo was also kind enough to let me go through the demo multiple times in order to learn more about it. The best way I can describe Pokémon: Let’s Go is that it’s half Go and half mainline Pokémon games. The way you capture monsters is just like Pokémon Go: you don’t fight wild monsters and you can’t weaken them. You need to aim and properly center the ball in order to catch monsters with more accuracy. Since there’s not way to actually grind by fighting wild Pokémon (except legendaries), the game gives you experience points by how well you capture them. The entire team gets experience points at once without the need of having an Exp. Share or similar item.
Candies from Pokémon Go also return. This time around, they can be used just like the nutrients in the mainline Pokémon games (Carbos, Protein, Iron, etc.). You can earn these items by constantly sending extra Pokémon to Professor Oak so you can, in a way, consider mass capturing monsters as this game’s method of grinding.
While the method of capturing monsters comes from Pokémon Go, battling trainers remains untouched. The same current-gen fighting style is present, the same moves (with a few new additions) are here, status effects, battle enhancement items, and so on. There are also more trainers scattered throughout the map than usual. I had the chance to play as both Eevee and Pikachu and each had a new attack. Pikachu had a Flying-type move and Eevee had a Fire-type one.
The overworld gameplay itself is what makes Pokémon: Let’s Go more unique in comparison to the mainline games. While the map layout and the graphics are pretty much identical to X/Y and Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire (albeit with some better quality textures), there are no more random battles. That’s right, you can actually see all Pokémon on the field and you can choose to avoid them if you wish. It was REALLY weird at first, but given the fact that there is no reason to grind combat-wise, it made sense. I can’t even imagine finally being able to avoid Zubats at will inside Mt. Moon or the Rock Tunnel. It only took two decades for the dream to come true! Their habitats have been changed as well. The demo was limited to just Viridian Forest, but I was able to capture Bellsprouts, Nidorans, Jigglypuffs and a Psyduck. Sadly, the game will only be limited to Gen 1 monsters as of now, even though that weird Meltan will be present.
Controlling the main character is so stupidly easy and simple that I stuck to using the special Pokéball controller for the entire duration of my demo sessions. The center of the ball acts as an analog stick, as well as the confirm button, while the “north pole” of the ball is a touchable “cancel” and “menu” button. The ball includes the same HD rumble features and accelerometers from the normal joycon and you capture Pokémon by making a throwing gesture onscreen. It was responsive enough, even if it made me look a little bit silly, and the developers were smart enough to include a little strap to stick the Pokéball to your ring finger.
The coolest aspect of this special controller is that whenever you successfully capture a new Pokémon, the center of the ball will glow in the same color as the recently captured monster. Nintendo wasn’t joking when it said you could play the entire game with just one hand: the gameplay is just that simple. You can also use the joycon as the controller, so don’t worry, you’ll be able to buy this on the eShop if you don’t want yet another gizmo in your room.
Rather than being a step back from the classic Pokémon games, I came to find out that Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! act more as stepping stones for casual Pokémon Go players in order for them to get used to the series’ mechanics before the inevitable arrival of the next generation of games. It’s definitely not a deep game and it’s even easier and more simplified than the more recent (and already simplified) Pokémon games, but that’s fine. I’m not the target audience and I can definitely see Go players migrating in huge numbers to this title and actually becoming mainstream Pokémon players further down the line. Kudos to you Game Freak, but you could have at least added more than just Gen 1 monsters, don’t you think?