Review – Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

I’ve finally figured out why Eevee is the most adorable thing ever: it’s the ears. The big bushy tailed puppy dog with the big beautiful brown eyes look is already irresistible, but add on floppy bunny ears and you have the most cuddly thing ever. Which is why Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! is scientifically the superior choice for everyone’s first Pokémon RPG title on the Nintendo Switch.

When starting Let’s Go, it’s important to note that this is NOT a mainline title. It’s designed as a “Kid’s First Pokémon game” while piggybacking off of Pokémon Go‘s success, so there’s been some changes, but TEMPORARY ones. Pokémon 2019 is said to have all the bells and whistles everyone wants. So while combat complexity and customization are toned down, the grind toned back, and the standard battle/catch Pokémon system is replaced with Go‘s system, it’s important to take it as its own thing. Even then, some things are more acceptable then others, even for a spin-off.

Oh boy

Sadly, Nintendo blocked some words this time around. For the creative among us though, this represents an invitation to be greater rather then rely on the old names.

First of all, there are the motion controls. In true Nintendo form, there is no way to turn them off. While docked you flick the joycon to throw pokéballs, and in handheld mode you aim with the gyro sensor and hit A (or any R/L button) to shoot. It’s not the worst implementation in the world (my 8 year old sister loves it, even in handheld mode she plays with a single Joy-Con), but when the little monster is really moving around, it can lead to a lot of wasted pokéballs for no gain trying to hit it.

Problems with catching monsters don’t end with hitting them. Outside of single-use berries (taken straight out of Pokémon Go), there are no other ways to improve your catch success chances. If you fail to catch a Pokémon with your first 4 pokéball throws, that fifth one isn’t going to do much better. In other games, current damage, status effects, even certain moves and locations could affect catch rates, and add a level of control and strategy to pure RNG. Here you are fully at its whim. When it’s hard to hit a Pokemon that also has a low catch rate, it’s a double-whammy of “why even bother”.

Literally Unplayable

Literally unplayable.

As far as major game-changers go, though, that’s pretty much it. The rest is your standard Pokémon fare. You have Gyms to beat, badges to collect, Team Rocket plans to foil, an Elite Four to conquer, and a Pokédex to fill. The battle system is the same as it has always been, just with a new cleaner layout. The removal of held items and abilities do take away a layer of strategy, but for some players the removal can go unnoticed as their direct effect on battles was negligible. The competitive scene is where this would matter, which is not this game’s focus. Breeding isn’t here either, but having been in none of the Kanto remakes (remember, you could only breed on the Sevii Islands in Fire Red and Leaf Green), it’s not surprising.

One change that sounds like a bigger deal than it is was the removal of random encounters. All Pokémon now appear on the screen walking around (even leaving the grass), but with spawns still randomized and automatic, rare Pokémon are still as rare as they always have been, and the methods of getting them to spawn (run in circles for hours) haven’t changed. The environments just look more active.

Pokemon stacking

It turns out that giant rock snakes are actually huge. Who knew?

Then there’s the much touted co-op, which is even less of a thing than the removal of random encounters. It technically works, sure, with the second player dropping in whenever, able to walk around with you (but since the map doesn’t follow you, you have to make sure to keep up or get lost off the screen), and join in battles, but you aren’t really there. In fights you merely use Player 1’s collection, and while catching Pokémon, you can only catch them for Player 1. It’s less co-op than it is two people playing as the same person, which while fun, isn’t exactly what people have been asking for.

One thing about the story and setting (without getting into any spoilers) is that this isn’t exactly a Red/Blue remake we assumed. It may start off with Oak discovering the Pokédex for the hundredth time in the last 20 years, but get into the game and you’ll quickly realize that not only is this closer to a almost proper Red/Blue sequel, but is even set after the events of Sun/Moon. Locations such as the museum have changed and moved forward from the last game (ever wondered what happened to the fossils that were rescued at Mt. Moon?), with some special guest appearances that are too cool to spoil. It’s still not particularly story-heavy and still follows the original’s plot (what there was of it, at least), but there’s a bunch of cool details for returning players.

It belongs in a museum

According to the museum they took both fossils away during Red/Blue. I guess they thought giving priceless historical objects to a 10 year old kid was a bad idea.

Despite my original misgivings, I ended up having way more fun with Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! than I ever expected. The Go-inspired catching system certainly has some issues, but nothing game-breaking, and while the battle system is streamlined, it is still classic Pokémon gameplay at heart. All of it comes together for a faster, less grindy Pokémon game that is absolutely perfect for newcomers to the genre.

Graphics: 8.5

HD monsters look as great as you could have imagined. Backgrounds are vibrant, framerate is solid. The biggest letdown is the fact move animation effects failing to take advantage of the Switch’s hardware (not a sentence I have ever expected to say).

Gameplay: 8.0

The battle system is rock-solid in the way only  a Pokémon game canreally be. For many, myself included, this was where we really cut our teeth on turn-based combat and the metric we base all other systems on. What brings the game down is the Pokémon catching system, which while fun, has a bunch of annoyances that really bring the experience down.

Sound: 7.5

The same music and battle cries you’ve been listening to for over 20 years now. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love the 8-bit cries, and the battle music strikes all the right notes (pun intended) but there’s nothing here that CHANGES THE GAME.

Fun Factor: 10

With a smaller grind due to faster leveling, the catch-focused progression instead of through battling every rat you encounter, and the nostalgia of being in Kanto again, this game is an example of simpler sometimes being better. Also, you can put a hat on your Eevee and have him ride around on your head. Gaming perfection.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee! and Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu! are available now on Nintendo Switch.