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The Pokémon franchise has come a long way since the ’90s. Over the years, there’ve been dozens of Pokémon games from the more recent Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon to classics like Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, which were released way back in 1996. Now, Game Freak, the developers behind the Pokémon games, are playing on that nostalgia with Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, which are arguably remakes of the classic Pokémon Yellow but with a few cool twists.
So are the new Pokémon games worth buying? With new features and game mechanics, do they compromise on what’s always made the games fun? I’ve been playing Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! on the Nintendo Switch for the past few months to find out.
What’s similar to previous games
If you’ve ever played a Pokémon video game before, the first few steps like naming your character or choosing your gender and skin tone are the same so things will feel very familiar. After exploring your home a little, you’ll try to leave town only to run into Professor Oak, go back to his lab, and get your first Pokémon — a Pikachu in Let’s Go, Pikachu! or an Eevee in Let’s Go, Eevee!. Both versions still feel generally like a Pokémon game and you’ll immediately know what’s going to happen and when, but now you’ll get to see it play out on your TV in beautifully rendered 3-D graphics.
There are slight changes to the game that make it easy for newbies to catch on quick, but there are more similiarities than there are differences. You’ll still fight Team Rocket, battle gym leaders, and make your way through the Elite Four. Eventually, you’ll still be able to catch the ultra-rare Mewtwo and attempt to complete your Pokédex. You’ll also get the opportunity to train and evolve the original three starters, so if you’re a fan of Pikachu, Charmander, and Bulbasaur, don’t feel like they’re absent from the game.
Seasoned players may find battles a little easy though and it’s not difficult to make it through the entire game undefeated if you keep stocking up on items to maintain the health of your characters. That, however, doesn’t necessarily take away from the fun. For seasoned players, the fun will lie in tapping into that sense of nostalgia while new players might enjoy discovering the origin story.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! are the most beautifully developed Pokémon games ever. Nintendo has never been about looking realistic or pushing the boundaries of what video game graphics can look like, but now the new cartoon-like renderings make the game look better than previous versions while still retaining the charm that early the games, TV shows, and movies had to offer.
Perhaps the biggest and most important change is the mechanics of actually catching a Pokémon. In previous games, you would battle wild Pokémon within an inch of fainting before throwing a Pokéball to catch it. But in Let’s Go, catching Pokémon is much more like catching them in the cell phone game Pokémon Go. With your Joy-Con controller, you’ll mime throwing a Pokéball at wild Pokémon to catch them instead of battling with your existing characters (with the one exception to gain some experience points at the end). You can also feed them berries so they’re easier to catch or more likely to give you items, but the overall catching process is very simple. This is by design for newbie players. While seasoned Pokémon players may still get a lot out of Let’s Go, the game is specifically built for those who may not have played a Pokémon game before so it makes sense for a simplified version.
There are other differences to game mechanics too. For example, the more of the same Pokémon you catch, the more experience your characters will get and advance to higher levels faster. And just like in Pokémon Go, if you send your Pokémon back to Professor Oak, you’ll get candies that can raise their stats and increase their effectiveness when battling other characters. It’s an interesting change and one that’s sure to be divisive among long-time Pokémon players, but I actually enjoyed being able to “improve” my characters that way and it helps make up for the fact that you can’t battle wild Pokémon in the first place.
One thing to note is that if you play Pokémon games often, you’re probably used to playing them on a Nintendo 3DS. Playing with the Switch’s Joy-Cons can take a little getting used to, but within an hour, it actually felt natural and easy.
What we didn’t like
Like I’ve mentioned already, the game might be a little easy for experienced Pokémon players. That’s not to say that the game isn’t fun — it is! But if you’re looking for a seriously challenging Pokémon game for the Switch, you may be better off waiting for Pokémon Sword and Shield.
The second issue has more to do with the controls. When the Nintendo Switch is docked and charging, you can only play it with a single Joy-Con controller, which means pretend-throwing Pokéballs. While that can be fun, sometimes you just want to play the game in handheld mode or on your TV. Unfortunately, you can’t do that currently. That also means that you can’t use the Pro Controller, which I find to be the most comfortable way to play the Nintendo Switch. Still, those issues are hardly deal-breakers.
The bottom line
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! are great games for long-time Pokémon fans and new players alike. The games blend what makes Pokémon fun with the power of the Nintendo Switch and while seasoned players will need to get used to the tweaks, like the lack of Pokémon battles and different level-up mechanics, those changes are relatively easy to get used to. We recommend Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee to any gamer that might be interested in the Pokémon universe.
Pros: Easy to play, allows players to re-explore classic Pokémon games, well-designed, still looks and feels like a Pokémon game
Cons: Controller use isn’t flexible, game might feel a little easy for some