It’s been a long time coming but we’ve finally got a Pokemon game designed for a home console that can be played and enjoyed on a television. Yes I know that Pokemon Stadium and Snap could do that but until the release of Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee we’ve never had an RPG style Pokemon game on a home console. And after spending a heap of time with the Let’s Go! Eevee version I’m glad to say that anyone that picks up either version is in for an incredibly enjoyable time. There have been some big changes to the Pokemon formula we’ve come to love over the past 20 years but these changes have breathed some fresh life into the series and made it a game I’ll continue to return to until I’ve filled up that PokeDex.
Pokemon Let’s Go! is a fairly faithful remake of 1999’s Pokemon Yellow. Depending on the version you pick up your starting partner Pokemon will either be Pikachu or Eevee then you’re off, leaving Pallet Town and starting your journey to defeat the 8 Gym Leaders of the Kanto region, conquer the Elite 4 to become the new champion and then continue to fill your PokeDex by capturing all the Pokemon species you can.
For those familiar with the story of the Kanto based Pokemon titles you’ll mostly know what you’re in for here in Pokemon: Let’s Go! as it is almost beat for beat the same key story. There are some change-ups and surprises along the way but I’ll leave those for you to discover on your own.
The big change-up with Let’s Go is the Pokemon catching mechanic. Gone are the days where you used your party Pokemon to weaken the wild Pokemon down to a state where you could easily catch it. Let’s Go has adopted the catching system from the Pokemon Go mobile game where you can entice Pokemon using various berries before throwing PokeBalls and frantically hoping they decided to stay in the ball.
Wild Pokemon are also now visible on the map allowing you to choose to engage in a confrontation with one or avoid it completely. No more wandering through grass patches and being drawn into randomised battles and no more endless barrages of Zubats in Mt Moon.
Successfully catching Pokemon also grants XP to your entire party, offsetting what you lose by not being able to battle wild Pokemon to grind levels.
Thanks to the motion controls of the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons, if you’re playing in docked mode you throw out PokeBalls by physically making a throwing gesture. This is enhanced even further if you’re using the PokeBall Plus but more on that shortly.
You’ll need to line up your throw just right as well as throw the ball with the right level of strength to have the ball hit the wild Pokemon. It does introduce a bit of trial and error into the catching system but thankfully trainer battles often reward numerous PokeBalls along with money meaning you’re rarely ever in need of more PokeBalls.
For those worried about not being able to battle with your Pokemon anymore, fear not, you’ll still find plenty of opportunities to put your battling skills to the test in the game’s trainer battles. These battles play out exactly as they have done in all of the previous Pokemon games allowing you to match up Pokemon types to out battle your opponent.
But even before witnessing the new gameplay changes Let’s Go has to offer the first thing you’ll notice is how gorgeous the game looks. The character models and animations are super sharp, the world of Kanto is buzzing with life and is full of vibrantly lit and lush areas. Pokemon has never looked this good or felt so enjoyable to play.
Pokemon Let’s Go also does a brilliant job of being accessible to all levels of players. It caters to the audience who’s first Pokemon experience may have been Pokemon Go but also has plenty of the deeper RPG elements and strategic type-based battles that veteran players of the series look for in a Pokemon game.
Those looking to play with others are in luck too as Pokemon Let’s Go allows a second player to join your game and travel around Kanto cooperatively with you. The second player can’t initiate battles, talk to trainers or run into wild Pokemon but are able to run around the map with you, participate in catching Pokemon with you by throwing their own PokeBalls and also control their own Pokemon when in trainer battles. This does make the battles a bit easier though because it makes them 2 on 1 but is a great initiative to bring younger players into the world and learn the mechanics of the game.
Along with the game, Nintendo also sent me a PokeBall Plus to try out. The PokeBall Plus is a PokeBall styled controller for the Nintendo Switch that currently works only with the Pokemon Let’s Go games and allows you to travel around Kanto using the PokeBall Plus’ joystick which when pressed in acts as the A button, with the B button activated by lightly pressing the top of the PokeBall. The controller has a nice weight to it and doesn’t feel like a cheap plastic tie in controller for a Pokemon game. It also feels great catching wild Pokemon by physically throwing out a real PokeBall.
But the features of the PokeBall Plus aren’t limited to just being a controller. It comes pre-loaded with a Mew, which is currently the only way to obtain one in Pokemon Let’s Go and also allows you to place a Pokemon from your box into the ball and go for a real life walk. You’re able to hear and feel your Pokemon in the ball while out and about and upon returning to the game you can transfer it back into the game, earning XP and items for the amount of steps you walked together. If you’re an active person you can actually level up Pokemon and earn items quite easily if you take decent walks.
Those of you that play Pokemon Go can also transfer your Kanto Pokemon from your Pokemon Go game into Pokemon: Let’s Go’s Go Park located in Fuchsia City. This area is a replacement for the Safari Zone and allows you to capture and use your Pokemon from Pokemon Go to fill your PokeDex.
Even after beating the Elite 4 and becoming the champion there’s still plenty to do in Pokemon Let’s Go to keep you entertained for a long time. There’s the usual stuff such as rematching the Elite 4 and continuing to fill up the PokeDex with rare Pokemon but if you’re really up for a challenge you can try taking on the 151 Master Trainers. These trainers can be found scattered around Kanto and specialise in one Pokemon and will only fight you in a 1 on 1 battle with that same Pokemon. For example to Charmander Master Trainer only has a Charmander and will only battle you if you have a Charmander to face off with. These battles provide a great challenge and with 151 of them to track down and beat it will take you quite a while to become the true Master Trainer.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Pokemon: Let’s Go! Eevee and thought it was a great way to take players back to the Kanto region and experience a re-imagining of one of my favourite Pokemon games of the past. Even though at it’s core it is a remake, it still brings plenty of fresh ideas and new gameplay mechanics with it’s new capture system and the ability to interact with the Pokemon directly on the map. I still can’t believe how visually great the game looks and it still wows me every time I turn it on to play. As a first entry made solely for the Nintendo Switch it has me really excited to see what Game Freak are cooking up for next year’s core Pokemon title.
A review copy of Pokemon: Let’s Go! Eevee as well as a PokeBall Plus was provided by Nintendo Australia for the purpose of this review.