Pokémon is a franchise that needs no introduction. The Japanese juggernaut has enjoyed over two decades of global attention across a multitude of media. Whether it be through the seven generations of video games, the massively popular television series, or even the trading card game, chances are you know somethingabout Pokémon.
Now, the release of Pokémon:Let’s Go, Pikachu!and Let’s Go, Eevee!on the Nintendo Switch marks a new chapter in the history of the Pokémon series with the title’s first full role playing game title on a console—something fans have been anticipating for years.
The biggest question is: how does it measure up? Can these two titles serve as an introduction for a new generation of Pokémon enthusiasts without alienating long-time fans? It’s a difficult balancing act, but one that Let’s Gopulls off with surprising flair.
Pokémon: Let’s Go!blends the old school plot of Pokémon: Yellowwith changes to the world and mechanics. The journey from Pallet Town to the Indigo Plateau remain largely unchanged—you still have to fight your way through Team Rocket and all eight Gym Leaders, and you still have to deal with Snorlax’s midday nap forcing you to take the long way around to get there.
The changes Let’s Go makes are largely mechanical. One of the biggest quality-of-life changes is that Hidden Machine moves, alongside the move slots they would waste, are replaced by secret techniques to cut, surf, and fly your way around with your partner Pokémon. Another change is the addition of the Pokémon box system as a part of the pause menu rather than being restricted to Pokémon centers. This makes it delightfully easy to take your most recently captured Pokémon for a spin no matter where you are! Speaking of which, each and every Pokémon in the game now comes with a unique follow animation; whether you want to have your Bulbasaur trot alongside you, or cling for dear life to the belly of your Snorlax as it trundles along, just seeing how each Pokémon follows you on your journey is one of the more subtle pleasures of the game.
Now, the biggest changes come in how you actually interact with and catch wild Pokémon. Up until now, wild Pokémon encounters were completely randomized and resulted in a battle, during which you could weaken the wild Pokémon before catching it in a Pokeball. In Let’s Go, all wild Pokémon are instead visible in the overworld and can be avoided or confronted at your discretion. Wild battles are now replaced by a Pokeball throwing mini game most reminiscent of the Pokémon Gomobile game.
Now, many people have expressed their distaste at this change, but my personal experience with it has been positive overall. Catching Pokémon now gives you experience to make up for the loss of battles, and the new mode really shines when playing the game with another person. The minigame gives a catching bonus when you sync up your throw with another player, encouraging you to drop someone in to play alongside you. The simplicity of the catching game also means that just about anyone can pick it up and play, making it a great way to introduce Pokémon to someone who never has played before.
Of course, no game is without its flaws—and Pokémon Let’s Gois no exception. The frame rate will drop briefly every now and again, and the difficulty can be a tad bit inconsistent. I found myself alternating between breezing through entire routes to being brutalized by one area or gym leader. The partner Pokémon of Eevee or Pikachu can also feel a bit too powerful at times as well.
Overall, the game’s fresh take on the classic structure of Pokémon far outshines its missteps and solidifies itself as a grand step forward for the Pokémon franchise. Its simplicity makes it a low barrier to entry into Pokémon games, but keeps enough of the sophistication and charm that longtime fans have come to expect. If you have any interest in Pokémon, then this game would be right up there with other Switch titles like Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild. The latest installment in the Pokémon series leaves this reviewer satisfied and eager to see what surprises the next adventure will hold!