Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu! & Let's Go, Eevee! Review
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that many RPG fans got their start playing Pokemon - many of them especially enraptured by the original Pokemon Red and Blue all the way back on the original Game Boy. Pokemon was, and is, that sort of gateway game. My first RPG was a Pokemon title, although I don't quite remember if my first foray into the series was in Generation 1 or 2. Either way, even if I might not be a massive Pokemon fan now, it has always been a series near and dear to my heart.
When Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu! & Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee! were announced earlier this summer, I certainly wasn't alone in being skeptical about some of the changes the title would bring to the formula. While it was stated from the get-go that Let's Go would be a different experience, The Pokemon Company went out of their way to claim that the titles were part of the "main series", too. Forgoing the series' staple of battling wild Pokemon to weaken them before attempting to capture them in lieu of Pokemon GO's style of just throwing balls at the critters raised more than a few eyebrows, and as time went on and numerous other changes were detailed - the omission of hold items, and Pokemon abilities, to name a few - it certainly seemed harder and harder to get excited about a game that in some ways was looking to be less complicated than the original Pokemon Yellow from 20 years ago. My impressions from this last E3, while not bad per se, certainly left me feeling lukewarm about the experience, and I wasn't sure quite what to expect once we got our hands on launch code.
Now that I've had more than enough time to play through Let's Go, Eevee! I feel confident that the titles, while certainly different in their own right from the more complex adventures players have grown accustomed to, can firmly stand with the best that the series has to offer.
If I were to use a word to describe what makes Let's Go different from other games in the series - "streamlined" comes to mind. Players still travel through Kanto, capturing and training Pokemon whilst challenging Pokemon Gyms for their badges. They still butt heads with Team Rocket and inevitably thwart their plans with the help of a spunky rival. What's different with Let's Go is just how little the game itself gets in your way with accomplishing that. Pokemon encounters are no longer randomly triggered via running through tall grass or a cave, or whilst riding across the waves, but instead every Pokemon you encounter is first spotted in the world, waiting for you to run into them. Pokemon captures, as mentioned earlier, are for the most part a slight modification of Pokemon GO's system. You shake your joy-con, or Pokeball Plus, or aim your Switch while in handheld mode to aim and throw Pokeballs at your target. Except for a handful of encounters, there's no need to weaken them with a battle first.
While at first, I found the change odd, I definitely stopped caring about the omission of wild battles early on. Since legendary Pokemon (and Snorlax, for some reason) still necessitated battle encounters first even under the new system, I grew to appreciate the change for what it was. It's not braindead easy, any more than the old system - you have to aim your Pokeballs, and some Pokemon especially love to move around or have a lower capture rate, and besides some issues with the motion controls (why isn't the Pro Controller an option in docked mode, when handheld mode supports more or less the same inputs perfectly fine?!) the change in capture mechanics ended up being one of the last things on my mind. I still prefer the old system, but this works too. If anything, I'd hope that 2019's games adopt these modified overworld Pokemon encounters.
The removal of HMs has also made the jump from more recent games in the series. Now they're replaced with Secret Techniques that your Partner Pokemon learn, and don't take up a move slot. I don't really have anything to add about that other than I'm glad to see that the change won't just be left in Sun and Moon and their respective, and Gamefreak seems willing to make the change standard for the series moving forward. Awesome.
What also seems to have been brought forward from the 3DS, however, is Pokemon Let's Go's Pokemon models. Each and every Pokemon are using more or less the same models that were used either in Pokemon GO or Pokemon Sun and Moon, and it certainly seems painfully obvious that the underlying technology for the titles is still based on 3DS tech too. The games don't look bad - they actually look pretty great in motion (besides most of the battle animations...) - but it's also not hard to notice some of the same shortcomings that the 3DS games ran into. Character shadows are very, very low resolution compared to other games on the system, and world geometry can't be described as anything more than "simple". It gets the job done, and you're not liable to notice while playing in handheld mode much, but it really feels like the game should've been able to manage 60FPS, but instead it's locked 30.
Pokemon Let's Go might not be what I wanted next from the series, but I can't say I was left disappointed with it. Gamefreak's latest adventure manages to cut a lot of the franchise's fat while injecting something new into the formula. While I definitely don't want to see everything it changes brought over to Generation VIII, Let's Go acts as a refreshing change of pace for bother newcomers and longtime fans of the series.