Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! Review

The nostalgia is strong in this one.

There’s a scene at the end of Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! (minor spoiler ahead) where it shows your character, the freshly minted Pokémon Champion, going back home. This scene strongly resonated with me since it perfectly summed up my feelings for the game. I had finally come home. And what was my home? Why, the world of Pokémon, of course! I had been away for far too long and, even though there are several significant changes in this installment of the series, it felt good to be back.

Before we go on, I would like to say that this won’t be a standard review. There won’t be a score at the end of this post. Instead, I will be talking about what it meant to return to the series after such a long time (the last one I played was Pokémon Sapphire). I will mostly talk about why now is the perfect time for those who have been on an extended Pokémon hiatus to jump back in. Without further ado, let’s go!

Graphics

For me, the overall look of the game is fantastic. There is no other way I would want these games to look in the modern day. This game manages to retain the charm of the first few entries in the series while also being in 3D (I’m really showing my age here). Every Pokémon is adorable, every area is colorful, and every person you meet along the way shows character. It met and exceeded my expectations. I know some people (especially those who have played every single entry) were disappointed in the look and feel of the game but Pokémon has never been about realism. I honestly would have been less excited about the Let’s Go games if they looked more realistic and less colorful and cartoony. The only downside is that I did experience a few framerate issues while playing in handheld mode.

Nostalgia

I’m going to repeat myself here: the nostalgia is strong in this one. This is perfectly exemplified by the Pokémon roster. Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! feature the Pokémon of the first generation. I experienced unimaginable joy whenever I saw a Pokémon I know and love appear onscreen. I knew all of them on sight since I (and almost everyone else in the world) was a fan of the anime. Although I didn’t play Red and Blue when they came out, I played the heck out of both Gold and Silver and they featured many of the original Pokémon. It was made all the better since they move around and have new animations in 3D. I had so much fun taking different Pokémon out of their Poké Balls and watching them follow me around. It was awesome beyond words seeing these beloved characters come back to life on the Nintendo Switch.

Even in video games, I can’t escape my real job…

The nostalgia trip didn’t end with the Pokémon roster either. Let’s Go hits all of the same story notes and locations from Pokémon Red and Blue too. It was such a trip seeing Professor Oak, Misty, Brock, Nurse Joy, Officer Jenny, Jesse, James, Meowth, and all the others again. In short, it is your typical Pokémon story. Many fans were disappointed that the story wasn’t improved or changed in any way but I was perfectly fine with it. It just added to the overall nostalgia and made me love it even more.

Quality of Life Improvements

Despite being the same in most respects to the original entries, Let’s Go did shake things up in a few ways that I really appreciated. These changes streamlined the experience a little bit but in a good way (I’ll mention some bad ways down below).

 

  • If you catch more than six Pokémon, you can access them from the main menu instead of having to travel to a Pokémon Center in order to put them in your party
  • No HMs: there are only TMs which can be used any number of times to teach moves and, additionally, special moves like surf, cut, etc. don’t take up move slots. I always hated the fact that I had to erase moves my Pokémon had learnt in order to use HMs that were necessary to advance the plot of the game.
  • All Pokémon in the party receive Exp after every battle (and after catching a Pokémon) not just the ones who participated in said battle. This was really great since I didn’t have to train each Pokémon separately.
  • There are no random encounters. Pokémon can be seen roaming around in the tall grass so you can prioritize which ones you want to catch. You do not have to go into several random battles in order to see which Pokémon inhabit a certain section.
  • I especially enjoyed the Ace and Coach Trainers (essentially regular trainers but with stronger Pokémon with special moves) since it was boring battling trainers who had weaker Pokémon. I thought this added an extra layer of challenge to the game and allowed me to train my Pokémon faster.
  • Clothing accessories for both my trainer and Pikachu were a nice addition


Problems

Despite my praise thus far of the game, I did have a few issues with it. My complaints mostly revolve around the lack of a few features that have been present almost since the beginning of the series. There is no day/night cycle (though this didn’t upset me all too much since I could find any Pokémon at any time during the day), no way to move faster through the map (no bikes, running shoes, etc), no breeding, and no battling wild Pokémon. Instead of battling wild Pokémon in order to gain experience or to catch them, a new catching minigame was implemented in Let’s Go. You must catch Pokémon by repeatedly throwing Poke Balls at them while trying to have the Poké Ball hit the Pokémon within an actively contracting circle. I didn’t like the mechanic at first but I grew to accept it. It did, however, become repetitive as the game went on and it was harder than hell to catch a Pokémon while in TV mode with the Joy Cons. This was especially true if the Pokémon was moving around.

Another issue I have with the game is that it’s a little weird trading Pokémon online with other players. You have to select three pictures of a few Pokémon and hope that someone else out there in the world has selected the same ones and, if they did, a trade menu opens up for both players. The most frustrating part about the whole thing is that you can’t communicate exactly what you want from the other player. I just kept submitting the same Pokémon over and over and over again and hoped the other person got the hint. A few times my silent trading partner did understand and traded for the ones I wanted but then they didn’t trade them back. For those who somehow don’t know, Pokémon like Haunter and Kadabra need to be traded in order for them to evolve into their final forms. I’m still bitter I didn’t get my Haunter (now a Gengar) back. I hope you enjoy him, whoever you are! Anyways, back on topic, I really hope Nintendo adds an option to trade online with your friends who may not live conveniently nearby. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much since I got the Pokémon I wanted (Gengar, Alakazam, and Machamp) through online trading within an hour or two despite the weird system. I had planned on it taking much longer but it went smoother than I expected.

These Pikachu and Eevee animations are adorable…too bad I didn’t make a video.

One final thing that really annoys me about Let’s Go is that it does not allow you to properly format the game for your TV. Important details like how many Pokémon the other person has is cut off on the side. There are other times when things were cut off the screen but I can’t remember what they were. Just know that it bothers me immensely when the screen display doesn’t match up with my TV and I can’t fix it myself.

In Conclusion:

In case you’re wondering, yes, I could have summed up this “review” with just one word: nostalgia. It certainly would have made it shorter and easier to read but where’s the fun in that? Nostalgia, without a doubt, is the biggest reason I enjoyed this game so much. The graphics retained the charm of the original entries and the inclusion of the original roster of Pokémon made me love this game. To the game’s credit, I also enjoyed the many quality of life improvements present in it as well. Despite this, missing features (breeding, night/day cycle, etc.), the weird online trading system, the lack of screen formatting options in TV mode, and the framerate issues while in handheld mode did detract from the experience a little bit.

Despite all these shortcomings, the fact that the Pokémon Company decided to make a streamlined experience based on the first ever Pokémon adventure leads me to believe that it was made specifically for people like me. Those who may have been away from the series for a spell. Those who are unsure if, after all these years, this series is still for them. If this sounds like you, then I highly recommend you give Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Let’s Go, Eevee! a try. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Thanks for reading!

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