Pokemon as a franchise has been around for a long time, and in recent years, has started to modernize its games. Sun and Moon gave the world a glimpse at what a full 3D Pokemon game could be. From a wonderful character-driven story, to completely altering core mechanics such as the Ride Pokemon replacing HMs, SM brought the series into the future, where it needed to be. But to stay ahead of the game, Pokemon had to make that transition to Console at some point. Recognizing this fact, Game Freak was quick to change, and put out the first console core series games, Pokemon Let’s Go! Eevee/ Pikachu, on the Nintendo Switch. Which are remakes of Pokemon Yellow. Additionally, in a bit of a departure from the 3DS games, Game Freak made the decision to design and market the game towards a much younger audience, or rather, create a game for children. To be fair, Pokemon has always been for the kids, so it really should not have surprised anyone to see this design switch.
To this end, Let’s Go! borrows many design elements from the popular mobile game, Pokemon GO. Players can use their phone’s Bluetooth to transfer any Kanto Pokemon from their PG account into their copy of Let’s Go!. The transfer is a one-way street though, however, those who do, get the chance to capture the elusive Meltan in PG.
The use of PG mechanics with an old favorite core game of mine was intriguing. The translation was near perfect, quite honestly, and I hope some concepts make a return in the next generation of core games. Being able to see the monsters running around on the map made the game come alive. I also found myself not really missing the old ways of weakening and then tossing the balls when capturing pokemon. I absolutely loved the idea of being able to still square off against the stronger Pokemon such as the Legendary Birds and Snorlax in an all-out match, before the throwing of my Pokeballs.
If I had any real problems at all with this translation of mobile game mechanics into a full console game, it had to do with the controls. I was hugely disappointed to find out TV Mode only supported single Joy-Con, but Portable Mode did support Dual Joy-Cons. That honestly made zero sense. Dual Joy-Cons are just better in every way. I completely understood why Pro Controllers were not supported with the Pokeball throwing mechanic, but felt extremely inconsistent that two controllers were supported in Portable but not TV Mode. Additionally, the throwing of those Pokeballs could be extremely frustrating in TV Mode, trying to get the system to map the Joy-Con’s position correctly to angle the silly thing and actually hit the monster for the capture. I swear I looked like I was doing some 80s aerobic workout video just get the thing to work right. But in Portable Mode, all you have to do is point and shoot using the system’s gyroscope. I was surprised and disappointed to discover they did not translate over PG’s touch screen controls to Let’s Go! for capturing monsters in Portable Mode. In fact, for all the advertisement done about their touch controls, it’s literally only used to play with the Partner Pokemon. I wouldn’t call this false advertisement, just maybe don’t advertise a minor feature that’s not all used.
A lot of other players have had issue with the challenge level in this game, claiming certain things were broken. Here’s the thing though, I personally didn’t have an issue with this. I found the remake on my Switch to be just as challenging as my original run of the game twenty years ago on my Game Boy Color. However, these claims are not without merit. Many new concepts developed over the years to make the games easier for younger players came back in Let’s Go! such as experience being shared across the whole party, capturing monsters granting experience, and the removal of HMs, being replaced with Secret Techniques. Another way Game Freak made the game a little easier was the introduction of the new peripheral controller, the Pokeball Plus. The PP comes equipped with a Bluetooth radio to sync with the players Switch system and Phone. In addition to being another controller for Let’s Go! in TV Mode, players can also transfer a “buddy pokemon” into the device, which will collect experience and items as the player goes about their day.
The monster gains experience based on the player’s step count, and it seems the developers grossly underestimated how much kids walk around these days with games like Pokemon GO. Apparently, the starter goes from level five to twenty after five minutes of walking, which some might say is broken. But I say, most Pokemon require over a million experience points for level 100, which is a lot of walking around the house.
Another point of criticism is the starter pokemon, or Partner Pokemon as they are officially known. In concept, it’s a wonderful idea. The Partner follows the player around, regardless if they’re in the main party or not. The Partner is written into the story as its own character and given personality, allowing the player to really connect with them, rather than just being there. The issue is, unfortunately, just like in the original game, the starter cannot evolve. To make up for this, the Partner does gain buffed stats that are on par, if not better than, their evolutions. Also, the Partner can learn exclusive, powerful moves. While it’s great they tried to make the Partner more appealing through buffed stats and exclusive moves, I still did my entire playthrough without it in my party because I would just much rather have a Vaporeon or Jolteon over a regular Eevee, and I won’t apologize for it. I would love for this idea to return in the next generation of core games, but only if the Partners are permitted to evolve, but that could just be my grouchy old man opinion.
In the end, this is a remake of a twenty-year-old game on a modern system. The story is mostly the same as it’s been in the last 28 core series games. New concepts were introduced, and hopefully, some of them come back. The graphics are beautiful on the big screen, but sadly, the game still plays better on the small screen in Portable Mode. As far as a kid’s games that continue to be played by nearly-thirty-year-olds go, this a pretty good one.