By: Zach Siddiqui, Copy Editor
If you have yet to wander down the nostalgia route that is the first Pokemon games for the Nintendo Switch, let’s go! Two months after their initial drop, Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! have held up well post-hype.
The Let’s Go games are an updated, alternate-universe retread of the original Pokemon Red and Blue. The new game blends the rough skeleton offered by the classic Game Boy releases with the updated graphics and capabilities of the Switch alongside a few mechanics of the famed smartphone app, Pokemon Go. Despite these games being base-breakers in some circles, I loved my playthrough of Eevee — and I think you might love yours, too.
For starters, I loved the overworld. Vividly lively, nearly every town and route in the reimagined Kanto region was perfectly adapted from its original low-res, colourless aesthetic from 1998. The designers knew exactly how to balance faithfulness to the old look with restyling for the times, and it made the immersion that much better. That said, I wonder if sticking to the rigid bird’s-eye pseudo-gridded layout was the best choice — it may be a Pokemon staple, but I’m wondering if maybe the Switch would have been a good time to experiment with a different game perspective and overworld layout.
The capture system is something which I know outraged a lot of people. Aside from the fact that many did not want to deal with Pokemon Go-style catching in a handheld game and preferred the traditional battle-to-befriend system, the motion controls used in docked mode are both incredibly finicky and a major lockout against players with certain disabilities.
As far as new game mechanics go, I personally enjoyed the new capture system! I liked that I could actually have a measure of control on whether or not I engaged in a wild encounter. Moreover, seeing Pokemon sprites appear and walk around just felt more realistic than a random die-roll picking whether or not to chuck a battle screen at me every time I stepped on a grassy tile.
Of course, it helped that I played almost my whole run on handheld mode — and my personal happiness means little in light of the disservice to the Pokemon players who can’t use motion controls. In future Switch releases, it’ll be critical that we see friendlier control schemes.
From a story and lore standpoint, the game did what was par for the course in the Pokemon series: a fairly simple and kid-friendly main plot, but many tiny details that weaved a bigger background picture.
For one thing, the immediate clue that this is an alternate history to the original Red and Blue is that the player character and rival (officially named Chase and Trace, but as usual, renamable) are completely separate people from the original PC-rival pair — Red and Blue both appear as their own characters in this game, and it’s clear that they had a very different adventure in this ‘verse from the nostalgic one you relive as Chase. Tying back to the parallel-worlds theorizing present in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, and even earlier if you paid attention, we’re left to speculate on whether Let’s Go connects chronologically to any of the other games or if it’s the beginning of yet another series timeline.
(The history of how Pokemon deals with the concept of parallel worlds and split timelines is a hazy mix of in-game clues, Word of God hints, and fanbase deductions. It’s complex enough to deserve its own literary analysis class in the English department, honestly.)
The subtle, dedicated worldbuilding is also obvious from the number of nods to other Pokemon games, emphasizing the dev’s desire for universal cohesion. Rocket Admin Archer from HeartGold and SoulSilver, who appeared as an unnamed executive in Gold and Silver, gets an early-bird role in this game, which (in theory) happens three years before the Johto games. Silph Co.’s building is full of portraits from iconic sites in other regions, like the consecrated Spear Pillar in Sinnoh. The list goes on and on.
Battles were a mixed bag. On one hand, they were definitely way too easy. All the Trainers were pretty weak level-wise and AI-wise, the starter Eevee you get is way too strong, and the Candy system for boosting Pokemon stats is insane. There’s an emphasis on catching long chains of Pokemon, which, combined with your entire party getting experience points for every capture, means you’ll be way too powerful if you train a single team. That said, if you were angry about this, you missed the point of these games.
In most Pokemon games, you can’t afford to swap around your team too much. Every Pokemon you drop in favour of a new capture is a Pokemon you already invested some experience points in through battling with it, and that experience can’t be transferred to whatever you replaced it with. So once you’ve been using your team for a while, changing it is essentially a waste of resources, and I can guarantee your team will be far too weak to function by the endgame, forcing you to go back and spend a million years grinding.
By making it incredibly easy to level-up your Pokemon and giving you easy wins against Trainers, Let’s Go gives you far more freedom to change up your team as you come across Pokemon you decide you want to experiment with. You’re not screwed if you drop Pokemon you’ve already started training, because experience-point opportunities crawl about everywhere. This lets you play a much more casual and exploratory run, which is a big part of what the Let’s Go games are designed for.
Overall, I was definitely a big fan of these games. While I don’t know if I see mainline Pokemon games using the same style these did, I would be a major fan of future Let’s Go titles adapting other regions and being their own fun, high-immersion, low-commitment adventures. For students like us, games like that are often all we can make time for responsibly.