The two new Pokémon titles on the block – Let’s Go, Eevee! and Let’s Go, Pikachu! – have had a lot to prove to the community since their announcements.
The Sun and Moon games left a bad taste in many people’s mouths with their hours-long tutorials and inane plot, and many wanted a mainline game free of the mechanics being lifted from the GO app.
With all the hype and speculation now died down and the final game finished, it seems that the fears we had were founded and we’re arrived at a deeply flawed product for every type of Pokémon player.
If you’ve not been following the production of this title, the Let’s Go games once again return to the original Kanto region and only the generation one Pokémon are here with a few exceptions like Alola forms and Meltan.
Aside from those small changes, this is banking on the decades-old popularity of the original Pokémon and their environment, and this is the first failing of the game.
Aside from a few different characters, this is a beat for beat retread of the original games with developer Game Freak doing almost nothing to change how things play out.
If you’ve played the original titles or FireRed / LeafGreen, there’s very little new to see or do here.
This familiarity continues when it comes to battles, which have actually been simplified since the last mainline games. Gone are the once-per-battle Z-Moves and Mega Evolution is only unlocked near the end of the game.
Aside from that it’s the same turn-based battle system we all know and either love or hate. Some may still enjoy it (an opinion I share) but every new title makes it feel more and more stale, and those who already had their problems with it will find nothing to change their minds.
The one small change is your Partner Pokémon – the titular Eevee or Pikachu locked to their respective game. The Partner Pokémon can learn special moves that make them hilariously strong in battle, and they allow you to get around the map as you reach certain milestones. HMs are still dead (thankfully) and your Partner Pokémon can pull them off at any time.
You can also interact with both Pokémon and dress them up with collectible accessories, and, thankfully once again, you can leave them out of your six-Pokémon team. This is something I highly recommend as the game is a cakewalk if you don’t. You could easily beat every trainer you come across with your Partner Pokémon alone.
Something I also recommend is going into the settings and changing the battle style from “Switch” to “Set”. This will remove the ability for you to Switch Pokémon when your opponent does, and these two changes on your part will really ramp up the difficulty to a point where it’s not insultingly easy.
The biggest changes these games have to offer are in the art style and how wild encounters work.
As you can see from the trailers, the games have abandoned all sprites, replacing them with nicely textured 3D models. There’s also a lot of possibility this has opened up and once feature that has been shown off prominently is the ability to take a Pokémon out of its Poke Ball so that it follows you around.
Every single Pokémon in the game has its own custom walk animation here and you can ride certain Pokémon to move faster or just for the hell of it. Hanging off of the side of a Snorlax isn’t the fastest way to get around, but it sure is fun.
Unfortunately this extra work has not been extended into the battles. Each Pokémon here as a static animation and only a handful of attack animations that are spread between all the possible attacks it can use.
We didn’t expect Game Freak to make thousands of animations so that each Pokémon has a unique move for every single attack, but we expected far more than the awkwardness we have here as a Pokémon simply phases into the ground when it uses dig.
The games also have many graphical flaws. Shadows, for example, are horribly messy and pixelated to the point where we thought they were a graphical glitch the first time we saw them. There’s also many areas here were you will experience extreme slowdown as the game crawls to a halt.
The one big change here that we really like is the catching mechanics which have been taken from GO. Instead of wandering into the tall grass or a cave or a body of water, and having Pokémon appear from random out of thin air, every Pokémon you can encounter spawns as a very clear character in the overworld which you can then interact with by walking into it.
From here the old style of weakening the Pokémon and then throwing a Poke Ball is dead. Instead, you can throw balls right from the get go with motion controls being used to get the ball into a small circle for a better catch rate. Certain berries can also be used to affect the catch rate, prevent the Pokémon from fleeing, or to increase the likelihood of a dropped item.
For those who have not played GO, it’s a system that’s a bit more complex than the Safari Zone from previous games which, here, has been replaced with a facility that lets you transfer Pokémon from the app to these games.
Some people really hate this change, but it’s one I personally like. It takes the guesswork out of catching Pokémon and it means less wasted time running into stuff I have no intention of catching. You can also avoid encounters entirely without using repel.
While this does sound like a massive change, it becomes second nature an hour in and I’m sure people will come around to it. While it does make the game as a whole move a bit quicker, it’s not a big enough change to make either title feel like a fresh beast and not a simple rehash.
All of this is ignoring many other problems here: there’s very little post game content with the small amount seemingly made to facilitate shiny hunting, repetitiveness, mandatory motion controls, and once again the Battle Frontier is missing. These are minor gripes, however, because these games’ biggest problem is that it feels like a side project Game Freak put out as a taster for a much better game.
Pokémon Let’s Go, Eevee! and Let’s Go, Pikachu! are products designed to sell the latest Nintendo hardware first, and are competent games second. While some may say that has been true for many other Pokémon games, none have been as shameless about the affair as these two.
These games continue an alarming trend for new entries in Nintendo exclusives that contain fine core mechanics, but are ultimately hollow and lacking features of old. Veterans of the Mario Party and Tennis games said the same of their respective new titles on the Switch, but not until playing a series I am so invested in have I come to realise this.
Thankfully, the formula that Game Freak invented more than 20 years ago is still so compelling that it makes up for a lot of these problems and the encroaching mobile elements from the GO app, but it comes up in the wash for an only above mediocre game.