Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! Review
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch
The constant fear of games becoming easier is ridiculous. It is very easy for those of us who grew up alongside the industry we love to feel as though everything should be aimed at us. Here is a fun fact; it shouldn’t, games should be for everyone. Sure, some will be aimed at a particular audience, but being angry because it isn’t aimed at you is childish. If you’re thinking “this seems like a strange way to start a review” then this message isn’t for you, so good job on letting people enjoy things.
Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! are the latest entry in the much loved, somewhat rigid, RPG series from Game Freak. While they are effectively remakes of Pokémon Yellow, they are also filled to the brim with small tweaks that actually change the series – gasp. These are effectively a bridge between traditional Pokémon games, and the mobile sensation that united us all for two weeks in 2016.
In case you’ve missed Pokémon, these are RPGs which have you journeying around, stopping bad guys, making fluffy friends, and generally doing things that no kid should ever do on their own. Don’t look to them for parenting advice, I guess that’s what I’m going for here. Anyway, the aim is to catch ‘em all, but also beat all the other trainers and take their money. They have always been charming games with plenty to do, but they haven’t changed in any dramatic way.
Not this time, despite being a visit back to the first Pokémon games, Let’s Go actually changes things up in the biggest way ever for the series. Where you have always beaten up the poor wild Pokémon before trapping them in a tiny living space to serve you forever more, this time you follow the Pokémon Go way. This means that you can feed them berries if you want to, or you can just chuck balls at them until they stay inside them, or run away. Oh, the battles aren’t random anymore either, you get to see all of them, which means you can actually avoid Zubats for the first time in history.
This time though you can also change the kind of monsters you are catching by chaining together multiple of the same time. Say you catch ten Ratata in a row, well this will greatly increase the chances of you finding a stronger Ratata than normal, it also increases the chances of finding a Shiny Ratata, truly the holy grail. That’s not all though, oh no, each successive catch also increases the experience multiplier a little more meaning you can actively train your team by trying to capture every Ratata in existence. You get experience from these now because otherwise how would you grind?
You may be thinking – but Jason, this is for kids, why would I have to grind? – well, it turns out that despite being for kids some of the mid-game battles are a far higher level than they used to be, so you had better grind, or you will fall. The battles are also weighted a little differently, super effective moves feel even more essential than usual. While this means that knowing the match-ups is important for victory, it also means that if the enemy surprises you with an attack they might one-shot your Pokémon. Other than that though, battles are the same as ever.
The controls are all motion control based, which is something of an issue if you don’t, or if you can’t, use them. The handheld mode uses the least amount of movement, but it would still be nice to have the option to not use them. After all, this should be a game for everyone. They work well if you can use them and are quite responsive, the HD rumble makes them quite satisfying too.
Visually Pokémon has never looked better, it isn’t just the graphics, the animations and little touches throughout are wonderful. The attacks all look great, the more powerful a move the more epic its animation, Thunder is my favourite as seeing the clouds forming is great. This is an important part of being able to look after your Eevee or Pikachu too.
Your starter Pokémon will ride around on you, they’ll have unique animations, and even be an integral part of certain story beats. You also get to pet your little friend and feed them berries, which is cute. When they are with you, they’ll occasionally highlight items on the floor, or just generally be adorable. Along with them you can also have most other Pokémon out running around with you, or you can ride some of the larger ones, Snorlax is a highlight here. These are just some of the little things that make this the most charming game in the series so far.
The sound design is true to the original in that the songs are all the same, but these too are brought up-to-date. Each song is orchestral and even more immense than they were the first time round, this will sound good to newcomers and veterans alike. We still don’t get to hear all of the Pokémon saying their own names, but at least we have Pikachu.
If you are here for the hardcore experience I have some good news, there is a surprisingly robust end-game. After the Elite 4 has been conquered you have a whole new challenge to overcome; the Master Trainers. Each one of these trainers has the best possible version of a Pokémon, your aim is to beat them with the same Pokémon they claim to be best with. This means hunting down one with great stats, then showing proving your own skill in battle. This is a really interesting idea, one that encourages catching every single monster, but also using them.
Honestly, it is easy to be sceptical about the kind of changes that have been made here, but it all comes together nicely. You can even play the game co-op to overcome battles and catch Pokémon with someone, a great chance to introduce someone to the series. The loss of random battles actually improves the experience, you no longer have to slog through caves or areas with puzzles. While we have no way of knowing what the next game will be like, Let’s Go is an immense amount of fun, and you’d be foolish to miss out just because it’s different.