I’ve been a lifelong fan of the Pokemon franchise since its beginnings way back on the original Game Boy. I was there when “Pokemania” grabbed hold of the western world, and literally everyone I knew was deeply involved with some aspect of Pokemon, or they at least knew it existed. Fast-forward two-plus decades later, and we have the very first home console mainline Pokemon games, and it totally makes sense they are a total re-imagining of the original generation of Pokemon – Red, Blue (and Green), and Yellow. I’m still a big fan of the series, and while I was excited to see a fully-realized 3D Pokemon game, I was concerned over some changes they’ve experimented with in Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!. I kept an open mind and dove right in to see how a beloved game from my childhood was adapted through a modern lens. I’m happy to say these are some of the best games I’ve played in the franchise. Read on to find out why!
Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!
Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokemon Company
Developer: Game Freak
Platform: Nintendo (Reviewed)
Release Date: November 16th, 2018
As I mentioned above, Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! are the first mainline games in the series to be on a home console – even though the Switch is a hybrid console. As such, the world of Pokemon is finally able to fully embrace modern high-definition 3D graphics and technologies, and man has the series never looked better. The games evoke so much charm now it’s crazy.
While I’m by no means a diehard HD visuals nut, I’ve been waiting for Nintendo to finally drop the sub-HD handheld approach with Pokemon. Character and pokemon models, environments, animations, everything just pops off the screen and is a breath of fresh air when compared to previous games. I won’t say the game is too cute, but it certainly has everything going for it, visually.
The game mostly ran flawlessly, there were a few rare moments in the towards the beginning, like in Viridian Forest, where I saw noticeable slowdown. Outside of that, the rest of the game looked and played fantastic. I was so impressed with the visuals and new look that I was kind of a bit let down characters weren’t voiced as well, but we’ll get into that later.
I’d go as far as saying this is the natural evolution of the Pokemon franchise in terms of visuals. The games retain their iconic charm from the pixelated days but have a more bold and cel-shaded flair that really nails what I envisioned a true HD Pokemon game to look like. Every single pokemon has its own personality, and that’s something to really take in and appreciate.
While the massively upgraded visuals and style are the first thing most will notice with Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee!, the games have some core mechanics changed up or removed entirely. Wild pokemon battles are gone, instead you throw poke balls at them like in Pokemon Go!, and honestly it’s not as bad I thought it would be.
You can do this by aiming with the Switch gyrometer, flicking the Joy-Con, or flicking the optional Poke Ball Plus. As with Pokemon Go!, a reticle appears over the pokemon and it continually shrinks and restarts. The goal is to aim and shoot or flick the controller within the reticle. The smaller the reticle gets, the higher your catch rate and experience bonus afterwards.
At first, I was really unsure of how this would affect power leveling and really building up pokemon. The lack of random battles means you are beholden to going all in with this catching mechanic, and you’ll have to rack up high catch combos to get higher experience multipliers. Once I got the hang of that though, I was able to power level my pokemon with ease.
I’d say the best way to play is with the Switch gyroscope or a controller, as you can quite easily throw poke balls into the tiny-sized reticle and continually get “excellent” throws. The Joy-Con and Poke Ball Plus throwing is surprisingly responsive, but you run into issues regardless with pokemon that hop around a lot or fly – their movements prove too erratic to reliably time a throw.
This is sort of par the course for those types of pokemon and how they would move in 3D space, so I’m not really holding it against the team at Game Freak. Once you get used to aiming and throwing well, you’ll be raking in experience and over-leveling just like before. The game was, as before, not really challenging and that’s totally okay. The series has never really been challenging.
My only real gripe with wild battles no longer being a thing is that you’ll end up with a hundred Drowzee’s like me, and end up shipping them all off to Professor Oak. There are legendary pokemon battles you’ll see later that start with your traditional wild battle – only to end with the catching mechanic. I’m not sure why this couldn’t have been the system throughout, but I digress. This isn’t the next main entry, so we’ll see what’s next.
Trainer battles and gym leaders are still obviously in the game, and they retain their fun and charm. As I power leveled my team, I regularly stomped random trainers and gym leaders into the ground. You can also battle or trade online, but there’s no breeding or egg-laying. The Safari Zone is also replaced by the Go Park, and the Rocket Casino is gone as well.
I was a bit disappointed by the Safari Zone and Rocket Casino being removed, however the overall feel of adventuring through Kanto again through an entirely new lens is remarkable. It basically feels just like it did when I was a kid, over 20 years ago. If anything, the scale and complexity of this world shows the age of this Pokemon generation, as things became more robust later.
Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! are really a true remake of the original Pokemon generation, but from the Pokemon Yellow filter. This is both a good and a bad thing in that you’re basically getting the same experience as the originals, but if you wanted something more – you’re out of luck. Once you beat the Elite Four, you can go after legendaries but not much else.
There are the Master Trainers, a new gimmick that has you only able to fight their ‘mon with the same type of ‘mon, adding more challenge in having to literally raise and strengthen theoretically every single one of the first 150 pokemon. You can also re-fight Gym Leaders, but I really wanted to see more of the Pokemon world given this facelift. It does get me excited for the future, though.
I never really dabbled with the Pokemon Go! connectivity, but I was totally getting into the Poke Ball Plus. There’s some kind of real novelty with a physical poke ball that vibrates, lights up, and makes noises all on cue with the catching happening in game. I preferred a regular controller but it never got old, and it feels pretty good to use as an optional controller, even when throwing.
The story is essentially the same, and you’ll be following the same goofy path that has you going through various caves and tunnels around Saffron City until you can finally get the dumb refreshments for those security guards. You’ll still collect all eight badges, fight tons of trainers, and ultimately challenge the Elite Four. It’s a classic adventure, and it shines once more here.
One thing I actually did miss was the forever-jerk Gary, who is no longer your rival in this game. Instead, your new rival is your pleasant and supportive next-door neighbor, and man is he boring. While before you’d have to constantly sit through Gary cutting you into pieces, your new rival is more of a companion that sort of stumbles along your journey. It’s just not the same.
The rest of the characters, ranging from the iconic Brock and Misty all the way to the infamous Jessie and James from Team Rocket, are all there and maintain their larger than life personas. The improved visuals and animations bring even more charm to the main and even random characters. One of my favorites, Misty, is particularly awesome in her new HD form. Lieutenant Surge is also just as awesome as he was twenty years ago.
The music in Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! is quite fantastic and just as good as the original soundtrack. Every memorable route theme, town theme, dungeon theme, and more are all there and perfectly re-imagined in full form. I was happy with each re-imagined track.
As I mentioned above, I was so impressed by the visuals and the overall presentation of these games that I felt let down there was no voice here. Normally I’m adverse to adding voice acting to series which never had it, but I think it’d work here, especially with how animated characters are.
Coming from this, I’m not sure if the cries pokemon make are the same noises they’ve made since Red and Blue, but they sound similar. This is made that much more blatant when Pikachu and Eevee have fully-realized voices. Why not all? I know this might not be feasible still, but I’d love to hear it.
Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! are both wonderful adaptations of the games that started the entire Pokemon phenomenon. Playing through these games brought back all those memories from two decades ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed them.
A few of the big changes in this game, namely the removal of wild pokemon battles and the addition of the new catching mechanic, change up these games quite a bit. I was left wanting a bit more, and more importantly to have more core features returning, and maybe higher difficulty.
I may have tiny gripes here and there, but all in all, I really enjoyed my time with Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! and was pleasantly surprised by how well this re-imagined vision of the Kanto works. I can’t wait to see how the next main games in the franchise come out.
Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! were reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy provided by Nintendo. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 9
- Fantastic visuals that are a welcome and needed change
- The original Pokemon generation, amazingly remastered
- New catching mechanics can be a fun change of pace
- Remade soundtrack is as memorable as the original
- You can ride a freaking Charizard or Dragonite
- Catching mechanics can be annoying with pokemon that move erratically
- New catching mechanic could have simply been combined with wild battles
- Lack of difficulty, end / post game content
- Safari Zone and Rocket Casino are gone
- New rival is nothing like the original jerk, Gary