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Review:Pokemon: Let’s Go is a Middling Adventure Into the World of Pokémon

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

Pokémon : Let’s Go, Eevee! and Let’s Go, Pikachu! were a huge deal when they were first announced for the Nintendo Switch earlier this year. After the success of Pokémon Go it seemed like a no-brainer that a Pokémon game would be coming to Switch, but no one was quite sure if it would be a full-fledged Pokemon experience. The announcement of a full-fledged Pokemon game coming to Switch was met with tons of enthusiasm by fans of the franchise who’ve been there to catch ‘em all since the beginning, and longed for their franchise to come to consoles. With the Switch it is the best of both worlds. 

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

I missed the beginnings of the Pokémon craze back in the day, but ended up playing a fair amount of Pokémon Go when it came out on mobile–initially swept up by the craze, I stuck around to play it casually on occasion. I liked collecting new and more powerful Pokémon and seeing where it would get me. when Let’s Go came out, I decided I’d be Team Eevee with the Let’s Go, Eevee version, mostly because I thought Eevee was cuter.  There are only a few differences between the editions, aside from the obvious one–which Pokémon you pair with. There are Pokémon exclusive to each edition that can’t be captured in the other, as well as a lineup of special moves that can’t be learned by the other titular Pokémon . The list of potential moves for Eevee is more involved, since Eevee can evolve into more than one type of Pokemon where Pickachu is stuck with Raichu as his final form. Though you can (and I did) capture a wild Pikachu in Let’s Go Eevee! you won’t find it equally possible to capture Eevee in Let’s Go Pikachu, meaning you’ll instead need to rely on trading or Pokémon Go to get one on your team.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

Before we discuss anything else, I wanted to touch on the controls for Pokémon : Let’s Go Eevee/Pikachu–in specific as it relates to the Pokéball Plus that was available for purchase with the game.The Pokéball Plus is a fun and well-made accessory to the game, and with its connectivity to Pokémon Go and its ability to let you take Pokémon you want to level up with you for a stroll when you’re away from your Switch, it’s pretty neat. Unfortunately, though, it can be uncomfortable to use casually to play Pokémon : Let’s Go– which is most of its purpose. It also doesn’t allow for you to do all of the things you could do with a Joy-Con–though you can do most, once you figure out what substitutes for what button. On top of this, for people like myself with carpal tunnel, using the Pokéball can be painful. I found myself having to take much more time on the review than I’d intended trying to use the Pokéball, not figuring the single Joy-Con to be a much better option–it turns out it is.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

The  Pokéball Plus and restrictions to Joy-Cons only is problematic and a nuisance for me, but for some people, it makes playing Pokémon : Let’s Go downright impossible , which raises concerns about accessibility that have previously been raised with other Nintendo titles. While you can use one Joy-Con, for example, you’re still beholden to motion controls to toss and to lock in your catches, unless you’re in handheld mode. If you don’t wish to or can’t use the motion/physical button press controls, you’re going to be stuck with the small-screen experience. While I understand the unique fun Nintendo’s trying to create with its incredibly responsible motion and touch controls, I don’t think there’s a good reason they shouldn’t already have accommodations for this problem in place for those who can’t reasonably use the “standard” (ie. non-motion) control set. While the accessibility issue won’t affect everyone, the fact that the controller made especially for the game can’t perform all the functions necessary to control the game seems egregious.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

As for the game itself, Pokémon : Let’s Go Eevee is pretty well balanced as far as approachability. If you’re new to Pokémon , you’ll find that the game does a pretty good job of easing you into the different things you’ll need to consider–catching wild Pokémon , combat, Pokémon types, and how to power up and heal them. If you’re already familiar with those concepts, though, you can breeze through any tutorial type dialog, and you’ll likely breeze through the first few areas of the game.

You’ll start off with the titular Pokémon  of whatever edition of Let’s Go you decide on–this will be your partner Pokémon. This has a few special benefits and responsibilities tied in with it, including having a closer bond. A closer bond will allow for the Pokémon to hold on longer if they’re low on health in a battle or even break through a status. Your bond with them will also help protect them, with the level of bond allowing you to shout before an opposing Pokemon does a move and help your character avoid it.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

You’ll build a bond with Eevee or Pikachu partially by interacting with your pocket monster via Partner Play. In this mode, you’ll simply scratch your partner Pokémon where they’d like to be scratched, enough to get them to feel happy, and feed them berries. It’s an odd interaction, but one that can help grow the bond, even if done only every so often. As for the rest of the team you’ll build, you’ll catch them along the way, and likely swap some out as you go along once you learn what’s needed to build a well rounded team, or find something more rare or powerful. The remaining gameplay is pretty simple, with only a few key things needing to be done in each town you’ll go through.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

Pokemon Let’s Go essentially consists of two parts: the part where you explore, interact with citizens/trainers, etc. and the part where you fight.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

While initially, your goal is simply to go out and explore, you’ll be catching Pokémon of all different types to help your mentor Professor Oak build a Pokédex. You’ll eventually run into some familiar baddies and have the entirely different goal of chasing them from mountain to city and ocean cave to recover things they’ve stolen and make things right for the Pokémon and people they’ve hurt. Each village or city you explore will also have its own Gym and gym leader, which will involve a few fights with their gym team before facing them and earning badges. Each gym features a trainer with a different specialty, which helps you to learn what movesets different types of Pokémon have and what the best counters to them are.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

For those unaware, combat in Pokémon: Let’s Go is turn based, and a game of statistics. Each type of Pokémon on your team possesses certain strengths and weaknesses, and a base set of moves. There are buffs and debuffs as well as offensive and defensive moves. Your task will be to figure out how to manage your team well and help your team survive the matches. As you go along, you’ll get in longer and longer battles, with some foes having you battle each of their five Pokémon before you can declare victory, so knowing what your team’s moves are and what they can do is key.  After each round of combat, you’ll get a chance to take out the Pokemon you’ve been battling with or keep it in to face the next competitor, which will be named ahead of time. While your partner Pokémon’s likely to be your highest level, it’s not always the right choice to face your biggest threats, as whatever type you’re facing might have a near immunity to what Eevee, or Pikachu, can do. You can see whether this is the case or not with Let’s Go’s simple text-based feedback on each turn. Moves can be super effective, dealing extra damage, not very effective, doing only partial damage, or even not affect the opponent at all, and sometimes switching in the middle of a round can become necessary. If you find one of your team members doesn’t seem to be cutting it, there are some modifications you can make before sending it off to the Pokémon box. Giving candy to your Pokémon can help increase their individual stats, like Defense, Attack, Speed, and Special Attack, Defense, etc. In addition, as your Pokémon level, they’ll begin to “ask” to learn new moves, or evolve and get new movesets, which allows you to customize them to some extent according to your own playstyle. You will also start picking up Technical Machines, or TMs, as you adventure along. These are individual moves of varying types that can be taught to certain other types of Pokemon, and can be useful to apply to your team if there’s something that seems to be lacking in your fighting.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

As far as questing goes, Let’s Go doesn’t really hold your hand. To find the things you need to complete the tasks you’re given, you’ll need to explore, and talk to the residents of the places you’re travelling. They’ll have items, Pokémon , clues and story for you to collect and absorb, and they’ll point you in the right direction as you travel. Outside of the towns and cities, on the paths, your main job will be to fight the other travellers’ Pokemon and catch whatever wild Pokemon appear nearby.  Item and money management are another big part of gameplay.  You’ll need to make sure you have enough pokéballs to catch things when you’re out on your travels, and when you’re away from a city with a Pokémon Center, you’ll have to take care of curing your battle team of five with heals, revives and cures for the various types of ailments that they can get in battle. Some areas outside of cities–like caves and islands–can be quite big, so stocking up is essential if you don’t want to have to backtrack.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

Traversing the world is simple enough, with numbered paths between cities and a map to guide you if you get confused, but there are some obstacles you’ll find along the paths and in caves that require a little more work to get past. The way to get around these obstacles isn’t immediately clear, and seems to cause you to have to backtrack more than a little. In addition to this traversal problem, the sheer amount of wild Pokémon inhabiting paths presents its own problems. While it’s a good idea to catch lots of Pokemon to help build the Pokedex and get your team XP, if you’re simply trying to get somewhere fast, you might find yourself frustrated as you’ll frequently get sucked into a “catch” scenario. You can mitigate this with an item called a Repel, but only temporarily. If you’re on a longer journey and you didn’t shell out for the Repels, this can be rather annoying, as you’ll be forced to catch them or run away, both equally wasting your time.  Eventually, though,  you’ll get an ability allowing you to fast travel, which alleviates this a little bit. Another complaint for me comes in the map. Your map is available to you at all times, which is great, but it’s also a regular item in your inventory bag. You can move it to the top, but you can’t simply access it while you’re walking around, and there’s not even a mini map of the specific area you’re in to guide you. It’d be a nice quality of life improvement to make the map easier to access quickly, as frequent stops to check if you’re going the right way eat up time and don’t add to the gameplay.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

At times, the gameplay loop itself seemed a little tedious to me. I’d travel on a pathway to a new town, catching Pokémon whether I intended to get involved or not, battle various people on said pathways (which you also cannot opt out of) and then reach the new area. In the new area, there’d be more battles, the task of speaking to everyone to find out what needs to be done, and then the Gym and its trainer to defeat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the core gameplay is fun, and the variety of Pokemon you’ll acquire and battle change things up, but at times it still felt tiresome. As I progressed though, the gameplay opened up a little, with more challenging gauntlet style areas like ships, skyscrapers and hideous to explore and conquer, and a few new secret moves like Surf that allowed me to explore the waterways and finally get some water-type Pokémonin my roster.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

One other issue I encountered in my playthrough was with the purported connectivity of the title with Pokémon Go. I was excited to be able to transfer Pokemon I’d caught in the “wilds” of real life to the world of Let’s Go, but was only able to get the account to be recognized once before it was truly helpful. When I got to Fuschia City, where the Go Park is (and you have the option to transfer Pokémon from Pokémon Go to Let’s Go,) despite several attempts and a web search, I just couldn’t do it, with the connection failing multiple times. While I’m sure this issue could have been temporary, it was especially frustrating considering I’d been looking forward to finally reaching the city and getting to the Go Park only to not be able to use it.

Screenshot: Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!

Overall, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! seems middling to me. It gave me an appreciation for the depth and complexity of Pokémon–organizing good teams, levelling them up, proper combat strategy and the like. However, the story itself isn’t particularly interesting (though it is at times disturbing), gameplay can have frustrating quality-of-life issues, and occasionally the gameplay just feels repetitive. So, while I don’t think it’s a bad game for fans of the Pokémon franchise or newcomers, I don’t think it’s likely to be remembered as a classic either. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! or Pikachu are available on Nintendo Switch now.

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