Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu Impressions
Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu is a condensed version of the widely adored Pokemon Yellow that took the world created for Pokemon Red and Blue and altered elements of the story and characters to mirror the popular television series of the same franchise. Let’s Go! has made some big changes that may not be appreciated by fans of the core Pokemon games – breeding, abilities, held items, random encounters and battling wild Pokemon have all been excluded in this offering. However, despite these omissions, Let’s Go remained a pleasantly deep surprise.
After partnering with Pikachu, you set off to fill the Pokedex, collect all eight gym badges, defeat the elite four and the champion and then thwart the evil Team Rocket. The storyline relies mostly on nostalgia and may seem nearly non-existent for those expecting the depth of
a traditional RPG - but to a Pokemon fan, seeing familiar faces and the beautifully reimagined monochromatic towns and cities satisfied my Pokemon craving. The Nintendo Switch allows for the Kanto region to be realized in a simple yet colorful way that breathes life into an originally 8-bit landscape. Pokemon now roam free in Kanto for you to either run after or away from as you build up your party and your Pokedex. This allows the massive world Game Freak created 20 years ago to invoke a sense of immersion, anxiety and enthusiasm that may have previously been clouded by luck and monotony. Seeing a massive Onix appear on your screen while adventuring through Mt. Moon or closely examining the grass in hopes to catch a tiny Eevee has made catching Pokemon feel more genuine and practical than previous installments.
Wild Pokemon encounters have been reduced to either selecting a berry to feed the monster or a Pokeball to throw at them. Then comes the skill of either flicking your Joy-Con in the right direction (which is cumbersome and rarely does the action yield the result you hoped for) or using the Switch’s gyroscope to aim and then pushing the “A” button to throw your Pokeball (which works very well). This new feature paired with wild Pokemon roaming the wild is both refreshing, engaging and fun. Catching Pokemon no longer feels like a process but a combination of skill and precision that rewards patience and perseverance.
Pokemon: Let’s Go does have its faults, however - without abilities and breeding there isn’t much for competitive players and like most installments, once the champion is defeated there is not much postgame content that feels worthwhile. As a fan of the core games I have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of difficulty, depth and weak story telling. It’s almost as if Game Freak, Nintendo and the Pokemon company had willingly decided to disregard the generation of kids who grew up with Pokemon and were ready for a more mature story.
The most surprising feature of Let’s Go is the adaptability of the difficulty - for an experienced Pokemon trainer like myself I am used to the grind of battling wild Pokemon and trainers and leveling up the party that I have most likely planned out from the beginning of my adventure. Let’s Go encouraged me to experiment with different party members and level up Pokemon I didn’t plan on using in order to complete my Pokedex. Furthermore, the experienced gained from trainers, gym leaders and your rival will not overpower your party Pokemon - catching Pokemon in the wild is where the bulk of the experience is gained.
Luckily, Let’s Go has removed the PC’s that sit in the Pokemon centers across Kanto and replaced them with the ability to access your Pokemon box on the go and swap party members whenever you please. This allowed me to swap in my lower leveled Pokemon when I ventured out to catch wild Pokemon to earn them experience, complete my Pokedex or hunt for the rare “special spawns” scattered across the region. This made Pokemon catching feel more rewarding and allowed me to keep my core party Pokemon at a level that still challenged me when facing trainers and gym leaders.
Pokemon Let’s Go gifts you the original three starters from Pokemon Red and Blue if you have the caught a required amount of Pokemon (duplicates accepted) so that newcomers or players who want the nostalgia of receiving them in a similar fashion to the original Pokemon Yellow can do so. Personally, I wanted to catch the original starters in the most challenging way possible and by speaking to NPC’s (non-playable characters) I was able to catch a wild Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle – another example of the adaptability of difficulty in Let’s Go.
I was pleasantly surprised and captivated by the newest installment in the Pokemon franchise. It may not be a game designed for competitive Pokemon play with the lack of certain fan favorite features like breading and abilities, but the removal of HM’s and new catching mechanics really do breathe life into the world of Pokemon. The sense of adventure that this game provides you with is unmatched and I feel as though the attachment you will feel toward this game is a feeling that can be felt by fans both new and old which is, in a nut-shell, the magic of Pokemon.
This review was written by freelance writer Michael Holmes and edited by Corey Putney.
Follow Michael on Instagram: @michaeldholmes