Pokémon Let’s Go has been divisive among the fanbase since its reveal before this year’s E3. Fans were concerned that the new title would borrow too much from Pokémon Go, a wildly successful mobile game (gasp!). Others felt it was yet another cash grab by Game Freak from nostalgic Genwunners. I was rather unenthused about the games myself, despite being a huge Pokémon fan since its beginning. Pokémon Go invoked mostly apathy from myself. The gameplay was too simplistic for me to find engaging. It was fun for a week and only with a group of friends. I was concerned that Pokémon Let’s Go would borrow too much from Go and become a stripped-down version of itself. After about 7 hours I can conclude that Pokémon Let’s Go is far more fun than expected.
The visuals are fantastic from the get-go. Kanto has never looked so good. The player character is far more expressive. One of the problems with Sun and Moon was how emotionless your character seemed. Every dramatic scene was hampered by the doofy half smile on his/her face. The world of Pokémon is much more alive than previous titles. Contributing to that is the elimination of random encounters. Pokémon appear on the overworld rather than randomly popping out. This makes it easier to find the Pokémon you want and avoid unwanted battles. This creates another problem I will get to in the Bad section. One of the mechanics imported from Go is how Pokémon are captured. You throw Pokéballs by using the Switch’s gyro aim in handheld mode or the Joy-Con motion controls (or if you have the Pokéball controller). Its surprisingly more fun than the traditional way of catching them all. Changes to the PC system has made switching Pokémon in and out of the box significantly more convenient. It is now a menu option, like using smart phone app. Such a nice modern touch! Overall, Pokémon Let’s Go is casual, cute fun and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I still have several issues with Let’s Go despite the praise. Taking place in Kanto means only Gen 1 Pokémon. They could have added more Pokémon since this was done in FireRed/LeafGreen. Kanto has been revisited far too many times. Its reappeared in Generations 1-4 all featured Kanto in one way or another. You cannot battle wild Pokémon, only capture. Experience is given to your entire team for each capture but that means having plenty of Pokéballs on hand. The only other way to gain experience is through trainer battles, which now give diminished returns. Many trainers only have a single Pokémon and offer less EXP than catching wild Pokémon. I have no idea why they would think that’s a good idea. The game is also rather easy for experienced players. The Gym Leaders have been nerfed. I went under-leveled to face Misty and expected to get my ass handed to me by her Starmie but breezed through it instead. Also, the removal abilities took away many of my preferred strategies. The forced motion controls in docked mode are not very good. I can’t for the life me understand why they didn’t make this optional. Apparently, Game Freak made this decision because they thought players wouldn’t use it if given the option. So, why would you include this “feature” if you thought players wouldn’t care for it? Game Freak should take a page out of Masahiro Sakuari’s playbook and give us plenty of options.
I really like Pokémon Let’s Go, far more than I thought I would. The game is adorable as shit. There are many “aww” moments. The world is more engrossing than previous titles. My hopes are Game Freak takes the aspects that work here and combine them with the more traditional main series elements, placing focus on player options. Hopefully, you are given more choices of how you wish to experience Pokémon. Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were very disappointing, almost destroying my interest in this beloved series. Let’s Go restored my faith in The Pokémon Company. I am quite optimistic for the future of Pokémon on Switch.