Sitting in the back of my parent’s car, grinding away to defeat Misty with my starter Charmander. Playing only by the street lights illuminating the interior of the car and my screen every so often (backlights weren’t a thing back then kids). Feeling adventurous, intrigued and relaxed all at the same time. This was the hardcore nostalgia I experienced whilst playing Nintendo’s latest release, Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee (Let’s Go Pikachu also available).
But don’t worry, if you are brand new to the series, this game is more for you than anyone else! Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee is a fully-fledged HD remake (or re-imagining, no mere remaster here) of the classic Gameboy Color game Pokémon Yellow (which in itself is a remake, but that is a story for another day).
It begins, as all Pokémon games do, with you as a young trainer starting your adventure in a small town. You meet Professor Oak, he gives you your first little buddy and you‘re off to “catch ‘em all”, earn the region’s 8 gym badges and finally defeat the Elite Four. There are many new and exciting changes to the series, for the first time ever Pokémon in the wild are visible in the overworld! Thanks to the Switch’s more robust hardware this update looks great with the help of the super cute 3D sprites.
And with that, not only are you able to choose which Pokémon to encounter, but also which ones to avoid, thus ending the random encounter mechanic that has been present in the series since Red and Blue to many people’s dismay.
In my opinion, however, a welcome change! It is the natural progression of the development of the game and I was much happier to not HAVE to encounter my millionth Mount Moon Zubat. The updated catch mechanic is heavily inspired by Pokémon Go, no longer does one need to battle a Pokémon until it is weak enough to try catch, rather you can just throw a ball at it from the start.
When you enter the catch screen, the Pokémon will be centred with a shrinking circle of colour, green for a high catch rate, orange for medium, and red for low. As with all motion controls ever, they are clunky at best (fight me, I dare you). Sometimes the ball would go exactly where you are aiming, but most times it would fly off the side, making you throw sideways to the other direction for a Pokémon that it sitting mockingly dead centre of the screen. This also happens about half to a full second after you actually moved your controller, causing you to miss that excellent throw, or even the Pokémon altogether. However, in the handheld mode, the catch mechanic is handled by simply tilting your screen, and pushing A, no delay and the ball goes exactly where you want it.
Frustration at the docked catch mechanic almost doesn’t make the super cute (and well built) PokéBall plus worth it.
What does make it worth it, however, is feeling like a complete Pokémon master, throwing the ball at the screen, then shaking it afterwards to hear the cry of the Pokémon captured within. Another nifty trick is that you can store a Pokémon inside the ball, take it out for a walk on your daily routine, get home, and discover the ridiculous amount of XP that you have earned for that Pokémon for doing nothing you would not have done anyway
Also, it is the only way one is able to get Mew…
Not to say that not having Mew is a great disadvantage, besides not being able to complete your full Pokédex. The difficulty of the game is very low. Especially when using your ridiculously OP starter Pokémon. Only being about 12 hours into the game I would say that one would be able to complete the main story quest without having to stop for a grind session at any point. This combined with a lack of a difficulty setting in the game could come as a negative to most, but I fixed it for myself by simply removing Eevee from my battle party, and the experience now more closely resembles the one I had as a child playing Pokémon Blue.
Besides being a ruthless death machine, your starter Pokémon (Pikachu or Eevee depending on your version of the game) is next level cute. The intro animation of the game had me making noises usually exclusively reserved for buckets full of kittens. They are full of personality and being able to dress them up in hundreds of wardrobe combinations truly make them feel like YOUR Pokémon.
Does one have to ask, to who is this game marketed towards? Firstly it is aimed at slightly older trainers, like myself, who probably haven’t played for a few generations but is keen to get back into the world of Pokémon. And secondly, it is the brand new trainer, someone who besides maybe some casual Pokémon Go has never immersed themselves in the franchise.
For those new to the series, especially children the level of difficulty is just right, and the new co-op feature is a very welcome addition, and honestly a win-win for nostalgic parents trying to introduce their children to the series.
With a simple shake of a joy-con, a second player can join during any point of the game, although they are unfortunately relegated to a support role and can’t trigger battles or catch encounters. But they can join in to help in a tricky battle or assist in catching a particularly feisty Pokémon.
This game is definitely not marketed towards the hardcore competitive player, who will be put off by the lack of held items, abilities, breeding, random encounters and the infamous “grind”. The challenge lies in the post-game. Scattered throughout Kanto, master trainers are the elite, specialising in a specific Pokémon of the original 153 (introducing Meltan and Melmetal). For these battles, you must challenge them using only the one Pokémon they specialise in and beat them. This is far more difficult than it would sound, and you will find yourself feeling like an absolute scrub (in a good way!).
Pokémon: Let’s Go plays like any other traditional Pokémon game until something new and unique gets thrown into the mix. Most of the time it stays true to the hardcore Pokémon experience and the game’s story and progression will hit home for all of you that have played Pokémon Yellow or any other classic counterparts. It shines when you are in combat with other trainers as that is the only time you use your Pokémon as weapons. Combat is the classic version we all love and we would not want it any other way. Animations are great and the best part of all is the accurate size comparison in Pokémon models. Onix, for example, towers over your Pokémon in the distance and the size of every Pokémon you find is accurately displayed both in the field and in battle. It truly gives you the feeling of facing a giant creature.
In conclusion, this game caters to older players looking for nostalgia and to newer players for whom Gen 8 next year may seem too intimidating otherwise. Hardcore players could be put off, but if you are a fan of the series I still recommend you give it a go as some self-imposed adjustments (Nuzlocke anyone?) could bring the difficulty level they require.
There are some irritating UI issues and the motion controls can be sketchy. Overall however with it’s super cute and mini-death-machine partner Pokémon, it has won over my heart and I look forward to spending many more hours becoming the Pokémon master I’ve always wanted to be.
This review was written by Carla Pels Bekker (Spacewolf)
Available On: Switch | Release Date: 16 November 2018 | Price: From R999 to R1799