Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu Review – the most lively Pokémon world yet!

Platform:
Nintendo Switch
Released:
November 16, 2018
Publisher:
Nintendo
Developer:
Game Freak

Review

Well, if Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu was a clever ploy to get me to pick up Pokémon Go again, then I’ve gotta hand it to Nintendo – it sure worked.

I wasn’t expecting this one to impress me. I worried that the Pokémon Go-style of catching Pokémon would make the game too easy. And I did find it too easy, but ironically not because of the features ported over from Go. I was afraid that it was going to be an over simplified, cutesy mimic of a Pokémon game that just banked  on the unrivalled marketing potential of Pikachu’s adorable face. Suffice to say, I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu.

Then I actually met my Pikachu, and the rest is history. Her name is Mozzarella, she wears a little hat and sunnies, and she’s my best friend now.

Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu makes the Pokémon world absolutely shine. Not only is it vibrant and colourful, but so much detail has gone into making the world of Pokémon feel as alive as possible. Wild Pokémon are actually visible in the grass and will wander around, even leaving their patch of grass. Pikachu isn’t just a 3D model on your shoulder that only comes out to play when it’s time to battle: she actually engages in the world around her, reacting to events and characters. A Pokémon of your choice can tag along behind you, something I’ve sorely missed since Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver. Not only have they finally delivered but they’ve done it better than I could have dreamed. Some ‘mon follow you… others speed ahead and make you the follower! Some, like Persian and Kangaskhan, will even allow you to ride on them.

I was initially skeptical about the adoption of the Pokémon Go style of wild encounters, but I’ve since eaten my words. Battling in the wild is far less complex now, sure, but when all you want to do is grind a few levels or catch one ‘mon in particular, complexity is not really necessary… or fun.

In Let’s Go, EXP points, Pokémon stats, and even the likelihood of encountering a shiny are all built around the new mechanic. Repeatedly catching the same species increases the exp you get each time, to the point where it’s often more rewarding to head into the bushes than it is to find a trainer. Suddenly, my least favourite part of Pokémon – grinding wild Pokémon – is now my favourite. A pleasant surprise, to say the least.

It’s not just the wild encounters that have been simplified though. Trainer battles are mostly unchanged, but Pokémon abilities and held items have been removed, eliminating a lot of the finer points of strategy. Candies, which are liberally awarded for just taking your Pokémon for a stroll with the Pokéball Plus, will raise your Pokémon’s stats permanently. I had to resist using any candies or the Pokéball Plus mechanic just to make the game challenging in the slightest.

I don’t altogether mind these changes, but long-time Pokémon fans may take major issue with it. It’s not exactly unexpected, especially since Let’s Go is designed to pull in players who started with Pokémon Go. I just hope this is a temporary reprieve, not the new standard.

“I was initially skeptical…

But I’ve since eaten my words.”

The Pokéball Plus  acts like a cross between the old Pokéwalker from Soul Silver and Heart Gold, and the Pokémon Go Plus bracelet. You can play Go with the app minimised, while also taking one of your party for a walk. That Pokémon will gain a large boost in exp.

It’s more encouragement to get some sun and exercise, which is fantastic, but have some caution when using it in the early stages of the game. It shot my Pikachu past level 20 very easily, making the first couple of towns and gyms an utter bore as trainers could barely touch me.

If Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu were the next mainline Pokémon title and not designed as a seperate marriage with Go, I would be incredibly disappointed with the removed abilities and held items. I would be equally upset about the comparative lack of challenge the game offers. As it stands though, it’s a nice change that’s all-around lighter and more relaxing. I would still prefer it without the stat-raising candies, but they’re easy to ignore completely. I wouldn’t mind if they kept things such as the Go-style wild encounters, though, since it didn’t affect anything too important and made a large part of the game less tedious.  I’ll have a great time with this game while I wait for the next gen of Pokémon!

Piikaaa!!

Pokémon Let’s Go: Pikachu is the perfect bridge between Go and the main series,  even if I found it far too easy at times. While the missing features annoyed me at first, I quickly forgot about them as I got lost in the charming world of Kanto. Its changes to wild encounters are refreshing, and being able to see the ‘mon in the grass is something I definitely want to see return.

If you’re looking for the next Pokémon challenge, this game isn’t for you.  If you don’t care much about the competitive side though, you’re going to be charmed to bits. I mean, come on. You can put Pikachu in little outfits. ‘Nuff said.