Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu Review

pokemon let's go cover

Ever since the Nintendo Switch was revealed, Pokemon fans have been anticipating a new main series Pokemon RPG for the system. And while that project is still in development, Game Freak and Nintendo decided to launch Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee in the meantime as a way to hold fans over as well as draw in a new, more casual crowd of players. But with its focus on the casual crowd, some hardcore Pokemon fans may be wondering if Pokemon Let's Go is right for them or not.

It's understandable that many fans were worried about Pokemon Let's Go's more casual approach to the series, which is accomplished mainly through its implementation of Pokemon GO-like features. It's true that Pokemon GO's influence has had a profound impact on some of the franchise's core gameplay features in Let's Go, but honestly, many of these changes are for the better.

In Pokemon Let's Go, players don't spend time battling wild Pokemon. Instead they just attempt to catch them using a catching system that is ripped directly from Pokemon GO, and while that may sound like a bad thing to longtime fans of the franchise, it's actually a great innovation. It cuts out a lot of wasted time spent fighting wild Zubats and other annoying monsters, and as a result, players will find themselves catching a lot more Pokemon than they would have otherwise.

Encountering wild Pokemon in general is much improved in Pokemon Let's Go, and that's thanks to the removal of random encounters. Past games could be literal nightmares when it came to exploring the game world due to the excessive random encounters, but Pokemon Let's Go drops them entirely in favor of a Dragon Quest-like system where wild Pokemon can be seen in the game world. Not only does this just look cool, but it also lets players pick and choose which wild Pokemon they want to go after, and it makes hunting for shiny Pokemon much easier.

Another area where Pokemon Let's Go is arguably improved over its predecessors is thanks to its endgame content. The endgame in Pokemon Let's Go revolves around the usual quest to catch 'em all, but players can also challenge Master Trainers as well as catch shiny Pokemon. And thanks to things like the shiny charm and catch combos, catching a large number of shiny Pokemon is actually feasible for more than just the hardcore crowd.

From a core gameplay perspective, Pokemon Let's Go is an improvement across the board. Everything is streamlined, including HMs being replaced by Secret Techniques that the starter Pokemon learns, in turn making the experience much breezier. It's the fastest-paced Pokemon game to date, and since it has players yet again exploring the Kanto region, it really helps the game from feeling too repetitive or monotonous.

Yes, Pokemon Let's Go sees players return to the Gen 1 Kanto region, and it unsurprisingly leans heavily into the Gen 1 nostalgia as a result. Many of the new features introduced in later Pokemon generations simply aren't there, and the available Pokemon are restricted to the original 151, plus the new mythical Pokemon Meltan and its evolved form. Fans of the later Pokemon generations will no doubt be disappointed at the lack of Pokemon from other games, but those that grew up with Gen 1 or are coming to Let's Go from Pokemon GO won't mind.

Those who played the Gen 1 Pokemon games, particularly Pokemon Yellow, may find the Pokemon Let's Go games a little too familiar, though. While it's presented as a sequel in terms of its narrative, Pokemon Let's Go is more or less a beat-for-beat remake of Pokemon Yellow, with players encountering almost all of the same characters and challenges on their adventures. This isn't a big deal, but it's a bit weird when there are clear story developments regarding past characters like Red and Blue, yet players are still waking a Snorlax blocking the path, fighting the same gym leaders as before, and doing basically everything the characters did in the original games.

However, being able to revisit the Kanto region with vastly improved graphics makes it worth putting up with the weird story. Pokemon Let's Go is the best-looking Pokemon game to date, and it's fun to see how memorable places like Lavender Town, Pallet Town, the Power Plant with Zapdos, and more have evolved over the years. Let's Go also features some proper cut-scenes for a change, so while the plot itself will be redundant to anyone who played the original Gen 1 Pokemon games, at least the story is presented in a more visually impressive and entertaining way.

To get the most out of Pokemon Let's Go's visuals, fans will want to play it on an HDTV, but sadly, that's actually the worst way to play it. Like many Switch games, Pokemon Let's Go provides a variety of control options, ranging from a single Joy-Con to a Pokeball accessory if they so desire. However, when playing the game on the TV, players are forced to use motion controls when catching Pokemon, which just gets old after awhile. Playing in handheld mode lets players catch Pokemon without swinging their arms about, and it's definitely the preferred way to play.

Along with the forced motion controls, Pokemon Let's Go also stumbles with its co-op implementation, which stands as one of the game's biggest disappointments. Instead of a full-fledged co-op mode, Pokemon Let's Go delivers an underwhelming experience that feels tacked-on and borderline pointless. A second player can drop in and out at any time, but they may as well not even existing in the game world, passing through solid objects like a ghost and unable to interact with any NPCs. The second player doesn't get their own Pokemon team, instead just borrowing whichever Pokemon is listed second in the main character's lineup.

And when playing co-op, most Pokemon battles are 2-on-1, making an already easy game that much easier. It didn't seem like Pokemon Let's Go adjusted the difficulty at all to account for the second player in our testing, which makes playing through the game with a partner a dull affair completely devoid of excitement.

Pokemon Let's Go botches co-op and may feel like a step backwards in some ways, but in others, it is a surprising leap forward for the franchise. By streamlining many elements that made past Pokemon games frustrating, Pokemon Let's Go successfully delivers a faster-paced Pokemon adventure, even though it has some missteps here and there.

Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu and Let's Go Eevee are out now, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch. Game Rant reviewed the Let's Go Pikachu version.

Our Rating:

3.5 star out of 5 (Very Good)
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