Up until last week, I’d been really resistant to picking up Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu, the latest spinoff title from Nintendo and Game Freak. I call it a spinoff, because as much as the game is masquerading as a mainline entry into the series, it is one. Taking equal parts inspiration from the main series and the mobile game; Pokemon Go.
Despite the aggressively dismissive stand I had taken towards the game, after putting some time into it, I can fully understand why the game as as much positive word of mouth surround it as it does.
To clarify, despite the tone I barrelled into the first paragraph of this post, my reasons for not getting the game were not based in some petty kind of vendetta against Pokemon Go, or the surge of new and returning fans that this game was being catered to. Actually, I’m happy the franchise is getting a broader level of appeal.
To put it plainly; my issue with Let’s Go is with the game itself: How, in order to create the venn diagram of appeal amongst the lapsed fans and the fans of the mobile app, they’ve had to remove years of mechanics that have been building over the seven generations leading up to this point.
And yet it’s a delight to behold
Despite being a heavily simplified recreation of the Pokemon mechanics as they exist in Sun/Moon, with the removal of abilities, held items, reduced move sets and even the ability to battle wild Pokemon, the game is joyous to play in the moment to moment. The real meaning behind this being the first Pokemon game in the Switch didn’t actually hit me until I started playing this.
While certainly not the most powerful device out there, Nintendo are uniquely capable of making their game’s visually stunning despite a lack of raw power behind them. Even without nostalgia driving any feelings regarding this game, it both looks and sounds fantastic. It certainly helps that this game has direct analogs on the original Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS.
One of the few upsides to the Pokemon franchise staying so rigidly adherent to it’s formula means we really can see the progress the technology has made over the past 20 years.
Too much ripped out at the expense of what was put in
It’s strange that, despite being a remake of the original Pokemon Yellow, in a lot of ways, this game feels a lot more simplistic than the Game Boy game released in 1999. Despite the game obviously being much more feature filled than those games, and the modern games in some respect, it comes at the expense of some other, important features, to me at least.
Of all the features ripped out of this game, the simple act of battling wild Pokemon is one that actually has the most negative impact on my experience playing this game.
Much of the praise I’ve seen directed towards this game comes in the form of praising the Pokemon Go-like mechanics, which eliminated the random encounter element of wild Pokemon almost entirely. It’s a sentiment I’ve seen floating around a lot, regarding all JRPGs. That random encounters are an ongoing frustration, one that doesn’t value to the time of the player.
The issue is that this random encounter mechanic is inherent to the style of these games, which require the player to grind and level in order to be strong enough to progress through the game, in Pokemon especially. Because you’re party members are potentially limitless, especially if you’re making a go at filling that Pokedex.
It’s just a different kind of tedious
In theory, replacing wild battles with Pokemon Go capture mechanics makes grinding and building a team much easier, because you can see what you’re about to encounter before you do. Which, as it turns out, is one of the least interesting mechanics I’ve seen implemented into one of these games.
I want to play this game on my TV, but thanks to Nintendo’s very Nintendo-like solution to the game, you have to make use of their motion controls if you play that way, something I flat out refuse to interact with. The capture mechanics in this game are tedious in the extreme; you encounter a Pokemon and just lob balls at it until it’s caught or until it runs away.
As you progress further into the game, it requires more throws to to actually catch the creatures. And if you want to play this game optimally, then you’re sure not going to want to interact with the janky-ass motion controls that have you flinging balls in the totally wrong direction half the time, let along in the little circle for a better capture rate.
It’s a detached experience, but not detached enough that you can play it in the background while doing something else, it requires enough of your attention that you have to pay attention to capturing those two dozen Pokemon over in order to grow your team a couple of levels.
It’s simply not a game made for me
It feels like a game expressly not made for the long time fans. I honestly don’t want to sound like I’m gatekeeping. I love that Pokemon is finding a new audience, but everything about this feels like it was made to appeal to the lapsed fans or people brand new to the series who discovered their interest through Pokemon Go.
And Nintendo never pretended this was going to be anything different. Which is why I resisted it for so long. But it just looks and sounds so good that I had to get it, that coupled with the fact that I am so ready to retire my 3DS and have all those games on a device that just feels better to play.
If this game was a proof of concept for what Sword/Shield will eventually look like, then I’m real excited to see those games come September, let’s go on the other hand, feel like this won’t have the shelf life at all compared to the likes of the original red, which I’m thinking about going back and playing instead.