Review: Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu & Let's Go Eevee

 Let's Go simplicity & accessibility.

Console: Nintendo Switch

With the success of Pokémon Go Nintendo and the Pokémon Company did their to turn all of these casual Pokémon enjoyers into die-hard Pokémon players. Their most obvious attempt at this are the first game Pokémon released on the Nintendo Switch, way back in 2018: Let's Go Pikachu & Let's Go Eevee. A remake of sorts of Pokémon Yellow, the traditional formula of the Pokémon games with elements those of Pokémon Go to ease them (back) into the core series of games. It was received pretty well with lots of people enjoying the easier gameplay and praised some of the new elements they introduced.

Let's Go Pikachu & Let's Go Eevee are most certainly the most charming Pokémon games I've played and do an excellent job at what they set out to do: be simple and accessible to a younger audience and new (or returning) older players. They're also some of the most unbalanced Pokémon games and due to the design decisions aren't the definitive way to experience the Kanto region.

Let's dive in!

Go Eevee!

The story of the Let's Go games is the traditional Pokémon story just with some slight deviations here and there. You’re a 10-year-old kid who, after receiving their starter Pokémon from Professor Oak, sets out on their Pokémon journey across the Kanto region. You travel across the region catching and training Pokémon to defeat the eight Pokémon gyms so you can challenge the Elite Four and become the Champion as well as complete the Pokédex. All the while, you’ll have to keep up with your rival, who always seems to be one step ahead of you. In short: you set out to become the very best there ever was. Along the way, you’ll not only have to deal with your rival but also encounter the nefarious criminal organization Team Rocket who use Pokémon to further their goals.

The plot is nothing special. It’s very basic, with not many developments across the 30-hour campaign. You’re mostly just focused on getting from gym to gym while your rival and Team Rocket pop up occasionally. There’s no strong narrative that will keep you engaged, just a string of well-designed characters with fun dialogue that’ll point you along your journey. A bit disappointing since this is the 3rd time this story has been told. I would've liked it if they had used this opportunity to overhaul the story more than just the character cameo's and giving you a new rival. These additions are neat but don't offer much beyond a novelty factor. Thus they don't do much to alleviate it.

Simplifying the battles makes them easier but also more monotonous. For older players, there's not much of a challenge here. There is not much of a challenge here at all. The A.I. is dumber than usual, exp. is given to each and every party member and you can raise your Pokémon stats (measured in CP like in GO) with candies without much trouble. This all adds up to make a game that's easy to break in half, if you will. Good for accessibility, bad for older players. There is mega evolution though which is, admittedly, nice.

Catching a Krabby.

This all brings us to the controls. This game made an odd decision by limiting the controls to just one joy-con. Only when you play in docked mode do you can use the full control's sort of to understand why this is. It allows for the PokéBall controller peripheral to work with only limited buttons and it allows for couch co-op. Still, I would've liked the option to play with a full controller when in docked mode to at least be there.

The Kanto region brings with it the Kanto Pokédex. Just like Pokémon Red, Blue, Green & Yellow these games have 151 original critters. And not much else. Meltan and Melmetal can be transferred over, as well as the Alolan forms of the Pokémon. When I talk to old Pokémon fans that they are unfamiliar with the newer ones and find the 700+ mons since Red & Blue daunting. If they had included at least the (pre-)evolutions of the Kanto Pokémon introduced later would've not only to give the games more variety but also introduce these Pokémon to these returning players. Ease them into it, if it were.

If you've got the impression that Let's Go Pikachu & Eevee is a mixed bag then you are right. They have a lot of odd design choices and oddities that I don't appreciate but there's a lot I like to. The co-op is a lot of fun. You had the 2nd joy-con to someone else who then controls the player character of the opposite gender. They can't interact with the overworld but can help you catch Pokémon and do battle (using Pokémon of your own team) double battle style. I played the first 2 hours of this game with a friend and it was the most fun I had with Pokémon in a long time.

Kanto has, without a doubt, never looked this good. It's in essence not much more than the Sun & Moon graphics yes, but it just works really well. It looks charming and is very colourful. The game also sounds amazing. The entire OST has been re-recorded by a full orchestra and it is so good to the ears!

What I love the most? The Pokémon finally roam around on the overworld. This little change does so much for this game. It removes, what can be, annoying random encounters while simultaneously giving the Kanto region more life. Pokémon, just like in HGSS, can now follow you on the overworld if you so wish. You can also access your Pokémon in the box on the fly now. A feature that is actually quite nice and doesn't 'break' the game as I thought it would.

Pokémon roaming around on the overworld is simply wonderful. Both for the immersion and as a next step in the series' growth.

As you might've guessed by the presence of their names in the title, Pikachu and Eevee play big roles in these games. They're your partner Pokémon for your journey, always at your side even if they're not on your team. You can pet them for affection, they can walk behind you on the overworld (just like any Pokémon in your team) learn unique moves, learn the HM moves (yeah!) and you can even control them at certain points. Especially the younger crowd will find a lot of love in the bond that the Let's Go games build up with your cute partner.

Conclusion

If you're a Pokémon Go player, haven't played Pokémon in a long time or have very young children then Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu & Eevee is the perfect game to get your feet wet with. By simplifying the battle system and lifting elements from Pokémon Go it's a game that's easy to get into.

For older players, I think this game is a harder sell. Let's Go is very charming, looks and sound excellent and has some very nifty new mechanics. On the whole, though I feel it falls short of a full-fledged, satisfying Pokémon experience. Try it out if you want but recommend trying to get it at a discount somewhere.

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