Available On: Switch
Pokémon GO’s incredible popularity on mobile phones introduced a whole new audience to the already stalwart Pokémon franchise. The Pokémon Company has leveraged that popularity for Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!.
On the surface the Let’s Go games are glossy, 3D remakes of the first generation of Pokémon (Red/Blue/Yellow) with the much simpler Pokéball throwing mechanics borrowed from Pokémon GO. Despite its relative simplicity compared to recent mainline games like Sun and Moon, Let’s Go includes several brilliant new features that make journeying through Kanto again rewarding and memorable.
I Choose You
If you couldn’t already tell, your partner Pokémon, either Pikachu or Eevee, is the star this time around. Your partner will ride on top of your head as you journey through towns, forests, and caves. You can pet, feed, and groom your partner Pokémon to increase your bond, which allows them to occasionally shake off debilitating status effects. Their stats are top of the line, meaning you could very well keep them on your roster throughout your entire adventure, and they’ll helpfully learn all the traversal moves so you don’t have to bog your party down with moves like Flash.
The Kanto region looks fantastic in the new 3D art, and the world design is lifted almost exactly from the well-designed 90s Gameboy games. Even if you lack the nostalgia the adventure is decently compelling and the world nicely varied, though if you’re coming off the more story-heavy, tropical-themed Sun and Moon it will definitely feel like a retro step backwards.
One of the best new features for Let’s Go is local cooperative multiplayer. Since Let’s Go uses only one half of a Joy-Con, another player can jump in as a Support Trainer by shaking the other half.
I had an absolute blast playing with my young daughter. The camera is still focused on the main player so you can’t split up, but you can walk around and battle together (using the main trainer’s Pokémon). You can even catch Pokémon together, getting a bonus for a synchronized throw. It’s a great little feature that I hope all future Pokémon games can adopt.
Have Pokéball, Will Travel
The world comes alive thanks to Pokémon appearing directly on the map, rather than as invisible random encounters. For the first time ever you can choose exactly which Pokémon to go after.
True to Pokémon GO, there are no battles with wild Pokémon. Instead the Joy-Con motion controls are used to throw Pokéballs, and they feel great in both handheld and docked mode. Veterans of Pokémon GO will instantly recognize the shrinking target circle, as well as the berries and better Pokéballs that help catch trickier Pokémon.
It’s a stunningly rewarding system, and not just because of the literal experience and candy rewards. Being able to see Pokémon makes catching much more involved and active.
Pokémon can come in Heavy and Tiny varieties, denoted by colored circles on the map, which reward more XP. Catching the same Pokémon over and over will result in a Catch Combo. Get your Catch Combo high enough and you will yield more powerful Pokémon and a chance to spawn rare Pokémon and even shiny versions – a collector’s dream.
Both versions of Pokémon: Let’s Go are rated E for Everyone. Pokémon has long been a staple for family-friendly gaming (and animated TV and movies). Let’s Go makes a wonderful entry point and a great version for younger kids as less story means less dialogue, and catching Pokémon is far simpler and easier to grasp – yet still incredibly fun.
I’ve been playing Pokémon games for two decades and fully expected Let’s Go to be a watered down, stupidly simple spin-off. But like Pokémon GO my expectations were quickly turned upside down. Drop in co-op is wonderful, the new catching is surprisingly engaging, and being able to swap out your party at any time should be the new standard going forward for all Pokémon games.
I still miss some of the more advanced features of the main games (namely Pokémon abilities and breeding) but Let’s Go captures the essence of what makes the series still so compelling all these years later, catching and battling ’em all.