Twenty years ago in 1998, developer Game Freak and Nintendo released one of the greatest games in the history of the Game Boy: Pokémon Yellow. Based off the hit anime and trading card game, Yellow version was an instant classic, allowing players to truly experience the journey that Ash Ketchum took upon leaving his quiet little home of Pallet Town. You started the game with a wild, uninterested Pikachu, who couldn’t care less if you succeeded or failed. As your journey went on though, Pikachu grew to love and respect you, just as the electric mouse did in the show. Jump back to present day, Game Freak has tugged hard on the strings of nostalgia with the spiritual re-creation of Yellow version with Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!
The entire concept of Pokémon has always been a simple one: catch ’em all, train them, and battle. Let’s Go, Pikachu continues this simplistic approach, but adds a few wrinkles in an attempt to make the whole experience easier and rewarding. Gone away are those annoying random encounters and now you’re able to fully see the Pokémon wandering in the wild, and thus choose which to interact with in hopes of catching them. This is a tremendous step in the right direction, especially in a time period of shorter attention spans and the desire to complete games at a faster pace. No longer do you have to fear running into a million Zubats on your way through Mt. Moon.
As the name would indicate, Pokémon: Let’s Go is similar to its mobile counterpart Pokémon GO. Players have the ability to transfer Pokémon from their mobile account directly into the Switch game. In addition to that mechanic, Pokémon: Let’s Go also adopted the mobile game’s process of catching the pocket monsters. Instead of battling wild Pokémon (other than certain extreme situations), all you have to do is throw the Poké Ball and hope you catch them. At first I was upset that Game Freak decided to remove the battling part of the catching process, because then how would your Pokémon earn experience points? Thankfully, XP is now rewarded through catching Pokémon, as well as battling other trainers. Not only does this incentivize you to catch anything that moves, but it also opens up the doorway to hunt some Shiny Pokémon.
Shiny Pokémon were first introduced in Generation III. The main difference between a Shiny Pokémon and a normal Pokémon is the color of it; typically, the stats of a Shiny Pokémon are still random, just like a normal one. Meaning, if you had a Shiny Charizard and a normal Charizard, either of them could be stronger than the other. The most common way trainers have encountered Shiny Pokémon are through chaining catch combos of a specific Pokémon. Being able to catch the same Pokémon over and over increases your odds of a Shiny one appearing, plus, you acquire more XP through catch combos. So not only are you working toward catching a Shiny rare Pokémon, but you’re still strengthening your team in the process. Although the concept of Shiny Pokémon has been around for a while, it would have been nice if the game explained what Shiny Pokémon were and how to catch them without having to find that information through third-party sources.
The main theme in Pokémon as a franchise is to catch them all. Throughout the long history of the games, there have always been two separate but similar titles that would release together. Each title would have the mass majority of shared Pokémon, but there would always be a few exclusive critters for each game, and Let’s Go is no different. Nintendo released Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee, and while I understand the need to keep with tradition, I think it’s time to change this. I understand that trading Pokémon is another big theme in the series, especially with the fact that you can acquire “special” Pokémon through numerous NPCs throughout the Kanto region, but being able to acquire all the Pokémon on your own should be an option, albeit a difficult one. Re-introduce the idea of winning tons of games at the Game Center to win a Pokémon, or expand on the requirements of catching a certain number of Pokémon that Professor Oak’s aids ask when you meet them on your journey. Not everyone plays Pokémon and it’s hit-or-miss when you do run into someone that does, if they’ll have the opposite version as you and if there’ll be WiFi to connect and trade. Collecting every single Pokémon should not be indicative on your ability of finding another willing and compatible person in the real world.
Being rewarded XP through catching and battling Pokémon means the game will be easier by default. Not once during my near 30-hour play-through did I feel the need to grind in order to defeat a gym leader, or even the Elite Four. Pokémon: Let’s Go is meant to be a more casual Pokémon experience, and while it accomplishes just that, removing the intensity of battles was a letdown. Game Freak did add interesting endgame content with Master trainers that I haven’t tried battling yet, so hopefully those trainers will pose more of a threat, but the over abundance of XP makes you feel like a god in comparison to other trainers.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu brought the joy of Pokémon back into my life. It tugged hard at those nostalgic cords and truly captured the magic of being a Pokémon trainer wandering through the Kanto region with my trusty Pikachu by my side. Building relationships with your Pokémon feel just as sacred and special in 2018 as it did in 1998. Being able to obtain XP by both catching and battling Pokémon is a great innovative step forward toward modernizing the franchise, but the tired idea of having to trade with someone in order to truly catch ’em all must be addressed. Game Freak and Nintendo are on the right track in providing a more complete Pokémon adventure that anyone can enjoy, and I can honestly say that I’m very excited for the future of this storied franchise. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu is a wonderful spiritual remake of the classic Yellow version that should absolutely be experienced by any Pokémon fanatic.
Final score: 9.5/10