Pokémon Let's Go! Pikachu and Eevee for Nintendo Switch were shown off at E3 2018, surprising many with their unconventional mechanics. The Pokémon GO influence on these games has resulted in a unique capture system that has some fans raising eyebrows, and others clapping their hands. It's definitely a different way to go (even though a more traditional game is on its way in 2019), so I had to check it out and see how it plays in practice.
I went hands-on with Pokémon Let's Go! Pikachu at E3 2018 and experienced firsthand the motion control capturing mechanics and other changes to the game. While I think the game will still be divisive for traditionalists, my short time with Pikachu and friends sold me on this being a great gateway for fans of Pokémon GO, as well as a fun adventure rehash of Pokémon Yellow for adults without as much time on their hands.
Into the woods
My adventure at E3 took me into Viridian Forest, which will be immediately familiar in its winding paths and plethora of Bug Catchers to anyone who has played a game set in Kanto. Of course, we're on the Switch now, so the whole game has received a gorgeous visual upgrade. Shimmering green trees, lovely textured grass, even Pikachu's fur in battle is visible! But in terms of structure, this is Viridian Forest. A few of the trainers have moved around or changed their teams, but many of the same characters with the same dialogue were present.
The same Pokémon were roaming around, too, and I do mean roaming. One of the most immediately obvious differences in Let's Go! is that instead of wandering through tall grass to get into random encounters, wild Pokémon appear on the map and you can encounter them by running into them, or being run into. The strangest effect this had on my play was that I was no longer afraid to walk through tall grass, worrying about running into fifty more poisoning Weedles I didn't want to fight. Instead, I plotted my routes carefully to avoid small fry, but also hone in on powerful Pokémon I could see, such as Pikachu and Butterfree.
Like several other features I'll get to in a moment, I think this feature will be divisive, but I personally enjoyed it. It made traveling the forest less stressful and more fun, and I immediately got excited when I saw a Pokémon I wanted to catch. Some may balk at the loss of random encounters, but if you're balking already, then the laidback style of Let's Go! may not be for you.
Catching em all...again
I was lucky enough to get to play the entire demo with the Pokéball Plus controller. By pointing the red side of the Pokéball toward the screen with the button up, you can use the analog stick of the button to move your character and push the stick in as an A button. A hidden B button sits atop the Pokéball. With this, you can play the entirety of the game and then some.
The Pokéball Plus has a good weight to it and feels good to play with, though I am somewhat concerned on how its small structure will feel after an hour or two of play with larger hands. It can be separated from the game with a Pokémon transferred to it to carry with you out into the world, similar to how the same mechanic worked in Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver. Shaking the separated Pokéball caused a gentle HD Rumble vibration and a cheerful Eevee greeting to emit from inside. Cute!
Pokéball or Joy-Con in hand, you can enter a wild Pokémon encounter and attempt to capture it ala Pokémon GO. You do not battle wild Pokémon in Let's Go! Instead, you can essentially do whatever you do in Pokémon Go--offer berries, and aim and throw balls. Pokémon move similarly to how they move in Go, including attacking or dodging your balls. The same colored circle system from Go is also present, allowing you to nail Nice, Great, and Excellent throws (I didn't think to try Curveballs).
You make these throws with the motion controls only--there's no button input option, which may be a drawback for some. Throwing accurately isn't based on your arm (thank goodness) but where you point the red side of the Pokéball, and you don't need to have an especially strong arm to do it. Just aim, time it, and make the motion.
A world of adventures
Captured Pokémon use a similar CP system to Pokémon GO, though they do have individual stats, too. They also have sizes, large and small, which you can see denoted both on the map (by red or blue circles, respectively) and when the encounter starts ("It's so tiny!"). The stats come into play because while you don't battle wild Pokémon , you will battle trainers. And these encounters work exactly like the rest of the Pokémon series, with turn-based attacks.
Finally, some tidbits I noticed throughout the demo:
- You gain experience for capturing Pokémon , and with an Exp Share equipped my party's levels skyrocketed quickly.
- After battles with trainers, you'll also gain Pokéballs in addition to money, likely to offset the fact that you'll be burning through Pokéballs at a much faster rate than usual.
- A gentleman at the end of the forest mentioned an ability called "Cut Down" or similar to be used on skinny trees, so it sounds like some equivalent to HMs will be used again.
- Pikachu rides on your character's shoulder, Eevee rides on your character's head, and whichever Pokémon you have next in your party follows behind...or lets you ride on them if they're big enough!
Pokémon Let's Go! Pikachu and Let's Go! Eevee are still effectively remakes of Pokémon Yellow, albeit with plenty of changes to how certain mechanics work. Personally, I loved the shift. Yes, it felt easier, but I don't think that's a bad thing given the games' audience. The creatures and artstyle are adorable, and Kanto looks gorgeous on a console. If I was just coming to the series from Pokémon GO, I feel like I'd be both entranced and right at home with the capturing mechanics.
That said, I recognize that this easygoing and limited approach (online trading and battling will be limited to individual encounters, not like the GTS) to the Pokémon series may not be for everyone, and that's okay. With a new mainline game on the way in 2019, this is a wonderful tide-me-over until then and, from what I can tell, a fantastic demonstration of what the Nintendo Switch tech can do. Even if not everything from Let's Go! catches on, I hope we get to see at least a few of the best-loved mechanics carry over into other Pokémon games down the line.
When can I catch em all?
Pokémon Let's Go! Pikachu and Eevee, along with the Pokéball Plus accessory will be available on Nintendo Switch on November 16, 2018. The bundle with the Pokéball Plus costs $99.99 and either game separate from the accessory will be $59.99.
If you have any more questions about Pokémon Let's Go! Pikachu or Eevee, I'll try to answer them. Just comment!
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