Pokémon– there sure are a lot of them now, huh? With the release of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, the count is officially at 1,015 collectible monsters– a far cry from the original 150 many of us grew up with. If you miss out on even a single generation of games, it can be daunting to catch up on catching ’em all. So whether you fell off after the DS games, or haven’t touched the series since it became an unstoppable phenomenon in the 90s, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee are for you.
There’s been a lot of backlash around some of the newer iterations of Pokémon games. It’s very possible that Game Freak has bitten off more than it can chew. Most RPGs have pretty robust bestiaries, but nothing comes even close to Pokémon. With over a thousand unique monsters each with their own animations and movesets, it’s no wonder that the seams are starting to show.
I’ve played most of the games in the series, but even for someone like me, Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee were a breath of fresh air. The “Let’s Go” in the title is clearly capping inspiration from the craze that was/is Pokémon Go, and the game incorporates some of those mechanics in here, which may be the one hurdle that fans both new and old will have to overcome. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just different– catching Pokémon in this game isn’t like any other mainline games in the series.
This new capture method can be a refreshing change of pace to not have to whittle down a Pokémon’s health, paralyze them, and catch them like usual. Though it does have its own frustrations that come along with it– lining up your Pokéball to throw it can be hit or miss at times, and if you have big baseball mitt hands like me, holding a single joycon to play the entire game can be a little cramping. Yes, even if you play in docked mode, you can only use a single joy con to play the entire game– you can’t use a pro controller or any other option. That is, unless you play the game portably, in which case you can just use the right control stick to aim. But given that this was the first mainline Pokémon game on a home console (or whatever you consider the Switch) I was more interested in playing on my nice HDTV and seeing the Kanto region really pop, so I put up with a bit of hand cramping in order to do so. But again, this won’t be a problem for everybody.
There are plenty of trainer battles to keep you busy enough with the grind though, which longtime fans will be instantly familiar with. And let me tell you, they are quite charming, and look a hell of a lot better than the empty hallways and voids that trainer battles took place in during Pokémon Sword and Shield. Backgrounds and scenery are exactly what they should look like, wherever you happen to make eye contact with an opponent and initiate battle. Speaking of, it’s exactly what you remember: four move slots, turn-based, type advantage battles. And if you’re like me, you already have the type chart saved on your phone to constantly refer to.
Most importantly though, the game pares down the Pokédex to only the original 150 (and a couple new ones) which recall memories of a bygone era, just with a fresh coat of paint. I had been wanting a game like this for some time, and Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee delivered. It may not be the big open world adventure that Pokémon Scarlet and Violet are, but it’s nice to have a smaller and more refined experience– a recollection of when Pokémon had to prove itself to sell games, instead of just “here’s a new one, you know you want it.”
Don’t call it a remake, either– this is sort of a pseudo-remake, pseudo-sequel kind of thing. You don’t play as the original protagonists Red or Blue, but they do make appearances throughout the game, implying that this takes place in between the events of Pokémon Red and Blue, and Pokémon Gold and Silver. There are also several nods to more recent games in the series, including cameo appearances from a couple Pokémon Sun and Moon characters, as well as Alola regional variants being available in this game via trades with NPC characters.
The one negative thing this game does highlight from these simpler times is the unbalanced roster that was the original 150 Pokémon that “genwunners” hold in such high regard. It isn’t until you revisit this self-contained origin point that you realize “hey, there really aren’t that many ghost Pokémon in here.” Newer games may have an overwhelming amount of ‘Mons to catch, but they also have a lot more variety. The Alola variants in this game do help a bit with type diversity though, and don’t take away from the authenticity of that OG Pokémon feel. Alolan Marowak is a beast.
Still though, the game is surprisingly, and refreshingly, pretty challenging! If you’re tired of the hand-holding that some of the recent games tend to emphasize, this game’s difficulty will spike up at some point and not slow down, meaning Pokémon battles can be grueling affairs where you win by the skin of your Pikachu’s teeth. Gym leader victories feel truly earned once their last Pokémon faints and they hand over that damn Marsh Badge.
Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee might be for you if:
- You’re intimidated by the insane amount of Pokémon there are now.
- You’re a 90s kid and want a nostalgia fix without the jank that comes with older games.
- You’re a completionist and want an obtainable goal.
They might not be for you if:
- You’re ready to move on with your life and explore bigger regions with larger Pokédex capacities.
- You have no nostalgia for the original games.
- You prefer the easier difficulty of the newer Pokémon games.
You can get Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee on the Nintendo Switch.