The latest entry in the Pokèmon franchise, Pokèmon: Let’s Go invites both new and returning players to experience the Kanto region once again, this time in full HD and with beautiful redesigns of a classic Pokèmon region.

Pokèmon Let’s Go is the first main Pokèmon entry to make its way onto the Nintendo Switch and is a somewhat faithful reimagining of the very first title in the series – Pokèmon Yellow. It follows the same story as the original but with key differences. Most notably being that your starter – Eevee or Pikachu is dependent on the version you choose to buy and the introduction of secret techniques that get rid of the dreaded HM moves that could breed HM slaves alongside multiple quality of life changes.

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!: Nintendo Switch [Reviewed]
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: The Pokémon Company, Nintendo
Release Date: 16 November 2018
Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Purchased by Author]

The gameplay of Let’s Go does see a significant shift in what fans of the core RPG’s are used to as no longer do you battle every wild Pokèmon that you encounter. Instead, when a player encounters a wild Pokèmon they will be faced with a screen somewhat similar to that of Pokèmon Go where the player is simply tasked with throwing the ball using motion controls to capture the Pokèmon. A successful capture rewards players with EXP for their team and also a variety of candies and other items to assist the growth of your Pokèmon.

This is a change that divided a lot of players when it was first announced but as someone who was at first sceptical, I can honestly say that this alteration to the core gameplay really does not stick out as the sore thumb I once thought it would. Instead, this alteration feels surprisingly natural and doesn’t take away from the game at all. If anything it adds to the enjoyment of the game. I often found myself shiny hunting (done by catching multiple of the same Pokèmon in a row without failure) which is something I didn’t do as often in the older games purely because of the fun of wild encounters. Pokèmon now roam through the grass and onto the roads making the game seem all the more natural and really putting the player into the world of Pokèmon like never before.

That’s not to say that battles are gone altogether, trainers still remain en route to your goals to battle alongside the introduction of Coach Trainers – all-new optional “mini-bosses” – that will appear throughout your quest. Gyms and the Pokèmon League remain all the same in a gameplay sense, it’s simply the reinvention of wild encounters that has changed and you can’t fault the game for it at all. With epic cutscenes for Legendary Pokèmon encounters that you can simply stumble across just by exploring locations, this is the most fun I’ve had playing a core Pokèmon title since Pokèmon Diamond.

Based on which version of the game you choose to buy, your partner Pokèmon will be either Pikachu or Eevee and this is not just a character that gets added to your party, this is a companion that will travel alongside you for your entire journey, a Pokèmon you can interact with whenever you like and one that carries with it emotion and a personality. I had the Pikachu version of the game and that, of course, meant Pikachu was alongside me in every situation including the cutscenes and all of his voice lines and playful expressions just made every moment feel that much better whilst playing. For once in a core Pokèmon RPG, the player feels as if they are part of a true story and for the first time feel as if they’re a character that truly matters with the all-new aforementioned cutscenes.

Alongside your Partner Pokèmon adding that extra layer of emotion they also are the source of the player’s “Secret Techniques”, these are essentially the HM’s veteran players all know and well, hate. HM slaves are now a thing of the past with Secret Techniques not even needing move slots and just all being learned by your Partner Pokèmon it means your movesets for each Pokèmon are now completely open, allowing you to tailor them to your own desires and build that dream team to take online… kind of.

Pokèmon: Let’s Go’s first misstep comes from its online feature. The functionality in the game, of course, exists to allow you to battle and trade with friends whenever you please. However, there is no true matchmaking system for wonder trades, GTS or online battles as the game relies on the use of a code to pair up with your friends and is intended for use with your friends only. The previously mentioned code is made up of 3 Pokèmon names and you must set it every time you wish to access online features and will only be matched up with people using the same code. Of course, you have fans on Reddit campaigning for everyone to use the same code to create an artificial matchmaking system but it should not be up to the community to abuse an in-game system just to mock-up something that should have been in the game from launch. It has been such a staple of the previous games, but that’s not the only negative when it comes to connectivity.

More often than not the motion control functions as it should in Pokèmon: Let’s Go. However, when it doesn’t function as intended, it really doesn’t function at all. I’ve had straight throws veer off sharply to the right and left or throws go so far off the mark I started to question my motor skills. Thankfully, I was not the only person having these problems. It’s these blips that do take away from the experience that Pokèmon: Let’s Go! offers as you find yourself pulled out of the game for just a second due to the frustration of not being able to throw in a straight line. It may be a small issue but it is certainly one that hinders the experience.

The sound design in every Pokèmon game prior has always been spot on with iconic themes in every city and that is no different in Let’s Go, however, there is just one gripe that I have with the sound design in this game. Your partner Pokèmon (both Pikachu and Eevee) sound incredible, just like the anime, but every other Pokèmon just sounds like it’s been ripped from the Gameboy games. You have these beautiful cries from Pikachu and then a distorted mess from a Ghastly. If Nintendo is going to go all out with the series on the sound design here and really make the game feel like the next big thing, then they should be including those high-fidelity cries from all Pokèmon and really make it feel like players are inside the anime. It’s 2018, we should have acted out voice lines and not computer distorted sounds.

Graphically there’s not a lot to say here other than wow. Let’s Go is hands down the greatest looking Pokèmon game to ever exist. 1080p in docked mode and 720p in the Switch’s often forgotten handheld mode, the Pokèmon each look full of character and can really convey emotion worlds better than there distant pixel art relatives. The world of Let’s Go just looks like everything I ever wanted as a kid from a Pokèmon game and then some. At no point in time did I think the Pokèmon games would look better than the anime but we’re edging ever closer to that point with every new entry in the series. I am just blown away each and every advancement.

Conclusion

Pokèmon: Let’s Go is a great entry point for newcomers to the franchise that may just be finding their feet in the series thanks to Pokèmon Go. It is also a great note for veteran players to return on as there is enough in the way of improvements and changes to make even a remake of Pokèmon Yellow feel fresh and new. If every Pokèmon game is cared for as much as Let’s Go has been then we may be just entering the golden age of Pokèmon games, something I thought was a thing of the past. Now, of course, the game is by no means perfect and does have it’s shortcomings but overall, this is certainly a leap in the right direction for the Pokèmon franchise.

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