Electric Retrospective- Review: ‘Pokemon Let’s Go!’ lets itself go

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Pikachu electrocutes Ekans in a Trainer battle. Image from Game Freak

When remakes try to recapture the magic of their source material, lightning doesn’t always strike twice, as is the case with “Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu” and “Pokemon Let’s Go! Eevee.”

The “Let’s Go!” games are remakes of “Pokemon Yellow,” an enhanced version of “Pokemon Red” and “Pokemon Blue” incorporating anime elements into the Kanto region, including Pikachu as the starter Pokemon and fighting Team Rocket’s Jessie and James. However, this isn’t the first Kanto remake, as the Game Boy Advance installments “Pokemon FireRed” and “Pokemon LeafGreen” revised “Red” and “Blue” with updated mechanics and content.

The partner Pikachu returns, though it’s a partner Eevee in its respective version. The starters can’t evolve, which is counterintuitive for Eevee given its entire schtick is evolution variety, but they have higher stats than other Pikachu or Eevee, wear clothing and learn powerful moves and traveling techniques.

As the name suggests, “Let’s Go!” takes elements from “Pokemon GO,” even allowing Pokemon to be transferred from the app. Random encounters have been replaced with wild Pokemon appearing on the overworld, allowing players to choose their targets. Instead of weakening Pokemon before catching them, players throw Poke Balls with motion controls upon encountering Pokemon and use Berries to increase chances of catching them.

While the simple touch controls of “GO” allow catching during walks, they aren’t entertaining when dedicating attention to them, and the motion controls are more finicky than touch controls. Motion control catching isn’t engaging enough to be fun, but isn’t effortless enough to be done mindlessly. Catching mechanics from “GO” are fine to include, but should be optional alongside traditional wild battles.

“Let’s Go!” combines previous mechanics of walking and riding Pokemon, as players can now ride large Pokemon like Onix. This is also the first instance of drop-in/drop-out co-op in core Pokemon games, although the second player has no impact on the overworld and only provides two-on-one battles and catches.

For every interesting concept introduced, “Let’s Go!” removes an important feature or mechanic of core Pokemon games, and their absence shows how vital they were to previous installments. The lack of held items and abilities make combat little more than button mashing, and the lack of breeding or random online battles would’ve turned off competitive players if the simplified battles hadn’t already.

Only the original 151 Pokemon can be caught in “Let’s Go!” normally, although Alolan forms introduced in “Pokemon Sun” and “Pokemon Moon” and the new Mythical Pokemon, Meltan and Melmetal, can be transferred from “GO.” Mew, however, is locked behind the $50 Poke Ball Plus controller, which isn’t worth the price for anyone but avid “GO” players since it functions as a GO Plus accessory.

The lack of other Pokemon highlights Kanto’s unbalanced type distribution, mostly consisting of Water and Poison types, which restricts team variety. This could be solved by including evolutions of Kanto Pokemon introduced in later games, like Glaceon, or Johto Pokemon only obtainable in Kanto when they were introduced, like Houndoom. Better yet, Game Freak could’ve created Kanto regional forms of Pokemon from other regions.

Type diversity isn’t the only issue with Kanto that “Let’s Go!” accentuates. Kanto’s geometric land layout is unnatural, and there are few distinct locations compared to later games. Counting remakes and enhanced versions, this is the seventh core game featuring Kanto, and since it’s largely unchanged, longtime fans will be bored exploring the same region again.

The only significant postgame content added is fighting Master Trainers, who offer one-on-one battles against high-level Pokemon of the same species to win multiplayer titles. Master Trainers exist for every Pokemon in the game, including unevolved Pokemon, but level-grinding that many Pokemon for useless rewards isn’t worthwhile content. Compared to “FireRed” and “LeafGreen,” which included the Sevii Islands subquest and extra Pokemon, “Let’s Go!” has a horrible postgame.

Despite being the first core installment on HD home consoles, “Let’s Go!” has lackluster graphics. The excellent 3D models used since “Pokemon X” and “Pokemon Y” aren’t given smooth textures to accommodate being ported from the 3DS, and contrasting earlier installments’ vibrant visuals, the bland color palette drains the life from these beloved critters.

If the unremarkable visuals weren’t bad enough, they’re amplified by performance issues. Shadows are noticeably pixelated, moving animations are rough, and the overworld suffers from lag issues. Given how little visual flair “Let’s Go!” has, it’s shocking how poorly it performs compared to Switch exclusives like “Super Mario Odyssey” that look fantastic and run smoothly despite requiring more processing power.

“Let’s Go!” isn’t horrible, but it’s muddled by counterintuitive design choices, absent features standard in other Pokemon games and lacking replayability. Game Freak hastily announced that the next core game in 2019 will include the franchise’s traditional mechanics, and if “Let’s Go!” did anything right, it proved that those mechanics shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“Pokemon Let’s Go! Pikachu” and “Pokemon Let’s Go! Eevee” are available for $59.99 on Nintendo Switch. This review was made using “Let’s Go! Pikachu.”

Visit the Electric Retrospective blog at https://electricretrospective.wordpress.com/ for gaming news, reviews, and editorials, including an editorial about Mythical Pokemon.

 

Sean Mullins – Technology Columnist

This is Sean’s third year on the ECHO, having contributed to the site during journalism class in his sophomore year and becoming a columnist and blogger in his junior year. Sean writes Electric Retrospective, a column dedicated to gaming editorials and reviews, as well as a blog also titled Electric Retrospective that posts news stories and reviews every Tuesday.

 


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