When the Pokemon Let’s Go! titles were first revealed, I among many other fans dismissed it as a spin-off title whose purpose was to hold fans over until the next core title due out in 2019. The Pokemon Go catching mechanic combined with the removal of Pokemon abilities and other aspects that have been staples for years surely meant that this wasn’t a “true” Pokemon title right?
As I played through Let’s Go, Eevee!, it became increasingly apparent that not only is this game not a spin-off, but a title that is worthy of fans’ time and attention.
Let’s Go ditches the traditional course of running into caves or tall grass to spawn Pokemon via random encounters in favor of Pokemon appearing in the overworld ready to be caught. While it’s purposefully emulating Pokemon Go to help ease new or returning players back into a core RPG title, I was surprised at how much I did not miss running into Zubats every ten seconds whilst exploring caves and scavenging for items. Pokemon walking around different routes in the game gave the area more personality and made the world feel like it was actually inhabited by Pokemon. Pokemon look lively and are animated thoughtfully, rounding out the core encountering experience nicely.
Speaking of catching, Let’s Go introduces a brand new controller peripheral called the Pokeball Plus. Built and shaped as a small Pokeball, it acts as a motion controller to simulate a more immersive catching experience. Additionally it’s equipped with a joystick and cancel button so that the entire game can be played with it. Catching a Pokemon prompts the controller to light up and vibrate just like a Pokeball in the show or game, and the signature screech of the Pokemon sounds off when they become caught. The motion controls while fun, can be inaccurate, and mapping the confirm button to clicking the joystick can cause some mistaken inputs. Motion controls certainly aren’t the main attraction of the game, and I did find myself playing in handheld mode for the majority of my playtime, but the Pokeball Plus controller was just another in a wealth of pleasant surprises that the game had in store for me.
Outside of a few minor differences Let’s Go, Eevee! plays largely like any main Pokemon title before it. Kanto is still a pleasure to explore and a Pokedex of only 153 (instead of 800+) motivated me to catch as many as I could. Team Rocket’s Jesse and James are finally included as antagonists in the story with Blue helping out you and your rival along the way. Throw in Pokemon following you (or riding on top of them if they are big enough) and traveling becomes even more fun. An even more impressive traveling mechanic awaits trainers who best the Elite Four.
Let’s Go also allows players to access their PC box from the main menu rather than forcing them to run to a Pokemon Center. This was the most profound and welcome change that I didn’t realize I wanted. This along with Pokemon following the player are mechanics that I hope become staples moving forward.
Rather than roam the Safari Zone, players now have the option to transfer their Kanto region Pokemon from Pokemon Go to this title. It’s not the most intuitive feature as it took me a few tries to connect my smartphone with my Switch, but it was nice to use what little I had in Pokemon Go and put it towards my Pokedex.
Eevee or Pikachu are the main attractions in the game, and they serve as a powerful and adorable companion throughout your journey. You can feed them, dress them up, use them in battle, or utilize them to affect the overworld with what were previously HMs. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t evolve my starter Eevee, but with the character being so integral to the game’s mechanics and especially the cutscenes, it made sense that the option did not exist.
The game is not without its flaws, however minor. Your Pokemon journey won’t be immensely challenging by any means, though swapping out most of my team midway through did increase the difficulty significantly while I was leveling them up to par. The post-game content also isn’t very expansive. The Master Trainers are a very fun inclusion, but outside of challenging them and catching them all , there isn’t too much more to do. If you’ve played through Kanto countless times before, a fresh coat of paint and mechanics may or may not be enough to warrant a return for all players, but I was more than happy to be back.
Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee is one of my biggest surprises of the year. It’s previous features that I originally perceived as shortcomings ended up being some of the aspects of it I enjoyed the most. This entry is a standout title in the series that reminds me that Pokemon isn’t defined by it’s random encounters or competitive battling but by the characters themselves and their presentation. I still have a Pokedex to complete and Master Trainers to challenge, so it’s safe to say my 25 hours spent with the game so far are only going to increase.