Ryan Review: Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu

My old stomping grounds.

Storytime: My mother did not want us watching Pokemon for whatever reason. The cards were banned, the show was banned, and the game was banned from my house growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, but the hottest new thing 1996 was NOT ALLOWED in my life.

The first Pokemon game I played was Pokemon Emerald. I loved that game so much I bought the strategy guide to go with it so I could really be the very best. Years later, I borrowed a copy of Pokemon Red from a friend and played it until the internal battery died, which led me to buying Pokemon FireRed.

This is where my Pokemon experience ends really. I bought a DS but did not invest in Diamond or Pearl, nor any of the later incarnations with the 3DS. I missed a bunch of Nintendo games in college, but Pokemon was my biggest blind spot.

All that being said, my fiance and I were definitely the target audience for Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee. Something to ease me back into the experience without having to worry about maxing out my IV’s, Pokemon natures, breeding, etc. For her, this is her first ever Pokemon game, so it’s the perfect starting point. We went with Let’s Go Pikachu, since Pikachu is her favorite Pokemon.

The presentation is fantastic on the Nintendo Switch. The graphics almost make you feel like you’re playing in an episode of the show. You still run, hop, and explore the Kanto region like you did before, but now with your starter and another Pokemon alongside you. This game really gives you an idea of the size of these Pokemon. Growlithe will hop along behind you, but when it evolves into Arcanine, you can ride on it’s back! My favorite addition is the animation when you use Sea Skim, this game’s version of Surf. Instead of riding on a blob on the water, you can ride on the back of a Lapras or Gyrados! It really makes you feel closer to the Pokemon in your party.

Plus you can play dress up with Pikachu or Eevee!

Catching Pokemon in Let’s Go is similar to Pokemon: Go. Instead of throwing out your Pokemon, weakening the wild one, and then going for the capture, this game mimics the mechanics of Go by placing a shrinking circle around the wild Pokemon. When playing the game handheld, you aim by moving the Switch around you and getting the Pokemon centered on screen, and then hitting the A button. When docked, you play with one JoyCon in hand (or the Pokemon Ball if you got $50 burning a hole in your pocket) and throw the ball by swinging your arm, a la the Nintendo Wii days. Accuracy is the biggest problem here, especially when you start going for the Pokemon that like to weave side to side or fly around the screen. Play handheld is preferred, but docked is doable and does not break the game. The other big difference is how you encounter Pokemon. Gone are the days of wading through tall grass waiting for that chance encounter with a rare Pokemon. Now, you can see them running around the world, and you have to go run into them to start an encounter. This makes areas like Mt. Moon and Seafoam Caves much more tolerable since you don’t have to worry about another encounter with Zubat. It made the hunt more fun when I finally saw my Scyther buzzing around the overworld.

Everyone in your party gains experience when you catch a Pokemon in the wild or defeat another trainer’s Pokemon. This decreases the difficulty, but also lowers the barrier for entry for new trainers looking to start their new adventure. My finance had trouble deciding on her team of six and rotated new Pokemon in constantly. Instead of punishing that decision, she was encouraged to experiment with new teams, knowing that all of her team members would get the experience even if they were not used in battle. You are not forced to have Pikachu or Eevee in your party, allowing her to find more flexibility and not feeling locked into using her starter pokemon. Battles follow the same rock-paper-scissor gameplay that we know and love, but adds in the “new types” from later iterations that were not in the original game, like Steel and Fairy types.

This game generally follows the story of Pokemon Yellow, but for us, this was our first romp around Kanto, squashing out Team Rocket on our quest to become the Pokemon Champion. There’s a good amount of post-game material to complete, with Master Trainers, gym leader rematches, and special encounters to keep you busy. Filling the Pokedex is an enjoyable experience since Pokemon are easily seen on the overworld. Pokemon Go players can also transfer over any first generation Pokemon from their phone and catch them to use on the Switch. Seeing as how Vulpix is an Eevee exclusive, this was a welcome addition.

Score: 8.0 — Great

I write things for fun about video games, television, and movies!