Gotta catch ’em all! Well, lately that’s been a little more difficult. There’s over 700 species of Pokémon these days and it’s quite the task to pick up every single one of them. That’s why we’ve seen something of a return to the earlier days of 151 Pokemon with titles like Pokemon Go, an effort at compressing the franchise and returning to its roots. The Pokémon Go craze of 2016 was a landmark moment in video games becoming (somewhat) more acceptable in the mainstream, and now we’ve got Pokémon: Let’s Go on Switch to bring us back to those heady days.
You know how Pokémon works, right? You’re a kid going on a journey to collect and battle Pokemon in the hopes of defeating the most powerful trainers in the land, all the while expanding the encyclopedic Pokedex. Here, you’ll journey with a special Pikachu or Eevee; in the style of the classic Pokemon Yellow, your companion Pokémon will stay outside of its ball, commenting on your surroundings, helping you find items and being just plain adorable.
Let’s Go wants to redefine the series somewhat, making it just a bit more accessible for those players who started with Go or haven’t played since Red, Blue and Yellow. Toward that end there’s been some significant changes. For instance, wild Pokémon battling is simply out of the equation; you now capture wild Pokemon by throwing balls at them directly in the same style as Go.
It’s fun, fast and levels your party Pokémon up so they can be ready for trainer battles, which play out as they have in previous Pokémon titles. Cute touches, like being able to capture huge numbers of duplicate Pokémon to send to Professor Oak for prizes, will keep you catching for hours on end.
If you really want to embrace the Pokémon trainer lifestyle, you can drop a cool $50 on the Pokeball Plus peripheral, a sort of ball-shaped joystick with motion controls that lets you mimic throwing to catch wild Pokemon. That’s a bit of an ask when it comes to the price, but I found the Pokeball Plus to be quite a bit of fun to use – not to mention it comes with a free legendary Pokemon, Mew, inside. Even without the Pokeball Plus, swinging the Joy-Cons to throw is still a perfectly good time, so you don’t need to feel like it’s a must-have.
Meanwhile, there’s a focus on your companion Pokémon that helps return to the original vision of Pokémon as friends rather than combat tools. Your Pikachu or Eevee is, well, cute as hell. It makes adorable noises. It sits on your head. You start battles by gently flinging it into combat rather than releasing it from a ball. If you don’t fall for your companion Pokémon there’s a pretty good chance your heart is three sizes too small.
From a battle perspective, you’re mostly looking at trainer battles. These play out like previous Pokémon games, though I found the number of moves to be somewhat consolidated and the list of available Pokémon to be expanded somewhat from previous titles. You’re actually checked for various requirements before you can enter and challenge Pokémon gyms, so it’s a little less frustrating for new players to challenge gym leaders like the infamous Brock.
All of this combined makes Let’s Go a shockingly enjoyable and simplified take on the Pokémon experience. The simple and colorful presentation helps add to this accessible feel, making the world feel vibrant and welcoming. Kids and nostalgic adults alike are sure to love Let’s Go. You’re still able to trade and battle with other players locally and online as well, so if you’ve got a pal to join you then that’s still an option.
There was some trepidation prior to the release of Let’s Go and the usual suspects in the gaming community spewed vitriol they weren’t “traditional” Pokémon experiences. As always, the usual suspects can be safely ignored – Pokémon Let’s Go is a solid and enjoyable Pokemon experience that retains the elements that make this such a classic franchise. If you still have fond memories playing Red, Blue and Yellow on the bus to school – or if you’ve got kids who now play Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon on the bus to school – then you’re bound to get a solid hit of nostalgia from Pokémon Let’s Go.