Game Title: Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu / Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee
Company: Game Freak, Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Retail | Digital
Battery Life:  3 – 4 hours
Cloud Save Support: No
Download: 4.1 GB

Pokemon has been a part of my life since I was a small child. I was almost 10 years old when Pokemon Red and Blue came out in the West and it was something that I and my friends at the time really got into and loved playing, both solo and by using that crazy link cable to link up two of those giant bricks Nintendo once called handheld devices.

For this reason, every time Game Freak has made remakes or remasters of the older games, I’ve always been thrilled. I put endless hours into Red and Yellow and then again with Fire Red and Leaf Green. And now, I’ve got a new remaster with gorgeous visuals and a new way of experiencing Pokemon’s origins both on a handheld and on a big TV.

While this wasn’t without some slight questions regarding the new catching mechanics, let’s get started. Here is my review of Pokemon Let’s Go for the NIntendo Switch!

Story

lets go 2 - story

Let’s Go centers around a kid from Pallet Town that gets his first Pokemon and sets off on his journey across the country of Kanto to collect new Pokemon, challenge Gyms, and eventually take down the Pokemon League to put his name into history. It’s the story plotline all Pokemon fans have burned into our brains.

This story, however, is a bit of a mix of different mediums. There are very heavy elements here from Pokemon Yellow, like Pikachu and Eevee as the starters for you and your rival, along with Jessie and James making several appearances as part of Team Rocket. However, the story also has a few elements thrown in from Pokemon Adventures, making this a similar, but still a bit different journey than the one we’re familiar with.

Gameplay

lets go 5 - battles

Pokemon Let’s Go is a turn-based RPG with a lot of collecting elements thrown into the mix. Like any other Pokemon RPG out there, your goal is to navigate around the country to collect and train any and every wild Pokemon you come across in the grass, water, and the sky.

FIrstly, differences. The main differences are the Pokemon Go inspirations with random encounters now being capture mini-games like Go’s version of the Safari Zone and the actual SZ location being turned into the Go Park where you can import Pokemon from Go into Let’s Go. You’ve also got some Quality-of-Life changes with the Pokemon Box no longer being locked to Pokemon Centers, any Pokemon following you around or carrying you around the world, and HMs no longer being battle moves, removing the “HM Slave” aspect of the older games.

Outside of these, it doesn’t feel much different from the original games. It’s in 3D now, but navigating each area and fighting off with Trainers and Gym Leaders feels just like it used to, albeit with trainers and Gym Leaders’ lineups being a bit inspired by multiple games. Some Gym Leaders have teams like the originals and some even from rematch lineups in the Generation 2 games.

lets go 4 - roaming

But let’s talk about encounters and catching. Pokemon now run around on each route instead of stay hidden in the grass until the encounter begins. This is different, but the encounter ratios are still here, as they spawn and go through a cycle once you enter the route, and never in the same order. When you go into Viridian Forest, you could see a Caterpie first, leave, and go back in to see Pikachu and Bulbasaur spawn in the same spot. It’s different, but still random (which should help Nuzlocke players keep variety).

When you go into encounters, you do a catching mini-game. Inspired by Go’s version of the Safari Zone game, you can throw food at wild Pokemon and throw balls into colored rings around them to get better throws and better chances of capturing them. This is a game of patience and observation as a lot of these Pokemon will move around on the screen like they do in Go, though there are berries you can throw at them to keep them still.

The throwing process is a bit different, though. To throw a Pokeball, you flick the Joy-Con in a direction (or in the case of the Pokeball Plus, do a throwing gesture), and there’s something to be said about this. The motion options are really great, when the Pokemon is in the middle of the screen. Throwing to the side isn’t so easy for the Joy-Cons. Not that the gestures are hard to do, but the balls don’t throw consistently with gestures off to the side, making it a bit more frustrating to capture those flying Pokemon than it should be.

lets go 6 - catching

Once you get a successful capture, your party gains experience and can level to make up for the fact that you don’t “fight” wild Pokemon anymore. This makes it feel more like it’s different but still the same rather than completely different. This system is also balanced with Pokeballs being significantly cheaper to buy in the shop to give you easy opportunities to buy them in bulk if you ever need to grind a bit.

Now let’s talk Difficulty. People have been going nuts about how much hand-holding there is with the Gym Requirements, conditions that must be met to challenge each Gym. I will say this, though. Brock is the only Gym to require type-specific Pokemon to challenge. Some Gyms don’t have requirements and the ones that do are Pokedex and Level requirements. This may sound tedious, but unless you actively skip fighting trainers and doing encounters, you should never have to go out of your way to meet these other requirements.

As far as how hard it is, it can be very difficult. After Brock, I never stopped to grind for levels and some of the Gyms gave me a very hard time, and the coach trainers gave me an even harder time. How difficult it is mostly depends on your lineup and type coverage, along with how often you use the “Candy” feature that lets you turn extra, transferred Pokemon into permanent stat upgrades for a Pokemon of your choosing.

lets go 7 - gyms

For example, if I bought myself a good 200 Pokeballs and went grinding for Caterpie with all of those Pokeballs, I could get enough candies to turn a Butterfree into a monster that could thrash anything and everything that their moves are neutral or super effective against. The candy system can easily be abused to make a Butterfree into a Mewtwo-killing tank, but without grinding away to abuse that system, the game still retains a lot of the difficulty of the originals.

Finally, let’s get into the game’s content. Unlike Fire Red and Leaf Green, the Sevii Islands do not make an appearance in the Let’s Go games. But once you beat the Elite Four and post-game starts, you do have a fair amount of stuff to do. Without naming spoilers, you have a couple post-game story quests, 3 “Super Boss” trainers you can fight, plus “Master Trainers” for all Pokemon that you can challenge in special 1v1 fights for profile titles.

Now if we’re talking hours, I beat the Elite 4 after playing the game for around 32 hours. Considering I know Kanto like the back of my hand, I imagine most players will take at least 35 hours to beat the game and reach the post-game content.

Controls

Controlling the game is very simple, but also a bit odd. Let’s Go was made to be playing with a single Joy-Con to help promote the couch co-op feature that’s built into it. Because of that, you can control the game wither with one joy-con, the pokeball plus, or handheld mode with handheld being the only two-controller scheme you can use.

Thankfully, this setup is extremely easy to use and adjust to. Basically, the Analog Stick lets you move around and navigate menus, and the action buttons interact with those menus. The “Top” action button pulls up the menu, the Right button selects options, the Down button cancels options and the Left button lets you go into options and different menu types.

Like I said earlier, though, the capture game uses motion controls, which aren’t very consistent when you’re using the joy-cons. When you use handheld mode, though, you just use motion to aim at the moving Pokemon and use button inputs to throw balls, which is significantly more consistent and doable for those flying types.

Presentation

lets go 3 - presy

Graphically, this game looks gorgeous. When you’ve got this docked, there are essentially no jagged edges anywhere and loads of detail into environments, attacks, shadows etc. While this isn’t the “Realistic” style that Sun and Moon were, this is the best Core Pokemon RPGs have ever looked in terms of graphics.

And performance is the same. I never saw frame drops outside of navigating menus every so often. Whether you’re walking around by yourself or have a massive Zapdos following you around, the fps is super-smooth.

The only blemish I found in performance was during double battles. This doesn’t happen in all of them, but some double-battles would have a bit of a delay between putting all of the team’s attack inputs and that turn’s attacks actually starting. Note that this only happened in double battles for me, like fighting off Jessie and James or by using the Co Op feature.

Battery Life

With the beautiful graphics engine, I expected handheld mode to tank in Battery Life and Game Freak proved me wrong. Here are my Battery TImes, from 100% to 0%

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 16 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 36 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 22 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 39 minutes

A bare minimum of over 3 hours out of a high-graphics 3D Switch game. That’s a feat if I ever saw one. You’re going to get plenty of handheld time out of a single charge here.

In conclusion, Pokemon Let’s Go is a beautiful remake of Yellow that bridges it with a couple different audiences. Although some motion gestures in docked mode aren’t consistent and there is a bit of delay and lag when inputting commands in double battles, this is a polished and adorable RPG with a lot to do and have fun with.

Final Score: 8.5/10