Review: Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!

When I first played Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu for the Nintendo Switch, I was in love. On the second day, not so much. While it’s not the best game in the franchise, which I’d consider Pokémon Black 2 for the Nintendo DS, Let’s Go, Pikachu is still worthing playing if you haven’t already done so.

Much like Pokémon Red and Blue, Let’s Go, Pikachu takes place in the Kanto region, and all of your favorite first-gen Pokémon and gym leaders are there, too.

Whether you’re strolling around catching random Pidgeys or Rattatas, or perhaps battling against your favorite gym leaders like Brock or Misty, Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu will hit you right in the feels if you grew up playing the classic Game Boy games.

Although Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu provides a familiar scene, the way in which you play is much different when compared to previous installments.

For instance, rather than jumping into random encounters, Pokémon are now seen scattered throughout the world. If you’d like to capture said Pokémon, all you have to do is walk up to it.

Capturing the Pokémon, however, can be a little difficult from time to time.

Player capturing a Growlithe in Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu. Credit: Image captured via launch trailer.

For example, if you’re playing the game with a Joy-Con controller, you have to use the controller as if you’re literally throwing a Pokéball. While this can be immersive, I often found these instances to be annoying as my Pokéballs would gravitate towards the opposite direction – similar to unreliable responses with the Wii controller. Thankfully, though, you can play in portable mode which allows you to direct Pokéballs in any direction with an analog stick.

Unlike traditional installments, battling Pokémon in order to capture them is no more. This time around, Pokémon are caught by feeding them berries. The more berries you toss at a Pokémon, the more likely you are to catching it. It’s also worth mentioning that Let’s Go, Pikachu plays very similarly to Pokemon GO. If you’re a fan of the mobile Pokemon game, you’ll likely get a kick out of Let’s Go, Pikachu.

While this does provide a new feel to the game, I felt as if I was robbed of a much enjoyable aspect of classic Pokémon gameplay. I can’t be too hard on this decision, though, only because I know a traditional Pokémon game is coming to Switch in 2019.

Pokemon trainer challenges Gym Leader Giovanni. Credit: Image captured via gameplay trailer.

Although Pokémon battles aren’t what they used to be in the traditional sense, they are still very much alive when going toe-to-toe with random trainers and gym leaders.

This is where the game feels right at home: when you’re deciding which move is best against an opponent and actually watching said moves in action. And as crazy as it sounds, Pokémon trainers seem to be littered throughout the world which does enough to feed your appetite if you have a hankering for battling trainers.

Another new feature in Let’s Go, Pikachu is the ability to transfer Pokémon from Pokémon GO. While this feature can be helpful when building your Pokédex, I do feel as if it diminishes the point to playing the game. I understand the reasoning behind this and think it’s fine if that’s something you’d like to do, but I ultimately think you’re robbing yourself from enjoying everything this game has to offer.

Even though the scenery seems familiar, Let’s Go, Pikachu feels like a new Pokémon adventure. Capturing monsters is a little different than previous installments, but the way in which you capture them feels immersive and fresh, albeit clunky at times. Exploring the Kanto region seems to be more welcoming, as running into Pokémon is entirely up to you rather than it being tethered to random instances. Although there were times where I would say to myself, “Eh, been there; done that,” it still, more often than not, felt enjoyable, fresh, and nostalgic.