For all the goodness – pure and sweet as it is – Let’s Go Pikachu conjures, it does shine a light on how much Nintendo loved velvet roped hallways even in the 90s. There’s no doubt that Pokemon is beyond massive, able to sustain entire consoles by itself as few others can. While it stands to reason that this remake of Pokemon Yellow brings all that power from the past through a modern filter, those that were enraptured the first time may not be quite so immune this time around.
So yeah, I’m going to rag on this game a bit for some really dumb, ancient policies that Nintendo will never change until the end of time. That’s called prioritizing! I’m also going to praise this game for having plenty of magic to cover those potholes including some game-saving decisions. That’s called capitulation!
Either of the Let’s Go games are direct remakes of Pokemon Yellow (kind of) with bells and whistles all over. You are a self-named tween ready to take on the Pokemon world via a country-wide trek for badges and furry buddies. While that was the main thrust of Yellow, there is an extra layer of companionship and evil to the world. Team Rocket has more of a face (or pair of faces) that early cartoon watchers will instantly recognize. On the other side comes one or two extra knights to battle them back into obscurity, which works to make the conflict in general feel more alive.
Your relationship with your Pokemon is far more highlighted as well to the benefit of Let’s Go Pikachu. Either Eevee or Pikachu rides shotgun outside of their usual spherical pad and will pop in with their quizzical stares every now and then. At any time, you can give them a new outfit, gather their vague opinion of your current situation, or give them a well-deserved tail scratching. This results in a slew of potential battle bonuses that offer those that feel loved on your team an extra life, extra attacks, and last-second dodges.
Both sides deliver a feeling that your Pokemon are not simply soldiers any more. It’s a small touch that doesn’t ultimately do much but save a Revive every now and then, but that’s enough to deliver the message that these are friends at your side. Even your “rival” is basically a best friend going through his own life choices. That’s a completely different take than “Blue” from the original and his bastardly ways.
Massive changes have taken leveling your Pokemon into a much more clear, concise direction. Let’s Go Pikachu has a natural team-wide EXP drip that levels everyone at the same relative pace. Any Pokemon that sees the field basically receives a double-dose of experience so there’s still some importance to positioning but not nearly as much as before. Leveling is also faster due to the addition of EXP on catching Pokemon. Yeppers, no more just battling and knocking out beasties to grab that precious experience. This slices late-game leveling times into quarters of what they used to be in…any other Pokemon game to date.
Some severe issues have seeped into the act of catching the damn things in the first place, compounding a lot of the old aches still present. Pokemon Go’s system is in full effect here with absolutely every annoyance along the way along for the ride (minus the microtransactions). You don’t many avenues to weaken the creatures first except with fruit – again, as in Go. The EXP is nice as a sorely-needed stopgap for getting the team you want into fighting shape, but that doesn’t stop the Pokeball gatling gun you’ll be firing from stamping you in the chest.
I came to the usual spot where the icy legendary bird roosts after a lengthy swim. After beating it back (one of the rare times when you even have to pass that low bar), it came time for the Pokeball barrage to begin. Ultra Balls – the strongest commercially available ball – barely even gave me a chance to successfully catch this beast, even with layers of fruit shoved down its throat. Over 70 Ultra Balls later, I finally caught it and felt no satisfaction at all. Even with my Pikachu over level 80 at this point, there are still some Rattatas and Pidgeys that will take multiple throws.
This is an insanely compounded issue that never relents. More popular Pokemon are harder to catch, and the mandatory motion controls do not track at all. You have to hold your wrist very straight, move very slowly, and stop yourself from any sort of recoil to have the ball fly where you want 7 out of 10 times. Handheld mode has you moving the Switch like a Wii U gamepad and tossing the ball as the best way to go. Neither feels even as natural as using your thumb, let alone just battling the old-fashioned way. Even if you wanted to shorten the experience, there has to be a middle ground somewhere that the developers didn’t seem interested in discovering.
One of the best additions to Let’s Go Pikachu is the catch combo and shiny hunting. Reeling in a string of Caterpie will inch up the possibility of grabbing a shiny, meanwhile you’re gaining levels for everyone in your party and candy. The natural stats of every Pokemon can vary across 6 categories that have innate maximums that candy can circumvent. All of that is to say that you finally have a good measure for how strong Pokemon are compared to others in their own species. Then candy can allow you to play God a bit, extending their boundaries by leaps and bounds.
Let’s Go Pikachu has one massive old-timey issue with the evolutions of certain Pokemon. You’re still required to trade certain second-stage creatures to gain their third-stage incarnations. Even with online connections enabled, this is a sucky way to “gain” your entire Pokedex. This falls into the same category as having some Pokemon available in one version but not the other as far as uneven, unwanted business decisions. By definition, *I* can’t catch them all thanks to Nintendo’s decision. My only chance to is in integrating Pokemon Go’s roster into Let’s Go Pikachu as it stands in the old Safari Zone. Since I just picked up that app again, I’m not coming close to sinking that much time into a totally separate Pokemon experience.
As a quick note as well, this is the first Pokemon game I’ve ever played that broke on me. I lost somewhere around 3 hours of rare creature grabbing to this game that knocked the wind right out of my sails. For the most part, this is a sound experience but that gap just couldn’t go untouched.
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu is certainly the prettiest version of Yellow out there. The changes made reflect a bravery that you don’t usually see with multi-billion dollar series, but what is changed feels too far in some large cases. Pokemon plays to a large crowd that must be accounted for and to lock so many systems into awkward or intermittently frustrating systems will cause more problems than solutions. Let’s Go Pikachu, not unlike my own lady Pikachu, is still super stylish and is worth petting and battling from time to time.
I just have to wait for a serene mood to counter this new mood I’ve just begun to experience in this entry: fatigue.
Let’s Go Pikachu Score: