Of the sixteen international iterations of the core Pokémon series, I’ve played fifteen, so I guess you could say I’m a fan. I have played a handful of the spin-off games, but since 1999 when Pokémon Yellow was first released, it has been one of the only series of which I insist on owning and playing every core title; naturally, I had to get Pokémon: Let’s Go, the first core title to be released for a console. I’m going to be completely honest here; after the first hour of game-play, I thought it was complete garbage. I was livid, genuinely upset at the atrocity that I had just spent sixty dollars on; this is the first time I have ever been disappointed by a Pokémon title. Given the overwhelming amount of positive reviews available for Pokémon: Let’s Go, you may be shocked by my initial evaluation, but let me explain.
I purchased Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee, since this game is a remake of Pokémon Yellow, and I had already experienced having Pikachu as a companion. I knew they were adding in some Pokémon Go elements to this title, but I didn’t do too much digging, as I had complete faith in Game Freak. On the surface, Let’s Go is Yellow, and that’s awesome. I have wanted a mainline Pokémon title for a Nintendo console for ages, and that’s what we were given; however, this is an extremely nerfed version of my childhood love. There are no random Pokémon encounters; they just exist out in the wild for everyone to see, so you can choose whether or not you battle them. In reality, this is actually pretty cool to see, and how I imagine it would actually be if we were to exist in a world where Pokémon just roamed around, but it takes a huge element of difficulty away from the game. In addition to this simplified system, you don’t actually battle the Pokémon you want to catch; you just… catch them. You can choose to walk into a wild Pokémon if it’s to your liking, and then you are put into a very Pokémon Go-esque screen, where you can feed berries to the Pokémon and throw a Pokeball at it using the Joy-Con controller (or with the click of a button in hand-held mode). Once again, we’re seeing a dumbed down version of the game-play we’re used to, and another level of difficulty is subtracted. When I first realized this was the case, I was appalled and heart-broken. How ridiculous to take away a core element of a series that has been successful for over twenty years. I then spent the next hour of play in a rage, and extraordinarily bored. When you can choose whether or not to enter into a non-battle with a wild Pokémon, you end up just running along a trail to your next destination over and over again. I thought things would get extremely repetitive quickly.
Now, this is my main gripe with this entire game, which I’ve only spent a few hours with so far (I do have others, but I’ll save those for when I’ve finished it). It seemed to me to be Pokémon Lite. The game I loved had been gutted and simplified into… a story. There is still a storyline in Pokémon: Let’s Go, and it took me a couple more hours to remember that. While I am able to work through it much faster than a traditional title, it’s still there, and in the end, that’s all these changes do: make you focus more on the story. You still need to beat gym leaders to gain badges and access to new areas, you still need to prepare for the Elite Four, and you still have Team Rocket to contend with. Instead of taking hours to complete a single task because of all the random encounters and resulting battles, you can avoid obstacles like the EXCESSIVE amount of Zubats in Mt. Moon and get on with it. In short, the changes made to Pokémon Yellow’s original game-play are time savers. I’m not entirely sure I still love this idea, and I think if I had known I might have chosen not to purchase the game in favor of just replaying Pokémon Yellow, but only time will tell. I’ll report back once I’ve finished working my way through Pokémon: Let’s Go; for now, this is where I’m left — disappointed, unsure, but still hopeful.