A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!
I have been playing Pokémon games since the very beginning. Since this game is a semi-remake of Pokémon Yellow, I will occasionally make comparisons between the two to see what it did better or worse. Of course, I will also judge this game on its own merits so the target audience (the newcomers and children) can still benefit from this review without needing knowledge about former Pokémon games. Before writing this review, I have finished the entire game as well as having completed the post-game. However, I did not fully complete the Pokédex yet for a specific reason that I will go into with the review. I am also not a competitive Pokémon player, so the absence of abilities and held items do not influence my general opinion.
The control scheme I used was a single joy-con, though the game can be played with a controller as well as in handheld mode. I will briefly mention the control schemes I did not use, though the differences between them should, yet again, not influence my general opinion. I was unable to test out the Pokéball Plus accessory because let’s be honest, that thing is way overpriced.
This review also won’t cover the connectivity with Pokémon Go because I don’t play the game. What I can say is that the game is perfectly enjoyable without the need for this mobile game, and at best it can be used to transfer Pokémon. Multiplayer is also not covered since that’s not something you can easily do during current world events, but the entire game can be played with two players locally. Beware that this makes an already easy game even easier.
I remember the times very clearly. It was the summer of 2016 and the world was taken by storm just like it happened in 1996. It was most Pokémon fans’ dreams to go outside with their own Pokémon and battle other trainers, and Pokémon Go… kind of fulfilled that purpose? Looking back on it now, the original release was not worth all the attraction, but I won’t deny that I also played it for a week. Honestly, I probably would have continued if players in a backwater town such as I wouldn’t have been put at a massive disadvantage due to there being no Pokéstops. Perhaps a petty reason but eh. The game is still going strong to this day with many updates and even though I won’t return to it, it did result in an interesting turn for the franchise.
Due to my original distaste towards Pokémon Go, I was not excited when they announced a 3D remake of the original games but with elements from the mobile game. At the time, I was even afraid that this would become an ongoing trend, though at this point it only happened with the remakes of the first generation. But over time, I grew more… interested? My excitement still wasn’t too big, but something inside of me just wanted to play the game after hearing stories from friends that it actually did some interesting positive changes to normal Pokémon gameplay. I recently purchased a Nintendo Switch for my birthday and I figured hey, let’s do it. Let’s go in completely neutral, no bias, and play this game as if I never knew about it. The result? I’m not telling you, read the review so I can feed my children… even though I make no money from this review… and I also don’t have children!
The Pokemon: Let’s Go games were developed by the father company of the franchise, Game Freak. They were designed with the idea to appeal to a younger audience, taking Pokémon Yellow as a direct inspiration due to the game incorporating elements from the anime. Since Pokémon Yellow only focussed on Pikachu as the main Pokémon, a new mascot had to be thought of for the sister game. While director Junichi Masuda originally considered Psyduck to be that mascot, he ultimately went with Eevee due to its popularity but also due to the abundance of fan art. This also ended up as the game with many firsts, including being the first mainline game not on a handheld console and also the first mainline game to incorporate Pokémon Go, a popular mobile game released in 2016. Upon release in 2018, the game ended up with mostly favourable reviews from the critics and also ended up becoming some of the best selling Nintendo Switch games ever and the fastest-selling titles during the first months of release. For your trivia of the day: did you know that originally, it was planned that all Pokémon would be able to be ridden? In the final release only specific Pokémon had this ability because of course, it wouldn’t work with smaller Pokémon such as Rattata and Pidgey.
I have mentioned in the introduction that I have visited the region of Kanto countless times before. This is the first time (not counting the Anime of course) that I have seen the region in 3D and honestly… it warmed my cold dead heart for a lack of better words. It was awesome to see all of the towns and caves from an entirely new perspective, or seeing events play out in a way the previous incarnations were never able to produce. Of course, I am talking about cutscenes such as the one happening in Pokémon Tower. It genuinely made me feel like a very happy little boy again.
It was awesome to see all of the towns and caves from an entirely new perspective, or seeing events play out in a way the previous incarnations were never able to produce.
This is further amplified by the graphical art style they went with. I genuinely think this is the best a mainline Pokémon game has ever looked. It may not be the most beautiful, but this cartoony art style fits the franchise the most. Still very weird to see a Goldeen hover above normal ground in-battle though–and probably very cruel as well. Poor fish.
The story is mostly the same as the direct inspiration, Pokémon Yellow. I would argue it’s even better now since characters such as gym leaders appear outside of their gym more frequently now. Granted, the story of the original always was kind of stupid with how a criminal organization terrorizes the country and a 10-year old kid has to stop them, but at least Lorelei has helped out once before now so that makes a stupid story… 1% less stupid. Aside from that, there are also several manga- and anime references to add to the charm which I greatly appreciate. I won’t spoil too much, but a specific character from the manga makes her first appearance in any Pokémon game ever and I loved every second of it.
What I did not appreciate however, was the new rival. Growing up with the original games, Blue was a bully that was always one step ahead of us; a force we wanted to overcome. He was the definition of a rival, and the new rival Chase is exactly not that. He is way too friendly and helpful, and not at any given moment did I feel the need to overcome him since well, he’s weak anyway. The rival was one of the driving forces behind the story in the original games, and that is now completely lost. Though I will say that the target audience, namely newcomers, most likely will not see this as much of an issue as I do.
But on the other hand, this is also the game where you build a relationship with your companion Pokémon probably better than any of the games before it. Just like Pokémon Yellow, there is one Pokémon that will choose you instead of you choosing them. That’s one way to turn a catchphrase around. Throughout the entire game, it feels like you are truly going on a journey with a friend. It appears in cutscenes, gives you a high-five after a gym battle and also replaces those stupid HMs thank god. The Pokémon of your choosing can be interacted with at any time by giving them food or just playing, and they can even be dressed up with identical outfits the trainer can wear as well. For what it’s worth, I consider the relationship you build with your main Pokémon to be the best part of this game… and also one of the worst, but I’ll come back to that later.
This is the game where you build a relationship with your companion Pokémon probably better than any of the games before it.
And it’s not just the main Pokémon that gets the love either since we can finally have other Pokémon follow us again outside of their Pokéball after three generations of waiting! And all things considered, it also works fairly well in the 3D environment. They are usually the same size as they are in battle, can be interacted with at any time and can even be ridden! The bike is absent now despite the bike shop being present, but riding Pokémon is more fun to do anyway. Real talk, try riding a Snorlax; it’s brilliant.
The casino is also completely removed from the games due to the laws and stuff, but the game corner is still present. It’s one of the weird differences between the main game and I just find it lazy on the developers’ part that they didn’t come up with an alternative, but overall these games are pretty faithful remakes of Pokémon Yellow with minor absences and replacements. That said, they also are just remakes of Pokémon Yellow; No exclusive content from Pokémon Firered and Leafgreen are to be found here, and neither are other features that have been a staple in Pokémon games for years such as held items.
At this point, I have already written seven paragraphs about the artistic design and changes to the journey. Time to stop that, as what usually makes or breaks a Pokémon game is the gameplay. There have been a lot of changes made to the gameplay, both for the better and the worse due to the game’s other main inspiration: Pokémon Go.
Let’s actually start with one of the better parts right away, being that there are no random encounters anymore! All Pokémon appear on the overworld, which also makes it very easy to hunt for a specific Pokémon while zoning out others. Now I won’t have to deal with thousands of Zubats anymore because I can’t get the awesome Crobat anyway! Only the first generation of Pokémon and their Alolan forms are available and… eh, I’m fine with that. I don’t really feel like every game needs to have every Pokémon, though it does show how limiting the first generation was in terms of type coverage as a particular specialized Dragon trainer from the Elite Four only has one Dragon Pokémon he actually uses. Magikarp and Squirtle are also the only water Pokémon to obtain early in the game until you can actually surf since there’s no fishing rod for whatever reason.
I don’t really feel like every game needs to have every Pokémon, though it does show how limiting the first generation was in terms of type coverage.
Walk up to a Pokémon and instead of a battle initiating, the catching system from Pokémon Go shows up. You no longer need to weaken a Pokémon before catching them and instead only need to throw Pokéballs at their faces until they decide to go in already. Everyone’s favourite motion controls show up, but I didn’t have too much issue with them. It was usually pretty easy to move the joy-con in a slight arch to catch them when the circle is at its smallest. The game literally gives you an overdose of Pokéballs and Berries to make catching easier so even if you miss a few times, it shouldn’t be too big of a problem. Though the joy-con is the favoured method to play, the game can also be played in handheld mode which uses the gyroscope instead. While I didn’t play with it too much, it does still work well with catching and can potentially even make some trickier catches a bit easier.
The motion controls were not an issue for me at all, until more rare Pokémon and especially the legendary birds show up. They all move around like crazy and while it adds to the challenge, their catch rate is low to begin with so not only do you have to deal with crazy movements, but also throw a lot of balls- and/or consume a lot of berries. While I didn’t have problems with the motion controls for throwing balls straight ahead, it tends to go wrong often when I try to throw balls to the side. And the legendary birds? They hate berries more than I hate the Forces of Nature trio from generation 5, and that’s saying a lot. So have fun throwing tons of Pokéballs their way with the lowest possible catch rate! It’s still very much doable, but I didn’t necessarily enjoy it. Articuno took me 200 Pokéballs and that’s not overexaggerating.
There’s also another reason why you get more Pokéballs than there are Pokémon in the world, and that is because the game encourages you to keep catching and catching some more. You have access to your Pokémon box at any given time which is great, and duplicate Pokémon can be released instantly with some stat-boosting items gained in return. Catching the same Pokémon over and over again will not only increase the already big shiny chance as usual, but you get more experience with every consecutive capture. Catching Pokémon will be your main source of experience after all, as trainers themselves are limited. Doing this will make levelling for the endgame surprisingly easy to do as well!
Not that you really need experience that badly in the main story as Pokémon Let’s Go can be pathetically easy, though there are actually multiple factors contributing to this. I say this because the Pokémon levels of all the trainers you encounter throughout the game are actually on par with you, if not higher. The problem is though, that every Pokémon in your party gets experience whenever you catch a Pokémon or beat a trainer. Even when I didn’t capture too many duplicate Pokémon myself and only focussed on the ones I didn’t have yet at that point, I was still severely over-levelled most of the time. Honestly though, this low difficulty wouldn’t be an issue IF I could toggle off the shared experience, or if I could select from multiple difficulty modes. Of course, that is not the case and the only way to avoid this mechanic is by playing with one Pokémon while keeping the others in a box. As you can expect, this just doesn’t work.
This low difficulty wouldn’t be an issue IF I could toggle off the shared experience, or if I could select from multiple difficulty modes.
And remember how much the game wants you to make it feel like a journey together with the main companion Pokémon? I can tell you right now that you can almost play this entire game with only your partner Pokémon. They can learn some very overpowered moves, such as Pikachu’s ”Zippy Zap” attack that already does good damage, but it always goes first and worst of all, it will ALWAYS trigger a critical hit. And since you’ll be spending a lot of time with this Pokémon, their bond with you will increase, making them able to dodge attacks very easily, completely negate status effects and trigger critical hits more often. You can of course choose to ignore your partner Pokémon, though Pokémon Let’s Go has very powerful attacks available for every Pokémon anyway, and their learnable moveset also seems to have increased.
As I’ve mentioned clearly now, the game is very easy overall. Even though I am experienced with the franchise since the very beginning, there aren’t many other games in the series where I just press A to win while doing other stuff in the meantime. And I haven’t even mentioned all of the handholding yet, like you constantly being told directly what to do or even being transported there. But I guess that this yet again won’t be too big of a problem for the main audience: the children and newcomers. I would argue there are better Pokémon games as entry-points that don’t treat you as brainless, but these are some of the more accessible games right now. It is just unfortunate that there is no difficulty mode or an option to toggle off all the easy features, so there’s little challenge to be found here… right?
Actually, there are some genuinely challenging aspects to the game, but you won’t find them until the post-game. I’m going to address this as spoiler-free as possible (not that there really are any spoilers) but if it doesn’t interest you, feel free to move on to the verdict as the review ends beyond the explanation of the post-game. What I can say about the post-game however, is that it’s certainly not the best one out there, but surprisingly appealing to the competitive players and shiny hunters.
There’s actually a surprising amount to do in the post-game. The first thing that unlocks after beating the champion is that you can now also fly on specific Pokémon! And though this doesn’t add much to the overall game in general, I just love flying over routes and towns. And there are also some Pokémon in the sky that you otherwise couldn’t find on the ground, including a rare chance to find the legendary birds! And this is actually pretty good because…
…This may be one of the easiest games to get the Pokémon with perfect natures and stats, and also very easy to shiny hunt! Now, these are elements that really don’t matter to me personally as I don’t care for the perfect stats–type advantages will usually do the job anyway. But due to Pokémon appearing on the overworld and chaining being very easy to do as a result as you just dodge whatever you don’t want to catch, this makes it very easy to hunt for that one Pokémon you want. I should know, as I was hunting my favourite Generation 1 Pokémon in the post-game to grind my party’s levels anyway, which eventually resulted in me getting it shiny without too much effort.
But there is an elephant in the room. If my previous observation made you interested and made you think that this game would be perfect for competitive play then… I’m sorry to disappoint you. Online functionalities are significantly worse in this game than any other, and that is because you can’t battle- or trade with random people. They have to be friends with you, and you also have to agree on some stupid sort of code beforehand for matchmaking. This completely removes what many people seek in a post-game: going online to battle with other players whenever they want. And trading is also affected by this due to the Global Trade System being removed, which means I am unable to complete my Pokédex unless I specifically ask a friend to help me out. This is a completely unnecessary change that is not favourable for the game at all.
Pokémon can still be transferred to either Pokémon Go or the later Nintendo Switch games through Pokémon Home–if you are willing to fork over the money. Fortunately for me since I don’t really care for online and carrying over Pokémon, I do still have a use for them in the post-game. For every single Pokémon in the game, there’s a respective Master Trainer now, who specializes in only that Pokémon. You have to battle one-on-one with them with the same Pokémon and don’t let these battles fool you; they can get genuinely challenging. Just levelling your Pokémon to the max and giving them the strongest moves won’t do the job, as these trainers have given their Pokémon all the stat-boosting candies and unique strategies. The Blastoise trainer for example has said Pokémon with a substitute build and a move to make you flinch often.
Suffice to say, I genuinely enjoy this inclusion in the game. Even though I have better things to do with my life than battling over 150 trainers, I appreciate them wanting to make the player build every single Pokémon to their uttermost potential, and maybe even discover Pokémon they normally wouldn’t use. Honestly, this combined with shiny hunting would probably be the only reason I would ever revisit Pokémon Let’s Go again.
Pokémon Let’s Go’s biggest asset- and flaw is that it’s catered towards a specific audience, which makes it a tough game to recommend to multiple people despite its unique take on the franchise. For a series veteran, it was great to see the game that started it all in 3D with an art style that I consider to fit the games the most. The overall presentation of the story was pleasant to see as well with multiple characters getting a bigger spotlight, and even though I hate the friendly rival myself, I don’t think the target audience would have an issue with him. Especially the relationship you build with your main companion Pokémon has been handled better than ever before, but that’s also where I have to end most of my compliments unfortunately. I do think the new catching mechanic is not as bad as many people make it out to be (even if it really sucks when Pokémon start moving around like crazy), but it makes the whole game pathetically easy due to how easy it is to get experience from it that’s shared across the entire team. There is actual challenge to be found in the post-game, but it’s now more clear than ever that the Pokémon franchise needs to start introducing difficulty modes because this is even too easy for the target audience. And while I do genuinely enjoy (shiny) hunting specific Pokémon in the post-game, limiting online features does more harm to the game than what was probably intended. I do still consider the games to be good, but I’ll probably stick with the originals or the GBA remakes.
- Very charming to see Kanto in 3D.
- Trainer/Pokémon relationship is better than ever.
- Post-game is surprisingly challenging.
- Too easy even for newcomers.
- No options to adjust difficulty.
- Online functionalities are very limited.
Thank you for reading! Gee, that was one long review alright. I didn’t expect to have so much to write about, but this game really is a special case. But yes, I can’t emphasise this enough: The Pokémon games need a difficulty mode. And no, the argument “Pokémon games have always been easy” is not something I am going to agree with. When we played Pokémon Red and Blue as a kid, we’ve had a much harder time in comparison and that did not stop us from enjoying the games. Oh well, that’s enough Pokémon for me for a while; I do own Pokémon Sword, but I’ve had my fill for now.
Actually, I lied! Kinda! Next time on the Nepiki Gaming Show™, I’ll be covering my Top 10 Favourite Generation 1 Pokémon! …And I already spoiled the first place in the review. Can you um, forget that happened? Thank you!
If the Pokémon games ever decided to implement difficulty modes (let’s ignore that it actually happened in Black/White), how do you think it should be handled?
For me personally, I think they should develop the game as if they’re designing a hard mode; gym leaders with full teams, levels and abilities. Then, they should build the easier modes off of that by removing Pokémon from gym leaders or reducing their levels. They don’t have to make the hard mode the default mode of course, but I think having that in mind for initial development and building off of that would be the way to go.