The next major Pokémon instalment isn’t due until next fall, but in the meantime Nintendo and developer Game Freak are sating fans’ appetites with Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee!, a pair of Switch games billed as enhanced remakes of the 20-year-old classic Pokémon Yellow and influenced by the popular Pokemon Go mobile app.
I’ve played some Pokémon in my day, but I’m not the pocket monster expert in my house. That honour goes to my daughter. We both spent some time playing Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!, then sat down to have a little chat about it, talking about everything from the way this entry is focused more on catching than battling to Nintendo’s new Poké Ball Plus controller, which was designed and marketed specifically for these two games. Here’s a transcript of our discussion.
Me: So, you never played Pokémon Yellow, which is the game that Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! remakes. Your only references are more recent entries in the series. Does this game feel much different than what you’re used to?
Kid: Well, this one is less complex, which is good, I guess. But it’s probably my second favourite Pokémon game. Pokémon X is my favourite. I was a lot younger when I played that, but I liked that there was more to do in towns. It kind of spiced things up. So I like that this one is a bit simpler and easy to get into, but I also miss the other stuff you can do.
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It’s a remake, but it’s not exactly the same as Pokémon Yellow. And I’m not just talking about the spiffy new 3D graphics. One of the most noticeable differences is that you no longer need to just meander around fields and wait to encounter random Pokémon. You can actually see them in the world, recognize them by appearance, and choose whether to try to catch them.
It’s smart that we can see them. Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t know why we haven’t always been able to see them. It lets you play the way you want to play. You can decide which Pokémon you want to bother with and leave the rest alone.
Yeah, random battles have been a convention in Japanese role-playing games for a long time. Many still rely on them, and I’m not sure why. But that brings us to another distinction in this game. Catching Pokémon in Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! usually doesn’t require a battle, but instead a kind of mini-game where you toss a poké ball. It’s similar to what players do in the mobile Pokémon game Pokémon Go.
I kind of like that it has fewer battles because battles can get really repetitive in other Pokémon games. But I also wish there were just a few more of them, because they’re kind of the reason why a lot of people play. They just feel like they should be a part of what we do, you know?
Yes, but also no. The fighting in Pokémon has always felt a bit weird to me. I mean, we’re supposed to love and care for our Pokémon, yet we also pit them against each other in fierce battles? We’d never do that to our real-world pets. And fighting is still present in this game — Pokémon trainers will challenge you, after all. I guess I like that it’s not the focus. I do understand that some long-time fans might miss the ritual of regular battles. Combat in Pokémon was never very challenging, though. Speaking of which, this is a particularly easy Pokémon.
Uh-huh. But I always thought Pokémon was for younger kids. Not to say that older kids and adults can’t play and have fun — I mean, I remember how you were surprised how much you liked playing Pokémon Y because you said you were “too cool” to play Pokemon when it first came out…
I don’t think I phrased it quite like that. More like, I was too old. In university and busy playing games like Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy VII. Pokémon seemed like it was for kids.
Basically what I said. I always felt like the people who made the games had younger kids in mind, that they wanted to make sure it was safe and easy for them. And that’s definitely true with this one. So long as you can read you can play and do well and have fun. But I also think if you’re older, like me…
A ripe old 13…
Exactly. If you’re older, like me — or even really, really old, like you — you can still have fun.
How about the Poké Ball Plus controller, which Nintendo also provided along with the game for our evaluation? It’s about as close as you can get to a real-life working Poké Ball. You make a throwing motion, it lights up, and actually catches Pokémon in the game. And it has a joystick, so you can use it while exploring, too.
Now that I don’t like. I mean, it looks cool. It’s a sphere. And it’s kind of heavy, the way it should be. But there’s no one right way for your hand to grab it based on feel. If your grip is just a bit off and you press the joystick you won’t be moving in the right direction. That’s annoying. They could have made it better by putting little grooves for your fingers so that you could feel how to hold it without looking.
Good points. I didn’t have the same troubles as you did, but I bet some other players will. I think the best thing about the controller is that it brings part of the game into the real world. Which reminds me — and this is a little off-subject — I haven’t yet asked you about the trailer for the live action Pokémon movie, Pokémon: Detective Pikachu. It kind of broke the Internet last week. Yea or nay?
Yea. If you’re going to make a Pokémon movie, this is the right direction to go. It has the cuteness people want from Pokémon, but it takes on the weird questions about what it would be like if Pokémon really existed that we don’t really think too much about while playing the game. Like what it’s like to actually see them battle in public places. And Deadpool playing Pikachu? Genius.
I have to agree. Against all odds, it looks like it might be one of the first movies based on a game that’s turns out to be any good. But back to the game. Thumbs up or down for Pokémon: Let’s Go Pikachu?
Thumbs up, for sure. It’s nice to play a Pokémon RPG on a console, especially with the prettier graphics. I kind of wish they’d have gone straight to a full-fledged sequel, though. That’s next year, right? I bet It’s going to be bigger and look even better. But I don’t know if I need to play two big Pokémon games in two years.
I haven’t played this one nearly as much as you, but I’ve had fun, too. I think I’d recommend it for either first-time Pokémon players who’d like to be eased into the franchise or older Pokémon fans who remember Pokémon Yellow and are in the mood for a little nostalgia. Casual fans on a budget can probably wait for next year’s game, which will be a major event. And are we recommending or passing on the Poké Ball Plus?
Well, I guess that depends on what you mean. I’m going to put it on my shelf and look at it once in a while and be happy when I do. It’s nice. But I’m not going to use it in the game.
I think that means we’re passing.