November 29, 2018

Pokémon Lets Go Pikachu! - Review

The Pokémon games have always had a strange pattern of releases, each time they release one, they would release a slightly modified one a year later, but with Let’s Go, things are different.

Let’s Go is a very basic Pokémon game and should be considered a remake of the original games, that were released back in 1998 on the GameBoy. While there are a host of changes to the game, the basic outline of the map, characters and of course, Pokémon are the same, which gave me quite the nostalgia trip. You are a new Pokémon trainer, starting out in Pallet Town and your big day has arrived, but once you arrive at Professor Oak’s lab, you find that he is not there, but when you head back outside, you can see him standing in the grass to the north of town. It is here where you first meet your partner Pokémon, for me it was a Pikachu and after a fun, but somewhat odd scene, the two of you are ready to go.

The story, as with all Pokémon games is quite basic, giving you the very bare bones of what you need, in order to get you out the door and on your way, here is no exception. Once you are off on your adventure, the big differences that the game throws at you are presented, very quickly, with what I consider to be the most interesting, that you can see the wild Pokémon walking around the world. While to some, this might be sacrilege, to me, it is a change in the right direction, seeing the Pokémon on the map, gives you a number of advantages and options, the most important, for those collecting all 150, is that you now no longer need to wander around aimlessly, hoping that a random encounter will result in your seeing your missing Pokémon.

This however brings up the worst part of the Let’s Go games, the catching of the Pokémon, now instead of battling down the health of your target, then throwing a ball, you simply throw the ball. Some Pokémon require a little bribing first with berries that you can collect, but one berry later and they are ripe to be collected. There is a little skill involved, especially with the motion elements, but the removal of the combat, makes it feel like Baby’s First Pokémon and that is not a great feeling. Using the PokéBall controller, you can throw your in game ball, on angles, just slight ones, in order to get a Pokémon if it moves on you. But the left to right movement is all that they do, they don’t fight back, they don’t run away from you, to the back of the area, they do actually run away if you wait to long, they just move around a little and I did not like it.

The other larger change, which if it carries across to the mainline one next year, could be a massive game-changer and that is your bag, now carries Pokémon inside, which means, no needing to visit a PC to swap out a single Pokémon. If you happen to see a Pokémon on the map you want and your party is already full, the option to swap it out, should you catch it and then swap it in, without having to walk all the way back to a Pokémon centre, is amazing. There could also be many more changes to the game, compared to other entries, but as I have not played a lot of them, they would have gone right by me. One thing that didn’t were the random collection of trainers, that just hang out on routes, docks, inside of dark and dangerous caves, because as always, the first time that you cross their path, you are locked into a battle.

Thankfully, the battle system has not changed a great deal, you still only get four attacks or moves in your Pokémon’s arsenal and each move has a rock, paper, scissors type effect going for it. Water is stronger than Fire, but weaker to Grass, learning which Pokémon is more effective against other types is part of the fun, but also something you need to adapt to quite quickly. If you take the time to prepare you move, the game will let the camera do some cinematic pans around the various trainers and Pokémon involved, which is a nice touch, but for all the improvements elsewhere, the battle system is still what players know.

One thing that you will notice, is the games visual style, this is as close to an adaptation of the original anime that we are likely to see, with characters like Brock and Misty, looking identical to the original designs, even members of Team Rocket, the minions and James and Jessie, all look like their anime looks. The world itself shines, with little touches all around the place, that help sell that could be a real place, trees and grass move as you interact with them, people are walking around and even Pokémon are doing their own things. The buildings are a mixed blend, some like the Pokémon center and PokéMart stand out no matter what town you enter, but most just tend to blend in and don’t offer any real sense that they belong in the world.

Perhaps the most annoying part of the game is the audio, the music all sounds great, with classic tunes getting a complete overhaul here, in fact if these were released on their own, I would buy them. The issue comes from the Pokémon themselves and its an issue that should not be presented and that is that they sound horrid. Back in the original release, memory was limited, so most sound effects were chip tune and what was there, worked well. As the series has evolved, the graphics have kept up, with new looks every few years, tighter animations and more, but the Pokémon sounds, never changed and here it stands out, thanks to Pikachu and Eevee making their anime sounds. Hearing Pikachu make a variety of sounds, that come straight from the anime, makes the game feel like a playable episode, however hearing screeches and chirps through bit tune for the others, ruins that quite sharply.

Pokémon Let’s Go is a solid game, there is enough here for long time fans to enjoy and while it removes a lot of the depth the series has gained, it feels faster and more approachable for it. Those who want the challenge or depth, will be let down and may find the adventure is over all to quickly.

Review copy provided by Nintendo Australia

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