It’s been a big week for gamers. One very specific breed of gamer, the Pokéfan, can join in the fun now as gameplay has been released for Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu/Eevee! Set in the Kanto region, it is a remake of Pokémon Yellow with some experimental aspects that are going to be literal game-changers. It is set for release on November 16th, 2018, worldwide. Let us delve into how this new release is going to add the iconic series…
Elements of the mechanics seem very interesting, but some ideas are questionable. Most notably, the method of catching wild Pokémon has fans looking askance at this release. The old method was to weaken the wild Pokémon and then throw a ball, with your chances of catching increasing the lower its HP was. The new method is more like it is on Pokémon Go. It utilises the Switch in that with the joy-con, your hand motion will dictate more effective ball-throwing, or if in handheld mode it is more like a throwing mini-game. While innovative from the point-of-view of the console, this eliminates a lot of the tension and difficulty of catching Pokémon. Bringing that Clefairy you’d wanted down to low HP without it fainting, but not such high HP that it would resist being caught, was part of the art. You were training yourself, the player, as opposed to the Pokémon.
Another feature that bothers me a little bit is that you can see the Pokémon (as well as their strength, indicated by colour) in the long grass. Gone is the tension of walking through the long grass, with only the knowledge that the Pokémon you want to catch has a high probability of showing up. Yes, it was frustrating when that 1,000th Weedle appeared when all you needed was a Metapod. However, being able to choose what you face seems to be cutting out a lot of the challenge of the training/catching that is so key to the game.
There are some undoubtedly cool things though – for instance, the joy-con has a rumble to it now, for when something jumps out at you or a trainer challenges you. It is impressive how meticulously they are adapting the Pokémon game model to a new medium like the Switch, and it will be undoubtedly lucrative.
There is a new collaborative mode in which a second player can roam with you as you play. This idea is promising: a more experienced Pokémon player can help initiate a new player into the game. However, this could be frustrating if the tutorial part of the game is as long-winded as it has been in recent Pokémon releases (Sun & Moon, I’m looking at you). Accessibility for newer players is one thing, but an unavoidable amount of cutscenes and explanations gets wearisome for the seasoned Pokémon trainer.
There are also cute little mini-quests to do around town. The one demonstrated in the video involves minding a guy’s Slowpoke while he runs an errand. Though not very challenging, it makes the people wandering around town more three-dimensional and fun to engage with. Also, the companion Pokémon feature has been massively improved – an Onix can wander around behind you in all his massive glory, or you can check with Charmander how he’s feeling. You additionally have Pikachu or Eevee sit on your head or shoulder as a kind of mascot, which adds a nice aspect reminiscent of how Ash and Pikachu interact in the anime.
The gyms are set to be more creative than ever before. We get a glimpse of Brock’s gym in Pewter City, now featuring a spectator area. This is a really fun addition, making the game feel more cohesively like a story as you have spectators to watch your feats as you work you way up the trainer hierarchy.
One gripe I have, however, and call me an old man yelling at a cloud if you like, is that the rival has been watered down into something more resembling a motivational pal. Those with a fondness for the older games will be a little nonplussed at the replacement of an iconic enmity with some dude who really maturely wants you both to do well. I just can’t see becoming the Champion of the Pokémon League being as satisfying without that frisson between the player and their rival.
Overall, it looks really fun. Revisiting Kanto with the current level of graphics and gameplay that we expect from Pokémon means a trip down memory lane which will be as stimulating as the newest releases in the series. It is really impressive how the mechanics of the Switch have been incorporated to make a unique Pokémon release. It will probably push some very picky Pokéfans into finally buying the Switch. From a marketing perspective, this game is very canny. It will boost Switch sales, but also the focus on Pikachu and Eevee (endlessly marketable cuties) will no doubt lead to many plushies and NFC-type figurines that will captivate fans of this release. The possibility of linking your Pokémon Go to the game may also boost the amount of people engaging with the app.
As with all Pokémon releases, it looks fun and cute. These games become more immersive with every instalment, and as long as they remain challenging and imaginative, the fans will keep coming back.