Pokémon: Let’s Go has hit the gaming market like a Thunderbolt and has received pretty good reviews. At PCU, we agree with much of what’s been said – the game is charming, nostalgic, and a lot of fun.
Instead of rehashing reviewers, however, we’d like to talk about Let’s Go from the perspective of two different types of Pokémon player: the die-hard handheld gamer versus the Pokémon GO mobile player.
Slewo: I’ve played every mainline Pokémon game from the very beginning when I was just a kid, from Red/Blue to Ultra Sun/Moon, as well as a good chunk of the spin-offs. Pokémon has been a part of my life for a very long time, so I have a solidified idea of what the series is, as well as what might constitute drastic changes or not.
While I have experience with Pokémon GO, that’s always going to be akin to a weird mirror version of vanilla Pokémon in my book. As such, going into what was mainly an attempted merger of the classic experience and the mobile game was going to be a bit strange as someone who still enjoys the older games.
Brook: In contrast to Slewo, I’ve only ever played two handhelds – the original Red/Blue (and Yellow) and the recently Sun/Moon. I’m pretty ignorant to all the changes over the years, and the 2016 release was a shock to my 8-bit world.
I’ve been a dedicated Pokémon GO player, however, since day one and I’m familiar with all the mechanics, aspects, and culture of the mobile game. I may not play hardcore, but I’m devoted to raiding, gym battles, and community days, and involved with our local GO community.
Slewo: One of the first things I noticed in Let’s Go is that held items and abilities are no longer a factor. Considering those have been around since Gold/Silver and Ruby/Sapphire, that’s a rather significant move to make.
Considering the intended audience of the game (i.e., Pokémon GO fans, lapsed players, children, etc.) that’s not exactly a bad thing. It narrows down the metagame considerably and makes it simpler to assemble a dominant team.
Also, unlike other efforts in the past (e.g., Black/White), Let’s Go’s injection of co-op turns the traditional Pokémon adventure into a more lively multiplayer experience than the usual solo adventure of its predecessors. Overall, the changes are ones that I would welcome in a mainline Pokémon game (with perhaps the exception of the catching system anyway).
Brook: As my experiences were limited to the first and seventh gen games, I mostly noticed how much the graphics reminded me of the latter, although much improved. There were aspects of the animation that felt like I was in a much better-realized game.
Also, I appreciated how much less complicated Let’s Go was compared to Sun/Moon. As someone who hadn’t been along for each new system, Gen VII of Pokémon games was a bit overwhelming with all its new (or legacy) mechanics.
Brook: Red/Blue (and Yellow) are the only handheld Pokémon games I know intimately, and I was pleased that Let’s Go was essentially a reskin of them. Although there are minor differences in story, and plenty of updated or changed mechanics, the overall plot and journey remain the same.
From the locations you visit (and routes you take) to the general layouts of the towns or NPCs, Let’s Go was like a favorite movie from 20 years ago that’s been remade with updated effects and story. This game was basically HBO’s Westworld compared to the original (now campy) 1973 film.
Slewo: I agree for the most part with that metaphor; Let’s Go doesn’t attempt to go hard on changing what you know about the original games. For better or worse (but honestly just better), it’s a freshened up version of Yellow, and not much has changed in the plot itself.
As an old-head who played the original Red/Blue when I was just six, stepping back into a more simpler and stripped down version (when it was just kids collecting 150 Pokemon) was like coming back home. That isn’t to say that it lacks any change as you can see the new paint and carpeting; it’s interesting, though, how much the game attempts to capture the Pokémon experience before they added tweaks.
Given how much the main series has evolved and changed, in both gameplay and the exploration of moral ambiguities (remember N from Black/White?), it’s hard not to be impressed.
Slewo: Most reviews are clear by now: Let’s Go ditches the traditional encounter system in favor of a Pokémon GO-inspired one, where you level up by catching wild Pokémon rather than battling them. As this difference kept the game brisk, exciting and involved, I don’t mind the change at all, and it works perfectly.
Having played Pokémon GO for a good chunk of the summer, it did impress me how much it condensed much of the protracted (and strategic) handheld experience into one that’s more user-friendly, like the mobile game. Let’s Go’s more brisk encounters (both wild Pokémon and trainers) lean into that, without letting it absorb what made the series so appealing in the first place.
While the game is a little easier than what I’m used to, Let’s Go more than makes up for that with sheer fun.
Brook: The moment my first encounter with a wild Pokémon occurred, I knew what I was precisely doing thanks to my time with Pokémon GO. The throwing is slightly different (no curve balls), but the concept of the colored and shrinking rings, feeding berries, understanding “distance” to target, etc. made this game perfect for mobile players.
Similarly, this game is a perfect blend of the original plot and journey with nods to Pokémon GO. The focus on catching lots of Pokémon (your primary source of Experience), turning in extras to Professor Oak for candy, and even the use of terms like Combat Power (CP), means they wanted mobile players to feel comfortable.
Let’s Go is essentially a stepping stone for Pokémon GO players into the broader world of the handheld and console games.
Brook: This game isn’t just a gateway to the larger franchise, it’s also made to work in conjunction with the mobile game. Nintendo wanted Pokémon GO players to buy a Switch and Let’s Go, and they found plenty of ways to lure them in.
The most obvious is the transfer of Pokémon caught on your mobile device into the Switch itself, allowing you to get rares, shinies, and legendaries, or simply those you’re missing from your Pokédex. Of course, to be able to do this you have to be in Fucshia City, almost 75% through the game, but it’s still a significant draw.
Another integration is the special Poké Ball Plus controller that you can purchase separately or with the collector’s editions. Not only a peripheral for the game, but it also doubles as a much nicer, sturdier Pokémon GO Plus; I’ve used mine regularly, both to walk my Let’s Go buddy and to catch more on my mobile device.
Slewo: Yeah, it was always very clear from branding to gameplay, to the early surprise of Meltan showing up in Pokémon GO that the games were meant to work together. As Brook noted, it’s not a bad idea, in theory, to entice both fandoms to take a dip into the other side.
Personally, I don’t mind, and while the requirement to be in Fucshia City to take advantage is somewhat frustrating, I do like the enjoyment of using the Poké Ball Plus. That being said, the benefits of this merger are entirely in favor to Switch players; while one-way transfers are a staple of the series, how Meltan was introduced is altogether another thing.
To evolve Meltan into Melmetal within Pokémon GO, you need to complete a long quest series and either walk with it for ridiculous distances or use tons of Rare Candies. If you have Let’s Go, it merely requires you to transfer a Pokémon once a week, unlocking an item on your mobile account that lets you catch plenty of Meltan.
While Pokémon being locked behind events is at least somewhat fair, requiring Pokémon GO players to have access to a Switch and Let’s Go just to catch the newest thing is dirty pool at its finest.
Even with these two different perspectives, it seems that Let’s Go is an excellent balance between the classic handheld games and the modern mobile player.
Pokémon GO players will find plenty familiar about the game and will be lured in with its integration. Dedicated gamers from the previous editions will find a nostalgic (and beautifully updated) version of the original Red/Blue, that may open the way for more Switch remakes.
Either way you enjoy your Pokémon experience, it seems that Pokémon: Let’s Go has something for every fan.