Pokémon as a franchise has a very special place in my heart. I’ve been playing the handheld RPG entries in the series since 2004, including backtracking to play the original games from the GameBoy. I always buy the newest entry into the series on day one for almost all of them. I’ve purchased and sold consoles to purchase or obtain the games. I’ve collected and played the TCG and experienced that realm of the franchise. I could go on and on about how much Pokémon has been an influence in my life. Now that my backstory with Pokémon is out of the way, onto my first hour’s worth of impressions on the newest release in the franchise for Nintendo Switch – Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!
The Obvious Takeaways
I’ll start by saying that after a little over an hour of playing the game I’ve made it to the first gym. I wasn’t in a rush to get as far as possible so I strolled through the forests and caught as many Pokémon I could find. There’s a lot of graphical changes that I wanted to take in and let my nostalgia run wild.
The game begins very similarly to how Red, Blue, or Yellow started, but it looked amazing in full 3-dimensional 720p in handheld mode. The colors really pop in docked mode as well and the game runs a little more smoothly in areas where the console’s graphics processor is tested. I was very impressed at how well everything looked. The grass and bushes move around so realistically when your character walks through them. Not only do you notice the movement when you’re walking around but you notice real freakin’ Pokémon scurrying through the grass! You can see the Rattatas, the Caterpies, and for a little while your beloved ride-or-die Eevee (or Pikachu)! They frolic around so freely and totally scrape the random encounters concepts. It’s really nice to be able to see what Pokémon is running around for the sake of filling your PokéDex. Now onto what is arguably the biggest change in this entry.
For those of us who were alive in the summer of 2016 and had a smartphone with cellular capabilities, you’ll remember the craze (that’s an understatement) that is Pokémon GO. Yeah, remember that thing you did almost every waking hour for about a month, along with tens of millions of other trainers? All the miles walked, all the Pokémon chased, all the PokéStops you met new pals at? Yep, you’re going to see one of its main features as a main feature in this game. You should already know this by seeing GO! in the title of the game… But I’ll expand.
Each time you encounter, or rather approach now, a Pokémon you’re going to be given 3 main options: Get Ready, Bag, and Run Away. Get Ready is the flicking feature. Plain and simple. You’re going to be told, well, Get Ready, and fling a PokéBall at the Pokémon while using the motion controls to aim the PokéBall at the shrinking circle to catch the Pokémon. That feels a lot wordier than it needs to be with too many Pokés but that the action in a nutshell. The smaller the circle is when you chuck a PokéBall at the ‘Mon your chances of catching it will increase. Another way to reel that sucker in would be to feed it some candy or berries (another throwback to Go!) which will make it more trusting and more calm so that it’s not running around or fluttering all over the place. If you have that Pokémon, or 10 of it and you don’t want another, you can run away like the good ol’ days.
Once you catch your Pokémon you’ll go through the standard “you caught it!” spiel where you’re told the Pokémon’s stats and nature and whatnot. After that you’ll notice your Pokémon party pop up in a bar and it shows their experience points and every Pokémon getting experience for that catch. I immediately thought “oh my god, I have the Exp. Share from the start!” and I thought that in a good way. You get a pretty good chunk of experience for everyone as well, even for catching a Pokémon. However, as many Pokémon enthusiasts know this can be both good and bad for someone who is interested in playing the game either casually/just there for the story and not much else and someone who wants a raw, bare bones, vanilla gameplay experience. Some people would rather train their ‘Mons by grinding. I haven’t looked into a way to turn that feature off but I’m leaning towards the game not having an option to turn it off.
Not much has changed with the battles other than the only battles I’ve had were with my rival Slurmp, random trainer battles, and the gym battles. Notice how I didn’t say random encounters in Viridian Forest or any tall grass? Not a thing anymore. There’s no battling with random Pokémon so far which has been very strange but has provided the player with more time to focus on completing their Pokédex and getting to the meat of the game. I believe that this is part of the reason I’ve already completed the first gym leader because I haven’t had much to hold me back other than my own desire to catch more Pokémon without the random encounter system. I’m torn on how this is going to affect the rest of my experience with the game.
Otherwise, the battling system has remained the same with the different moves that can be used, the option to switch out Pokémon, access your bag when you need potions or other medicines, and that’s really about it. But obviously, it looks much better with improved graphics in 3D! Your Pokémon can really come to life in battles with any move type because they actually follow through with the action, similar to what we’ve seen in the Pokémon Stadium games and others alike. Very impressive and I’m excited for the moves I’ll learn later on.
Thoughts So Far
I’m really liking the game so far, and not because it’s Pokémon, but because this genuinely a good RPG for the Switch with plenty of content beyond what the main story has in store for the player. I can play it on my TV with a real controller, or I can carry it around in handheld mode and have the same experience. However, I can’t say the game is perfect or put it on the pedestal people think it should be on. This game is going to be hit or miss with the die-hard fans because it’s been made to be easier to play as far as mechanics and the traditional grinding that we’ve seen before. Also I did run into some stuttering in Viridian Forest, and I’m talking the frame rate dropping to 15-20 FPS for about 2-3 seconds. It was very noticeable and I let my console sit there for a few seconds afterward before I moved my character. It went away after that but if that’s something I’m seeing in the first hour of gameplay then I’m not going to rule out any other frame rate issues later on. That being said, I’m still going to play through the game and explore some of the content outside of the story since there’s more to it this time around compared to the previous entries.
Should You Buy It?
First off, if you’ve loved the previous Pokémon games then it’s a definite yes. If you love JRPGs and aren’t too familiar with the Pokémon then I say you’re still going to have a good time. If you really liked Pokémon GO! then absolutely yes. If you’re trying to see what the hype is all about and don’t have much interest in the franchise and/or the JRPG gameplay style of the game, then either wait for a hefty price drop ($30 or less) or just skip this one. This game isn’t going to be for everyone, just like all of the previous games aren’t for everyone. This one will hold your hand much more than the previous games but there’s plenty of that traditional Pokémon goodness in there that will make veteran players or JRPG lovers feel at home.