Yes, I was one of those kids at seven who would have been hard-pressed to leave his bed, let alone the house, without that teal Game Boy Color in-hand, his prized copy of Pokemon Crystal, and probably a couple spare AA batteries just to be safe.
Here I am, an (undisclosed) number of years later, still anticipating every release of the handheld gaming phenomenon.
Now, in every generation since Crystal Version (and the generation before it), I found something new to love in the Pokemon games. I didn’t care for every change, but the fundamentals were always there, and they seemed to be there to stay.
But then Pokemon Let’s Go happened.
Ever since Nintendo unveiled the first details of the upcoming Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokemon let’s Go Eevee titled in May, the newest entries to the franchise have been receiving a lot of criticism from long-time fans for their bare-bones mechanics and blatant tie-ins with Pokemon Go.
People all over the internet were quick to ask: will Pokemon Let’s Go be good, or are the games just shameless cash-grabs to sweep in all those Pokemon Go players out there?
Change is hard. It’s hard for developers who want to try out radical new ideas in their latest releases. And it’s hard for consumers who know what they want from their games because it’s exactly what they’ve been getting for the past 20 years.
But a Pokemon game is still a Pokemon game. If nothing else, fans want to want to play them. And a Pokemon game for the Nintendo Switch is a particularly desirable prospect.
That is why, these past days, I have decided to take a step back from my expectations and look at Pokemon Let’s Go from a daringly objective viewpoint.
I have considered some of the main arguments against Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee, and I will now propose a few counter-arguments for why exactly these are the Pokemon games Nintendo is giving us this year, and why they might actually be ‘worth a go’ (pun intended), even for die-hard fans out there.
So here is a list of seven reasons not to be excited for Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee, and a few reasons why you just might enjoy playing them anyway.
#1 You Can’t Battle Wild Pokemon
This is a major talking point among fans, and maybe the point that tops most people’s list of reasons why Pokemon Let’s Go is going to be quote-unquote “bad.”
To be sure, this point is not to be mistaken with point #2 below (that there are no random encounters). Many will argue that any tedium and repetitiveness felt from wild battles comes from the random encounters, and not from the battling itself.
But no, you can’t battle the Pokemon you encounter in the wild. No more whittling down that health bar to make the Pokemon easier to catch.
Well actually, as it turns out, this is not entirely the case. A recent gameplay trailer for the games revealed that players will have the opportunity to battle, defeat and catch legendary Pokemon in Let’s Go.
Now, unlike a traditional Pokemon game, this looks to mean that players must first defeat the legendaries before catching them, rather than playing the seesaw game of getting that health bar just right.
But this still challenges the blanket statements that wild Pokemon cannot be battled.
More substantially, though, a lack of wild Pokemon battles may put a greater emphasis on trainer battles in these games.
As one poster on the Nintendo Switch subreddit points out, “The real strategy has always been [in] battling against NPC trainers and gym leaders. Making NPC battles the primary way to level up makes battling more challenging and rewarding. Arguably more interesting too.”
Perhaps there is some value in designating a time and place for when and where the traditional battle system is implemented. “Too much of a good thing,” and all that.
#2 There Are No Random Encounters
Fans appear somewhat split on this point. Are random encounters in Pokemon games actually a good thing?
On the one hand, random encounters in any RPG can become tedious over time. On the other hand, this has always been a staple of the Pokemon franchise, and many players have come to appreciate it as a fact of life.
At its root, developer Game Freak’s decision (or Nintendo’s decision as the case mat be) to place wild Pokemon in the over world, rather than initiating wild battles randomly, is likely a direct result of Pokemon Go’s encounter system.
However, as the Pokemon franchise makes its move onto more advanced hardware (the Nintendo Switch), a more developed sense of realism might be a logical next step.
With Pokemon Let’s Go’s high-resolution 3D world, with character and building models that are more proportionate than the core franchise has ever seen, it perhaps makes sense that wild Pokemon would exist visibly in that world and as an interact-able part of that environment.
Either Pokemon are visible in the over world and battles are not random, or battles are random and every Pokemon is invisible before we encounter them. Each has its pros and cons.
We’ve gotten the latter of these two options in every mainline Pokemon game for the past 20 years. A spiritual remake of the original Generation of games might just be the optimal place to try the other option on for size.
As an extension to that, let’s not forget that Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee allow the player’s character to walk with and in some cases even ride their Pokemon.
And that’s in addition to the companion Pikachu and Eevee that sits on your shoulder and head, respectively.
These are immersion-building features fans have been requesting for a long time and have only been implemented once outside of Pokemon Yellow (of course I’m referring to Heart Gold and Soul Silver)
But back to the random encounters conversation–and actually, this is applicable to point #1 above as well–we have already gotten two story-driven Pokemon RPGs without wild battles and without random encounters.
Pokemon Colosseum and Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness for the Gamecube were 3D console entries into the Pokemon franchise where players not only didn’t encounter and battle wild Pokemon, they couldn’t even obtain every Pokemon in the game–restricted only to specific “Shadow” Pokemon that players could “snatch” from trainer NPCs.
If these games’ user scores on Metacritic.com are anything to go by, a lot of people really enjoyed them. So it isn’t like Pokemon Let’s Go is doing anything completely novel here.
#3 The Games Are Too Easy
This is a common concern floating around YouTube and gamer forums right now, sparked in large part by the fact that Nintendo is half-marketing Pokemon Let’s Go to a mobile-gaming audience who have never played a core Pokemon game.
It is worth pointing out that only a select few people outside of Nintendo and The Pokemon Company have even had the chance to demo these games.
And those who have played Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee early have been restricted to the very early sections of the game (i.e. Pallet Town, Viridian Forest and Pewter City).
These early areas consist of everything up until the first gym battle in Generation I of Pokemon and make up, in essence, the tutorial section of the game.
Aren’t tutorials designed to acclimate new or novice players to the mechanics of a game?
Yes, but the reasons Pokemon Let’s Go looks so easy is more specific and nuanced than that, you might be saying.
What about the lack of abilities and held items? Doesn’t that make the games too simple?
It’s true that part of Pokemon’s complexity comes from the inclusion of features like special abilities and held items in battle.
These are features we have had for many generations, and they will be missed by many players of Pokemon Let’s Go.
However, these are not features we have had in all generations.
Generations I and II (Red/Blue/Yellow through Gold/Silver/Crystal) had no special abilities, and Generation I had no held item mechanic.
Yet these early Pokemon games still managed to prove extremely challenging at times (at least as far as Pokemon’s unique difficulty standards are concerned), and they are still played and replayed to this day.
What’s more, the popular Pokemon YouTuber Bird Keeper Toby, who was recently invited to attend an exclusive demo event at The Pokemon Company’s UK headquarters, said in a recent video, “I have been personally assured by someone who works at Pokemon, who works on these games, ‘trust me, it gets harder.’”
#4 Pokemon Let’s Go Is A Glorified Pokemon Go
The comparisons between Pokemon Go and Pokemon Let’s Go are clear, even beyond the games’ titles.
In both Go and Let’s Go, players encounter Pokemon in the over world and use Razz Berries to increase the Pokemon’s catch rate without battling them.
And in both games, players use a motion-based mechanic to throw Pokeballs.
Players can even transfer Pokemon from Pokemon Go to Pokemon Let’s Go.
However, as far as features that have been taken from Pokemon Go and not from conventional Pokemon titles, this is about where the similarities end.
Pokemon Let’s Go has been promoted to be, first and foremost, a remake of Pokemon Yellow Version, complete with an explorable Kanto map, trainer NPCs, gym badges, a rival, an Elite Four and a story.
Pokemon Let’s go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee have far more features in common, on a point-by-point basis, with Pokemon Yellow than with Pokemon Go, especially when you consider the fact from point #3 that Pokemon Yellow was a Gen I game without held items and abilities
Gee, a Venn diagram would be useful right about now.
#5 Players Can Only Catch the First 151 Pokemon
It is indeed peculiar that the mascot of Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee is a Pokemon with more post-Gen I evolved forms than Gen I evolved forms, and yet most of these evolutions are inaccessible in these games.
In fact, all of the starter Eevee’s evolutions are inaccessible in Let’s Go Eevee, as the Eevee that players acquire at the beginning of the game can’t evolve at all.
However, again, this is a remake of Pokemon Yellow and the Gen I, arguably in an even more traditional sense than games like Fire Red and Leaf Green, which were mechanically based on Generation III, the current generation at the time.
Generation I only had 151 Pokemon to choose form, and it still managed to spark the highest-grossing media franchise of all time.
And who knows? Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee do have their roots in Pokemon Go, and Pokemon Go was also released to just the first 151 Pokemon, and that quickly changed.
Perhaps Nintendo has plans to expand the database for Pokemon Let’s Go. After all, it has already been confirmed that the recently-unveiled Pokemon Meltan will be available to catch in the games.
#6 The Graphics Aren’t Very Good
Graphics are a funny thing. Resolution and graphical fidelity are fairly objective, and yet the artistic presentation of a game can be a major point of contention when it comes to audience appeal.
One poster on GameFAQs writes of Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee, “The graphics are amazing,” followed by seven exclamation marks.
Meanwhile, a member on the Pokemon subreddit says of Pokemon Let’s Go, “It’s aesthetically pleasing, but it looks the bare minimum of what you would expect from a console release.”
I will not argue for either side of a debate that is so deeply rooted in personal preference.
The purpose of this list is, however, to take a step back from personal opinion and to try consider some of the facts.
The generation of Pokemon games that Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee were based on is 20 years old.
Graphics have come a long way, but there are limits to how well something so old can translate onto modern gaming hardware.
Unlike the more dynamic maps of later Pokemon titles, the grid-based Kanto region was not originally designed to exist as a 3D landscape.
Maybe one day Pokemon games will be as interactive and fantasy world-simulating as a Witcher game. But that leap is unlikely to be made by a pseudo-spinoff Pokemon title of a game that came out in 1998.
#7 This Isn’t The Game We Were Promised At E3 Last Year
Now, this is not a point for or against Pokemon Let’s Go being “good” or being enjoyable.
But as it stands, when Nintendo announced the development of a new Pokemon RPG for the Switch at E3 2017, fans became very excited over what might be in store for Generation VIII.
Then we became very disappointed when we got something else entirely.
That anticipated game is still coming, however. A core Pokemon game has been confirmed by Nintendo to release sometime in 2019.
And that timeframe actually makes sense. Looking at a release calendar of all Pokemon titles, the time window in between new-generation games (e.g. Gold/Silver, Ruby/Sapphire, Diamond/Pearl, etc.) has consistently been at least three years, ever since the release of Generation II.
The most recent new-generation game to release was Pokemon Sun and Moon (Gen VII), back in 2016.
We just aren’t due for Generation VIII yet. Meanwhile, we are still being offered something new and daring and distinctly Pokemon to hold us over.
So, have any thoughts that didn’t make the list? Any views or opinions, for or against? Please share them in the comments section below!
Let us know if you’re excited to play these games or if you’re just waiting for Generation VIII to come along.
And don’t forget to please share this list on social media to get the conversation rolling!