Let’s Go, Pikachu! is the latest entry in the long running Pokémon series of turn based RPG’s by Game Freak. Now it should be noted that this reviewer does not have an intimate relationship with the Pokémon games of the past, but has lightly played a few of the past entries. It’s obvious by now that the most iconic and endearing characters from this series mostly lie in the original 151, which are all present here! I am happy to report that not only does Let’s go, Pikachu! bring the world of Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow to home console in an incredible way that does justice to legacy of the Pokémon series, but it also brings with it a few quality of life improvements that allow this formula to comfortably work in 2018.
It’s hard not to talk about just how perfect everything looks and feels in regards to the Pokémon art style. Everything animates and looks exactly as you hoped it would. Charming, colourful, and polished in the way you would expect. The soundtrack is as sweeping and uplifting as any fantasy RPG, but with that Pokémon style you’ve come to know and love from the original series.
You create a custom avatar in the Pokémon character creator to get started before recruiting the Pokémon you chose to purchase at your games retailer of choice. (Pikachu, or Eevee). Once you begin exploring the first town, you’ll notice one of the biggest improvements over the original Gameboy games. While the traditional turn based battle system is slightly more streamlined, it’s the removal of random battles that seems to have had the most change. No longer are battles triggered by simply walking into nothing (!), to the point where even capturing Pokémon has completely changed!
In the past, the principle of the battle was to weaken a specific Pokémon so that you could capture it while it was defenseless. Now, the Pokémon you’ll be mostly battling are actually triggered by approaching NPC’s who are other Pokémon trainers and actually engaging them in stakes free battles in order to see if you can qualify for the local Gym Leader. They can be found hanging around town essentially aspiring to prove themselves against you. As you advance through the environments, you will come across more formidable trainers who will challenge you to rotate different Pokémon in order to defeat them. The areas are randomly populated with Pokémon that roam freely which gives life to the regions.
Walking into them will trigger the mini-game which will allow you to capture them for your Pokedex. The mini-game consists mainly of swinging the Joy-con controller in the direction of the enlarged Pokémon you’re trying to capture on screen. You will attempt to time your swing with a target reticle that shrinks in size for a better chance at containing your new catch within a Pokeball.
Buying better Pokeballs from the shop will obviously net you a better chance at trapping larger Pokémon. Like the originals, each zone will have you work your way up and level up the Pokémon you’re actively carrying in order to face off against the local Gym Leader. Not only are they the most challenging fights, but the most rewarding. The removal of HM’s (hidden moves that allowed you to access different parts of the level) is another example of one of the many decisions made by the developers to allow for players to focus on experimentation and fun. The progression system and the level layout through the different gyms is extremely similar to the originals, but it’s still a joy to play.
Another fun feature brought over from Pokémon: Yellow, is the ability for either Pikachu or Eevee to literally hang on to you while you’re controlling your avatar. Being able to mount certain Pokémon can also be fun too. Riding my Onyx could sometimes be pretty cumbersome specifically in more densely populated areas with shops, it is a pretty fun visual that further adds to the genuine character of the game depending on which of the larger Pokémon you choose to capture in the wild. Another thing you can do is wave the Joy-con to pet Pikachu or Eevee, especially after they’re fatigued from an especially tough fight.
The truth is, you already know if this game is going to be for you. Longtime fans of the series know exactly what this is but, may be pleasantly surprised at the incredible work done on what is essentially a remake of some of the best handheld RPGs. New fans will be charmed enough and generally find more to like here due to the streamlined nature of the progression system, the beautiful and colourful graphics and how much fun there is to be had!
Forged in the 8 bit era, Duarte can be found quietly contemplating the future of the games industry. Wondering what the exhilaration of digital achievement will look like on the next horizon.