Platform: Nintendo Switch
Pokémon: Let’s Go may be the oddest addition to the monster-catching series since the photo-safari of Pokémon Snap. Walking the line between smartphone sensation Pokémon Go and the core Pokémon RPGs, it’s broadly a retelling of the original Game Boy games. You’ll be touring the Kanto region once again, accompanied primarily by the title star of whichever version of the game you opt for, Pikachu or Eevee.
The main difference is in how you actually catch Pokémon. Like the main games, you’ll encounter creatures in the wild, although in a nod to the smartphone iteration, you’ll see them roaming the field first. However, gone is the traditional capture mechanic of battling to lower opponent health before lobbing a Pokéball at their head. Here, as in Pokémon Go, you just fling the spherical trap at them, lining up your throw with a rapidly shrinking targeting circle, and flicking the Switch’s Joy-Con controller to physically make the shot. Get it in the inner ring, and you’ll earn a nice, great, or excellent skill shot, increasing catch likelihood, while berries can be fed to your target to make them a little tamer.
There’s more to Let’s Go than an incorporation of Pokémon Go’s catch mechanics though – it’s a perfect hybrid of core Pokémon RPGs and the mobile game. As in the main games, it’s your Pokémon that gain experience rather than you as the player. Each creature has four battle moves, unlike Go’s two, and they evolve from levelling up. But like Go, Pokémon battles only take place against other Pokémon trainers, while further experience is earned by catching Pokémon. In a twist on Gos candy system, different candies can be used to boost individual stats. It’s a great blend, and allows you to better customise your team.
It succeeds as a Pokémon Red and Blue remix for long-time fans.
Being designed to be played with just one hand, it’s perhaps overly simple – though that makes it excellent in terms of accessibility. The catch mechanic can also be a little repetitive after a while, though certainly no more so than the endless random Pokémon encounters that came by walking through caves or tall grass in the classic games.
Pokémon: Let’s Go works fantastically as an entry to ‘proper’ Pokémon games for younger players or anyone whose first exposure was the mobile version, adding just enough complexity to draw newcomers deeper into the world. It also succeeds as a remix for long-time fans, offering a new way to explore the familiar settings of Pokémon Red and Blue, now looking better than ever, and with tactile new controls. Best of all, it’s a full Pokémon RPG that you can play on your TV. While it may be just a taster for whatever follows Pokémon Sun and Moon as the next core entry, Let’s Go has enough fresh ideas to stand on its own.