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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee/Pikachu Really Does Suck (Demo)

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - You can decide by the end if this is just confirmation bias or I make genuine points.

Ever since its announcement, I've had a very negative slant towards Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!. Then I went ahead and basically used series director Junichi Masuda's comments about Pokémon: Let's Go as an indication that he's jumped the Sharpedo. Then we ignored its release day and haven't mentioned it since, except the obligatory mention that it's a 10-million seller.

I'm pretty sure that, for my part (can't speak for the other staffers but this likely holds true for them as well), I wasn't going to mention Pokémon: Let's Go ever again except for the release of the next Pokémon mainline RPG for the Nintendo Switch. In what capacity that would be in would depend on if I like that next game or not.

And then they released a free demo of Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! (as well as Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu!, but I assume that's the same content) on the eShop last week. I played it.

I didn't like it. Here's why.

Basically, there's the primary problem of Pokémon-capturing being a lot more boring than battling them. A Pokémon appears. Sometimes there is an animation of them running into a spot. Then they stand still the whole time, sometimes doing a little animation that doesn't affect anything. The gameplay consists of waggling your Joy-Con (the game automatically shuts off your Nintendo Switch Pro Controller and does not let you turn it back on) to throw a Poké Ball. You're supposed to aim for the centre of the Pokémon and there are moving circles or something ala Kirby Super Star Megaton Punch, but I don't really know what I'm doing and it doesn't seem to matter.

And that's the whole extent of the gameplay. You're replacing a deep RPG battle system with a controller waggle.

You're replacing the very basics established by the series for a shallow system that robs world-building:

Viridian Forest Pokémon Yellow weaken before attempting capture trainer tips
Viridian Forest used to tell people to weaken Pokémon before attempting capture.

The Pokémon you capture are individually meaningless because catching a new Pokémon is such an irrelevant event now. It treats Pokémon more like objects than ever before, contradictory to the whole “Wow! My Pokémon can follow me feature from HeartGold/SoulSilver!” narrative. Only Eevee (or Pikachu) are made to matter.

By the way, I don't know why everyone makes a big deal about your Pokémon following you in the overworld. All that does is confuse you when this game has Pokémon also appear in the overworld. Is that Meowth my Meowth or a Meowth in the overworld that happened to spawn? I got confused several times while playing. Or maybe less confused, and more getting my hopes up only to get them dashed.

The game rewards you for mass-capturing by having an increased experience points multiplier for getting combos. What's the in-universe explanation for this? Nothing that makes logical sense. It totally ruins immersion.

The traditional RPGs have developed a “chaining” concept as well, starting in Sinnoh, where you could try to string together beating the same Pokémon repeatedly and then getting an increased chance of a shiny Pokémon to show up. Naturally, this actually makes sense. You have a Pokémon go and beat up 40 wild Pokémon in the area—think of these as grunt minions of the local boss Pokémon of the area. The head honcho. Nature has that.

After wiping out of the local population by beating them in battle, you get the attention of the head honcho, who is going to be special in some way like being shiny. That shiny honcho will pop out and try to beat you up for wiping out his guys. Makes sense.

But why would you get more experience points for catching the same Pokémon over and over and over? You should get less. It's called diminishing marginal returns. That's what logic says.

Pokémon Let's Go Eevee Pikachu Lass Viridian Forest protect me
“When [my Pokémon] get strong, they'll be able to protect me.”

Logic also says that this world of Pokémon, this reimagined Kanto, is completely docile. Since wild Pokémon pose no threat to you and don't attack, it's completely safe to venture into wild grass. That means there is no reason you even need your own Pokémon, since what do you need protection from? What is the trainer-Pokémon mutual bond supposed to be based on now?

This totally ruins the very first thing that players would encounter in the very first Kanto go-around in Pokémon Yellow. (Or Pokémon Red Version/Pokémon Blue Version.) That's when your player character tries to go into tall grass without a Pokémon. They're stopped by Professor Oak, who says they need a Pokémon for their own protection from the wild Pokémon.

They're wild because they're not tamed and actually will attack you. Unlike these Pokémon now in Pokémon: Let's Go.

It turns out that this original sequence setting up the entire game world as a dangerous place to go alone in as a human is NOT in Pokémon: Let's Go for the demo or for the full game.

There are more than just story and world-building consequences to this failure. As I said, the gameplay for wild Pokémon is just waggling your controller, but trainer battles are still the turn-based RPG system. (Just simplified back to the standards of over 20 years ago with no held items or abilities.) The fact that now there are two “battle” systems means that players can no longer practice or try out their newly-caught Pokémon whenever they want. They have to go out and find a trainer, and those are in limited quantities. This gives players even less time to bond with their new Pokémon.

On the bright side, a lot of the presentation details in the game look great. Well, except some parts of the interface are in pixelated old-school looking fonts while other parts within the same interface aren't. (Notably your Pokémon's level number is a different font than their nearby HP number.) But you can do things that you couldn't do in previous games in the franchise like nickname your Pokémon at-will without going to a name rater. Not that I tried to do that in the demo. For all I know, the game will lock you out of doing that more than once.

Anyway, a lot of this was just detailed rehashing of points I've already made against Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu!... but now backed by my experience playing the game. And that experience tells me that I was right from the very beginning.

Ludwig actually does not have the faintest idea about how ANYONE could enjoy this game, or its mobile-trash relative, Pokémon GO. If you have any knowledge about that, please feel free to share it in the comments section. Alternatively, if Pokémon: Let's Go fixes the issues Ludwig has identified in this article in the full version of the game, that's probably worth pointing out as well.


  1. You're pretty good at judging from the trailer if an experience will be good or bad. Nearly every defender says to try for yourself but your judgment was correct.

  2. Well put. I fully agree


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