Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! Review

Ever since Toys “R” Us sent a VHS tape informing kids (and to an extent – warning parents) of the Pocket Monster craze in Japan back in the mid 90’s, I have been a sucker for most things Pokemon. More specifically, the original gen 1 era of Pokemon. However with the reveal of Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! as the first Pokemon games on the Nintendo Switch, I couldn’t help but be a little disheartened. As much as I wanted to revisit the Kanto region, the elements of Pokemon Go influencing the game haunted me. Fortunately, my love for the series won out and I bought the game at a whim before reading reviews. What was once fear of a watered down Pokemon spin-off game instead became the definitive gen 1 Pokemon experience in my eyes.

Before I continue, I want to note that I only played Pokemon: Let’s go, Eevee!. My understanding is there are limited differences between this version and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!. The most clear difference being whether you start with Pikachu or Eevee obviously. Much like past Pokemon titles though, there are Pokemon only available in one version over the other.

Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! allows for Oddish/Gloom/Vileplume, Sandshrew/Sandslash, Growlithe/Arcanine, Grimer/Muk, Scyther, and Mankey/Primeape to be captured in the wild. Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! on the other hand has Bellsprout/Weepinbell/Victreebel, Vulpix/Ninetails, Meowth/Persian, Koffing/Weezing, Ekans/Arbok, and Pinsir as catcheable options.

From here on in, I will only reference Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, but please keep in mind that almost everything should be applicable to Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! as well.

For the longest time, it has been one of my top gaming wishes to have the Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue games remade on a newer console. Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! is the closest that dream has ever come. Taking Pokemon Yellow as the template, Game Freak reimagined that game as a cross between the Pokemon Go mobile game and what the original games would be if factoring in the numerous improvements to the franchise since those titles released.

So for instance, the story itself is more or less unchanged. You start in Pallet Town, gain a Pokemon from Professor Oak, and begin your journey across Kanto gaining badges from gym leaders such as Brock and Lieutenant Surge as you progress towards the Elite Four. Throughout the voyage, you are responsible for foiling the plans of Team Rocket and making them blast off again and again. Yes, even the terrible trio of Jessie, James, and Meowth of Team Rocket are in this game as well.

This isn’t to say that it’s a beat-by-beat retelling as some has been tweaked due to either fleshing out the paper thin plot or gameplay improvements. A small example of the latter would be specific TM machines you receive are different or that key items such as fishing rods and bicycles are nowhere to be acquired (more on that a little later). In terms of expanding on the story, you’ll notice discussions updated to explain motivations a bit more such as why Team Rocket wants the Silph Scope or additional characters who weren’t previously in the game or didn’t appear until later iterations. These changes aren’t drastic enough to make Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! leaps and bounds better than Pokemon Yellow in the story sense, but at least it wasn’t a copy/paste approach either.

There are many differences between Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! and the previous Pokemon titles, but the most immediately noticeable is the appearance. The polygonal 3D graphics fans are accustomed to in the handheld titles have been replaced with a higer resolution chibi style that is incredibly crisp and vibrant. It’s showcased the best during CGI cutscenes in the game that tend to occur during major moments such as the legendary bird introductions or key beats such as the departure of the S.S. Anne. This choice in style has seemingly divided the fanbase as some appreciate the updated look while some feel it’s a step back considering the extra power they have at their disposal and moving away from the proportions of models from more recent Pokemon games. I find myself more in the former camp as I wanted something in line with what one would expect from a console Pokemon release. I can understand the frustration from the other side, but as someone who never fell in love with how Pokemon has ever looked, the Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! style doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

Even then, it’s far from perfect for what one would expect from one of the most popular franchises in the world. Textures in the environments feel low detailed and flat especially in battles where static images litter backgrounds. Animations are another story altogether. Considering it’s 2018, I refuse to accept Pokemon not coming into contact with one another during battles or the presentation of certain moves appearing weak to the point of an audible groan (I’m looking at you Earthquake). On top of that, a lack of variety in trainer models was so bad that even my six year old son commented on it wondering why we were fighting the same people repeatedly. I can’t imagine changing the colors of clothing/hair/skin/etc would pose a large development problem, but here we are…

Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! also includes a most welcome change in removing the archaic random encounters and inserting Pokemon into the overworld. If there is one thing that needs to be carried over from this game, this would be it. As someone who has loved the Pokemon games since the originals, nothing is more annoying than running into the same Pokemon over and over again when you are hoping to catch a specific one. Let’s not even discuss the frustration of zubats in caves.

So you find a Pokemon you want to capture and chase after it. Upon making contact, and here’s where the Pokemon Go influence rears its head, you are tasked with trying to catch it without a battle to weaken it. This is an example of how Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! is criticized as being made easier, but for this father with limited time on his hands, it is another case of convenience for me and quickens what is sometimes a slog of a process.

Much like the catching process in Pokemon Go, the player is tasked with tossing a pokeball at a either stationary or moving pokemon. This task can be made more simple by switching the type of pokeball used or tossing out a variety of berries to lower the catch difficulty or calm the Pokemon to prevent it from running away. During these moments, a white circle lays itself over the pokemon with a colored circle that starts where the white circle is and will collapse in on itself. The goal of this is to time the release of the ball so when it hits, the colored circle is almost gone. If the pokeball hits within this circle, it will create a “nice”, “great”, or “excellent” catch which both improves the catch rate and provides more experience points. The color of the closing circle is also of importance as a green color indicates an easier catch rate and is progressively more difficult as it goes to yellow, orange and lastly red. If a berry or better pokeball is used, the color of the circle will be updated to reflect it.

This is a process that the player will grow accustomed to since your team of Pokemon gain experience with every catch. As noted previously, experience points will be greater based on the throw. Experience is also determined by other factors such as if the capture was made on the first throw, if it’s the first time capturing that type of Pokemon, if the Pokemon is larger or smaller than average, and even catching the same Pokemon multiple times in a row. That last one is particularly impactful in two ways. The first is that your experience points will receive a multiplier bonus for catching the same pokemon multiple times in row. This is confirmed as a “chain” once that second pokemon is caught. The other reason it’s impactful is because the longer the chain goes, the chance the player has at obtaining a pokemon with greater stats or even a shiny pokemon as well.

So overrall, there are plenty of incentives to keep catching as many pokemon as possible, especially in a row. However, it is possible for that chain to break and reset the multiplier. This can happen by the Pokemon fleeing if not caught quickly enough (paying attention to the Pokemon animations are crucial), catching a different Pokemon (even if it’s an evolved version), or resetting the game.

While we are on the topic of catching Pokemon, now would be a good time to mention the motion controls. Let me just state – I hate them. When flicking the controller at a stationary Pokemon, it’s relatively easy to hit them and start the capture animation. The further into the game you go though, Pokemon are more prone to move from side to side, leap into the air, or prevent a capture entirely be going through an uncatchable motion like roaring at the trainer. This is not a change I prefer. If the Switch is docked, this is the only method in which to control the game. Considering how great the Switch Pro controller is, this is kind of a bummer.

Thankfully, that can all be alleviated by the other handy feature of the Nintendo Switch – handheld mode! This solved all the problems (mostly) for me. Instead of pretending to throw a pokeball, simply press the A button. There are still some motion bits to this by moving the Switch around to focus on a Pokemon if they are moving, but it’s easy to relocate back to the central position by pressing the B button before chucking the ball.

But you may ask yourself…what do I do with all those pokemon? If keeping them all isn’t your fancy, you can transfer them to Professor Oak similarly to how you would do it in Pokemon Go. The trainer is rewarded with a variety of candies that can be given to Pokemon to increase their stats. The higher the level (or higher the stats – it’s not entirely clear), more candies are required to raise a stat point. Considering how often you should be catching Pokemon, plenty will be coming your way.

The other option is to do as you would in past games by trading them. There is a caveat to that. Back during the original release of the gen 1 games, the Game Boy was required to use a link cable. As the series progressed, and the hardware capabilities too, Game Freak was finally able to create Wonder Trade and the Global Trade System. They weren’t perfect, but vastly superior to the link cable.

Well, those are gone here. Instead, Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! takes many steps back and requires a type of code that you and someone else have to enter to trade or battle. Local situations are less troublesome as being in the same room is easy enough to set everything up. Online trades are a whole other beast filled with frustration and poor implementation.

To trade online, players have a code that must be entered to connect with someone else. This code consists of 10 different Pokemon and three must be selected in a specific order. The bigger problem is doing this with a random stranger. Since there’s no way to communicate, prayers and faith are required that the individual on the other end of the trade will give you a Pokemon desired. You can see what Pokemon they have as they scroll through, and if they choose one you don’t want, it is possible to back out of the trade.

In the end, it’s best to work out a good time and a semi-unique code with someone online willing to help you out. Otherwise you are left floundering in an awful trade mechanic hoping to find a way to evolve a Kadabra or Haunter to receive the final versions of Pokemon required by trading.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There is one other instance available to receive Pokemon and it’s only as tiresome as your luck. Since this game is compatible with Pokemon Go, it is possible to send 1st generation Pokemon from the mobile game to Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!. The first thing required is making your way to Fuchsia City and the replacement for the Safari Zone called Go Park. In the lobby of Go Park is an attendant who will ask you to connect the two games using the settings in both Pokemon Go and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!. Once paired, any gen 1 Pokemon you catch in Pokemon Go have the opportunity to be transferred to the Go Park instead of to the professor.

Now, transferring to Go Park isn’t where the new creature becomes a member of your party. At this point, the Pokemon is deposited to a section in Go Park where the player must go in and catch them as if they were in the wild. The procedure to catch them isn’t any different, just the method in which to find them.

Considering how backwards the online trading is in the game, I found this a much more successful way in receiving certain Pokemon I want, including the exclusive ones not found in Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!. This won’t be a total solution since moving Pokemon over that evolve during a trade won’t evolve if transferred to Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, but it will make completing the pokedex far less cumbersome.

Go Park includes a mini-game as well that unlocks once 25 of the same-species of Pokemon reside in the park. It’s not a particulrly thrilling mini-game either as the intention is to lead all the Pokemon to the goal and receive candies. Other Pokemon appear to spook the ones following you. It’s not very complicated from what I’ve played, and personally, feels like filler content.

I’ve went this long without discussing one of the most paramount mechanics in Pokemon, and that’s the battle system. For those Pokemon veterans, you won’t run across anything new or ground-breaking. It’s still a turn-based battle where the player has the option to fight, switch monsters, or use an item. Pokemon still hold only four moves and each move can be more or less effective depending on its affinity with the opponent. Meaning grass moves are strong against water Pokemon, electricity will mess up flying Pokemon, and don’t try to bring rocks to a fire-fight. All-in-all, it’s still what you expect, although the overrall performance is somewhat lackluster. Between my previous complaints earlier in the review about animation and a general delay between selecting actions and them being performed, the battle flow isn’t fantastic.

As far as Pokemon has come in terms of this system, it is a shame that battles outside the 1 v 1 facet are almost non-existent and it’s made even more basic due to the limitations created from the original 150 Pokemon format. Pokemon doesn’t have an amazing battle system in the first place, but one would have liked to have seen more improvements from the later games carried over to Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee!.

One thing Game Freak decided to carry over from previous games however is using Pokemon to traverse the world and removing HMs! As mentioned at the beginning, some tweaks were made such as eliminating bicycles. Bikes used to make getting around so much quicker, but now they chose a different method – use larger Pokemon. If they can’t be ridden, they will at least tag around with you on the map. Much cooler than bikes and adds more personal experiences with the Pokemon in your party.

The HM mechanic thankfully did NOT return. For those unfamiliar with Pokemon games, HMs and TMs were special items that taught Pokemon moves. They have always been around, but in more recent iterations, the HMs were dropped. Now, HMs would make Pokemon learn abilities to help get around the world. Obstacles such as waterfalls would need an HM to have a Pokemon know how to swim up them. Water Pokemon couldn’t swim and carry the trainer in general without learning the HM move Surf.

This would lead to players having a Pokemon or two outfitted with every HM move they could learn. Since these moves could not be forgotten, a major drawback, people were hesitant to give these to the better Pokemon in their group. Game Freak eventually wised up and made these typical abilities for Pokemon, or in this case, found ways for Pikachu (in that version) and Eevee to conduct these moves. All without wasting a move slot. I was worried they wouldn’t carry that forward, but luckily, they did.

Finally, the last thing I want to discuss is an awesome addition, although it feels slapped on and aides in making the game easier. Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! enables a second player to join the fray when using motion controls and giving a quick waggle on the second controller. In the overworld, a second character will fall from the sky and accompany player one. If they stray too far, the camera does not follow player two, and they will need to teleport back (waggle once to disappear completely, waggle twice to return).

There is nothing unique about player two. They don’t carry their own set of Pokemon, and if helping capture one, they do not get one of their own. Instead they act as more of a cushion that jumps up the chance in catching a Pokemon and tip the odds during battle. Nothing scales to reflect a second player joining the game, so quite literally, little is really added other than getting help in an already easy game.

My son has never played a core Pokemon game before, so this second player experience gives him an inkling of what to expect. During a capture, the two players try to syncronize their throws and each throw a pokeball at the creature. If done correctly, the balls combine spectacularly and hold together stronger than one would and provide a higher experience point boost if captured. Two players share the same number of balls, so keep an eye out as you’ll be going through them twice as fast.

The battle system doesn’t play differently either except that player two takes control of the second Pokemon in your party and uses them in the same fight. One would expect the opponent to send out two Pokemon because of this, but they don’t. This creates a 2 vs 1 dynamic in your favor, regardless if it’s a regular trainer battle or gym leader duel.

The only time I use two-players is the game is strictly to play with my son. I can’t imagine wanting to play this with any friends or people online (had that been an option), because it’s not worthwhile in that respect. If they don’t expand on this idea, I’m not sure most fans would care if this continues in later games. But if Game Freak leave it in, certain people will find some benefit in it, especially parents who want to play with their kids like I do.

I come into this game with the first gen Pokemon games being in my top 10 list of all-time favorite games. By all accounts, Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! should usurp those titles as I believe it’s better in every possible way. The holdup I have exists where a Pokemon game in 2018 still suffers in many areas that should have been addressed. It’s an incredible entry point for beginners and has the charm that made me love Pokemon in the first place. That admiration can’t ignore unnecessary features, limited scope, and poor implementation in an otherwise fantastic game. After this game, I can’t go back to Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow; but I really wish Game Freak would have done a bit more to make this an all-time classic.

Score: 4 out of 5

Pros

– Not a 1-for-1 remake of Pokemon Yellow

Pokemon Go inclusion works well

– Graphics and art style

Cons

– Certain features feel tacked on

– Difficulty may be too easy for some

– Trading system is terrible

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