I love Pokemon – I’ve been there since the start, both in terms of the anime and the games, and to my left I can even see an old Nintendo Power poster for the first game. Leafeon is arguably my favourite Pokemon, and Soul Silver / Heart Gold is the best of the franchise to date in my mind… But, as is the case with nostalgic properties, the charm fades with time: we’re up to 809 Pokemon, and catching them all has become an essential impossibility. Not to mention the plots range so wildly in their quality and were never the main draw to begin with… So these games became less and less relevant to me and many other PokeFans.
..So when I first heard about Let’s Go! Pikachu and Eevee, I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to get it. I didn’t even finish Y, and they’re primarily targeting a new audience with this, so why would I? But upon finding out it was a remake of Pokemon Yellow of all titles, my curiosity – and that nostalgic draw – got the better of me. I was curious how Nintendo and Game Freak were going to handle it whilst also targeting new fans.
The first thing I knew when I decided I was going to get this was that I had to go with the Eevee version – As usual, the versions each come with some different Pokemon in the wild here or there… And whilst I usually leaned on the Red side of things, let’s be honest here: Pikachu is kind of overhyped. Their stats are average, they can’t learn many useful moves, and most people getting it probably wanted to name their trainer ‘Ash’. Pass.
So on launch day, after I’d hurried home with my copy, I quickly booted it up, eager to see if the title was worth getting. Creating a character in Let’s Go! Eevee is simple, it turns out, but sadly perhaps a little more simple than one would want – Whilst it’s nice to be able to choose gender and appearance, you can’t customise hair colour, skin tone, eyes, or even haircut (Not to mention make the male option look a little less eternally pissed)… But it’s good enough for what it is.
The intro was well animated, though found it a little odd to imply you were literally entering the world of Pokemon and taking over someone’s body. Your starter buggers off immediately, so you can learn to catch Pokemon in a tutorial with them later on. You meet your rival, a boy canonically named Trace, and as you go through meeting Professor Oak in the wild grass and all that, you start to learn that you’re kind of in an alternate timeline – One where the events of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Green all happened, but they never had Pokedexes, nor took on Team Rocket or anything. So your rival isn’t Professor Oak’s grandson, and Team Rocket is a little more well known and around more than you may recall.
…But honestly, aside from a few small changes here and there – such as the addition of Jessie and James from the anime, the inability to gamble at the Game Corner, and a few run-ins with gym leaders here and there outside their gyms – you’ll find this a *very* familiar experience plot wise if you played any of the Gen 1 games. There’s even dialogue and trainer placements lifted from those titles. The major differences are that there’s moments you’ll have with your partner Pokemon here and there, a cameo or two from Ultra Sun / Moon characters, you’ll take on Koga before Sabrina, and there’s some stuff to flesh out the gym leaders a little (Like the aforementioned run-ins). But otherwise, it’s definitely a remake, through and through.
There’s also the fact that bikes are gone, as is the Bicycle Road – Apparently ‘a few years ago’, it was replaced with a much safer Pokemon Road, where people can safely travel between Celadon and Fuschia City with their Pokemon by their side. As can you – As in addition to your regular partner Pokemon, you can choose to have another Pokemon follow you about. It’ll find items for you, react to its environment, and you can even ride on some – These are nice little things that make Pokemon feel less generic and interchangeable, and it’s nice to see the Pokemon walking feature back from Yellow. It makes me wonder why the more recent core titles like Ultra Sun or Moon didn’t do it, actually.
There is, of course, another major change to the game that most of you are probably well aware of – You no longer battle wild Pokemon, except for some rare situations. You instead use a method inspired by Pokemon Go, using your Joycons, Pokeball Plus, or Switch in handheld mode to aim at and throw a ball into a shrinking ring around a Pokemon. I was really worried about this part, but honestly, it’s fine. It makes catching Pokemon a much quicker experience – It’s not hard to land a decent hit, and your Pokemon still get experience from it. All of them, infact – This version of Pokemon actually has a Experience Share always on in the background, which is very convenient to level certain Pokemon *cough* Magikarp *cough*.
Being able to see wild Pokemon wandering around the overworld is a cool thing, too – Pokemon will spawn in, and wander about, allowing you to see their size or shiny status at a glance, and avoid the ones you may not want so much more easily than past games. The only issue with this is the Pokemon are to scale, so you may end up with some unavoidable Onix in your way, or trying hard not to miss the small but quick Horsey that spawned in… But honestly, it’s still a superior way of doing Pokemon encounters.
Speaking of, expect to see familiar faces almost exclusively – This title addresses the ‘too many Pokemon’ issue by paring it down to only the original 151, with some additional exceptions. The title acknowledges that other Pokemon do exist – such as all of Eevee’s evolutions – it’s just that they aren’t in the game. With the exception being Alolan forms of Kanto Pokemon, which you can trade for with some collectors found in certain Pokemon Centres… And that’s alright – you appeal to nostalgic idiots like me, and you don’t overwhelm new players – mostly casual Pokemon Go fans and kids – with hundreds upon hundreds of monsters and expect them to remember or care. I’m actually trying to catch them all again this time around, because it seems doable again.
Additionally, any Kanto Pokemon that was affected by types introduced later on – like Steel, Dark, and Fairy – still have those types in Let’s Go! Eevee, so don’t worry – they aren’t throwing the Togepi out with the bathwater.
As one would expect, newer types in an older game mean you can get unexpected combinations, like a Arcanine that knows the Fairy move, Play Rough. Some TMs have been changed too, and HMs no longer exist at all, and are instead replaced by your partner Pokemon’s ‘Secret Techniques’ – Things it can learn throughout your journey, that don’t take up a precious move slot! You can access these at any time via the partner Pokemon interaction button above your pause menu’s listings.
In addition, at this interact screen, you can pet your partner, rub their head to give them a variety of different hairstyles, or feed them berries. All of this will increase your Pokemon’s affection with you, which will make certain moves of theirs stronger. You can find and buy a variety of outfits for your partner Pokemon, and yourself, throughout your travels – You can even give your partner glasses, bows, bandannas, flowers… There’s a lot of choice here to make your partner look distinct. My own Eevette can be seen below as an example.
The game really wants you to know your partner is special, and in addition to the customisation and secret techniques, your partner will also have the chance to learn a variety of moves from trainers throughout the region. These moves are pretty powerful, and unique to your partner, so it’s definitely worth investing in them… And Eevee comes out superior when it comes to this aspect of the game. The partner Pikachu from the other title can only learn three moves, total, but Eevee can learn a total of eight, all covering the different types of its evolutions! So you can teach your Eevee a powerful Fire, Water, Electric, Dark, Psychic, Fairy, Grass or Ice move, each of which come with a little side-bonus – The Psychic attack, Glitzy Glow, for example, also puts up a light screen as part of the attack. That’s pretty useful.
Some moves and exclusive Partner stuff aside, battle mechanics are exactly as you’d remember them – Trainers will challenge you if you cross their line of sight, and you’ll throw out the first member of your party (First two, in the rare duo battles). There’s no held items though, just like in Gen 1. The game is fairly easy, but honestly not more so than the usual Pokemon title – You’ll likely find yourself the right level for where you are unless you grind catches, and may even find a challenge here and there, but you’ll never be stuck. You can also play co-op, and have someone battle alongside you, or just generally follow you about the overworld, which is great for younger players but unnecessary for most others.
One place you may need others though, at least if you don’t have a Pokemon Go account, is the Go Park. Replacing the traditional Safari Zone is something similar to the friend parks of former titles – You link your Pokemon Go account to the Switch, and you can transfer Kanto Pokemon and Meltan / Melmetal over to it to frolic around and let you try to catch them if you want. The transfer is one-way though, so if you do send Pokemon to the Go Park from your phone, make sure it’s what you want.
Additionally, it seems Go has also influenced this title by way of candies – No-longer restricted to Rare Candies, you can find a variety of lollies to increase your Pokemon’s various attributes, including candy specific to their species to raise all of them at once.
The graphics of the title are simple, but aesthetically pleasing, and fall in line with other recent 3D titles of the series. The options are minimal, but include the odd ability to turn off switching Pokemon in battle – including after defeating a Pokemon – for the sadists out there. The soundtrack is mostly a reinterpretation of what you could hear in Gen 1, and it works pretty well, and is sure to set off some nostalgia in older fans.
Overall, I’ve come to really appreciate this title – As I now look upon the formidable Indigo Plateau, Eevette by my side, I feel like I’ve regained some of those feelings I had as a kid playing Pokemon Red, except now the Pokemon I care about feel like they can care back, too. There were never any moments I questioned design decisions, found myself stuck, or more importantly, bored of the title. Let’s Go! Eevee is a fun entry that serves both as an introduction and re-introduction to the franchise, perfectly timed ahead of the upcoming core entry next year… And for the first time in a long time, I’m finding myself interested in what that one’s actually going to be like.