By Quentin H. / June 25th, 2018
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Release Date: November 16, 2018
During the E3 2018 show, I made time to pick up and play Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! over at the Nintendo Booth with the Poké Ball Plus controller. After my brief demo, I came away from it with a feeling of overall satisfaction and that this game is a mashup of Pokémon GO and traditional Pokémon game mechanics, even if I had some concerns with the game’s execution and the Poké Ball Plus controller. (The final game can also be played with the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con, though I did not use them during my E3 2018 demo.)
The demo for Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! took place in what (I actually fired up a copy of Pokémon Red to verify this after the show) looks like a fairly authentic recreation of Viridian Forest. I was given six Pokémon on my team (Eevee, Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Meowth, and Pikachu) and then I was sent forth to explore and wander the area. I quickly discovered that unlike prior entries in the Pokémon franchise, Pokémon now visibly appear on the overworld map instead of as random encounters in tall grass. This means that instead of hoping for getting that 5% Pikachu spawn rate in Pokémon Red/Blue, I could now just walk up to the Beedrill I see floating around and try to capture it directly. The various trainers that were scattered throughout the area, however, still would challenge me to a Pokémon battle if I crossed their line-of-sight. During my brief demo of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, I was able to experience both capturing Pokémon and fighting trainers with the Poké Ball Plus.
First of all, the Poké Ball Plus is a small spherical object with an inset button on top and a small joystick that you can also depress as another button on the center. There is a ring on the strap that you slip around your finger to help hold it in place while you play. The Poké Ball Plus was just the right size for my hand, and it felt sturdy enough for me to play with without me being afraid that I would break it. That said, the joystick was a bit small for my taste, and I had some slight difficulty with pressing it as a main button as I kept accidentally jostling the joystick at the same time. It does feel sturdy enough that I can see myself attaching it to my backpack or my girlfriend latching it onto her purse and us toting it around together.
In a change from prior Pokémon games in the main series, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! has adopted the Pokémon GO method of capturing Pokémon: You throw Poké Balls at the Pokémon while trying to time the toss to avoid enemies attacks that will knock your ball aside and also angling the toss to actually ‘connect’ with the Pokémon and start the capture animation. There are berries involved too (taken directly from the Pokémon GO mobile game) that will make Pokémon easier to capture, and there are various types of Poké Balls to use too. It is a very simple system that works well, even though it does remove a lot of the traditional challenge of weakening a Pokémon before capturing it. The big issue I had with it was that the Poké Ball Plus here, however, was that it made it very, very easy to toss the Poké Ball much further or in a different direction than where the Pokémon was on the screen, as you have to literally flick the real-life Poké Ball Plus to throw the in-game Poké Ball. As a result, I wasted many Poké Balls trying to capture a simple Caterpie, and the only thought that went through my head was: “What if I screw up throwing the Master Ball that I’ll get in Silph Co., miss the legendary Pokémon, and I waste it?” This is a concern that I hope Nintendo will somehow anticipate and remedy for such a rare item in the final game release.
Battling in Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, on the other hand, is classic Pokémon fare. You and your opponent each send out a Pokémon, and you have a four-move pool of attacks (with power points for each attack that limit the number of times you can use it without healing, presumably at a Pokémon Center) to choose from. You can trade out your Pokémon during battle for another Pokémon, and they all handle about how you would expect from Pokémon Red/Blue. About the only difference between the classic Pokémon games and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! is that when you win a battle (or when you capture a Pokémon), you now get items that are placed into your bag. Battling with the Poké Ball Plus, however, just felt a bit slower and clunkier than it should after getting used to the snappy Touchscreen/D-pad controls of the 3DS generation of Pokémon titles due to the awkwardness of using the tiny joystick/pressing the joystick down combination.
Overall, there is so much to like about Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, and it really does feel like I am visiting the Kanto region again in a way that I haven’t since I bought Pokémon Red on launch day in 1998. Additionally, Nintendo’s official Pokémon: Let’s Go! website promises that there will be a “deep connection” between Pokémon GO and the two Pokémon: Let’s Go! games, which is a clearly calculated way to get mobile players to adopt the Nintendo Switch. That all being said, this is, at the end of the day, clearly something of a placeholder for the franchise that is banking on nostalgia to tide its player-base over until the next generation of proper Pokémon games comes out for the Nintendo Switch in 2019.
All images are owned by Nintendo.
Are you excited for Pokemon: Let’s Go games? Which version are you planning on getting?
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