Having checked out Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu at E3 2018, it’s easy to see who the target audience is. It doesn’t have to be for the hardcore gamer, at all.
I have a confession to make; I never “got” Pokemon GO. Sure, anything to get me walking around is inherently good, but the low rent mobile AR experience never felt compelling to me. That’s fine; it’s an experience of its own that people are still trying out to this day in droves. That’s the same way I approached my time with Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu at Nintendo’s E3 2018 demo.
Our demo saw me running around familiar grounds; Viridian Forest. The goal? To capture pocket monsters, train them up and defeat opponents with the best team possible. With a low to the ground version of an eagle-eyed camera, the most prominent difference between Pokemon Let’s Go and a proper adventure title is that you don’t battle wild creatures yourself.
Instead, once you encounter them in the wild, you go into an upgraded menu similar to that of Pokemon GO. Here, you can feed them items such as berries or switch between types Pokeballs in order to throw at them. Using either the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Con or physical DLC Pokeball controller, you must use motion controls to try to capture those in the wild.
Somehow, every new captured teammate helps level up the Pokemon in the party’s lead or, if you have an optional EXP-share, the entire party. This is one way to help improve your team ahead of facing trainers, who kept in Viridian Forest style by just being one-slot wonders. In the demo, defeating trainers gave you three Pokeballs, which I presume helps keep the player’s progression measured.
A fun feature in Pokemon Let’s Go is that you can see the monsters you can capture on the overworld map. That makes it easier to avoid conflict while in the high grass, as well as target specific Pokemon that you want to either add to the team or fill up the Pokedex. That’s a godsend for anyone who’s had to deal with RNG rushing back to town before.
The Pokeball controller itself is a nifty creation, as it offers an immersive grip, simple control mechanics, steady motion recognition and even makes sounds when you catch a ‘mon. Plus, you get to carry one of your team around with you when you walk to help level it up, helping promote physical activity.
Here’s where the cynical side of me kicks in; Pokemon Let’s Go is cute and charming, but it’s definitely not for me. The gameplay loop is too simple, the focus on GO elements and carrying over content from the mobile game is restrictive, and motion controls can all be dumped into a landfill at the first chance possible. Plus, making Mew exclusive to a physical purchase is anti-consumer as all hell.
However, it doesn’t matter who Pokemon is or isn’t for. The Pokemon Company is finally starting to take risks with the franchise, offering up semi-comprehensive experiences that span mobile and Switch devices. They are selling virtually two copies of the same reason (which continues to baffle me), but they’re further simplifying gameplay to a hyper-casual, kid-friendly audience.
Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu is definitely for someone. If it’s not for you, the developers are creating a full-fledged title next year. Go play that when the time comes.