Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee and Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu are the two latest installments into the Pokémon franchise, and the first of the series’ mainline games to make the jump to the Nintendo Switch. The games were changed in a way to introduce Pokémon GO players into console Pokémon gaming. The biggest of these changes was the utilization of the Pokémon capturing mechanic from Pokémon Go.

When I started up the game, I was immediately drawn in by the atmosphere. The worldbuilding in Pokémon Let’s Go is the best yet in the series. The creatures moving around freely in the map instead of being invisible random encounters brings the Kanto region to life. Each time you walk into an area, it looks different, chock full of a new selection of Pokémon.

Pokémon move freely around the map in Pokémon Let’s Go.

The ability to have Pokémon follow you around adds to the liveliness of the areas as well. The game pays homage to Pokémon Yellow by letting your starter follow you in the overworld. In addition, your party Pokémon can follow you around. Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, the previous installments in the series to let your Pokémon follow you, had all the creatures the same size with similar walking animations. Pokémon Let’s Go expands on this, adding individualized movements for each Pokémon, and portraying their actual size in the environments.

The game also fleshes out the Ride Pokémon mechanics from Pokémon Sun and Moon by letting you ride your own Pokémon, including some unexpected ones like Haunter and Persian.

The environments themselves are also plenty detailed even without the Pokémon. I loved walking around the cities and seeing all the cute little posters and advertisements in the shops. It really made me feel like I was exploring somewhere that could be real.

The Poké Mart, complete with fully-stocked shelves and advertisements for Potions!

Also, Pokémon Let’s Go is just straight-up adorable. I love being able to stroll around Kanto with an Eevee on my head, stopping to take the occasional break to poke my Eevee’s ears and give it high-fives. It’s just delightful, and the experience I’ve always wanted from a Pokémon game.

While the Pokémon petting mechanics have been in Pokémon games since the 3DS titles, this game really updated this feature by adding further customization through alternate clothes and even hairstyles for your Pokémon. However, this updated feature is only for your starter. Although your other Pokémon can follow you, you cannot interact with them at all outside of that. I was a bit disappointed as that level of interaction was available in the 3DS games. I wanted to pet all my Pokémon, not just Eevee!

Pokémon Let’s Go also streamlines some older series features, such as replacing HM moves with Secret Techniques. Now instead of having to bring Pokémon with a certain move to areas you want to explore, Let’s Go just lets you use an unlocked feature on your Partner Pokémon. This feature is a welcome change, as HM moves could not be easily forgotten, meaning that most players would not have them on their main party. Now, players can travel freely without having to worry about which Pokémon are traveling with them.

Sky Dash lets you fast-travel, like Fly in older games.

The main change in Pokémon Let’s Go was with the capturing mechanics. In this title, you do not battle wild Pokémon. Instead, the game implements the Switch’s motion controls, letting the player take aim and capture the wild Pokémon themselves, in the same fashion as Pokémon GO. Honestly, I went into the game being skeptical of this changed mechanic. But, actually playing the game, I was pleasantly surprised with the new system. The motion controls were a bit tricky to grasp at first, but once I got the hang of them it was relatively easy to hit the Pokémon – that is, if they were staying still. Pokémon do not want to sit idle for capture. On top of that, since there is nothing like a crosshair on-screen, it is difficult to tell what direction the game seems to think your Joy-Con is. The combination of these two factors make hitting a Pokémon any direction but straight ahead feel random sometimes.

However, if you play the game in handheld mode, it eliminates the throwing mechanic entirely, relying on the gyroscope in the system for aiming and a simple button press for the throw. I found myself relying on handheld mode to capture some very jumpy Pokémon, like Venonat and Chansey. Both methods of play are surprisingly different, but fun in their own way. Getting to throw the Poké Ball yourself adds to the immersion the game strives to provide, but having the ability to change to handheld is a good way to just chill out and still enjoy the game.

The game encourages players to catch a lot of Pokémon through Catch Combos, a new feature that incentivizes the capture of the same Pokémon over and over. Like Poké Radar chaining in the prior games, performing Catch Combos allows players to encounter more Pokémon of the same species, with them getting stronger the more you catch. These chains also allow the players to have an increased chance to find Shiny Pokémon.

An in-progress Ekans Catch Combo in Pokémon Let’s Go.

You now raise your team by catching wild Pokémon instead of battling them. The experience points you get from the capture fluctuate depending on several factors, including the wild Pokémon’s species, level, size and Catch Combo. In order to level up efficiently, the game promotes performing a lot of Catch Combos to maximize the experience you get per capture.

This is a new feature to Pokémon Let’s Go, so it was not without its flaws. Similar to real life, the biggest problem I ran into on my adventure was finances. Catching Pokémon to train your own requires Poké Balls, and these require money. The only ways to earn money in-game is to battle other trainers or to pick up items along the ground and sell them for a quick buck.

There are only a finite number of trainers, and most cannot be re-battled. This makes earning money to catch and eventually level your own Pokémon more difficult. I found this was especially a problem early on in the game, when leveling your team up is crucial to being able to progress (and thus unlock more trainers). While some Trainers give you Poké Balls upon defeat, most only give the lowest level of the item, even further into the game, when they are practically ineffective against the stronger Pokémon you’ll encounter. Pokémon Let’s Go does add items that respawn every day to assist the player in getting some quick cash, but, even with these, and even with the game drastically reducing the price of Poké Balls, I still found myself at times having to wait for a new day so I could get more money to continue leveling my Pokémon.

Items reappear daily in the Underground Path.

Another major problem I ran into frequently was how quickly the wild Pokémon fled. In prior games, almost all of the wild Pokémon could not flee. This meant that if you encountered an especially rare one, you could take your time with capturing it. You could even battle it to weaken it, or put it to sleep so it would be easier to catch. Encounters would end on your terms, either by catching or defeating the opponent, or with you running away. With this feature changed in Pokémon Let’s Go, I found that wild Pokémon were especially uppity. The rare ones are already extremely difficult to find and catch, but with the added capability for them to flee, a rare encounter becomes an extremely stressful time.

While this difficulty does make the eventual capture of said Pokémon more rewarding, it is very frustrating when you encounter something extremely rare. For example, a Shiny Pokémon has a 1 in 4000 chance of appearing. With the new mechanics, there is a chance you could be lucky enough to find one, and then have it run away from you immediately—I speak from experience! Something like that could take hours or even days to find again, making it extremely painful and discouraging to lose one.

Like in Pokémon GO, the game has Berries you can feed wild Pokémon to make them easier to catch. Unlike in Pokémon GO, however, these are not all that readily available, making me want to save them rather than use them. I also wish there was a Berry that made the wild Pokémon less likely to flee—previous titles had items like these in the Safari Zone, the only areas in previous titles where you could not battle the Pokémon.

Rarely, your Pokémon can find Berries on the ground.

Another change to Pokémon Let’s Go is the watering-down of the battle system. While the game does feature the newer types from more recent games, it actually takes out a lot of moves from the game entirely.

Pokémon moves are almost completely different between Pokémon GO and the main series games, with the series games having some moves that attack, some that just cause effects on the opponent, or some that even do both. Compared to Pokémon GO‘s selection of only damaging moves, there’s a lot of new information to learn, and the drastically reduced move pool lets new players focus on a smaller subset of moves to learn their effects. The games also have some powerful new moves exclusive to your Partner Pokémon, which helps them to be usable even late into the game in their permanently unevolved state. These move changes, along with the limited pool of about 175 Kanto Pokémon (and Alola forms) creates a simplified system perfect for easing in new players from Pokémon GO, which was one of the goals of Pokémon Let’s Go. This change was just fine for the in-game battles, as many do not require much strategy.

After beating the main plot of the game, the player has the option to take on Master Trainers. These are trainers that specialize in one specific Pokémon that you must challenge with one of your own party of the same species. These trainers are some of the first in the series to start employing competitive strategies, and even have their Pokémon learn moves from TMs.  They are a perfect crash-course into the deeper mechanics of battles, where fights are no longer just about doing the most damage. These trainers are also a love letter to longtime fans, giving them a challenge to test their mettle.

Battling the Eevee Master Trainer.

Since the Master Trainers are not unlocked until after the game’s story, the other battles were a bit of a slog to a seasoned player like me. I found myself missing the freedom of having hundreds of Pokémon and moves to choose from.

As helpful as they are to new players, there are some problems with these restrictions. They become even more apparent in battles against real people. Compared to the internet battles of the 3DS Pokémon games, Pokémon Let’s Go leaves a lot to be desired. With so little variety in both Pokémon and move choice, the competitive scene for Let’s Go is repetitive, with the same strategies being used and reused by every trainer. In addition, while the new moves your Partner Pokémon can learn are helpful in-game, it makes them dominate in the competitive scene, with little room for other strategies to shine. While these problems are not major, and only affect the people who want to challenge themselves outside of the game’s story, it is a bit of a disappointment to be so restricted.

Pokémon Let’s Go also has the ability to connect with Pokémon GO, letting players transfer their collections from the mobile title to their Switch. This is a really neat feature. Some Pokémon are only available on some versions of the games, so this connectivity allows players to finish the Pokédex or expand their teams without having to rely on a friend having the game as well. 

Connecting to a Pokémon GO account.

Despite the game’s flaws, I had a great time with Pokémon Let’s Go. The atmosphere  was charming and inviting, and the details created a fun visual experience. The new capture method was engaging, and made no two encounters the same. This game is the perfect way to ease Pokémon GO players into the console Pokémon games, and offers challenges to old and new players alike. Even though it has already been confirmed that the next Pokémon game is a return to features more traditional to the series, I hope some of the mechanics from Pokémon Let’s Go become staples from here on out—especially the following Pokémon and the overworld encounters. They really added a lot to make Pokémon Let’s Go a vibrant and enjoyable experience.

Elizabeth reviewed Pokémon: Let’s Go using a personally purchased copy.