Spencer's Day

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu! & Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee! are a thing, apparently!

Pokemon. One of, if not THE most successful video game franchise on the planet. Spawning dozens of feature-length films, having a long-running anime series, and serving as Nintendo's sacred cash cow for over 25 years. Last year, during a Nintendo Direct, one of the higher-ups at Game Freak (the in-house dev team tasked with handling all things Pokemon) announced that that a main-series Pokemon game would be in the works for the Nintendo Switch, which would mark the first time Pokemon would be playable on a home console (outside of spin-off games). However, that game won't be coming out until 2019. This year, we're getting something rather unusual to hold us off until then.

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The somewhat bizarrely named Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu! & Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee!, which I will refer to as Pokemon Let's Go! for the remainder of this post. These two games, releasing alongside one another on November 16, is the second worst-kept secret in video game history. The first being the leaked list of all the monsters planned to be added post-launch in Monster Hunter: World. I say this because for literal months, the Internet, and by extension the Pokemon fan community has been hecticly analyzing just about every rumor and leak to determine just what the next big game in the franchise might be. Partially because of the name, and partially because of the rumors claiming to have some tie-in features with the mobile app Pokemon Go, I, naturally, assumed they were a bunch of mumbo jumbo. Turns out every single rumor and leak was correct.

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The main purpose of Pokemon Let's Go! is mostly to get Pokemon Go fans into the main series. Think of it as a stepping stone to make the transition from mobile app to full-on RPG a little smoother. But these two games have a much more diabolical purpose in mind... They are also remakes of Pokemon Yellow, which is a pseudo-sequel to the very first Pokemon video game, Pokemon Red & Blue. How is this diabolical? The answer is simple! It's not a remake of Pokemon Diamond & Pearl. And I love those games with a passion, as they were the first games in the franchise I played as well as having a lot of my favorite Pokemon (as in, the eponymous creatures the games are named after).

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Because it's a remake of Pokemon Yellow, Pokemon Let's Go! only has the original 151 Pokemon to catch and train. Alongside regional variants, a mechanic that wasn't introduced until Pokemon Sun & Moon, the newest game in the franchise. Presumably, the regional variants exist to balance out the original roster, which became infamous for Psychic-Type characters having almost no weaknesses whatsoever. But it's a real shame it's the original 151. You see, most of my favorite Pokemon didn't exist until much later in the franchise's history, and the only Gen 1 (as the original games have been nicknamed by the fanbase) Pokemon I actually like are Dragonite, Nidoking, Nidoqueen, Marowak, Gyarados, Squirtle, Diglett (and it's evolved form, Dugtrio), and Eevee. All the others are okay, but not as memorable as the ones I listed, and there are actually some Gen 1 Pokemon that I dislike, such as Electrode, which has without a doubt the laziest design out of any Pokemon ever (it's literally a ball with a face).

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Anyway, the game looks gorgeous. We were all wondering what a Pokemon game would look on a home console and now we know what it would look like. Apparently it's a part-chibi, part shonen-anime aesthetic with bright colors and a vibrant, feel-good vibe. The character designs so far seem pretty good, looking similar to the designs used in the Pokemon anime series, but, you know, three-dimensional. The Pokemon renders also look alright, even if they were obviously copy-pasted from Pokemon Go. As for the designs of the Pokemon themselves, it's the original 151 Pokemon, which means the designs are much more simplistic compared to newer Pokemon.

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The biggest problem I see right now is the fact that in order to catch wild Pokemon, instead of sending your own out and weakening it beforehand, all you have to do is throw a Pokeball, and yes, there are indeed motion controls. I'm not sure how I feel about motion controls, since normally I despise them with a burning passion (so much so that if given the option, I immediately turn them off). However, the only time motion controls are used is when you're throwing Pokeballs, which I'll admit is clever and actually rather ingenious. It also means that catching Pokemon here is no longer a matter of dumb luck, as there is a fair amount of skill involved. But like I said, if the game gives me the option, I am turning them off, at least temporarily. Another gameplay gripe is they changed the way random encounters work, as instead of happening periodically in certain areas (caves, patches of tall grass, etc) you can actually see  wild Pokemon before you have to battle them, with battles commencing only if you run into them yourself. In other words, unless you actively want to fight Zubats all day, you no longer have to be pestered by random Pokemon while exploring. Some folks are already hating the change, but those same folks don't realize that being able to pick and choose your fights is a sure way of saving the player's sanity. At any rate it keeps the game from getting too repetitive.

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Also, there's Two-Player Co-Op! Which means if you have a friend in real life they can be like the Brock/Misty to your Ash Ketchum. Frankly, if the 2019 Pokemon game had Co-Op I honestly wouldn't mind. Unfortunately, I don't have any friends that are gamers (except one), so chances are I'll be playing this solo. The lack of Online Co-Op also hurts, because just like the LEGO video games of old, you have no choice but to get a second controller and hand it to a friend in real life.

Image result for pokemon let's go pikachu and eevee pokemon go

As previously mentioned, Pokemon Let's Go! also has some compatibility with Pokemon Go. It's nothing particularly exciting, aside from being able to transfer Pokemon you've caught/trained in Pokemon Go over to your Switch so you can use them in Pokemon Let's Go!. I would imagine they would place some kind of restraint on this feature though, because if they let you transfer, say, a level 100 Vaporeon or something you could steamroll the entire game. Or maybe they'll let you do so without any restraints at all.

Image result for pokemon let's go pikachu and eevee pokeball plus

Image result for pokemon let's go pikachu and eevee

There's also a special Pokeball-shaped controller you can use while playing the game, and, naturally, it's sold separately. You know, because Pokemon is Nintendo's sacred cash cow. Though you have to admit, a using a Pokeball as a controller is a really cool idea. I'm probably never going to get it myself, though, unless it's mandatory, but since the trailer they have up online shows that the Nintendo Switch's Joycons work just fine, it appears to be completely optional.

Image result for pokemon let's go pikachu and eevee

And finally, you can customize the Pokemon you get at the beginning of the game, and this is where I want to explain the difference between the two games. In Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu!, your first Pokemon is, obviously, Pikachu. But if you get Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee!, your first Pokemon will be Eevee. Which one is better is obvious (Eevee!). But considering you can catch the other Pokemon in the wild anyway, the version differences are miniscule. Ultimately, it comes down to one simple question. Would you rather have a Pikachu following you around in a baseball cap? Or an Eevee following you around in a baseball cap?

Image result for pokemon let's go pikachu and eevee screenshot

But aside from the things I mentioned above, the gameplay is standard fare for main series Pokemon games. You still build a team of Pokemon, train them up to be the very best (like no one ever was!), do battle with other Pokemon Trainers, thwart the nefarious schemes of Team Rocket (the resident bad guys of Pokemon), collect Gym Badges, challenge the Elite Four, become Champion of the region and proceed to do whatever you want after that. But the main thing about this game is it would be wise to treat it as a proof-of-concept, for how Pokemon would work on home consoles. Potentially drawing in fans introduced through Pokemon Go to the main series is merely the icing on the cake. But here's the question. Will Pokemon: Let's Go! be good? Will you, dear reader, be getting it when it releases? Let me know with a comment. Or not. It's a free Internet, after all. (haven't said that in a while, haven't I?)

P.S. I finally managed to cover video game news while it's still relevant! Yay!