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Let’s Go, Pikachu! And Let’s Go, Eevee! Remind Us Why We Fell In Love With Pokémon

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Well, this is a major milestone. Last year’s Pokken Tournament DX gave us our first taste of Pokémon on the Nintendo Switch, and now we’re getting not just the first proper Pokémon RPG on the Switch but also the first proper Pokémon RPG on any Nintendo home console. If you’re familiar with the franchise (you own a Nintendo, so you obviously are), then Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! may seem a little familiar. That’s because they’re reimaginings of the series’ 20-year-old first entries, Pokémon Red and Blue as well as those titles’ 1999 reimagining, Pokémon Yellow. All these remakes may seem like overkill, yet somehow they’re not.

Considering the Switch’s stellar track record with beloved Nintendo franchises, it should come as little surprise that Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! are the best versions of this game to date. Whether you’re gaming in docked or handheld mode, returning to the region of Kanto is a nostalgic hoot. All of its eccentric townsfolk and details are a joy to get reacquainted with thanks to this HD makeover. This may not be the most complex or challenging title in the series, but that also makes it the perfect entry point for newcomers as well as a loving tribute for longtime fans.

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While it’s hard not to look at previous iterations with nothing but nostalgic love, they haven’t aged flawlessly. The constant battles and level grinding definitely slowed things down several notches, and luckily Pokémon: Let’s Go has some tricks up its sleeve to move things along at a better, less frustrating pace. Taking its cue from Pokémon Go, you no longer have to do battle with wild Pokémon to weaken their stats and catch them. Now you can simply capture them by throwing your Poké Ball in their direction at the right time—that is, if you’re levelled enough and equipped with the right Ball. But not to worry, there are oodles of trainers, specialty trainers, gym leaders, Team Rocket grunts, plus the Elite Four, to square off against.

Also better than fighting the same Pokémon again and again, here you can spot them dashing around the map as opposed to finding yourself in a random skirmish every few steps. Another incentive to keep catching the same critters is you’ll be rewarded in the form of catch combos, as in Pokémon Go. Keep grabbing the same damn Kakuna and you’ll eventually score a shiny one with some nifty stats.

Another swell addition is co-op play, in which a second player can join in on the fun at almost any moment. Player two’s abilities are limited, but they can help out with some Pokémon catching as well as battling other trainers through the aid of an additional Pokémon.

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There are still a couple of features like the Pokémon Go transfer feature, GO Park, in addition to online battling and trading, which will go live at launch and require a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. We’ll update this review if it somehow turns out to be an unmitigated disaster, but that’s highly unlikely.

While Pokémon: Let’s Go looks and runs great on the big and small screen, there are some gameplay discrepancies between docked and handheld mode. While capturing wild Pokémon in handheld requires you to simply press the A button at the right moment, docked mode is entirely different, for better and worse. The latter is definitely more immersive, requiring you to either fling your Joy-Con or Poké Ball Plus controller (sold separately) like an IRL trailer. It’s also more challenging once Pokémon start to get a little feisty. Diagonal throws never seem to land when you want them to. At several points I actually switched to handheld mode to conserve dwindling Poké balls.

Using the Joy-Con doesn’t feel as satisfying as hurling the Poké Ball Plus, but it’s more accurate. Further, while the new controller is an awesome addition, pushing the A button requires you to click down on the joystick, making you accidentally point in a direction you didn’t intend to. Right out of the gate, I literally had to reset the game because I accidentally selected the wrong avatar due to the finicky A button/joystick fiasco. Also, why the heck isn’t the Pro Controller compatible? I bought two of those pricey, sexy beasts because I intended to use them. Let’s just hope they consider including this gameplay method when the next bona fide Pokémon sequel arrives on the Switch.

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At this point you may have gleaned that Pokémon: Let’s Go isn’t exactly heating things things up for the more seasoned audience. The games have never been exceptionally challenging or overly complex, and I’d say this is one goes in an intentionally simplified direction, which mostly pays off. For one, your Pikachu or Eevee quickly become overpowered killing machines and there’s not much stopping them from trashing their opponents with a couple moves.

One of the more welcome surprises hardcore fans should enjoy comes after the main story has ended. I won’t spoil too much for you, but you’ll be getting your butt handed to you in the specialty battles for the title of Master Trainer status, which can be humbling after blazing through the campaign. Pokémon has never been about extreme challenge, and any way you slice it this is a highly enjoyable adventure that’s earned its place among Switch’s top catalogue.

Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! are out November 16 exclusively on Nintendo Switch. Check out the latest trailer below.