Pokemon Let’s Go was a divisive game. Although it received a generally favorable critical reception, many fans expressed their discontent with it before it even launched. It wasn’t Gen 8 and many thought that their nostalgia was being commodified. The schism is slowly being sewn back together as fans have started to deal with the game for what it is—a Gen 1 remake that indicates a change in direction for mainline Pokemon games. Pokemon Let’s Go is obviously a nostalgic ploy that might draw out some biased outlooks on the game, but it drastically supersedes that initial impression and becomes a welcome peak into the future of the franchise.
Best of 2018 – A Fresh Coat of Paint in a Different Color
I’ve got this weird thing with remasters. While I love playing games that I held dear as a kid in the color and glory of current gen hardware, part of me flinches at the intimidating price tags of games I already own. I’ve got four different Kanto games (Blue, Yellow, Fire Red, and Leaf Green) and their respective handhelds (Game Boy Classic, GameBoy Color, and Game Boy Advance SP). Hell, I have a DS that reads FR/LG and renders them in fantastic quality. Paying 60 quid to dive back into Kanto feels like a lot.
I always accepted that I’d cave with Pokemon Let’s Go. I didn’t expect it to be day one purchase, but I knew I’d buy the game before the opening weekend was over. I booted it up in handheld mode in bed and voila—Kanto, Switch style. There was so much more to it, though. Within the first hour I was already sold on Let’s Go not being the cash-grab people were so afraid of.
Sure, it’s the same map. The same original 151 Pokemon, which is a roster I’m particularly fond of anyway. The top-down perspective has been worked into an even more refined version of the tilted angle that’s been in development since Gen 5, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. However, the new mechanics is what makes Pokemon Let’s Go special.
While most people thought that this was just a spin-off title designed purely to capitalize on everyone’s inner child, Let’s Go marks a radical shift in Pokemon that’s destined to dramatically influence mainline Pokemon titles for year to come. It may have satiated your nostalgic desire to revisit Kanto, but it’s not so much concerned with drawing the past into the present as it is with paving a new path into the future.
Best of 2018 – No More Zubats?
Of course there are Zubats in Let’s Go. While I hated the pest when I was five years old, I’ve since come to develop an appreciation for the pesky thing because of how pathetic it is in relation to newer Flying and Poison types alike. The thing is, although there are still Zubats in Let’s Go, you don’t need to engage with them. While widely known, the lack of wild encounters in Let’s Go is probably the most influential change to a Pokemon system ever. It may even be more important than breeding.
Despite being skeptical about removing such an iconic aspect of Pokemon from the game, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that there were several Pokemon visible in the overworld that I could choose between. Better yet, I didn’t even have to battle them, wasting PP and spending my Pokemon’s HP on a catch rate working against me. This change, along with a few others, are nothing be scoffed at.
It’s important to note that the retention of battles against Legendary Pokemon and stationary Pokemon is obviously important. These Pokemon are traditionally hostile and therefore need to be battled in order for the encounter to make sense. However, you now have to defeat them to enter the capture phase, which makes more sense than ever. I always found it silly that a person could catch Mewtwo with a stupidly lucky Ultra Ball. Now, you’ve got to beat Mewtwo before you can even attempt to catch it. On top of that, you’re battling against the clock, and Mewtwo’s hostility accentuates its stats by buffing them massively at the start of the fight.
Why is any of this important outside of the context of this one specific game? Because these new systems and various updates actually make the player’s journey feel a lot more like Ash’s, and, by extension, like a journey they’ve always wanted to set out on themselves. It adds some more complicated mechanics when the time calls but also simplifies some in order to streamline the game. So yeah, Pokemon Let’s Go is nostalgic. I love that about it. However, it’s more than that, too. It’s proof that Pokemon isn’t afraid to completely reinvent itself in 2018. It’s proof that although we can find comfort in the familiarity of the past, we should be excited about the promise of the future.