Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! E3 Impression
My early morning rush to the Nintendo line still resulted in a nearly two-hour wait for the upcoming Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! I’ve been hesitant about this game since its media reveal and I was interested in finding out more about what’s different between the normal game and this new Let’s Go line. What I was pleasantly surprised to find is that the demo more than adequately addressed my questions and made me feel a lot more okay with the simplification the game is aiming for.
The line I entered brought me to a kiosk of Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee!, putting me in control of a young Pokémon trainer adorned with an Eevee on her head. For the demo, I was also given a full complement of Pokémon from Charmander to Bulbasaur to Pidgey. Squirtle even tailed behind me while Eevee found itself comfortable on my head. The demo took place in the redesigned Viridian Forest, a familiar sight that helped to highlight the new changes.
For starters, random battles are not present in Let’s Go. Instead, small Pokémon sprites populate the map. Bumping into a wild one will trigger an encounter, but not a battle. The Pokémon, in this case a Bellsprout, took center stage on the screen and was surrounded by a ring. As I was playing with the unique Poké Ball controller, catching the Bellsprout was as easy as performing a throwing motion before the time was up. Since Pokémon catching had become such a low-effort thing, the game rates the performance of your catch. I don’t know what exactly the metrics the game uses are, but I managed at least three out of five stars on every attempt. These rates actually do matter.
Now that random battles are gone, Pokémon in your party receive an equal split of experience of the Pokémon caught with a higher experience multiplier for better catches. Off of a single catch alone, my entire party gained two levels apiece. There were also berries that could be given to Pokémon to make them easier to catch, but since I never failed to catch one I can’t speak to their effectiveness. It wasn’t the most satisfying way to level up but I appreciate its brevity versus fighting the same Rattatas over and over again.
The Poké Ball controller itself was a surprisingly functional way to control the game. The ball is designed to be held with the button, which doubles as an analog stick, held at the top and the red side facing forward. The analog stick at the top can be clicked in to confirm and a less obvious button can be pushed on the red side of the ball to cancel. Given Pokémon’s laid-back pace, the controls entirely fine if a little slower than normal. I was also shown a different ball that, when shaken, had a Pikachu inside that gave its cry. The controller’s other functionality with Pokémon Go was not on display. And yes, it felt a little silly going through the motion of throwing a ball strapped to my wrist, but, when in Rome…
I also had the opportunity to engage in several trainer battles. Happily, these play exactly as they do in the main game but with some added visual flair. Eevee hopped off my head and straight into battle, which visually still resembles a Pokémon battle of old but with higher fidelity. The battles certainly aren’t speedy affairs, but are livened up somewhat by goofy animations — Eevee’s animation for double-kick involves it hopping in place on all fours without bending a joint. The models on the Pokémon look absolutely gorgeous now that they are no longer held back by the limitations of the 3DS, but this does make some of the more limited animations seem more out of place. I was also prevented from checking the menus, so there isn’t much to say there.
The demo didn’t go any further than Viridian Forest but many of my questions concerning the direction these games were taking were answered. I don’t know how much of a new audience Let’s Go will find with Pokémon Go players, but players burnt out on the sheer number of Pokémon and mechanical layers those games have will find a much more relaxing time trying to catch a far more attainable number. This game feels more about getting the proper Pokémon experience with the lowest barrier to entry as possible. While battling remains intact, the experience of this demo did not lead me to believe there was anything here of substance. Even for diehard Pokémon fans, this feels like an appetizer for the meatier game coming next. Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! will arrive on Nintendo Switch on November 16, 2018.