You may not know this, but I’m a busy man. In fact, I’m so busy, I’ve been inexplicably absent from Gamnesia for over a month. So I don’t really play games 100% to completion anymore, especially when it comes to RPGs. As a young adult that finds himself working most of the time, I needed a Pokémon game that’s easier to digest. Thankfully, I think Let’s Go has given me exactly what I asked for.
I’m picky about my RPGs in general. If I feel like the game has a lot of unnecessary padding, I usually drop it. Because of this, I’ve quit several critically-acclaimed games only about a quarter of the way in just this year, such as Ni no Kuni II and Octopath Traveler. I have nothing against these games; they just feel like a waste of time.
I also felt this way about Pokémon Sun and Moon. These games have an incredibly dull opening that dissatisfied many fans of the series, and the overall main story tends to drag on and never really gets to the point. These games brought a lot of changes to the series that I thought were fantastic, but I just couldn’t commit the time to get through it all.
I was hoping Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon would help fix my issues with the originals, but it only left a worse taste in my mouth. The game was left largely intact, and most of the new content just padded the game out further. I was ready to give up and call the seventh generation of Pokémon a fluke. I hoped Game Freak could redeem themselves with the next set of games. But then they announced Let’s Go.
I had mixed feelings when these games were announced. I had lost interest in Pokémon GO just a few months after it came out, but I was eager to get back into the world of Pokémon and try to enjoy myself again—I just didn’t know if Let’s Go would be the game to pull me back in.
So I tempered my expectations and remained mostly neutral about these new titles. Some of you may have listened to the episode of Switched On! where I talked with Ben and Steven about the game. At the time, it still hadn’t won me over. I liked some of the ideas Game Freak was going for, but nothing really stood out to me overall.
November 16th rolled around, and something happened that I wasn’t quite expecting: Pokémon fever. Everybody on my Twitter feed was posting about Let’s Go in some way. Most were talking about how fun it was as they showed off their Pokédex and shiny Pokémon.
I couldn’t believe it. Was I really missing out? I had every intention to wait for the game to go on sale in a bargain bin later on. But if the game wasn’t going to be a critical flop, maybe it was best to go ahead and give it a try.
So I caved. In fact, I bought two copies: Let’s Go, Pikachu! for me, and Let’s Go, Eevee! for my wife. As I explored the world of Kanto again, I realized the spinoff I had been so unsure of was what I had been looking for in a Pokémon game all this time.
Pokémon had just become too stale and tedious for my busier lifestyle. So it really did take removing some of the slower elements of the game to spark my interest again.
For example, random encounters no longer involve actually battling Pokémon (for the most part). Instead, you catch them all much like you would in Pokémon GO, where you spot them in the wild and then throw Pokéballs at them. This speeds up the game tremendously and lets you decide very quickly whether you want to spend time trying to catch a specific Pokémon.
This mechanic is not without its flaws. The motion controls are often flawed, and wild Pokémon can run away from you after a few unsuccessful attempts at catching it. But all of its wonkiness aside, the new catching system speeds things up and kept me engaged for much longer play sessions than I ever had with any of the previous titles.
But the feature that really makes this system work for me is being able to see Pokémon roam around on the overworld. I might speak for a small portion of RPG fans, but I think random encounters are outdated and shouldn’t be used anymore. Being able to choose when you want to fight is the best thing any RPG can do for you—and being able to choose what you catch is the best thing a Pokémon game can do for you.
This feature is so important to all players, even the ones who crave a more “hardcore” Pokémon experience. I remember EV training my team when I was in middle school. You run around in the grass for a bit, and if you don’t find the Pokémon with the right effort values, you run around in the grass some more until you do. Even though EV training is nonexistent in Let’s Go, it is so nice that you can actually see the Pokémon before entering the battle. This shaves off so much time and it really helps you know if going to a certain patch of grass is even worth it.
These are the two most important features of Let’s Go to me. I know Game Freak will probably go back to the classic battling system in future games, and that’s okay. But they would be committing an absolute crime if they didn’t keep Pokémon on the overworld before you fight them.
Outside of the catching mechanics, though, Let’s Go doesn’t beat around the bush. Within minutes, you’re on a new adventure and filling up your Pokédex. This is likely because the games follow similar story beats to Red, Blue, and Yellow, but I would like to think that Game Freak is listening to fans and is starting to realize that three-hour tutorial sections just don’t cut it.
One criticism Let’s Go has faced is its simplicity. Some people find the games to be too easy. I’ll raise a counterpoint: Pokémon has always been easy; it’s just less tedious now. I think future Pokémon games can stand to learn a thing or two from the Let’s Go titles. Grinding is less of a chore, dungeons are much simpler to get through without random encounters every five seconds, and you always have a Pokémon box with you for fast and easy changes to your team.
I haven’t had this much fun with Pokémon in years, and I have high hopes for the next game in 2019. Pokémon: Let’s Go is a breath of fresh air for anyone who hasn’t been happy with the series for quite some time. It shaves off a lot of the extra padding Pokémon has become notorious for, and it’s a perfect game for a busy lifestyle.