Game Freak’s phenomenally popular Pokémon franchise has followed the same basic formula for 20 years, and with great success. However, the most recent titles, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee, introduced some major changes. Many of these changes were intended to make Let’s Go more similar to Niantic’s mobile hit Pokémon GO, while others were tweaks or new ideas intended to make the games more user-friendly. Naturally, many fans are divided on whether or not they like this new style. I’ve personally criticized a few elements, but there are other areas where Let’s Go is absolutely crushing it. Here are the five best changes made in the new games:
Seeing Pokémon on the Overworld
Many of my favorite RPGs, such as EarthBound, Paper Mario, and Chrono Trigger, share a common gameplay feature: enemies appear on the overworld. I’ve never been a fan of random enemy encounters, and I’ve often found them disruptive and frustrating enough that I lose my patience for the games in which they are present. Pokémon is a rare exception to this rule, but I love it despite these random encounters, not because of them. And running into my 50th Zubat in a half hour sometimes tests that love.
Game Freak’s decision to ditch random encounters in Let’s Go alleviates that frustration, but it does so much more than just that. Seeing Pokémon spawn in grassy areas and run around in the wild is an absolute game changer. It adds a whole new level of excitement and wonder to the experience, and it immerses players in the Pokémon world like never before.
Getting charged by a playful Growlithe pup, chasing after a waddling Psyduck, and seeing herds of wild Ponytas galloping down Pokémon Road are just some of the delightful experiences you’ll encounter in Let’s Go. From the first Pidgeys and Rattatas of Route 1 all the way through the trials of Victory Road, seeing these beloved creatures from our childhood all over the map really brings Kanto to life.
Swapping Pokémon With Ease
We’ve come a long, long way since the original Pokémon games. Remember the frustration of manually switching boxes in your PC when they filled up with Pokémon? Or finding out, too late, that you couldn’t catch a wild Pokémon because your current box is full? These awful limitations were left in the dust years ago, and Game Freak decided to take the evolution of the user-friendly approach one step further in Let’s Go.
Pokémon: Let’s Go allows you to swap out any Pokémon at any time. Your Pokémon Box is easily accessible from the menu at any time, so you don’t have to worry about getting halfway through a cave only to realize that you left a much-needed Pokémon in storage. And if you catch a wild Pokémon when your party is already full, you can immediately check it out and see its stats without trekking to the nearest town.
This mechanic is a welcome simplification in Let’s Go and fits well with its theme of giving players a relaxing experience. Implementing it in main series games would also make them more user-friendly, though perhaps a few tweaks are called for. Having the ability to swap out Pokémon while in a Gym or even the Elite Four can make things pretty easy, so some restrictions (which could easily be toggled on or off in the settings) would make sense.
Expanding the Role of Ride Pokémon
The first generation of Pokémon games lightly dabbled with the idea of letting players ride on their Pokémon with HMs like Surf and Fly, and Game Freak would continue to evolve this idea until the introduction of Ride Pokémon in Sun and Moon. This idea was improved and expanded in Let’s Go, allowing players to ride eighteen different monsters.
While Sun and Moon restricted Ride Pokémon to short bursts in specific areas, Let’s Go allows you to hop on anywhere with sufficient space on the overworld. Whether you’re towering over cave-dwellers while riding your Onix, speeding around the world on an Arcanine (my personal choice), or clinging to the belly of a Snorlax, it’s a wonderful experience that will bring a smile to your face.
On top of that, some of the Ride Pokémon in Let’s Go fly rather than walking. This lets you move at impressive speeds while avoiding obstacles that would normally slow you down, and you can even encounter rare and powerful Flying-type Pokémon floating above the ground. Soaring through the air on the likes of Charizard, Dragonite, and Aerodactyl has been one of the biggest highlights of my time with the games.
One of the most common struggles in older Pokémon games was the task of making sure your team featured all of the HMs you needed to move around the world. Some of these special moves, like Flash and Cut, were practically worthless in battle, but you could find yourself stuck if you didn’t use up some of your precious move slots to keep them on your team. This often resulted in players using one of their six main Pokémon solely for carrying around HMs, rendering them a liability in battle.
Game Freak has experimented with replacing them in various ways in recent entries, and Let’s Go does the best job of this yet. HMs that are actually useful in battle, like Surf, have been turned into TMs, and the others have been replaced by something called Secret Techniques. These abilities are now all learned by your partner Pokémon, Eevee or Pikachu.
Even if you take your partner out of your lineup of six active battlers, it will still ride around on your head or shoulder on the overworld, and it can still use its Secret Techniques. Additionally, they don’t even take up any of your partner’s move slots. It’s a wonderful new system that makes it easier than ever to travel around the game’s overworld without unnecessary hindrances or battle restrictions.
Getting the Perfect Pokémon
IVs, or Internal Values, are an integral part of building a competitive team full of powerful Pokémon. Every monster you encounter is immediately assigned IVs, and getting a Pokémon with perfect stats can be an intensely frustrating and drawn out process. Sun and Moon alleviated some of this with the introduction of Hyper Training, which allows you to improve a Pokémon’s IVs after they’ve reached level 100. Let’s Go makes this even easier by introducing an IV Judge function that lets you see exactly what stats you’re working with. No math or third-party IV calculators required!
Let’s Go also makes it easier than ever to ensure that wild Pokémon have decent IVs to begin with. If you catch multiple of the same Pokémon consecutively, you’ll start racking up bonuses, including extra EXP and item drops. Eventually, as the chain gets longer, the Pokémon you encounter will naturally have better stats. You can use this method to guarantee that a wild Pokémon will have perfect IVs in up to four stats, and by trading Bottle Caps for some hyper training, you can easily perfect the remaining two.
Another way Let’s Go makes it easier to get the perfect Pokémon team is by letting you set the nature of wild Pokémon… for a price. Pokémon natures generally raise one stat’s max potential by 10% while lowering another by the same amount. If you need a specific nature for a Pokémon, you can simply head to Celadon City and pay a fortune teller to make it so. It’ll cost you ten thousand, but it ensures that every Pokémon you encounter for the rest of the day is the nature you selected.
Finally, there’s EVs… or AVs… or whatever the heck we’re calling them this generation. The point is, Pokémon has always had a system in which you can boost your stats through the use of certain items. In the past, you also gained EVs from every fight, and you only got enough EVs to max out two of your stats. In other words, battling the wrong Pokémon could lead to investing EVs in the wrong stat. In Let’s Go, battling no longer impacts these values. Instead, all this stat-boosting is done via candies, so you can battle whoever you want, whenever you want, and still have your stat boosts turn out the way you want.
In fact, Let’s Go allows you to max out every stat, and the ceiling is much higher than in previous games. This may not be a welcome change for people used to the competitive balance of previous generations, but it certainly simplifies the process of making a perfect Pokémon. And if these stat changes mean that Game Freak can’t find a way to transfer Let’s Go Pokémon to future titles (which is something they’re still hoping for and working on), it will simply become a unique competitive scene of its own.
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