I was ecstatic when Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee were first revealed. The concept was appealing. What The Pokemon Company and Game Freak showed off truly felt like a natural balance of Pokemon GO-like controls with the structure of a classic Pokemon game. While Let’s Go Eevee does enough to maintain its traditional feel, the new gameplay elements simply don’t suffice as a replacement for wild Pokemon battles, abilities, and the other franchise staples. Ultimately, Let’s Go Eevee does a lot right, but misses the mark in a couple key ways.
Upon entering the newly reimagined Kanto, I was floored. The character design, animations, and cut-scenes are all gorgeous. Game Freak managed to almost perfectly replicate the Kanto of old, this time around taking advantage of the more advanced hardware that comes with releasing on Switch. What adds so much visually, though, are battles with other trainers. As a lifelong franchise fanatic, I’ve always been eager to see an intense, HD, animation-heavy battle between two Pokemon in a core game. While Let’s Go isn’t technically part of the mainline series, it boasts the best looking battles to date.
Paired with the wonderful visuals is a delightful, updated soundtrack. As someone that’s played through every previous game besides Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, I’ve heard what the previous titles have to offer. Let’s Go’s music is true to the original GameBoy installments but builds upon the tunes. You’re getting the classic sounds from Red, Blue, and Yellow, only translated to what a modern Pokemon game would look and sound like. Per usual, Lavender Town is hauntingly beautiful, too. It wouldn’t be a Kanto remake without doing that setting justice.
What aren’t done justice, however, are your control options, and how these changes affect gameplay. Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee limits you, in TV Mode, to playing the game with a single Joy-Con or the PokeBall Plus controller. There’s no option to use the Pro Controller, Joy-Con Grip, or even two Joy-Con separated. You’re bound to utilizing the largely gimmicky PokeBall Plus controller or a single Joy-Con, harkening back to the glorious Wii days.
Pokemon’s been played largely the same since the 1990s. The controls haven’t changed much, and there’s a reason for this: the control scheme works. Game Freak made a fundamental change with the intention of highlighting the GO catching mechanic, an error in judgment that can’t be overlooked. This simple gameplay change is one that’ll disinterest many Pokemon players, as it completely changes how you’ll progress through the story. Instead of battling to level up, you’re forced to catch Pokemon to gain XP. This isn’t an issue at the beginning of the game, due to the volume of trainers waiting to battle. Once you get to later gyms and begin to hit higher levels, though, you need to catch batches of wild pocket monsters to keep your Pokemon’s levels on par with the game’s difficulty. This repetition is something we haven’t seen in previous games, and I think I know why. After catching the same creature five, six, ten times, it gets old. And with a mere 151 to choose from, the constant need to catch Pokemon becomes a chore.
What supplements this change, at least to an extent, are the more streamlined controls available to utilize in handheld mode. When playing portably, Let’s Go Eevee uses the series’ traditional controls and a gyro method to catch Pokemon. It’s not ideal, but playing through the title in handheld mode felt far more natural and user-friendly than on the TV. It’s just such a disappointment when I take into account how big of an event this is for Pokemon in general. This is the first time players get to explore a core region in what’s supposed to be a home console game, and to bog down the control scheme like they did takes away from the overall experience. It unnecessarily simplifies things to a degree that better serves casual players than the core Pokemon audience, which in turn limits the game’s potential as a home console experience.
Merrily exploring Kanto with the new controls, rather than catching wild Pokemon, isn’t terrible. The use of a single Joy-Con to get around becomes somewhat convenient. It’s easy to understand why, as it gives you, the player, far more freedom in regards to sitting down and progressing through the world. This proved to be too inconsistent a method, though, as catching monsters repeatedly is a core gameplay element forced onto you too much in the game.
With all this said, hidden behind these massive control issues is a great game. Battling other trainers, gym leaders, and eventually the elite 4 is more fun than ever, as is exploring the vast, weird Kanto region. Game Freak clearly paid great attention to detail when designing the title, and it shows. The Pokemon die-hards, especially those infatuated with generation one, will find a lot to love in Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee.
A review code was provided by the publisher.
Former EiC, now staff writer here at NE. I’m a full-time journalism student in California. Let’s talk Pokémon.