November's Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! have a lot of ground to cover even beyond their being the inaugural Pokémon RPGs on Nintendo Switch. Longtime Pokémon fans and newcomers alike are eager to visit the iconic Kanto region reimagined on a more powerful gaming device. Players can look forward to a fresh new experience that combines the intuitive gameplay features of Pokémon GO with the classic fun of traditional Pokémon RPGs.
If you can't wait to find out more about these exciting new games, check out our full report on the first few hours.
A Wild Pokémon Appeared!
Encounters with wild Pokémon definitely feel like the biggest difference between these new Nintendo Switch games and other recent Pokémon RPGs…but not just in the way you might think.
Replacing random encounters with the ability to see wild Pokémon wandering around Kanto's landscape is an absolute game changer. Since you must now walk up and touch the wild Pokémon to start encounters, it's easier to sidestep them if you choose. In past adventures, we could either wind up delighted with an encounter if it involved a rare Pokémon or frustrated if it turned out to be our three thousandth run-in with Zubat, but the experience was largely over once the Pokémon appeared. Now we're left with a very different sentiment as we watch Pokémon roam around the map. The varying sizes and movements of each Pokémon make the environments feel much more dynamic and alive.
Hunting for specific wild Pokémon is thus a more immersive experience than in past titles. For instance, we spent some extra time searching for Clefairy in Mt. Moon, and when one finally appeared on the map, the mad rush to beeline toward it was exhilarating in a way we hadn't quite felt before in a Pokémon RPG. While we might have simply felt relieved to see Clefairy pop up after a long search in Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, the way these new games require further action to engage a Pokémon shifts the experience in a way that's really energizing.
Playing with Pokémon GO-style wild Pokémon encounters is definitely a big change, but it also bolsters the sensation of each Pokémon having a little more personality this time around. It's fun to observe how Pokémon move around as encounters begin—seeing Weedle's little scuttle or Rattata's energetic approach makes each creature distinct.
Catching Pokémon in Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! is very reminiscent of doing so in Pokémon GO. It's perhaps a little easier to aim your throws compared to in the mobile game, but many Pokémon act a little more rambunctious, too. If you've been playing Pokémon GO with AR mode turned off, you might be in for a surprise with some of the more frantic Pokémon!
Razz, Nanab, and Pinap Berries return from Pokémon GO to make the catching process easier or more rewarding. During our play session, the most valuable Berry proved to be the humble Nanab Berry, which came as a surprise. The brightly colored Berry calms down Pokémon that eat it, which isn't often the best effect available in Pokémon GO, but it makes a larger difference against some of the more unruly wild Pokémon lurking around Kanto.
Earn Fantastic Prizes
Every wild Pokémon you catch nets your whole team Experience Points (Exp. Points)—and a significant amount, too. You can get even more from each catch by earning bonuses similar to those in Pokémon GO—capturing a Pokémon on your first throw is worth extra Exp. Points, as is getting a Nice, a Great, or an Excellent Throw by tossing your Poké Ball within the target rings.
Like in Pokémon GO, some Pokémon in the Switch games are particularly large or small, and here the difference is significant. Such Pokémon are marked by a red or blue effect on the field to indicate their unusual size, and they award a hefty experience bonus when caught. It continues to be worthwhile to catch such Pokémon long after you've registered them to your Pokédex because of this bonus experience.
Wild Pokémon here aren't as territorial as those you might run into in other games, so it's relatively easy to move through most areas unhindered if you prefer. It's great that you don't require Repels to avoid unwanted encounters, but between discovering rarer species of Pokémon, extra-small Pokémon, and supersized Pokémon, it's often worthwhile to catch at least a few Pokémon everywhere you go.
Classic Battles Return
Veteran Pokémon fans will find themselves at home with the familiar battle gameplay the Pokémon series is known for once they run into Kanto's many other Trainers. Battles are once again turn based, which is a big shift for players familiar only with the frenetic tap-based combat of Pokémon GO. You'll still carry a party of up to six Pokémon, but now you can swap them out for others in your collection without having to go to a Pokémon Center. Each Pokémon can have four moves in its repertoire, and as with previous Pokémon RPGs, the impact of type advantages and disadvantages is more pronounced than it is in Pokémon GO.
Pokémon still gain Exp. Points when they defeat opposing Pokémon in battle, and they can eventually evolve at the same levels they might in other games. The function of the Exp. Share is built in this time, so your whole party will benefit from each Pokémon you defeat.
Trainer battles tend to be a little easier to avoid while walking around than they have been in the past. Most Kanto Trainers will occasionally turn in a different direction, creating an opportunity to sneak by. We happily exploited that tendency after defeating Brock in the Pewter City Gym, but be careful if you plan to rush through the game. We subsequently found our trip through Mt. Moon to be much more challenging than it was in Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, even without the need to fend off wild Pokémon.
Even though you can avoid almost all encounters, you'll need to get some experience if you don't want your Pokémon's levels to fall horribly behind those of opposing Trainers. Catching wild Pokémon can account for a much larger part of that equation than in other Pokémon RPGs, where most Exp. Points come from Trainer battles. But Poké Balls and the money to purchase them come from defeating other Trainers, so battling them is still important—just for different reasons.
In addition to training your Pokémon by raising their level, you can now also help them develop by feeding them Candies. There is a variety of Candies that enhance each stat, so it's important to feed them to your favorite Pokémon. You'll sometimes get Candies by catching wild Pokémon, and you can score bigger chunks of it by transferring many Pokémon of the same species to Professor Oak. Developing your Pokémon this way is a big argument against constantly swapping out your partners for higher-level members of the same species the way you might in Pokémon GO.
A new snack that won't increase your Pokémon's stats is the never-before-seen Pewter Crunchies, an item produced in Pewter City that functions as a trendier version of the status-restoring Full Heal. Unfortunately, like many of the regional snacks from past Pokémon titles, it seems a little too rare to stock up on quickly.
Perhaps more practical is the Lure, a new item that follows the spirit of the Pokémon GO item of the same name. It draws out rare Pokémon, making them more likely to appear. Buying Lures from the Poké Mart seems like a great investment, and we're eager to see what other items appear deeper into the Kanto region.
My First Partner
Many Trainers form a special attachment to their first partner in each adventure, and Pikachu and Eevee are sure to win your heart in these games. Both Pokémon are full of personality, dressing them up and ruffling their hair is surprisingly endearing, and they'll be a constant presence in your adventure. They interact with some objects on their own accord, and you can experience locations together through some fun new scenes, including a strange water fountain in Cerulean City that helps the two of you bond.
Your partner Pokémon can't evolve, but that won't stop it from being a star in battle. You'll find these particular Pokémon are quite powerful members of their species from the start, and their power grows even further once they start learning exclusive moves.
Since they travel outside of their Poké Balls with you, they won't enter battle the way other Pokémon do. Instead, they hop off your shoulder into the fray when battle begins…and book it away as fast as their little legs can carry them when they retreat. You'll have a hard time finding more charming partners than these two.
Pokémon fans will certainly enjoy Kanto's enhanced look, especially more experienced Trainers that have a long history with the region. An enhanced score and updated graphics help bring the classic adventure to life in a way that feels true to the original and yet new at the same time. Battles are similarly enhanced by a variety of fierce new move animations.
The mix of wild Pokémon wandering around the map, a Pokémon partner following behind you, and the many Pokémon lounging around towns creates the feeling of a world where Pokémon live like never before. The ambient Pokémon are eye catching—it was fun to imagine the Onix belonging to a woman in Cerulean City on our past journeys through Kanto, but actually seeing the gigantic Rock Snake Pokémon just hanging out next to her dining table is another experience entirely.
Trainers dedicated to exploring each nook and cranny of Kanto will be rewarded with tons of little flourishes. The Town Map is now fully visible on the wall of Pokémon Centers, and many other buildings have fun, thematic posters of their own. For example, the player's bedroom features a throwback to the opening of the original RPGs, what was once the bicycle shop now features some strange vanity shots of bicycles, and the Pewter City museum has a poster about the creation of the universe that wouldn't be out of place in a real-life classroom. Speaking of the museum, it's very much worth the price of entry this time—be sure to check out the giant Kabutops and Aerodactyl fossils.
Expect to have fond memories of your past adventures in Kanto evoked by enhanced versions of familiar melodies. The soundtrack for Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! is composed of modernized takes on the songs in Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition. The classic battle themes have never sounded better, and the familiar tracks of Kanto's many routes are sure to put a smile on the faces of returning fans.
What's New in Kanto
Digging past Kanto's new coat of paint reveals a mix of similarities to and differences from the original titles. Area layouts tend to be mostly the same as in past games—a few buildings have moved slightly to adjust for the modern, more fully realized graphics on Nintendo Switch, but the paths through Viridian Forest and Mt. Moon remain the same. TMs can be used multiple times, just as they can in more recent RPGs, and the happiness system of recent titles seems to be back, too—you can check at your rival's house how you and your Pokémon are getting along.
For the most part, wild Pokémon tend to appear at the same places they did before, but there are some crucial exceptions. Oddish or Bellsprout (depending on your version of the game) now appear early enough in your travels for you to use them against Brock, and if you spend some time in Viridian Forest, you might even see some wild Bulbasaur appear! However, we didn't find any wild Pidgeotto in Viridian Forest this time—it's one of the few Pokémon that seems to be missing from its usual location in Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition.
The Trainers roaming Kanto are a mix of new and old. Many have brand-new dialogue and rosters of Pokémon, including those who give some hints about Bulbasaur's presence. But expect to see some old friends return as well. It just wouldn't be Kanto if we were any closer than ten thousand light-years from facing Brock—or if we were unsure about whether shorts were comfy and easy to wear or not. Most denizens of Kanto have a quick tip or jest, so it's worth listening to what they have to say.
Just as you'd expect from games inspired by Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, there are references to the early days of the Pokémon the Series animation that are sure to delight its fans. Pokémon Center attendants and their Chansey are just the start.
It's no surprise to encounter Brock and Misty as the first two Gym Leaders, but each have a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment. Rather than explain the effect of his TM until the end of time, Brock's post-defeat chatter reveals his true aspiration—to become a Pokémon Breeder. Misty's dialogue is more typical of her past appearances, but her roster of Pokémon now features a familiar face. Instead of using Staryu and Starmie, as she did in the previous Kanto-based games, Starmie is now paired with Psyduck, her iconic partner from Pokémon the Series. We can only assume she meant to send out Staryu and Psyduck entered the fray of its own volition.
It's not just the heroes of Pokémon's animated adventures that get some extra recognition. Jessie, James, and Meowth made a handful of appearances in Pokémon Yellow: Special Pikachu Edition, but they show up even more often to cause trouble this time. You'll encounter the trio repeatedly in towns and in Mt. Moon before your first battle for the Fossils. They'll also act a little more like their usual devious selves and be the first to engage the player in a Double Battle—though it's tough to claim the Pokémon-battling ethical high ground in a game where you and a friend can team up on Trainers in your own 2-vs-1 matches.
Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee! will be available on Nintendo Switch on November 16, 2018, as will the new Poké Ball Plus accessory. The fun new twists on the game's familiar beginning has us excited to see what's to come in the rest of the Kanto region. The juxtaposition of classic Pokémon battles, Pokémon GO's catching mechanics, and familiar characters has us hungry for more. Keep an eye on Pokemon.com and the game's official site for more information on this exciting new adventure!