I can't believe I'm about to say this, but playing Pokemon Let's Go, Pikachu with the new Poke Ball Plus is about the most fun I've ever had playing a Pokémon game. It's such a simple idea for a peripheral, but it just works. Certainly, it helps that the controls for Pokemon have never been all that complex, and everything you can do in the game can be boiled down to two buttons and a joystick, but that didn't diminish any of the fun I had playing Let's Go, Pikachu at E3 this week.
Taking place in a Kanto-inspired region, Let's Go, Pikachu (and Let's Go, Eevee) takes the familiar formula of the classic Pokémon RPGs and mixes them with the modern mobile sensibilities of Pokémon Go. There are plenty of wannabe trainers and Gym Leaders out there for you to tackle, but capturing Pokemon has been retooled to a much simpler exercise. When wandering through the tall grass, all the different Pokémon out in the wild can be easily seen with the game's isometric viewpoint. All you've got to do to capture them is walk over to wherever these creatures may be and get your Poke Ball Plus ready. Now, you can play this game without the $50 accessory, but considering there's a bundle of both games that comes with the physical Poke Ball, die-hard fans aren't likely to go without one.
Anyway, once you find a Kanto creature you want for your collection, all you've got to do is time your throwing motion in conjunction with the concentric circles. It's just like the mobile game and its gyroscopic capture mechanics, only this time you have an actual Poke Ball in your hand instead of a virtual one on the screen. What's more, the Poke Ball Plus comes complete with vibration and sound to make the experience that much more immersive. Not only does it give the impression you're actually doing something besides feigning a throw at these helpless little monsters, but it shakes and sounds like you're doing it, too. Once one of the Pokemon is inside, the Poke Ball shakes and rattles like something is trying to escape, and the telltale chirps of the Pokemon can be heard echoing from inside.
If you happen to have a friend who invested in a Poke Ball Plus of their own, they too can join in on the capturing fun on the very same Switch screen. Though only the primary player's progress will count, both players have access to the same catalog of Pokemon, and throwing twice as many Poke Balls at high-value targets will undoubtedly increase your chances for a clean capture. There are items, like berries, you can use to coerce more stubborn beasts into captivity, but the act of capturing with the Poke Ball Plus should be enough to get just about every Pokemon you want under your control.
The demo area I played wasn't very large, but it was home to a few different trainers that attempted to take me on. They all fell rather easily thanks to the more powerful Pokémon packed in my library for the demo's purposes. Battles play out just like any previous entry, with trainers throwing out different Pokemon to see which trainer reigns supreme. All the action can be realized with the simple analog stick in the center of the Poke Ball Plus, as it also acts as the confirmation button when clicked. The top of the red area can be pressed gently to cancel any action too, giving you everything you need within reach of just two fingers.
The only other noteworthy element of the demo had to be the visuals of Let's Go, Pikachu. This next entry easily has some of the best visuals the Pokemon franchise has ever seen. The verdant world of Kanto looked lush as ever, and the bright colors popped off the screen in high resolution. In addition to your character roaming around with Pikachu (or Eevee) on your shoulder, a second Pokémon does trail you through the world. During my demo it was Charmander, who will eventually evolve into a Charizard that can be flown around the game world instead of walking at your heels. The secondary Pokémon can be made any creature in your catalog, so I can only imagine what it will look like to scour the Kanto region with a Snorlax lumbering behind. Probably pretty cool.