If Pokémon Go made one of the world’s most popular RPG franchises somehow even more accessible to non-gamers, then Pokémon Let's Go! Pikachu and Let’s Go! Eevee are giving fans both old and new something a little different: a re-imagined version of an adored Game Boy classic, only deeper, modernized, yet packed with nostalgic nods to its 1990s roots.
That’s the somewhat surprising consensus of critics, whose collective early reviews for Let’s Go! already have garnered the game a still-shifting score in the 80s over at Metacritic. Today’s reviewers, many of whom spent chunks of their virtual childhoods training in Pokémon Gyms, clamored for a new-from-the-ground up Pokémon game for the Switch when Let’s Go! was first revealed as a Game Boy-era do-over.
But now, many of those same critics are reveling in how fresh the whole experience feels. Set in Pokémon Yellow’s Kanto region, a place that’s remained stuck in the heart of many a Game Boy-toting fan, Let’s Go! integrates with Pokémon Go! while serving up a lengthy RPG that reviewers (mostly) agree offers its share of challenge to even veteran Pokémon trainers.
Plenty of longtime fans balked when developer Game Freak first revealed that some longtime Pokémon (and RPG) mainstays, like random encounters, would be missing from Let’s Go! to make it more recognizable and accessible to present-day gamers. But most reviewers feel the changes are for the better, and advise going into the game without too many preconceptions.
Here’s what some of them are saying:
IGN (4 stars out of 5)
It's often with rose-colored glasses that I look back at Pokémon’s Kanto story, and I know I’m not the only one who feels a deep connection to the wooded region. It's where many long-time fans had their first Pokémon adventure, and it’s the region where I met one of my favorite characters of all time. It’s with great relief that, even when I consciously remove those glasses, I find something greatly deserving of that deep admiration when I look at Pokémon: Let’s Go. After about 40 hours with the Pikachu version, I put down my Nintendo Switch impressed with how well this reimagining of Pokémon Yellow matches my memories of my first adventure, albeit with a few major differences that almost all turn out to be for the better.
US Gamer (favorable)
I don't know what I expected from Pokémon Let's Go, exactly, but I didn't expect to have a never-ending line of experienced trainers run my face up and down the white picket fences lining Route 13. Now, I'm not a competitive Pokémon trainer, so maybe my struggles in Pokémon Let's Go are of my own making because I can't balance a team to save my life. But as someone who breezed through Pokémon Red without much problem when it first launched, I wasn't expecting to be challenged at all, so I'm chuffed Pokémon Let's Go isn't interested in coddling me. It seems to know I'm a veteran of the series, and it treats me accordingly.
Moreover, Pokémon Let's Go brings a lot of life and color to Kanto. Running through the region (sometimes on the back of your favorite Pokémon!) feels good. There are innumerable touches that make it clear Game Freak put much more effort into this game than we initially gave it credit for. No, it's not Generation VIII, but it's not a cynical cash-grab engineered to shut us all up until 2019, either.
To fans, here is the headline as far as I’m concerned: this is not the soulless, stripped-bare experience you have feared. Yes, some more complex elements of previous games have been removed, but the result is a game that feels surprisingly appropriate: as Pokemon stands at a crossroads, Let’s Go looks back to its earliest past and also forward to a future that, inevitably, has been influenced by the success of Go.
When all is said done, Pokemon Let’s Go is still exactly what you’d expect from this franchise. That explains some of the fan reaction, perhaps – Let’s Go is trapped between fans hungry for more of what they already love and those keen to see the series really do new and different things. I’ve fallen firmly into the latter category for a while now, but Let’s Go ended up being something really unexpectedly needed for me: a nice nostalgic palette cleanser before a hopefully significantly changed Pokemon experience next year.
It’s important to take into account that my perspective is one of someone who grew up with the original Pokémon games. Just as I was struck by Pokémon Red with wide-eyed wonder, drawn to its novelty, Pokémon: Let’s Go! may do the same to today’s newcomers…This is Pokémon’s console debut, and with that comes reinvention for all kinds of players, not just the ones who came of age with Pokémon a long time ago.
…Shedding expectations about what Pokémon is supposed to be is the toughest challenge here, more than trying to become a Pokémon master. But we’re now in a new era of Pokémon, with a new generation of young trainers. Maybe the only way forward is to let go of the past.
Unlike past Pokémon games, which felt rewarding due to the time and effort spent on grinding, this game gives the player an emotional payoff. The spirit of Pokémon as a series is the spirit of coming-of-age, and Let’s Go embodies that spirit.
Retracing my steps, from Pallet Town to the Elite Four, had a profound emotional effect on me. When I first reached Celadon City, a bustling metropolis that is home to a huge department store, I remembered how teenage me had longed to move out of the suburbs to New York City, the city where I now live. Each Gym Leader was like meeting up with a old friend. It’s to the game’s benefit that these battles are exactly the same. I would remember where I tripped up in the past, and make sure I was ready this time.
Nintendo Life (favorable)
Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! are beautiful reimaginings of a video game classic, updating a 20-year-old game in ways which make it infinitely more accessible and user-friendly for a modern audience, while keeping the magic first discovered all those years ago. On the downside, the newly-introduced motion control mechanic is fun but flawed, forcing us to shift from one play style to another to get the best experience, and while efforts have been made to bring the game up to the standard of more recent entries when it comes to depth and complexity, hardcore fans may consider the whole experience too much of a cakewalk. Still, the game does a superb job of striking a balance between being an easy route of entry for newcomers to the series and offering just enough post-game challenge and competitive play elements (and nostalgia, of course) to please series veterans; as a result, these new titles really do offer something for everyone, which can't always be said of the mainline Pokémon entries.
As you can tell, the theme running through nearly all these reviews is how effectively Let’s Go! appears to tap into, and then iterate on, Pokémon nostalgia. We’re only a couple days away from getting to judge for ourselves: Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu! and Pokémon Let's Go Eevee! arrive for the Nintendo Switch on Nov. 16.