A Charming, if Short, Nostalgia Trip: Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu

The present I was most excited to get for Christmas was Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu! Ever since I saw the trailers, I was eagerly anticipating its release and knew that I would need to get a copy! Fast forward to MCM October and I got to play the game, using one of the pokeball controllers, while cosplaying Ash Ketchum. I don’t think it gets much better than that really!

It was immediately added to my Christmas list (yes, I still do one in my twenties…) and as soon as I could on Christmas day, I started playing it.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been the biggest fan of Pikachu, sure it’s a nice Pokemon but my favourite has always been Mudkip since it was released, and the dragon types because they’re dragons and what more reason does one need to love them? But this game made me adore the little yellow mouse. The graphics from the off are extremely charming and looking at Pikachu just couldn’t help but give me a warm feeling inside. This was even further enhanced by the play with Pikachu function. Seeing Pikachu so happy can’t help but put a smile on my face, especially when hi-fiving her (mine was a female).

I don’t need to explain the basic concept of Pokemon I should hope, so I’ll focus more on the changes in it. The main one is the one that really shortens the game’s lifespan and lowers the difficulty, this being the catching Pokemon system. They have imported the one from Pokemon GO (which I haven’t played much to the shock of everyone who meets me because I don’t have a smartphone) and this does take a lot of challenge out. No longer do you have to carefully lower a Pokémon’s health but not too much, inflict it with the right status conditions, use the right balls etc. Instead, you just throw into a circle and eventually one of the balls will work. I did find it fun getting used to the timing and was pretty much from the off getting a lot of excellent throws, and while I didn’t miss the combat too much initially, it was when facing legendary Pokemon that I really began to miss it. Legendary birds and Mewtwo were great challenges, and while the battles were reasonably difficult, especially Mewtwo, once you beat that it’s the usual throw into the circle. I stopped using ultra balls quickly and started burning through my 400+ stock of normal pokeballs (because you also get those for beating trainers now) and while Moltres only took three attempts, Mewtwo took many tens of them. But eventually they went it. It doesn’t give the same satisfaction though.

But this leads to another main difference which doesn’t work to my favour, but the effect of which meant the game did actually spike in difficulty at appropriate points. There are a fair number of trainer battles, I did the majority of them, but you do need to supplement your experience with wild Pokemon in the other games. However, what if you don’t want to catch every Pokemon you see and wasn’t too fussed by the whole “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”? Well, your Pokemon just stay a bit lower levelled from missing out on the experience, except Pikachu, she stays in your party permanently (I don’t know if you can put her in the box, I never tried) but battles aren’t impossible. It did mean a lot more tactical move and Pokemon selection, and needing to carry more items around, but it made the battles feel a lot more of a challenge, and they somewhat made up for the challenge that catching Pokemon now lacks. The Elite Four were very tough until Lance who was surprisingly easy, and not just because I brought Articuno along. One downside though, is that this means that Pokemon you catch later in the game really struggle to develop, indeed it’s easier just to wait for a wild Muk to appear and catch it than evolve your Grimer, something that did break my heart a bit. But I managed to keep one of my original Pokemon (and Oddish-cum-Vileplume) with me until the very end and had a great team of Pokemon with reserves!

I loved the game’s cute but not overblown graphics, and the fact that they have preserved the original soundtrack on occasion (in particular the underground tunnels, that theme tune is still iconic) and the story. It was great to play through it after having played the original games so long ago I’d forgotten just quite how time-consuming Team Rocket was. It added much needed length for a completionist such as myself, as gyms were not really challenging. I completed the Pokemon League and had Mewtwo and a resulting post-game event completed in just under 22 hours. By my standards (approx. 70 hour JRPGs for the first playthrough) it felt short, but long enough to really enjoy it and be encaptured by it.

So yes, the game has become a bit too “child friendly” and easier, but it still has more than enough charm, challenge, and nostalgia, to make it worth playing for players who grew up with the games. I still have some more post-game content to explore (some challenge trainers who seem to be masters of using one particular Pokemon from what I gather), but now it’s back to clearing my huge 3DS/PS Vita game backlog!

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