One Week Later: Thoughts on Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!
It's been one week since the trailer for Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee dropped, and for me the hype hasn't gone down one single bit. As an avid Pokémon fan since Red and Blue, I was all over the Interwebs in the weeks leading up to the trailer, combing for all the juicy rumors I could find. With the rumors saying a trailer for the new games would drop by the end of May, it looked like the reveal would fall right on the week I was at Disney World with my family. And it did! I was strolling through Pandora (in Animal Kingdom, not the jewelry store) and about to enter the gift shop when a buddy of mine texted me to check out the offical Pokémon Twitter page ASAP. I pulled off to the side, plopped down on a bench, and watched the trailer. I've now rewatched the trailer every day since then (and some of those days I watched it multiple times), so it's safe to say I have a lot of feelings about the latest Pokémon games. There's stuff I like (spoiler alert: it's a lot), stuff I don't like, and stuff I have some questions about. Let's make like a Ground-type and Dig into it!
STUFF I LIKE
-The Pokémon Go-esque catching mechanic adds more skill to the act of catching. Mainline Pokémon games have always had their optimal strategies for weakening and catching wild Pokémon, but I really dig actually throwing Poké balls this time around. It makes for a more engaging experience than simply getting a Pokémon down to 1 HP with False Swipe, putting it to sleep, and tossing the most optimal ball at it with the click of a button.
-FINALLY we get to connect Pokémon Go to a console Pokémon game. Ever since Pokémon Go was first announced as being in the works, I've been eagerly anticipating sending Pokémon from my phone to my console. At this point I almost sound like a broken record: "Why do you still play Pokémon Go?" "Because I've met great friends playing it who still play. And I just cannot WAIT until you can send them to the mainline games." One of my favorite aspects of the Pokémon games is transferring your Pokémon from one game to the next (ever since R/S, that is). I absolutely love taking Pokémon I raised years ago and putting them in teams with brand new Pokémon. I still often use my Dusknoir from back in my FireRed copy in my singles team, for example, and battling with her always reminds me of when I trained a baby Duskull on a family trip to Gulf Shores, AL nearly 14 (!!) years ago. Likewise there's a lot of Pokémon I obtained in Pokémon Go that I'm looking forward to bringing into Let's Go. Pokémon games for me have always been about the journey, not the destination, and that journey will only grow with the connectivity to Pokémon Go.
-If the Video Game Championships (referred to as "VGC" from here) uses the new games, it'll create a fresh format since only the original Pokémon will be in Let's Go. If you've never played the VGC format before, it's a ton of fun. The metagame shifts a ton over the course of a year, so whatever team you come up with in January will be very, very different come the end of the season as Trainers must alter their teams to best counter the ever-shifting metagame. As someone who loves strategy, it's exciting. Unfortunately as the VGC season winds down (the World Championships this year will be August 24-26 in Nashville, TN), the meta tends to stagnate, attendance drops off, and viewers complain more and more about seeing the same popular/overpowered Pokémon appearing on most top cuts teams. When new games come out, The Pokémon Company International ("TPCI" for short) have lately altered the ruleset so that you may only use Pokémon from the new games, effectively evening the playing field and forcing Trainers to come up with new strategies. Since many of the most popular Pokémon in the VGC 18 metagame aren't from the Kanto region, we would see a lot of fresh-looking teams. A reset of the VGC format would also bring in more new Trainers. More on this in a bit.
-I have a lot of faith in these games solely because Junichi Masuda is directing. Masuda is a veteran of Game Freak and has composed, produced, and directed the majority of Pokémon games. His directing credits include Ruby/Sapphire, Diamond/Pearl, Black/White, and X/Y--so the man knows how to create these "hard reset" games. He also directed 2004's FireRed/LeafGreen games, so it's safe to say he knows Kanto very, very well. I particularly love Black and White, so I'm 100% confident that Masuda will deliver the goods with Let's Go. Masuda has also said that with the Let's Go games while he wants to bring in new players and especially appeal to children (thus making Let's Go the ideal entry point into the franchise for kids), he still has the longer hardcore players in mind. A lot of the negative reactions I've seen online have been from these longtime players, and in my opinion, looking at Masuda's statement and his track record makes these negative reactions nothing but ill-conceived hot air.
-Between the simplified mechanics and the fact that only Gen 1 Pokémon (and some Alolan forms) appear, a lot of new and/or lapsed players will be drawn in. I've met a lot of people at work alone playing Pokémon Go who never played any of the mainline Pokémon games after the originals, so they have no attachments whatsoever to any Pokémon outside of the original 151 (although a lot of them love/hate Blissey and Tyranitar now!). Bringing in new players to any big video game franchise by altering how the game itself works has turned out BIG in the past year--just look at Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, and God of War.
-Pokémon appearing in the overworld is just plain wonderful. No more running around in circles for way too much time trying to find rare Pokémon. Random battles are increasingly a RPG element of the past, and I'm glad to see Pokémon following this trend.
-Dressing up Pikachu and Eevee is just plain adorable, and it makes your starter Pokémon more unique to you. Madsuda has said that he wants players to form a bond with their starter, and personalizing yours to whatever costume speaks more to you helps create a stronger emotional bond between you and your Pokémon.
-While the graphics aren't pushing the Switch to its limit, they're a big step up from Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon. And honestly they're on par with what I was expecting from the first Pokémon Switch game (barring Pokémon Quest, which is awesome BTW).
-Transferring a never-before-seen Pokémon from Let's Go to Pokémon Go is a brilliant move. I've seen how some people are saying just because it's a brand new Pokémon that it's not necessarily the first Gen 8 Pokémon, but that just doesn't make any sense to me. This is 100% going to be our first introduction to the Gen 8 games due to hit the Switch in the second half of 2019. And since you'll only be able to use this Pokémon in Pokémon Go, there's definitely going to be a spike in people playing Pokémon Go just to check out the new Pokémon.
-Your PC is now completely portable. At last there's no reason to run back to the Pokémon Center to swap out a Pokémon. This is a huge quality of life improvement that I hope sticks around for good.
-Following Pokémon are FINALLY back!! This has been a feature that people have been clamoring for ever since HeartGold/SoulSilver. When walking and running animations leaked for every single Pokémon prior to Sun/Moon launching, fans freaked out--and I was definitely one of them--but sadly following Pokémon didn't appear in Alola. It was a ton of fun to be able to journey through Johto with my favorite Pokémon walking behind me, and I can't wait to see my favorite Kanto Pokémon follow me--now in 3D graphics!
-No HMs again! HMs were removed in Sun/Moon, and not a single tear was shed over it. Hopefully this means they're gone for good in all future games.
-Last but certainly not least, two player drop-in/drop-out co-op is hands-down my favorite new feature already (even though not everything has been revealed about it). To say my wife isn't as big of a Pokéfan as me would be a massive understatement. She's put up with my droning on and on about everything Pokémon-related for years. I've even sat down with her and gone through the entire Pokédex just so she can tell me what he favorites are (hint: it's the cute ones). Hell, she's even given Singles at the Battle Tree in Ultra Sun a try (with her cute Stantler-led team of choice, of course). I've half-jokingly said that someday I'm going to buy her a Pokémon game so she can play with me, but she's very adamantly said that would be a big, big waste of money. Playing a Pokémon game by herself is just way too much work, and it doesn't sound fun. But playing with me makes the idea a lot more enticing. And if she's had enough playing, she can drop out at will. This is the feature I always needed but never knew I wanted in a Pokémon game.
STUFF I DON'T LIKE
-No breeding. This is a tough pill to swallow for me. I understand that to people outside the hardcore scene, breeding mechanics are intimidating. They definitely were to me back in the day. But they've made the breeding mechanics simpler and simpler. It's very easy now to breed a 5 IV baby and raise it to level 50 so you can battle with it competitively. No breeding also means no more egg moves, which is pretty big for some Pokémon. If Megas are back, for example, you won't be able to get Dragon Dance (or even Belly Drum, for that matter) on Charizard, which is a staple move on its Mega Charizard X move-sets both in singles and VGC.
-I'm hesitant about no wild battles. It's a big change from the mainline games. Admittedly though, Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD didn't have wild battles, and I didn't miss them one bit.
-TPCI clarified the online features of Let's Go, and frankly, they just don't make sense to me. You can trade and battle online...but only with friends. I can understand removing the GTS and Wonder Trade since there's way less Pokémon to catch in the Let's Go games, but completely removing the ability to battle random players online is a serious blow to the competitive scene. Hell, there are even regular official tournaments that are hosted online in Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon that award in-game prizes. Looks like those are off the table in Let's Go. Grassroots tournaments will definitely happen, but since Nintendo still loves the friend code system for some reason, this makes it much more of a pain to battle online than in previous games. This is also a big blow to VGC players, as Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon have a specific online mode that uses the VGC format, making it the ideal way to practice before official tournaments. More on VGC in a bit, though.
STUFF I HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT
-Will EVs and IVs still be in the game? These hidden values used to be a total pain to track, but similar to breeding, recent Pokémon games have streamlined the process much more. When Masuda was asked about EVs and IVs, he said he didn't have any information to reveal just yet--but he did say he wants to simplify things with Let's Go. Hopefully there's still enough wiggle room as far as EVs go. In singles, Trainers typically max their EVs in their 2 best stats--a sweeper is max in Speed and Attack or Special Attack, while tanks focus on Defense, Special Defense, and HP. In VGC though, Trainers spread their EVs so that they can survive specific attacks from specific Pokémon and still get KOs on others. It's hands down one of the most (if not the most) important aspects of creating a winning VGC team, and removing EVs completely would significantly hurt both the VGC scene and certain Pokémon in general. And if IVs are indeed back, will Hyper Training return so you can turn those not-quite-perfect Pokémon you've caught into perfect ones?
-If IVs are indeed in the game and since breeding is out, is there a way to ensure a Pokémon has max IVs other than just randomly catching the desired Pokémon over and over until you happen to get a perfect one? (In the mainline games, IVs of the parent Pokémon are passed to the baby, so it's very easy to breed perfect IV Pokémon.)
-Will abilities and natures return? Again, these can make or break a Pokémon.
-What Alolan forms are in the game? I found it interesting that when Masuda said Alolan forms were in Let's Go, he said "some", not "all". It's safe to say that Alolan Exeggutor will be in the games since the Pokémon popped up in Pokémon Go right after the Let's Go games were announced. Some Alolan forms are also types that Gen 1 just doesn't have much of to begin with, so including them would make team composition a bit more diverse.
-How will transferring Pokémon from Pokémon Go to Let's Go work? Will these Pokémon retain their 2 moves? Will they have their hidden ability upon transfer, like transferred Pokémon from the Virtual Console games? Will they retain their IVs from Pokémon Go? How will CP convert to levels? There's a ton we don't know yet, and odds are we won't know a lot of the technical side of this process until after the games launch.
-What other connectivity surprises are in store? TPCI said there would be special minigames that encourage sending multiple Pokémon of the same species to Let's Go, and John Hanke of Niantic even said there are more features between the games that will be saved for later.
-How does petting work in Let's Go? Can you only pet Pikachu or Eevee? And does this feature function similarly to Pokémon Amie in X/Y or Pokémon Refresh in Sun/Moon? We can see in the brief shot in the trailer where Pikachu is being pet that there's a Razz Berry symbol in the bottom right--which is also used in Pokémon Go. Maybe you feed your Pokémon berries instead of Poffin/Poké beans?
-Do the clothes you can dress Pikachu and Eevee in improve their stats? It's been confirmed that your starter Pikachu or Eevee don't evolve. In previous mainline games, Pikachu has an item it can hold called a Light Ball that increases its Attack and Special Attack, but Eevee lacks a similar item. If the clothes increase the stats of these Pokémon, they could still be as strong as evolved Pokémon so you're not tempted to dump them in the PC late in the game when you're battling against stronger Pokémon.
-Will Mega Evolution and Z-Moves return? Again, when asked about this, Masuda said more information will be revealed later. All 3 Kanto starters have Megas, and Pikachu and Eevee have their own Z-Moves in the mainline games, so it's feasible.
-Will Trainer customization return, like in X/Y, Sun/Moon/US/UM? It's fun to run around the Pokémon world as a character that looks closer to how you look in real life as opposed to a set character model.
-Can you send Pokémon obtained in Let's Go (and Pokémon Go) to Pokémon Bank in the future, so that these Pokémon can be sent into the new core games out next year? Masuda said they didn't have any further information on this yet, so it's definitely not out of the question!
WHEW. That was a LOT of thoughts on Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!. Despite some concerns and questions I still have about these games, I'm absolutely excited for them--and I'll be playing them next week at E3!
For those of you who stuck around through this very long read, thank you--and more to come from me here on Super Happy Nerd Time!