Review: 'Pokemon: Let's Go' Blends the Best of Old and New Pokemon

Pokemon is the little franchise that could, and its cute pocket monsters are ready to head out on their next adventure. This week, Nintendo will see Pokemon: Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee reach the Switch console at long last, and the arrival will be worth the wait for die-hard fans.

Not too long ago, an advance copy of Pokemon: Let's Go Eevee made its way to the ComicBook.com offices where I scoped it out. After booting up my trusty Switch, it was time to see what this new RPG title has to offer Pokemon and what it brings is an intriguing bridge between the old and new.

For those unaware, the Pokemon: Let's Go series is influenced heavily by the franchise's 2016 mobile game Pokemon Go. In fact, players are tasked with gathering Pokemon just like they would in the app rather than by battling any wild creatures they see. As it turns out, in-game battles are saved exclusively for trainer matches, and this shift adds a new angle to the Pokemon gaming aesthetic.

Saddled between games of new and old, Pokemon: Let's Go is a love letter to the franchise's first games while slipping in homages to its present. In terms of story, the game is set in a world closely resembling the one found in Pokemon Yellow. Players set forth on a journey through the Kanto region, and the usual story elements Pokemon gamers would expect to find in the game do show up. As usual, Professor Oak needs help updating his Pokedex, and Team Rocket is creating chaos faster than the speed of light. However, there are pieces of Pokemon: Let's Go that do reinvent the wheel.

When compared to Pokemon's other console games, this title's approach to capturing Pokemon is plenty unique. Just like in Pokemon Go, gamers will see wild creatures meandering about as their avatar runs through routes, and they can be caught with some well-timed Poke Ball tosses. While the motion-controlled mechanism may feel awkward at first using a Switch Joy-Con, it did grow on me, but I found the use of Nintendo's Poke Ball Plus to be far more satisfying.

Unfortunately, this accessory does not come with the game outright unless you've purchased a bundle or cashed out for it separately. The Poke Ball Plus does everything the Joy-Con does, but it does so with serious style and then some; The miniature controller is shaped exactly like a Poke Ball, and it can even be synced with Pokemon Go accounts to bolster the mobile game's functions. So, if fans really want to dive into the game, I would recommend saving up for the Poke Ball Plus accessory. It may feel a bit small at first, but the device does add something to Pokemon: Let's Go that Pokemon's other console titles lack. However, it will be up to you whether such immersion is worth the controller's steep price tag.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Pokemon: Let's Go looks as gorgeous as any Switch fan could have hoped for. All of its colors are vibrant, and in-game animations have been updated for trainer matches though they are on the simple side. Pokemon: Let's Go acts as an impressive hybrid that mixes the franchise's original combat system and its more recent motion control ventures. The game doesn't try to reinvent the Poke-wheel so to speak, and its undemanding pace will easily charm two very different groups of fans.

Pokemon: Let's Go pays homage to the franchise's first game while using the most iconic elements of Pokemon Go. Unsurprisingly, this RPG will appeal to avid fans of the mobile game given their connection, and longtime lovers will rejoice in the uncomplicated nostalgia drawn up by Pokemon: Let's Go. However, if you were wanting this Switch title to add in totally new gameplay tropes, you will be left disappointed.

With a split demographic in mind, Pokemon: Let's Go finds a safe middle ground for each party to enjoy. Both titles find clever ways to help gamers interact with their Poke-partners, but the Switch series isn't worried about shaking up the franchise's core values. If you're looking for something new, these games might not make you want to catch 'em all. However, if you're looking to take an overhauled walk down Route 1, then Pokemon: Let's Go will have you hooked from the start.

Editor's note: As of November 13th at 6 am PT, the Pokemon Go-compatible features of the Let's Go titles are not yet available. We will update this review when those features, which include transferring Pokemon between the games, are live and able to be tested.

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Rating: 4 out of 5