When I was a senior in high school, some of my friends got super into Pokemon Red & Blue. This was the late 90's, and by this point I felt like this new Game Boy game was for kids. Hey man, I was driving now and had other things on my mind like girls and parties and jamming with my friends. I had no time for cutesie little monster collecting.
Then when I got to college I dated this girl who was super into the Pokemon cartoon show, and kept wanting to go to Burger King or McDonald's (I forget which) to get Pokemon toys from the kids meals. So then in my mind Pokemon was for kids and girls. Got it.
But around 2009 or so I was really deep into Game Boy collecting, and those Pokemon games were so popular that I decided I'd give Yellow a go. It seemed like a good jumping on point as it was a refinement of the first game, and gave you Pikachu (undoubtedly the most well-known character) as a starter. I figured it would be the ultimate Pokemon intro. And I was pretty much right. I remember I opted to play the game via the Gamecube's Game Boy Player, so as to get a sort of console experience out of it. As it happens, I even had a strategy guide to ease me in, and y'know what? I had a lot of fun with the game.
But for some reason I felt almost embarrassed to be playing (and enjoying) a Pokemon game back then. I was 28 years old. I should not have been playing this stupid kids game! Right?
And so I pushed my Pokemon interest way down deep until last year when I decided that who cares and I grabbed a copy of Alpha Sapphire. And guess what? I loved that game. I spent most of December going through Sapphire at a leisurely pace. And leisurely is the perfect word. Look, it's no secret that the Pokemon games aren't the most challenging RPG's. But for me, these are super chill, super zen sort of games. They are straight up relaxing.
So now the secret is out. I am a proud 38 year old Pokemon fan. Whatevs.
Anyway, I had intended to pick up Let's Go Pikachu at launch. If you're not aware, this is a full-on remake of Yellow, which really made me excited. I mean, this is that Game Boy renaissance I'm talking about right now. A 2019 console with a complete overhaul of a 90's Game Boy game? Awesome. However, once the changes started leaking like removal of random encounters, or catching inspired by the Pokemon Go mobile game, or motion controls, I was out. I canceled my pre-order. Though, I'll be honest, I was lucky enough to be at the Nintendo Store in NYC just after launch, and saw the game demoed and it certainly did look appealing.
The reviews of Let's Go have been solid. And my wife and I had planned to spend Labor Day just relaxing in the backyard. She wanted to pick up a book to read at Target, so I tagged along and had the store do a price match, which ultimately let me grab Let's Go Pikachu for $30 out of pocket. I figured a relaxing day off would be the perfect time for such a game.
It turns out that all those details I thought would be a detriment to this remake totally work in its favor. I absolutely adore this game. I don't know, you guys. I might actually now prefer it over Yellow. Seriously.
First of all it looks gorgeous on the Switch. Everything looks fantastic. I love the way all the Pokemon have been rendered in this version. And I also love that when you bring them to be healed up, it shows original GBC sprites for each one. This is such a charming throwback.
The removal of random encounters is actually fine. It has given me the ability to pace the game however I choose. Sometimes I want to hang out in one area and grind. Sometimes it makes sense to keep going after one monster over and over to build up a combo in an attempt to get rarer Pokes to show up. Sometimes I want to coast through a section without catching at all. And I can do all of this as I please.
As for the mobile-style catching... Well, it turns out that it actually gives the game a bit of variety really. I thought I'd hate this. But it works. Gym battles and encounters against other trainers still use the old turn-based gameplay, but then catching Pokemon is mixed up with this new kind of aiming-and-throwing-Pokeballs formula. It actually makes the two sections feel like separate things. I oddly like it.
As for motion controls, I mean, they're there. Yeah. I don't love it, but it's not that bad. Especially in handheld mode. And really it's only for the catching sections referenced above, so it's not crazy intrusive. Would I prefer if there was a straight up option to just play with a Pro Controller? Of course. But frankly, in the seven hours I've been playing it was never once in docked console mode. So I guess not that a huge deal. Would just be a nice optional feature in my mind.
So yeah, here we are. I love this game. I've been working on trying to find a perfect party of truly classic and iconic first generation Pokemon. Pikachu remains my captain of course, because this is truly me revisiting Yellow. I also got Charmander and Baulbasaur. And last night I caught a Jigglypuff which made me way happier than I want to admit. But like I said. Yup. I'm 38 and I'm a proud Pokemon fan.