It has been a while since I did a Pokemon Love/Hate and you may notice that there was one glaring, recent omission from my list – where were the Let’s Go games? I have had a half-finished Love/Hate list for these games in my drafts for a while and debated restricting this series to the mainline games only, but recently I decided to give it another shot. Since these game released I’ve had a lot more thoughts about Let’s Go and was surprised at just how many things I liked and disliked about them. So, without further delay, I’ve finally got this list written up for your viewing pleasure!
- Pokemon Appear in the Overworld! – At the time of release this was a controversial addition, but I have always loved it. Random encounters in Pokemon are a series legacy but they have always been annoying. Let’s Go completely shakes that up by having Pokemon appear in the overworld. This makes the world itself feel far more alive as you have Pokemon going about their business on it, plus it allows you to hunt what you want at your leisure (and if you accidentally encounter one, that’s your own fault). Even better, shiny Pokemon apper on the overworld in this game, so you could be just travelling casually when one pops out at you unexpectedly! It makes simple route traversal exciting since you never know when or if a shiny may appear and is something I wish was retained in Sword and Shield.
- Riding and Following Pokemon! – Following Pokemon has always been a requested feature in Pokemon games, despite the fact that it doesn’t really add much functionality and is more of a characterful quality of life improvement. Well, Let’s Go goes a step further because not only can you have your Pokemon follow you, but you can freaking ride on top of several of them!!! This replaces the bike feature from the original games and is an absolute joy to experience once you unlock it! Hopping on an Arcanine’s back and bounding across the Kanto region never gets old… and don’t even get me started on soaring in the skies on a Dragonite!
- Can View PC Boxes in Overworld! – This was a simple but HUGE quality of life improvement, easy to overlook. Being able to manage your party and caught Pokemon while out in the wilds is such a time-saver. No longer do you have to trudge back to a Pokemon center or sit through a lengthy Fly animation and then make your way back to where you were hunting, now you can just take care of this whenever your heart desires. Sure, it does make things a tad bit easier to be able to swap out your party on the fly, but the convenience more than makes up for this. Honestly, of all the features that made their way from Let’s Go to Sword and Shield, this is probably my favourite!
- Partner Pokemon Interactions are Adorable – Let’s Go takes the Nintendogs-style Pokemon interaction systems introduced in Gen 6 and takes them to the next level. Not only do you get to interact with your partner Pokemon in various ways but you can also dress up your partner in several cosmetic items! It’s one of those additions which doesn’t really have any effect on gameplay but, like, my Eevee’s wearing a hat and a vest, holy shit I want to hug it! The whole point of this game is to grow as attached as possible to your partner Pokemon and all these features go a long way to pulling that off.
- Single-System Co-Op Mode – Holy shit, a Pokemon game with a built-in two player mode?! The mode itself is very simple, but this was actually an amazing feature for me regardless. My fiancé doesn’t play a lot of games or care all that much for Pokemon, but this simple co-op mode allowed us to share some bonding time together catching Charmanders and hunting for a shiny one. I’d love to see this feature return in the future, especially since I now have my own kid who is getting to the age where he could appreciate joining me in a Pokemon adventure.
- Streamlining – In addition to the improved access to the PC box, Let’s Go has expected quality of life improvements over the Gen 1 games or their Gen 3 remakes. Most obvious is the removal of HMs, which are now just performed by your partner Pokemon. The most notable example of streamlining though is that the item finder has been removed and repurposed. I always found the item finder to be a pain in the ass, not worth mapping to Select over the bike, but in Let’s Go its functionality built right into your partner Pokemon – when you walk around their tail will start wagging faster as you approach a hidden item! It’s a clever and much better way to handling this function, I love it.
- Pokemon Go Integration – It was believed that the Let’s Go games were created as a way to rope new fans into the franchise who had only played Pokemon Go, and to that end several mechanics from the mobile game carry over to Let’s Go. However, the actual interaction between the two games is seriously lacking. For one thing, Let’s Go only includes the first 151 Pokemon, their Alola variants and the Meltan line, so most of the Pokemon Go Dex can’t even be used at all. Furthermore, transfers only work one-way – you can only transfer compatible Pokemon to Let’s Go and none can be sent to Pokemon Go. This has given me a handy, niche use where I can offload duplicate Pokemon Go shinies and legendaries to send to Pokemon HOME, and it has given me access to the Mystery Box to get several Meltans and Melmetals, so it’s not a complete wash. Still, the interaction between the two games could have been far more ambitious and it feels like they just did the bare minimum to integrate them.
- Missing Areas – At this point it’s pretty obvious that the Gaming Corner from Gen 1 is never coming back due to its simulated gambling, which sucks but fair enough. They’ve set the precedent and it’s more or less expected that this will be the case, even if it does make the game feel a bit more empty. But why the heck do Game Freak refuse to do a Safari Zone area anymore? The Safari Zone was one of the funnest distractions in the original games, why is it completely gutted here in favour of the Pokemon Go transfer room? Again, there’s kind of a precedent here to take the Safari Zone away so it’s not a complete shock, but it’s disappointing none the less.
- XP Gains – Let’s Go completely shifts the focus in Pokemon away from battling to catching, doing away with random battles entirely. As a result, your main source of xp comes from capturing wild Pokemon, supplemented by the occasional trainer or gym battle. In my opinion, this is a more tedious system compared to random battles though – catching a Pokemon takes longer than grinding random battles. Even then, previously oppressive areas like the Rock Tunnel were at least a good way to farm for xp til you were strong enough to get through. In Let’s Go, I just dodged around every Pokemon and didn’t get into any battles I didn’t want to, meaning that I was also missing out on xp I probably needed. In general, this also makes it difficult to measure your relative level, since you can’t use wild Pokemon as a measuring stick for your progress and instead have to commit yourself to a battle not knowing if you’re about to get stomped or not. That said…
- Partner Pokemon is OP – Oh, you thought that Pokemon X and Y were too easy? Just for fun, I wanted to see if I could solo Let’s Go with only my partner Pokemon, without grinding and by using as few aids as possible (eg, medicine). This is very much doable in Let’s Go, as my partner Eevee went down maybe once or twice (and one of those was to a lucky Horn Drill Seaking) and then my other Pokemon were easily able to clean up afterward. Your partner Pokemon is just plain overpowered in this game, which isn’t helped by the fact that they can learn several insane (and stupidly named) tutor moves for coverage. Oh and Eevee gets several more tutor moves than Pikachu does, because screw you Pikachu.
- Mew and the Pokeball Plus Are BULLSHIT – The Pokemon Company have really been preying on their fans’ compulsive desire to “catch ’em all” in scummier and scummier ways over the years and the Pokeball Plus was one of the most blatant examples. For $60 you can get a Pokeball motion controller which can only really be used in Let’s Go… wow what a crappy deal. But wait, if you don’t buy it then you can’t get Mew and will therefore never complete your Let’s Go Pokedex! Making matters worse, you have to buy the Pokeball Plus new because the Mew is on a serial code packaged inside, meaning that you can only ever get 1 Mew per Pokeball. Well fine, I’ll just transfer my Mew from Pokemon Go to Let’s Go… lol, no they don’t let you do that for completely arbitrary reasons which definitely aren’t related to making you buy a shitty $60 accessory. Oh and speaking of which…
- Forced Motion Controls – If there’s anything Nintendo loves more than gimmicky motion controls, it’s making them not optional even when the potential to do so is built right in the game itself. If you play the game in hand-held mode, you have to turn the entire system to line-up your shot and then press a button to throw the ball. This is generally what I prefer, but sometimes I want to detach the joycons and put the system down on a flat surface or dock it. Boy it sure would be nice if I could just press a button to throw, but no – when you switch to the joycons the game forces you to rely on terrible motion controls to aim you throws. You can aim right at a Pokemon and have the ball fly off in the complete opposite direction, which is bad enough since it wastes your resources, but in this game Pokemon run away at a high rate so you could even lose a shiny because of this. Like… you’ve built an alternative into the game already, why force me to deal with the gimmick you came up with to sell Pokeball Pluses? It’s bad enough for me, but I can only imagine it’s even worse for players with motor control issues. And all this just compounds another big issue with the game…
- Endless Catching Is A Boring Core Mechanic – Let’s Go does away with requiring you to battle and weaken Pokemon in order to catch them. Instead it has you just throw Pokeballs at every Pokemon you encounter, with very little that you can do to swing the odds in your favour (you can throw a berry, land an excellent throw or use a better Pokeball, that’s it). If you want one of your Pokemon to be stronger, you have to grind catching that same Pokemon over and over again to get candies. Let’s Go just demonstrates to me that battling in the mainline Pokemon games is a far more interesting core mechanic, since it makes any Pokemon you want to catch tense as you try to avoid knocking them out, but also manageable as you can stack the odds in your favour.
- Friendly Rival – I get that Let’s Go is meant to be “baby’s first Pokemon game”, but… like, so were Pokemon Red and Blue and everyone in my school had few issues getting through those games. One of the weirdest changes to me is that they take away Blue, who was famously a dickhead who you wanted to beat in every encounter, and replace him with Trace, who’s just a pleasant nobody. Like… why Game Freak? They seem obsessed with giving us friendly “rivals” for the past several years (in fact Sword and Shield are the first games to reverse this trend in ages), but they make for boring characters to interact with and battle against.
- Seriously? Another Kanto Remake? – Let’s Go mark the second full remake of the Gen 1 games. Sure, it’s been quite a while since FireRed and LeafGreen, but these games are coming out only two years after the Gen 1 games were re-released on the 3DS virtual console. Furthermore, Gen 1 is so oversaturated and over-represented by The Pokemon Company that it can’t help but make Let’s Go a bit disappointing for long-time fans.
- Competitive Scene Was Dead on Arrival – As soon as the battling mechanics for this game were revealed it was obvious that Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were going to continue to be the main platforms for competitive Pokemon until Gen 8 arrived. Why, you may ask? Well, Let’s Go strips out abilities, held items, several moves, not to mention that it features a greatly scaled-back Pokedex, has no auto-levelling system (meaning you have to get all your Pokemon to level 100 to stand a chance) and there’s no breeding for ideal natures or IVs (although Bottle Caps are still a thing at least). The worst thing though is that Let’s Go ditches the EV system that has been in place since Gen 3 and replaces it with AVs, which are effectively EVs that you can use to max out every single stat. No longer are you forced to specifically decide how you want to build your Pokemon’s stats, now you just max out all your stats because you’re literally handicapping yourself if you don’t. This also means that most Pokemon are straight-up useless because their stats don’t make them good at any one thing when everything’s maxed out. Yeah, it’s no wonder that VGC never even bothered with a Let’s Go league in 2018 and 2019.
- It’s Not For Me – Some people really enjoyed Let’s Go, and that’s totally fair. I’m not saying that they’re objectively bad games or anything, and as you can probably tell I really loved the characterful additions this game brings. However, I like battling with my Pokemon and Let’s Go does not cater to that side of the fandom at all. Endless catching makes this game so dull for me, to the point where I haven’t even gotten through the entire thing and don’t really plan to. Hell, the only reason I bought it was to try to get a shiny Melmetal and even then I had to wait for a pretty hefty price drop before I could justify it. I think that Let’s Go has its own niche within the Pokemon fandom and I actually do hope that we get Let’s Go sequels in Johto in 2021, but this spin-off just doesn’t do it for me… which is fine, I guess.