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Lifewire / Kelsey Simon
Casual and fun gameplay
Cute, clean graphics
Appropriate for all ages
Let’s Go, Pikachu! is a casual role-playing game with fun and addictive gameplay that old fans of Pokémon will enjoy, and new fans will fall in love with.
Let’s Go, Pikachu! is the latest title in the well-known series of Pokémon games created by Nintendo and the first Pokémon title for the Nintendo Switch. It combines the Pokémon-catching action of the mobile game Pokémon Go, with the more traditional exploration and gym battles of the core series. The gameplay is casual and sometimes feels overly simple, but it is also relaxing and addictive. While playing Let’s Go, Pikachu! we took a close look at its plot, gameplay, graphics, and kid-friendliness.
You’ll insert the tiny Let’s Go, Pikachu! cartridge into your Switch, and you’ll be prompted to download a small patch, which shouldn’t take long. Once started, you’ll be asked to sync your Pokémon GO game information (Pokémon GO is the mobile game Nintendo released in 2016). This is done through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and the devices do need to be in close proximity. However, even if you sync, you won’t be able to transfer Pokémon from your Pokémon GO account to our Let’s Go game until you’ve reached Go Park in Fuchsia City which is a fair bit into the game).
You’re first prompted to create a character. It limits your choices to either a boy or girl, with only slight differences in skin and hair color. Once your character is created, you’ll type in a name, and then be asked if you’d like to give your Pikachu a nickname. You’ll also be asked to name your nemesis, a character you’ll run into and battle multiple times throughout the game.
Everything about this game is age appropriate. It has feel-good moments, a positive attitude, and while fighting occurs, no one actually gets hurt. The bad guys aren’t even that bad.
Once started, the story unfolds as you expect. You speak to Professor Oak, who encourages you to catch Pokémon. You’ll have a magical connection with your Pikachu, and then you’ll be sent off to start exploring and training to become a Pokémon Master. The game is similar in a lot of ways to others in the Pokémon series. You go from city to city searching for new Pokémon. Each city has a Poké Center where you can heal your Pokémon, a Poké Shop where you can buy more Pokéballs or Potions, and a gym with a leader you need to battle.
At the first city, Pewter City, you’ll fight Brock. Then you’ll move on Cerulean City to fight Misty. The pattern (if you aren’t familiar with Pokémon) is pretty standard throughout the rest of the game. As you go along, you’ll come across the infamous Team Rocket―and surprise, they’re up to no good. Soon you’ll find their lair and navigate through some simple puzzles while fighting their underlings. The storyline isn’t too different from the other Pokémon games, with a simple approach to the plot so you can focus more on the fun and casual gameplay.
Check out our guide to transferring Pokemon to Nintendo Switch.
As you might expect, the gameplay isn’t that different from previous Pokémon games. The fundamentals are simple: explore the maps, approach Pokémon you want to catch, battle trainers using a turn-based system, and beat gym leaders. These things will feel similar to older Pokémon games, but Let’s Go did make a few changes. In previous Pokémon games, you would explore and wild Pokémon would pop out of the grass in front of you, forcing you to battle. This is no longer a mechanic in Let’s Go, Pikachu! Instead of battling wild Pokémon, in Let’s Go you’ll be catching them instead. This new gameplay mechanic comes from Pokémon Go, and involves using the Switch’s motion controls and screen tilting to track a Pokémon’s movements. You’ll throw a Pokéball at whatever Pokémon it is you’re trying to catch, and if you time things correctly, you’ll catch it.
A new gameplay mechanic comes from Pokémon Go, and involves using the Switch’s motion controls and screen tilting to track a Pokémon’s movements.
The second big change that Nintendo made in Let’s Go is how your party of Pokémon level up. In older Pokémon games, only the Pokémon that would battle would gain experience points (unless you used an item called Exp. Share). With Let’s Go, all Pokémon you have in your party (you can have six total) will gain experience from your battles even if they don‘t fight. This helps a lot with the balance issues older games had, avoiding situations where one Pokémon would gain all the levels while others would struggle to level up.
The gameplay might be too casual for some gamers, but we thought simplicity was part of the fun and beauty of Let’s Go, Pikachu! You’ll spend hours just chasing after different Pokémon, trying to, “Catch them all.” The game also invites you to talk to the people you meet as you travel. You’ll find a man in a clothing shop giving you a Pikachu outfit. Similarily, in the Poké Centers, you can usually find at least one person willing to trade their special Pokémon for one of yours.
Overall, the difficulty in the game is minimal. For the first third of the game, most of the battles can be won by simply using Pikachu (or Eevee, if you purchased the Let’s Go, Eevee! version of the game). However, the game does gradually get harder the longer you play. In the later stages, it takes a little more strategy during fights as rival trainers will have multiple powerful Pokémon.
Take a peek at our guide to the best offline multiplayer games.
The graphics do a good job of calling back to the old style Pokémon games while porting them into a smooth 3D world. Each level is designed with square tiles, which connects nicely to the old pixel style of the original Pokémon games. The colors are bright and rich, giving things a child-like feel. The models of the Pokémon themselves are rendered the same as they are in Pokémon Go, with a chubby roundness to their forms. They hold the same cute charm as the originals, and it’s hard not to find at least one Pokémon to love.
The game also adds cute features like being able to dress your Pikachu up in an outfit that matches your character. You can deck Pikachu out in a classy-looking hat and suit shirt, to a Team Rocket uniform. You can visit the department store in Celadon City to purchase accessories like sunglasses, bow-ties, and flowers for your Pikachu’s hair. If you’ve earned enough, you can even invest in a costly crown to give your Pikachu the look of royalty.
Pokémon games have been appealing to a wide age range for years. Those of us in our twenties and thirties can recall playing Pokémon in our teens. The nostalgia is one of the amazing things about Let’s Go. It’s the next stage in the Pokémon series, growing the brand and giving it new elements that old fans can appreciate, and new players can love.
The casual nature of the game will be very appealing to kids. There’s just enough challenge from beating other trainers without diminishing the enjoyment of collecting cute creatures. Everything about this game is age appropriate. It has feel-good moments, a positive attitude, and while fighting occurs, no one actually gets hurt. The bad guys aren’t even that bad. Let’s Go, Pikachu! is a game designed for all ages, new players or old.
The one catch to Let’s Go, Pikachu! is probably the price. Unfortunately, as with most major Switch releases, the game is still at MSRP, costing $60. You might be able to find it on sale for closer to $45, but that can still be a lot to pay for a new game. For a child, this might be a great gift to give for a birthday or holiday, as they can easily find fifty hours or more of gameplay in Let’s Go. For an adult though, it might be worth waiting for the title to go on sale, or trying to buy it used. We only suggest this because the game is casual enough that it might not hold an adult’s interest as long as a child’s, making the gameplay-to-dollar ratio not as worthwhile. With that said, Lets Go was fun enough that we plan on returning to it again, just to see how many Pokémon we can catch.
Obviously, if you’ve never played Pokémon before, and loved Let’s Go, Pikachu! you should check out the other Pokémon games on the New Nintendo 3DS and older handhelds. If you enjoyed the capturing action of Let’s Go, try downloading Pokémon Go. In late 2019, Nintendo is also going to release Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield for the Switch. It looks like Sword and Shield won’t be as casual as Let’s Go, providing more strategic opportunities and more intense fights, giving another option for gamers looking for something more competitive than what Let’s Go has to offer.
Casual, fun, and worth it.
Let’s Go, Pikachu! is a brilliantly designed game that speaks to the idea that sometimes simple is better. It’s appropriate for all, from a six-year-old who loves to collect creatures, to a forty-year-old who just wants to destress playing a fun game. We would recommend Let’s Go, Pikachu! to any gamers seeking lighthearted and casual gameplay.