You’ve probably already heard about the many things that Pokémon: Let’s Go! changes about its gameplay formula considering its simplified presentation of traditional Pokémon games, but due to the very nature of its lightning-fast catch-’em-all gameplay its overall difficulty leaves a lot to be desired.
Pokémon Let’s Go! sets out to differentiate itself from the core series of games in one very fundamental way, and in doing this it gets a lot of things right! As a “consolised” version of Pokémon GO!’s simplified capture mechanics, the concept works incredibly well. Gone are the wild battles, sure, but in their place is a pretty compelling mini-game in which you need to try to throw your Pokéball within the shrinking circle surrounding your target Pokémon; the smaller the circle, the higher the rewards and catch rate.
And it’s not only the act of catching a Pokémon. So too has finding these creatures in the first place changed, as it used to be that your encounters with wild Pokémon would be entirely random dependent on your location within the world. As a rule of thumb, Pokémon usually spawn in their type-appropriate environment - Grass Pokémon in tall grass, ground and rock type Pokémon within caves - But you wouldn’t be able to see these encounters coming. Every step onto a certain tile that had a chance to spawn a Pokémon encounter was “rolling a dice” in the background, calculating whether an encounter happened or not.
But with Pokémon: Let’s Go! the random nature of encounters is gone completely. Pokémon GO! would allow you to see any Pokémon within the overworld and from there you could make an active decision on whether or not you wished to engage with them. Pokémon: Let’s Go! Changes this a little bit, and whilst you can definitely encounter wild Pokémon by accidentally stumbling upon them, being able to see Pokémon within the overworld a la Pokémon GO! means that very rarely are you ever likely to get caught out, provided you pay close attention to anything that might suddenly appear in your path.
Translating this mechanic from Pokémon GO! has undeniably changed the nature of the game entirely, and certainly trivialises the concept of searching high-and-low for your perfect little monster, and instead transforms wild encounters into entirely optional side-tasks that you can hop into at will. Gone are the days of walking around a cave for hours trying to find a particularly rare Pokémon, because the chances are that you’ll catch a Chansey out of the corner of your periphery just wandering around Mt. Moon as if they weren’t a complete pain in the butt to find in earlier games. In my experience you might even see two.
Not only this, but any encounters that you don’t want to commit to are easily escapable. Back in the day it used to be that your lead Pokémon’s Speed stat would determine if you were able to turn heel and run from an encounter, but as you aren’t battling these wild creatures you can simply escape without issue. I have yet to fail to escape an encounter (in order to keep my Combo Bonus from being ruined) in 10 hours of playing with various high and low level Pokémon at the head of my Pokémon party.
And being based entirely around catching Pokémon, these games start you off with an ample supply of Pokéballs from the onset - 50 compared to the 10 you might start with at the beginning of older Pokémon games. By the time you’ve reached Pewter City you will most likely have a full party of 6 moderately strong beasts, as well as multiple doubles of these Pokémon sitting within your Pokémon Box. Meanwhile, though trainer battles do return from Pokémon Yellow, every one of these bright-eyed Pokémon Trainer trainer novices will be stomped by your A-team of super-levelled roid-monsters through all of the experience you’ll be gaining through catching Pokémon alone.
There are more things too - Your Pokémon Box is accessible at all times. It used to be that you would clutch your last dwindling potion as your Geodude struggled to beat a wild Oddish just as you left a cave, mere moments from being able to heal at the next Pokémon Center. In Pokémon: Let’s Go! you can simply swap out your struggling Pokémon for a set of fresh new faces, completely forgoing any need to worry about losing a load of progress and HALF of your hard-earned cash.
And for those of us with the Poké Ball Plus, you can transfer any Pokémon you wish into it as you go for a stroll. Its connection to Pokémon GO! Allows the carried Pokémon to gain experience through Pokéstops and walking with it. Transferring this Pokémon back into Pokémon: Let’s Go! after only half a day will typically net it 10,000’s of experience points. At a point in the game where I’m battling level 10 trainers, I have a hilariously overpowered Lv. 33 Eevee. It’s an absolute monster.
All of this isn’t to say that any of these changes make the game bad per se. Pokémon Let’s Go! Has brought back the charm and fun of collecting Pokémon. Half of the fun is in seeing these Pokémon as they wander around, and wondering which one I’ll try to catch next, and being able to see a rare Pokémon in the distance is an incredible rush of giddy joy. It’s some of the most potent excitement I’ve experienced in a Pokémon game in a little while now, and even though I would recommend the game to Pokémon fans the world over, I just wish it took me a little more seriously as a veteran Pokémon player, this early on.