Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! is a Nintendo Switch remake of the Game Boy Color Pokémon Yellow RPG game. I’ve also already reviewed the original game so this review assumes you’ve checked out the previous reviews or are already familiar with the source material. I’m also going to skip a lot of the basics for the sake of time. Don’t worry, most of the game will be self-explanatory or easy to figure out once you start playing anyway.
So, since the story and general gameplay are basically the same, I think it’s only reasonable to dive into talking about the changes. For starters, in this version of the newly remade duology you start off by heading over to Professor Oak’s lab to get your very own Pokémon. He’s absent, so you head North to find him researching some Pidgey. All of the sudden a wild Eevee jumps you and you learn the mechanics to catching a Pokémon. Simply ready your joycon by pointing it straight at the screen, hit A to ready the Pokéball, and then pull back and swing to throw the ball at the target. And just like that you’ve got yourself a very special Eevee. What’s so special about this Eevee?
Well, along the way there are many small exchanges between Eevee and yourself to liven up the story. Eevee will also sit on your head as you travel and wag its tail more and more rapidly the closer you get to invisible items hiding on your path to collect. You can pet your Eevee, feed it berries, and dress it up in clothing you acquire along the way. Your Eevee even learns secret techniques that replace the HMs of the original games. Eevee will even follow you around and be able to do all of these things without even being part of your party! Oh, and every now and then Eevee can pull off a super move in battle as the active Pokémon or power up other active Pokémon.
There’s a bit more to the way you catch Pokémon though. While that is the general method, the mechanics are slightly more involved. One of the things to keep in mind is that the angle of your swing determines the angle of the throw and the speed determines the distance. Some Pokémon will stay in place while others will move around more. If you throw a certain kind of berry at them first you can slow down their movements to help. You’ll also notice a white ring with a shrinking circle moving inwards on the target. If you hit within the circle you’ll have a better chance to catch the Pokémon and you’ll get both a higher chance and a higher bonus for doing so when the circle is smaller. The color of the circle determines how difficult it will be to catch. A yellow circle is easy, orange is medium, and the red circle means it will be difficult to capture. Using certain berries or higher quality balls will decrease the difficulty of capturing Pokémon. You’ll also get bonus rewards for chaining together captures of the same Pokémon consecutively, good throws, and catching in the first throw. Caught Pokémon are stored in your Pokémon box which you carry with you instead of it being tied to Pokémon Centers like in previous installments. This means you can alter your party on the fly. Releasing Pokémon has been replaced by sending them to Professor Oak for research. Both catching them and sending them away will reward you with candies that can be used to increase the stats of your Pokémon, but the amount needed depends on their current level and the quality of the candy.
Another part of catching Pokémon is that a few notable exceptions actually require you to battle them first before getting to the catching phase, and there’s a time limit for defeating them in the first place. Also keep in mind that Pokémon can flee from battle if you take too long to capture them but cannot keep you from running away. Instead of random encounters, Pokémon will still randomly pop up in areas where you’d normally find them in the original games but now they roam the world and must be touched to initiate the encounter. Because of this, in order to grind experience points from wild Pokémon you must capture them. Both this and trainer battles will give everyone in your party XP and on top of that you’ll get some balls for defeating trainers as well. You’ll need certain amounts of Pokémon to obtain some items or make progress in certain points of the game as well.
Some of the gyms have had slight redesigns, such as Erika’s gym in Celdaon City now being more of a hedge maze by design. Each gym also has some sort of qualification before entering, such as having a certain type of Pokémon, having a certain level of Pokémon, or just having enough Pokémon caught in total. There have also been some changes to the story in that your rival from the original game is a separate, canonical character Blue, and your rival in this game is a totally different character. It seems almost like some events from the originals have already taken place but others have not and instead are happening for the first time here. There has been an alteration to the Safari Zone in that it’s now just an open place in Fuchsia City. The building it used to inhabit is not the Go Park where you can connect with your Pokémon Go game… but I don’t have a file on there anymore so I was unable to use this functionality. To accommodate this change the Safari Zone Pokémon have been scattered around as possible encounters in other areas. Even all the original starter Pokémon can be found in the wild now, along with some new additions to locations that didn’t show up there previously. The Rocket Game Corner has also been altered so that you can no longer play the game machines there.
Speaking of changes, I should also mention the two very obvious changes. One is that the sound has gotten nearly a complete overhaul with changes to sound effects and new arrangements of the original themes. The other is the visual designs. Almost everything has been brought into crisp, full 3D visuals with many new animations and battle effects. They’ve even included a few Alolan forms of Pokémon (as they appear in Pokémon Sun & Moon) if you trade them in-game with certain NPCs. After you’ve gone through a good chunk of the game you’ll obtain mega stones that allow you to mega evolve your Pokémon. Only a handful of Pokémon can do this, but basically it boosts their stats and may even change their type temporarily during battle. Afterwards they will revert to their normal state. Along with Eevee being on your head, you can choose any other Pokémon in your party to travel with you outside of its ball. Some Pokémon even allow you to ride them in this way, giving you extra mobility or even the luxury of flight. Having Pokémon follow you, giving them items, and not letting them fall in battle make them friendlier towards you, which in turn will allow them to occasionally do things like land critical hits, shrug off status effects, or even survive otherwise fatal blows. More modern Pokémon series changes also apply here in the form of TMs being infinitely reusable, status effects not being an issue outside of battles, and the inclusion of types like dark, fairy, and steel type. Plus, Eevee isn’t the only one that gets new outfits. You can find more clothes to customize your character a bit along the way as well.
The last of the new additions I want to mention is the post-game. Once you beat the Pokémon League the world becomes populated with master trainers. These master trainers each have mastered training one singular Pokémon. They wish to battle you and your own Pokémon of that exact species. If you win you’ll get a title of blank master, where the blank will refer to the Pokémon you each battled with. You can then change which title is active in the menu. Getting all of them will net you the title of Grand Master.
So there’s definitely a lot I enjoyed about Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! The redone visuals are very pretty and I have to admit some of the new battle animations are great. Seeing seismic toss send opponents into space before they come crashing back down to Earth is awesome and hilarious. A few of the animations just look funny too. I like the expanded movesets a lot as it gives you more useful moves earlier, makes move pools feel more unique, and also elongates the length of time that leveling up feels interesting because you still learn moves at later levels than in the original. The change in how you catch Pokémon and how you grind levels off of wild Pokémon is an interesting shift. The emphasis made me actually WANT to fill out my Pokédex as long as I had to catch them anyway. Or to try and get good catch chains for better rewards and increased odds of finding a shiny Pokémon… even though I never did. I really like seeing the Pokémon in the world so I can choose which ones to challenge and which ones to avoid. Even if you get stuck in an encounter popping up in the way or chasing you down, you can just run and never have to worry about not getting away right away which makes caves so much more enjoyable. Skirting the HMs entirely so that the moves are just moves and the techniques for progression are just all put on Eevee makes getting through the game a convenient breeze. Not to mention your singular storage box at your fingertips at all times. I even thought some of the musical themes were fun renditions. There’s a point in the story where your rival actually befriends the Cubone looking for its mother and it was really interesting to see that relationship unfold so when you battle the rival after that you know where that party member came from. It was a neat touch. Plus, Jessie is in the game and… well… still such a hottie. Unf. But, to be fair, a lot of this game works really well because I’ve played the originals so many times that it was just a new little romp down memory lane for most of it. That’s nice and all, but there are some definite downsides to this game.
While I enjoyed it being a throwback, simpler game… there are a lot of things missing that fans of newer Pokémon titles will likely be upset about. It’s only the original 151 Pokémon here. That’s fine by me for this kind of remake, but it does seem like a missed opportunity to extend it a bit to the pre-evolutions and post-evolutions introduced later in the series. And if we’re trying to keep it original, then why include things like fair, dark, or steel types at all? Similarly, why include Alolan forms? It just feels a bit inconsistent. It’s also strange that there are no passive abilities or hold items in this game, yet somehow mega-evolution made its way into it. So holding items and passive abilities are too complex, but totally changing stats and types on the fly is fine? I don’t know. It was something I just never really did because it’s not my cup of tea for mechanics anyways. The elimination of single-use TMs does bother me a bit in that there’s less strategy with using them now. Once you get a TM everyone can have that move forever rather than trying to strategically decide who should learn it. I also think the game holds your hand a bit much. In some parts it makes sense, but there are some parts where it beats you over the head with it even though you already get it at that point. I think one of the most disappointing examples is that in Bill’s lab you can read entries on his computer. They start out interestingly mentioning some phenomenon he encountered in the wild. They’re vague enough to make you want to check out what he’s talking about… but then he sells out the intrigue by following it up with mentioning a legendary bird might be there. Real subtle, guys. The post-game content is pretty weak, too. I know it’s more than the originals, but it feels so much like padding that I just couldn’t be bothered to get all the titles. I didn’t care. It’s not fun to just grind every single Pokémon in the game for one fight each. It’s a tedious completion task. Oh, and there’s no breeding which… I mean I don’t give a shit but I know plenty of people that do.
The biggest thing I found a sticking point with is the shift in catching Pokémon. I’m not even talking about how awkward it is to play with a single joycon or how you can’t play with a pro controller so your choices are that, handheld move, or the gimmicky Poké Ball Plus controller that I didn’t get. My issue is how this change in mechanics changes your relationship with the game. True, it DOES make things feel more similar to Pokémon Go and emphasizes the collection aspect the series is known for. Gotta catch ’em all, after all. But this comes at a cost to your connection with your Pokémon. Usually you would do battles with wild Pokémon to get stronger, test out your moves and strategies, and generally get a feel for where your own party was at the time. You’d also get to see what opposing Pokémon were capable of and an idea of if you wanted them as part of your party or not. It helped build a real connection through the battling. Now that’s severely hampered by only getting those opportunities during trainer battles. Worse yet, the mandatory EXP ALL means you’ll often not even use Pokémon that level up anyway on the sidelines. The streamlined convenience lessens that inherent connection through gameplay. I guess it’s different for everyone, but for me I liked doing the battles a lot. So having this shift really made me care less about most of my Pokémon as a result.
Overall, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! is a fine Pokémon game. It’s simple enough to get into with enough new things to be a worthwhile remake. It’s just that it’s a bit of a hard sell in its context. We’ve already had a remake of the original games on the Game Boy Advance which had even deeper mechanics than this. Prettier sights and sounds don’t really warrant a full price for a remake. And what it lacks may not be seen as worth it to fans of the newer games. Not to mention diehard gen one fans aren’t going to be interested in anything new, even if it’s a new version of the games they actually liked. If you can find a copy for 20 to 30 bucks, it’s worth it. It’s not amazing, but it’s nice enough. It’s not a bad way to experience gen one if you weren’t sold on the 3DS virtual console ports. Just don’t expect it to be groundbreaking or anything. It’s fine, but another example of the Pokémon franchise being creatively bankrupt and unwilling to give enough time to a project to make it truly unique. It’s much more important that these games be good enough and come out rapidly enough to still rake in assloads of cash. Enjoy it for what it is rather than what it should be and you should have a fun time. And yes, my Eevee DID wear shades. Thanks for asking.