While we did already know that the Let’s Go games were targeted at a much more casual audience than the typical series fans, Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu still felt way different than what I was initially expecting. During my hands-on preview at E3, I got the chance to play through a small section of the game with the brand new Pokeball Plus device, and it was certainly interesting.
The demo had me walking through a small part of Viridian Forest, where I could encounter wild Pokemon and battle trainers who were standing around. With the Pokeball Plus connected, I could use the small nub in the center of the Pokeball to move my character around, press it in for the A button function, and press the top of the Pokeball for the B button function. A Nintendo PR let me know that the whole game was playable with the Pokeball Plus, and that the final product would allow you to access the other button functions and manage your inventory.
As we saw in the game’s debut trailer, wild Pokemon can’t be battled with. Instead, they can only be interacted with, Pokemon GO style. This means that you can only feed them berries and try to capture them. Using the Pokeball Plus, you’ll have to perform a throwing motion with it and toss the ball at the Pokemon in question. Similar to Pokemon GO, there will be a colored circle inside the larger white circle, and you can execute Good or Excellent throws depending on how accurate you are. Since you can’t actually battle wild Pokemon, your team will gain experience points just through capturing them. And yes, the EXP Share function is back in Let’s Go Pikachu, though you can turn it off whenever you want.
Trainer battles are pretty standard fare in Let’s Go Pikachu. You’ll select the Fight option and choose your moves from there, or you can switch out your active Pokemon if you wish. One big noticeable upgrade in the demo was the sheer detail and texture that you could see on the Pokemon. Pikachu’s back, for instance, had very light fur texture on it, making the electric mouse look better than ever.
Interestingly, you can now also obtain regular Pokeballs from defeating trainers, though the Nintendo rep also assured us that they could still be bought from shops all over the Kanto region. The Pokeball limit has also been increased to 999. From what I saw, your Pokemon gain experience pretty damn quickly as well. If you want to make the game even easier, two players could go through the game in local co-op, and the second player would be able to share in your own pool of Pokemon. And when you battle a trainer in two-player mode, the Nintendo rep told me that you could literally have a 2v1 fight and gank the trainer. Sounds super unfair, but hey, if players are having a tough time with a Gym leader or something, this could come in pretty handy.
Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu was not at all what I had initially expected, and while I suspect hardcore fans of the series will be disappointed with how accessible it is, it’s clear that that isn’t the target audience Nintendo is aiming for. This game is made specifically for GO players who have been enticed by the mobile game, and might be interested in getting into the world of Pokemon proper. As for the rest of us, there’s always the new core RPG coming up next year.