My childhood, like many others born in the 90s, was fully immersed in the Pokemon craze.
To this day, I have vivid memories of being gifted Pokemon Red for my Game Boy and losing my mind. It was my obsession. I played it at school during recess, and probably in class. I played it in late night car rides, angling my classic Game Boy towards the streetlights so I could better see this pixelated world I felt so much a part of. I remember waking up way too early to watch Ash and Pikachu move from town to town and meet new Pokemon on cable television. I had the games, posters, trading cards (real and fake), toys, backpack, movies, and just about anything branded with the “Pokemon” logo. But, like many things, as I got older my hold on that world faded.
Now, 20 years later (which genuinely makes me wince every time I say it), I’m stepping back into my childhood and the OG Pokemon roster with Pokemon Let’s Go: Eevee.
Let’s Go: Eevee’s visual aesthetic brings a polished and colourful look to the Kanto region, along with wonderful new musical arrangements of timeless melodies that you can hum every note to if you’re a veteran of the original Pokemon games. With fully rendered Pokemon living outside of their Pokeballs, the game can’t help but remind veteran players of what we longed for and imagined as kids. Revered Pocket Monsters, like the winged-dragon Charizard, are now fully fleshed out creatures that can carry you on their back or find items while travelling across the map.
The most impressive of these newly stylized Pokemon is your titular partner Pokemon, Eevee. At least, in this version of the game.
Eevee is introduced as the adventure begins, and immediately sets itself apart from the rest of the cast. Your Eevee is fully voiced, while all other Pokemon use the original audio of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow Versions. Which, admittedly, can be a bit jarring at times. Still, I got accustomed to her voice and grew pretty fond of it. I was also able to dress her up with accessories like hats, bow ties, and a shirt that I could co-ordinate with my trainer’s outfit. Eventually, she got her own sense of fashion and wore thick hipster glasses with a bow tie while I was running around in a Team Rocket jacket.
My how times have changed!
Meanwhile, in the main menu, you have the option to play with your Eevee, and that particular feature gave me an up close look into the extra detail of her animations. You can play with Eevee by giving her some scratchies, poking her tail, ears, and cheeks, and feeding her berries. If her cute squeals of delight weren’t already a good enough motivation to bond with my partner, the game at least makes Eevee valuable by introducing an attack specific only to the creature that relies entirely on the relationship fostered with her. This attack is a never-miss, high-damage ability called Veevee Volley, and its power is, again, derived entirely on how much Eevee loves the player. Let me tell you, it worked. I never, and I mean never, took my Eevee out of my party. The thought never even crossed my mind.
The game ensures that you become emotionally attached to your partner, and that’s some rather brilliant design by The Pokemon Company and Nintendo.
The partner aside, one of the biggest changes we see in Let’s Go Eevee is the elimination of random battles. This system has been replaced with Pokemon GO’s catching mechanic, where the player actually sees the wild Pokemon in the surrounding area, walks up to it, enters an event, and throws Pokeballs to catch the monsters as they move back and forth. Catching a Pokemon adds it to your bag, and grants experience that’s shared among all Pokemon in your party to compensate for the reduced amount of battles. You can gain bonus experience by catching Pokemon consecutively with a Catch Chain, catching Pokemon in different sizes (Tiny and Huge), or catching a Pokemon you haven’t previously caught before.
While the initial shock of not having random battles is a little unsettling, in time it proves to be a much needed change in what was ultimately a frustrating staple of the Pokemon franchise.
As an example, the infamous Zubat of Mt. Moon no longer feel like a nuisance that the player has to deal with while making their way through the dark cave. Instead, they now act as an opportunity for players to catch and gain experience by choice. This mechanic allows the player focus on the winding paths or solving puzzles rather than having the gameplay being constantly interrupted by random encounters.
While the game is pretty easy and quick to get through, theres a new end game feature called “Master Trainers” that are sure to take up your time if you’re looking for some hardcore training. Master Trainers are introduced after defeating the Elite Four, and they can be found across the entire map. Sometimes they are kind of even hiding, which admittedly seems cowardly at first – but I digress. Each Master Trainer has a Pokemon they deem “top dog” of that species, and challenge you and your version of that same Pokemon to a one-on-one battle, with no items, to see who’s trained the best Pokemon. These aren’t all end game Pokemon, as you’d think, but all of the first generation Pocket Monsters (as well as both Meltan and Melmetal) feature specific trainers.
We’re talking high-level Metapod fights to determine who’s the Harden and String Shot champion-level cocoon of the world.
Pokemon Let’s Go: Eevee, while a little disorienting at first, is a nostalgic experience that integrates new features that improve on some of the structural shortcomings of the original. The Pokemon look great, the music is wonderful, and any drastic changes made eventually justify themselves as great a next step for the franchise. With new additions like couch co-op and new end game material, theres something to appease newcomers and veteran trainers looking for a challenge.
Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu are currently available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo of Canada provide Okay, Cool with a copy of Let’s Go Eevee for review purposes.
You can find Milen on Twitter at @milenPS if you want to chat about Pokemon, music, or anything really. He’s a pretty chill dude.