Disclaimer: This post was written in response to the Let’s Go Treehouse Presentation at E3 2018. A post updating these problems with first-hand experience will come soon.
“Caterpie Can’t Hack it”
Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! were all but ignored in Nintendo’s press conference. Luckily for Pokemon fans, we saw an extensive look at hands-on Viridian Forest gameplay in the Treehouse Live. With this, Nintendo answered many questions that clouded the game’s November release. That said, it raised some more, infinitely troubling questions on Let’s Go’s gameplay. If you missed it, definitely check out the demo here.
In fairness to Nintendo, let’s first breakdown everything we learned from the demo.
What’s New, Pikachu?
While Pokemon get Exp. from trainer battles, the predominant way to train and level up comes from catching wild Pokemon. Unlike Pokemon Go, every Pokemon gives experience—not just grinding for Pokemon-specific candies. What’s more, every Pokemon currently active in your party gains the experience: a default, later-gen Exp. Share. As a final note on this subject, you effectively always carry a PC with your Pokemon box, leaving you able to switch out Pokemon on the fly for optimal training.
Returning from Pokemon Go, size does matter. Pokemon return in their large and small variants. This is noted in the overworld by a red (for large) or blue (for small) aura surrounding the Pokemon. How important this is in battles remains to be seen. But on this note of wild Pokemon in the overworld, they can “expire.” We saw a wild Pikachu running in circles for a bit, only to vanish as the trainer ran to it. It can safely be assumed wild Pokemon live on a timer to save processing, vanishing after a fixed time. So if you see that large Ninetails (or whatever you adore), run to it fast.
Catching Pokemon will get harder the farther you progress. Later routes will prove notably more difficult than the early game.
The Pokemon use their original chip cries or, at least, a slightly upgraded version. Sorry to anyone who was hoping their Blastoise would shout its name when entering a battle.
Trainers give money and Pokeballs upon defeat. Good for grinding.
Many people wondered how catching Pokemon on handheld mode would function. Yes, unfortunately you must flick the entire console. Maybe opt for a different game in a crowded subway.
We heard the Pokemon Ride system was back, taking the place of traditional HMs. But we also saw that any Pokemon large enough can be hopped on for fun, Onix being the showcase. If you want to return home to Mom, asking for your allowance on a Shiny Gyarados, congrats, live out that dream.
The gym system received an overhaul. While the layout and trainer map appeared the same as Pokemon Red and Blue, Brock’s gym hosts several audience members in the rafters. In addition, you must have Pokemon with a type advantage to enter the gym. Obviously catering to younger players, but still an odd requirement to force.
As far as I can tell, the Elite Four is in the game. When the players entered a Pokemon Center, the map on the wall featured a pixel perfect rendering of the original games. This includes the Indigo Plateau.
The Pokeball Plus is a sphere about an inch and a half in diameter. It comes with a small finger-strap, so there’s no fear of three-year-olds chucking it across the room. It also doubles as a Pokemon Go Plus badge, letting players catch any duplicate Pokemon on their mobile game. Most importantly, each comes packed with a Mew, perhaps the easiest way to date of (legally) obtaining this legendary Pokemon.
Lastly, Pokemon candy makes a return. Saying goodbye to a Pidgey yields something a little more applicable than Pokemon-specific candy. Each Pokemon drops (at least) one candy that raises any Pokemon’s stats—Speed, HP, Attack, the works. Gamefreak has done a good job in recent iterations making EV training far easier. This may be the simplest yet.
So What is Let’s Go‘s Problem?
I avoided mentioning 2-Player mode until now. As we knew prior to the demo, with a single shake of the second Joy-Con, anyone can hop in and play. They borrow half your Pokemon and catch, battle, and explore alongside you. It should be noted that catching comes with several, extra features. Flourishes, like curved throws, add bonus Exp. when leveling up Pokemon—same with “Great” catches, throwing it inside the small circle. When two players throw perfectly timed balls together, they morph into one and grant a large Exp. payout. It’s a cute little incentive to double up with friends.
Battling also gets a bit of a bump. We saw both players stand side-by-side with a Pikachu and Bulbasaur, beating up on a lone Caterpie. As you can guess, the battle was a wash—perfect for a surefire demonstration, bad for actual gameplay. While the trainer in question only had one Pokemon, with a flick of the Joy-Con, players can force a two-on-one anytime. I can’t say for certain that this is always the case. If the opposing trainer has more than one Pokemon in his party, maybe they would throw out two. For now, all we can say for certain is players will be able to force unfair advantages at any time.
I mentioned catching and its bonus system. Players get more experience for timing throws with friends. It’s a great incentive to invite a buddy over and play. We saw the two gamers count off in unison to get that perfect throw. What’s easier than counting in unison or having friends? Playing with both Joy-Cons at all times.
By flicking the two controllers at the same time, you maximize Exp. payout. In addition, you potentially get that aforementioned battle advantage every single time you play. I mentioned above that the Elite Four is present. We even saw that classic Mewtwo battle every gamer fondly remembers. My understanding is this game takes play well in the future of the originals, meaning we may get that Trainer Red battle from Gen 2. But follow me here. You effectively double the Exp. given to your entire party with a flick of your left wrist, leaving you a team of EV-trained monsters. None of these battles would be a challenge as you can double team any foe that crosses your path—again, with superfreaks.
Here I am, railing against this 2 Player exploit, but I promise you that will be exactly how I play. What incentive is there not to take advantage of every system in place? Yeah, I like to speedrun, but even casual gamers will likely notice that holding the Joy-Cons exactly how you do in every other game will take you to the finish without a single challenge.
These were my observations, excitements, and fears. I was excited from day one and I’m still excited now. We will undoubtedly see this game again before its November launch in some upcoming Direct. My fears may be alleviated or amplified. Regardless, I’ll be throwing that Pokeball Pro with the best of them.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 prequel DLC was just announced. I’m excited to play that even if it’s riddled with problems. I have a very similar breakdown of every problem in Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I do stupid things like that all the time, like rank every Breath of the Wild character (hey look, more Breath). It’s only slightly worse than my ranking of every Zelda dungeon (based only on Small Keys).
I do normal things too though, like play and discuss music. If you like music too, check out our discussion on the best songs that would have made great games better, or join our discussion of the best video game soundtracks (we also have one on the best video game merchants).