Friday, November 2, 2018

Final Thoughts on Pokémon Let's GO Before Launch

Still... who is actually going with Pikachu? Seriously.
Pokémon Let's GO launches in in two weeks, so I assume we know almost all there is to know about this game. Given it is basically a remake of Pokémon Yellow, or re-imagining, or whatever, there are probably very few surprises left and I don't suspect there will be any more ground breaking reveals. Since that is the case, I want to break down some of my thoughts and concerns before actually sitting down and playing the game in the next week or two. I'll start off with some positives, then some negatives, and then end with some additional things I think could be positive going forward.

The Positive


Main Series Adjacent: Despite what developers have said about this being a core game, it still stands as "main series adjacent" in my mind. Personally, I would like to see future remakes do the same thing. Now, I'm not saying the developers were wrong or that I know better than they do, I'm saying my definition of what constitutes a "core game" is different. Since certain mechanics have been removed than have been staples in the series since Gen 2 and 3, I simply can't define it as a core game as I would other releases. I think that gives the "Let's GO" line of games and edge in terms of marketing. Despite a portion of the community fervently disavowing the possibility that non-competitive pokémon fans may exist, they do, and it's okay to make games for them. If Super Mario Odyssey can exist alongside New Super Mario Bros., I don't see why Let's GO can't exist alongside other Pokémon games. They are two different ways to tackle the same franchise.

Pokémon in the Overworld: The sheer fact this wasn't enough for people to be super jazzed on these games is baffling to me. For the first time ever the Pokémon World seems like pokémon live in it. Sure, in the Game Boy days I could suspend my belief and pretend a 7 foot tall Kangaskhan could live in waist deep grass completely hidden, but we are beyond that point. If anything, players should be praising this change.

I can't be the only person who has wanted this. 
Couch Co-Op: Although I'll grant it's very basic co-op, with the 2nd player basically just controlling part of the 1st player's team and helping catch pokémon, but it's a step in the right direction. If people want an open world game they can play with their friends, this could be a step toward that. If anything, they are toying with the idea of having multiple players working together in the story part of the game and not just in battle facilities. I'm ok with this as a first step and hope that it will become more and more fleshed out in future games.

The Negative


Simplified Catches: Bare in mind, I don't dislike the motion controls. In fact, they seem based on timing which, if anything, adds just enough immersion without being too taxing. However, what I don't like is how the battling aspect was completely abandoned. The player has to fight legendaries to then go to the catch mini-game. I feel like that's how all battles should have been done. Granted, the focus of this game is more catching wild pokémon vs. battling them, but the whole "battle them until they are weak enough to catch" strategy seemed like it was a pretty core pillar to the games. I know I've had to play through enough tutorials in core games to make it seem that way. I'd also be ok if the motion controls were optional. I'd probably still use them, but I know there are people who hate motion controls period, so sure, make them optional the same way battle animations and the shift/set modes are for battle.

In an ideal world, we'd have both a system for battling wild pokémon and optional motion controls for catching pokémon which could add bonuses for utilizing it like more experience or better catch rates.
Ability/Hold Item Removal: Of all of the changes in Let's GO from the core game, I find this the most bothersome. In fact, when people first began saying they were confirmed to not be in GO (with no real evidence, mind you), I didn't believe it. However, it was then later officially confirmed. I don't buy the argument that since these aspects weren't in Yellow they should be in Let's GO. Not being in Red and Blue didn't stop them from being in FireRed and LeafGreen. As an adjacent game, I suppose it's ok, but my primary concern is how this will affect people who start with Let's GO and then transition to the 2019 games which will most likely have them.

Kanto Again?: I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again... I'm tired of Kanto. At this point I've explored it pretty thoroughly and it doesn't seem like enough has changed to make me excited to go back. Yea, it's HD now, but still. At this point, I'm going back to play it for the mechanics like motion controls and co-op, not really for the pokémon. I already have them all outside of Meltan and Melmetal. I think the biggest mistake was making it Kanto only pokémon. If anything, non-Kanto pokémon should be allowed to be sent from GO after the game has been beaten. That would be a big incentive for people to play GO if you could only get Gen 2 - 4 pokémon via migration. Basically, playing GO would be a big part of the postgame. It just seems like a missed opportunity.

I assume Genwunners are happy about this. I'm not sure though. I guess it just depends on how attached they are to the old capture system. Hypothetically, they should love the "Let's GO" games.


And "I'm not sure yet"


EV Changes: I only have one aspect I'm undecided on at the moment and that's effort values (EVs). We now know that battles don't yield EVs, and instead Let's GO uses candies. This is similar to Pokémon GO, but still different. The candies in Let's GO are used for boosting stat points the ways EVs do in other games. This mechanic isn't super original as players can already do something similar using items like Zinc or the various Wings in the main games. It really depends on how friendly this system is vs battling for EVs to determine which I'd prefer. It comes down to would I rather battle a ton of Machops for attack EVs or catch a ton of Machops for those EVs. I can't really say until I try it out. At the moment, the differences between the two systems seem minimal and the only real difference is I'm more familiar with one over the other. I know shortcuts to max EVs quicker with the old system. However, if there are shortcuts to learn for the new system then it may turn out that I may prefer the new one. The one bonus is I don't have to worry about getting the wrong EVs from battling some random trainer, meaning I can hypothetically begin correctly EVing training my team immediately. This almost seems more competitive to me, as I'd often have to wait until the post game since having to fight all the in-game trainers during the story often meant my team had really weird effort value spreads.

In Conclusion...


All in all, like I've said on my Twitter, I'm not saying these games are where I want to see the series go, per sé. However, I think there are some positive additions they bring that I want to see carried over to the 2019 games. So help me if following pokémon disappear again for another 9 - 10 years I'm going to be very upset. If they make the tweaks I suggested in the "cons" I think they could be really fun casual pokémon games that could run concurrently to what many people consider the "core" games. The core games could definitely stand to implement some of the things in Let's GO, like overworld pokémon over random encounters and optional motion controls. If anything, I feel the Pokémon series constantly tries to do the same thing year after year and are generally lacking "freshness" outside of pokémon designs. Let's GO may represent some loss due to the growing pains of trying to branch away, but it does feel like an attempt to make the games "fresh" (although, not fresh enough if you ask me... freaking Kanto...). Hopefully any future Let's GO games would learn from any mistakes of these initial games and drive the Let's GO branch of pokémon toward becoming the kind of games we wish we had in the late 90's.