Pokemon Retrospective: Generation VII.5 – Let’s Go!

Six months after the release of Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Game Freak dropped a bombshell announcement: remakes of the first generation of Pokemon games.

Pokemon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! released simultaneously on November 16th, 2018 to great fanfare. Capitalizing on the huge success of Pokemon Go and the nostalgia that fans had for Red, Blue, and Yellow was a huge win for the company, as well as making this the first mainline-ish game to be released for the Nintendo Switch.

I say “mainline-ish” because there is still great debate as to its placement in the mainline Pokemon franchise. Some consider these games to be nothing more than a spin-off due to a distinct lack of both competitive and online features present in other games. Others tend to take a dim view of the game’s slow combat and touch-based catching mechanics. Still many others find it to be a refreshing and gorgeous take on the nostalgia of our youth. Opinions are still divided on these entries.

It is clear as to why Game Freak wanted to put so much focus on the Go integration with the Let’s Go titles.

Nevertheless, they exist, and must be talked about as a necessary stepping stone on our road to Generation VIII. Much like how the interim remakes of previous games took place between releases of new, mainline entries, the Let’s Go games fill that void between the end of the seventh generation and the beginning of the eighth. How time and age will treat these games has yet to be seen.

Much like how I approached the release of basically every Pokemon game before, I was very excited for the release of these games; yet, my excitement was tempered somewhat by the seeming lack of what have now become essential features of Pokemon games. The lack of a robust online system was perplexing to me, especially with the absence of Wonder Trade and the Battle Spot. Not being able to connect to random players online had been a feature of the past several games; yet, the simplicity of these titles seems to want to harken back to a pre-online ecosystem.

And yet, connectivity with Pokemon Go was pushed as a huge feature. Packed in with the special bundles of each game was the PokeBall Plus. It was basically a Switch Joy-Con crossed with the Pokemon Go Plus and allowed you to interact with the mobile game and Switch games. It was fun to use as a one-handed controller for the Let’s Go games and made it easier to spin PokeStops while using it with Pokemon Go, so the flexibility and features were definitely worth the price if you regularly played both games. You were also able to transfer Pokemon from Pokemon Go into the Let’s Go games, which would help to lead you to eventually unlock the new Pokemon, Meltan.

It is clear as to why Game Freak wanted to put so much focus on the Go integration with the Let’s Go titles. Pokemon Go has been making money hand-over-fist since the day of its release, and it seems to be one of those titles that just keeps growing in popularity despite all odds. In many ways, it is reminiscent of the Blue Ocean strategy Nintendo employed during the Wii days, using different types of game software to lure non-gamers over to buying a Wii and DS with the hopes that they will (eventually) delve into more traditional gaming titles.

For me, though, I have to say that I burned out on the Let’s Go games very quickly. At the time of this writing, I haven’t even fully finished the Eevee version mainly due to how slow the game seems to be moving. Ever since the games transitioned over to using 3D models instead of sprites, I have found myself to be less patient with how slowly the battles and story seem to go; thus, it is difficult for me to work up the required concentration to even finish the main story portion of the game.

Is that the end, though? Have I given up on Pokemon?

This is particularly interesting to analyze from my perspective because I have such an intense love for that first generation of games, especially Yellow version because that was the first copy I played that was distinctly mine and mine alone (to see for yourself, check out the article on Generation 1). Remaking a scenario and storyline that I know backwards and forwards would seem like it would be a huge, smashing success for me; like I feel like I SHOULD be addicted to it and singing its praises. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case this time around, and it feels very saddening to have to admit that. Even the tenor and formatting of this article has to feel different than the others because I’m communicating that sense of loss and detachment I feel from the franchise at this time.

Is that the end, though? Have I given up on Pokemon? Of course not! I am still very excited about the new generation coming out very soon. I know that many people had criticisms of these games and I am sure that Game Freak will be addressing many of them, like they have done for many years now. I guess I am mainly feeling melancholic about the franchise because it is one that I truly can say I grew up with, through the bad and the good alike. I have seen all of the positives and negatives surrounding it and can truly say that I can understand all sides of the different arguments that take place within the fandom.

Where do we go from here? Sword and Shield are very close to release. Many leaks have taken place, which tends to be the weird tradition surrounding any Pokemon game these days. Join me next time as I take one final look at the franchise on the eve of the release of the eighth generation.

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