One of the most interesting things about entertainment in 2018 is the evolution of the reboot. So many movies, TV shows and other forms of entertainment have been revived almost exclusively for nostalgia’s sake. Every television show that gained even a hint of a cult following in the 90s feels like it’s coming back to network television. But as Halloween (2018) showed, not every one of these properties have to directly follow the original, and some of them can even be good.
In a very strange sense, Let’s Go Pikachu is the Halloween version a video game reboot in 2018. The Nintendo Switch title dropped alongside Let’s Go Eevee in mid-November and brings the iconic Game Freak RPG onto Nintendo’s hybrid console. While it’s not an altogether new journey, it does have some interesting quirks that make it something unique.
But first, let’s make this clear: If you’ve played Pokemon Red or Blue, you’ve played this game before. The first 151 Pokemon are there. You walk through Saffron City and need the Sliph Scope to see ghosts in Pokemon Tower. The same general arc of the RPG you fell in love with alongside Dominik Hasek and the 1999 Buffalo Sabres is back. OK, so maybe that last part was just me.
Still, it’s not a port. This is Pokemon Red if it were made in 2018, which includes modern graphics and animation and a much different feel than when the game first arrived stateside in 1998. Nintendo has done this before with FireRed and LeafGreen — which were essentially remakes of Red and Blue with some updates and minor tweaks. But the mood is different and, quite frankly, the game is more fun to play on the Nintendo Switch.
There are some callbacks to the original Red and Blue — a Youngster trainer still talks about how much he likes wearing shorts, the Lass trainers all have cute Pokemon, and yes, you have a rival you can name after your best frenemy. But your rival is, gasp, nice to you. You work together to take down Team Rocket, they’ll give you potions and, oh, while you’re here let’s battle to see how you’ve been treating your Pokemon friends. My Eevee evolved into a Jolteon. That’s cool, right?
“What happened to Blue?” you might wonder, but then he actually shows up, an adult talking like the jerk you remember from back in the day and you realize that this is a story taking place a few decades after you first saved your Master Ball to catch MewTwo. Sometimes things are the same, sometimes Team Rocket double teams you and you get to use two Pokemon at once. Sometimes you have to pet your Pikachu a few times and shake the Switch controller so he provides a boost to your other party members in a key battle. Life is weird in 2018, but we’re all trying our best.
It’s far from perfect. The fixed camera means wandering behind things you can’t pivot your view around and buildings that don’t become semi transparent. The catching system — which except in rare circumstances eschews weakening wild Pokemon through battles for the Pokemon Go-style of using berries and tossing a ball at a glowing circle — simply isn’t as satisfying from an RPG standpoint. Using a single Switch remote, you can actually throw the ball and follow the Pokemon on the screen, which is a fun use of the technology and a sacrifice of strategy in a number of ways. Clicking down on the joystick to press A can lead to accidental move selections when you somehow press down and click all at once.