E3 2018: Hands-on – Let’s Go Pikachu and the Pokéball Plus

The next Pokémon game is not a mainline series title, but it is not without its charm. I got the feeling that this took several elements from Pokémon Go, with the hopes of teaching players the fundamentals of how to play a Pokémon game. Let’s Go Pikachu has many of the elements you expect when playing a Pokémon game: a region to explore, swathes of long grass making your way to the next town harder to reach and trainers waiting to challenge whoever randomly walk into their line of sight. But it has all been boiled down into systems that involve less grind and more Pokémon catching.

When finding a critter in the long grass you no longer have to battle the enemy to weaken it. Instead, you follow the rules of Pokémon Go, tossing a Pokéball at the creature with correct timing. You can also feed it a berry to make it easier to catch, but basically, it is Pokémon Go but without the screen flick. Instead this time you “toss” the Joy-Con to throw a ball, and you can feel the HD Rumble activate as the Pokémon struggles to not be captured, fighting inside your hand. It sounds kinda dark but it feels pretty satisfying to have the struggle stop and the ball lock.

Using the Pokéball Plus feels highly intuitive as you toss it at the creatures. I couldn’t get over how much tech was shoved in the tiny peripheral in my hand. This wireless device has a gyroscope, analogue stick, an A and B button (depressing the stick and a button hidden in the red side of the sphere, HD Rumble as well as a speaker. I could shake the ball and hear Pikachu making a noise inside and having the ball struggle in my hand as I caught Pokémon. It is also pretty small, small enough to go in your pocket with you to a coffee shop without being intrusive or bulky. if you feel the need to have Pikachu or someone else with you for a trip to Starbucks. I really wasn’t expecting the build quality that this little fella has and now a part of me really wants it.

Trainers have a standard fight like a normal Pokémon title, with the turn-based fight and elemental attacks. To make up for no random wild Pokémon encounters you get a lot more experience from these fights, letting you level your squad up quickly. The fights were rather low-level so I can’t tell you if the fighting has been simplified, but it looks a lot like what you would expect in a Pokémon game. I wasn’t allowed to look at any of the game menus or see how it connected to Pokémon Go either.

While this game might not appeal to fan veterans, Let’s Go Pikachu looked like something great to get a younger family member into the wonderful world of a rich, complex and vibrant JRPG like Pokémon. But don’t be surprised if you see veterans hopping in to spend some time with their favourite Pokémon children and take them out for a walk. Or you know, get Mew.

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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