Later this year, Game Freak will release Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s go, Eevee! for the Nintendo Switch, an experience the developer described as a soft reboot of Pokémon Yellow for Game Boy, with plenty of influence from Pokémon Go. I got to check out a short demo of Let’s Go, Pikachu! at E3 this week, using the adorable Poké Ball as my primary controller.
As someone who is unfamiliar with the world of Pokémon, I was concerned Let’s Go would feel uninviting. But thanks to a simple premise and an enthusiastic Nintendo executive, I was able to find my footing pretty quickly.
In the demo, my objective was to walk around a park with Pikachu on my shoulder and Charmander following close behind. Right away, the game is endlessly charming and quaint.
In this new take on the Pokémon formula, players can see exactly which Pokémon are in the area. Once you do spot a nearby Pokémon, you have the choice of capturing it or simply walking by. Giving players a choice changes the dynamics of the formula, allowing people to go at their own pace, rather than being interrupted by invisible threats.
However, once a competing trainer is nearby, you have no choice but to engage. In the demo, Pikachu was far more powerful than the other Pokémon he faced, so battles were won with ease.
When you do try to catch a Pokémon, there is no battle to fight. Instead, players simply entice Pokémon with berries and then make a throwing motion with the Switch’s motion controller. It’s a lot like Pokémon Go, but on a larger scale. It’s also a lot harder than it looks to execute a perfect throw (or I’m just bad).
Nintendo allowed us to use the Poké Ball during the demo, a solidly constructed controller about the size of a racquetball. When in the palm of your hand, your thumb will rest on a joystick that also acts as the A button. There’s also a secondary button on the front that’s easily reached with your index finger.
Using the Poké Ball controller is a fun exercise in pretend and helps elevate the experience, though it does take some getting used to. Precisely navigating through menus was a challenge, and pressing the A button took mindful concentration. Which is to be expected, because nobody said becoming a Pokémon master would be easy.
Beyond using the Poké Ball as a proper controller, it can also pair with Pokémon Go. Nintendo said it can even track your steps when you take it for a walk, which can result in your Pokémon leveling up. It’s a nice incentive to use the controller outside of your home.
After ten minutes of capturing Pokémon and besting other trainers, I felt pretty comfortable with Let’s Go. It’s welcoming to newcomers but also finely tuned for diehard Pokémon fans—and a nice precursor to Game Freak’s upcoming Pokémon RPG.
Just watch out for Metapod. After several unsuccessful attempts to capture the cutesy bug, I fed it several berries to get its guard down. But after all that work it just ran away, and then the demo was over.
I won’t be able to capture Metapod until Pokémon: Let’s Go comes out for Nintendo Switch on November 16.