Pokemon Let’s Go nailed the simplicity of Pokemon, distilling its appeal into a colourful remake of Pokemon Yellow with just enough modern conventions to make it feel fresh and exciting. Despite the innovative progress made by Pokemon Sword & Shield alongside the coming ambition of Legends: Arceus, this humble duo remain my favourite games in the series for almost a decade. They’re comfy, and that’s more than enough for me to lose myself in the sprawling fields of Kanto for hours.
I’ve said this a few times before, but compared to my colleagues I’m far from a Pokemon Stan. I couldn’t care less about specific types or the absence of creatures from certain generations, I’m perfectly content with jumping into each new game and having a blast. Or not – as was the case with Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. You won’t catch me theorising about potential variants or hunting down shinies, and I’m likely the sort of player you’ll find scattered throughout the Pokemon fanbase.
Pokemon is a game designed for children, which isn’t something you’d be able to gleam from social media timelines filled with rampant toxicity and unsavoury threats directed at a developer who is trying its best to evolve this franchise while ensuring its core appeal remains intact. Sword & Shield received justified criticism for its bland Wild Area and unwillingness to push the series’ narrative and combat foundations forward, but it remained an accessible experience for anyone and everyone. Arceus will likely do the same, although with a far greater focus on trying something new without fear of being mocked.
Let’s Go was the polar opposite of this philosophy and that’s what makes it so damn good. Much like Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, it was designed as a precursor to a larger game – lingering in Sword & Shield’s shadow waiting to be dwarfed into irrelevance. In a twist of fate, that wasn’t the case at all. While the mainline games have plenty of fans, I’m always hearing praise being hurled at Let’s Go for its delightful simplicity and nuanced understanding of why Pokemon is so enjoyable. It isn’t about generational gimmicks or mimicking the open world conventions of its contemporaries, it’s about a small, contained world with sharp mechanics, lovable characters, and systems working together in harmony.
Pokemon is played by everyone: people like me who grew up with the early games and a younger audience who are experiencing their first foray into the series. Let’s Go was the best of both worlds, pulling a Hannah Montana by capitalising on the nostalgia associated with Pokemon Yellow and some of the global trends and mechanical ideas first introduced in Pokemon Go. It’s a harmonious combination of fantastic ideas that we’ll likely never see again, and Game Freak’s understated approach to its very existence only served to highlight how special the game managed to be. Perhaps I’m just ignorant to my own nostalgia and had just been wanting to play a game that wasn’t concerned with gimmicks, but isn’t that what Pokemon is all about?
Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl sought to replicate Let’s Go success, but it was far too barebones a remake to leave a lasting impact. It didn’t even incorporate changes from Pokemon Platinum, meaning its cute aesthetic and minimal design doomed it to irrelevancy. Don’t get me wrong, it will still sell millions of copies, but the conversation around it has been quiet in a way nobody could have expected. Hardcore fans don’t seem to care, many of them now waiting patiently for Legends: Arceus instead of mining Sinnoh for all it’s worth.
Pokemon is big enough to support two concurrent series of titles at the same time. We have the mainline experiences such as Arceus alongside Sword & Shield, while Let’s Go is intended as a smaller effort that newcomers can delve into without fear of being lost. Lean into that identity, give Gold and Silver the Let’s Go treatment with potential companions and a cute yet substantial update of its world that feels both new and familiar. I want more games that are more than just surface level remakes, I want Game Freak to reimagine classics while being unafraid to toy with their foundations through the introduction of reimagined landscapes and bold new mechanics. So long as the core package remains, there is nothing bad about this approach, especially when the mainline series feels obsessed with introducing gimmicks with each new generation only to throw them aside.
Fans of Pokemon don’t know what they want. They bemoan a lack of variety when the spin-offs provide an almost untold level of specialisation, while complaining that their favourite creatures didn’t make the cut and completely ignoring how much new stuff there is to discover. Don’t make this nostalgic connection a fundamental part of your personality because it will only serve to destroy you, especially with something so trivial as Pokemon.
Pokemon Let’s Go is the best this series has been in years, and Game Freak would be foolish to ignore its success and refuse to build upon it.
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