Gaming

Let's Go, Pikachu! delights old and new fans

Familiar game mechanics, a simplified catching mechanism and captivating graphics make this game a winner

The Pokemon hype is far from abating, with the launch of a pair of new and highly anticipated Pokemon games - Pokemon: Let's Go, Eevee! and Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu! (version tested) - two weeks ago.

Both games are exclusive to Nintendo Switch and, like the first Pokemon role-playing games released in the 1990s for Nintendo Game Boy, put the player in the role of a young Pokemon trainer in Pallet Town who ventures to the Kanto region with a starting Pokemon.

The mission is simple: Collect the region's eight Pokemon gym badges, defeat the Pokemon League Elite Four trainers and catch all the 151 first-generation Pokemon to become a Pokemon master.

The two titles are similar, except one starts you out with Pikachu and the other with Eevee. This first Pokemon is also your partner Pokemon. It will cling to your shoulder (if it is a Pikachu) or sit on top of your head (Eevee) while you explore the game world in a third-person perspective.

You can pat your partner Pokemon and feed it berries to boost your friendship. This extra care will pay dividends during battles as it can dodge an attack if the friendship level is high.

While the original Pokemon Game Boy games require you to defeat a Pokemon in battle before getting the chance to catch them, the catching mechanism here is simplified.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $79.90 (Nintendo Switch only)

    GENRE: Role-playing game

  • RATING

    9/10

It is similar to the mobile game Pokemon Go (Pogo), in which you throw a Pokeball to catch a Pokemon. This helps to reduce the grind of the game as there are a lot of in-game trainers, including Jesse and James of Team Rocket, that seek to battle you.

You can take out the Switch Joy-Con controllers and use the motion controls to simulate the ball-throw to catch a Pokemon. Or when the controllers are mounted on the Switch console, you can use the A button for throwing.

Unfortunately, you cannot use the Nintendo Pro Controller to control your character or throw a Pokemon when you dock your Switch to the television.

Alternatively, you can use the new Pokeball Plus ($89.90) device that Nintendo has released. This device is shaped like a Pokeball and comes with a joystick you can press as well as motion controls. The biggest selling point is that it comes with the hard-to-get mythical Pokemon Mew.

In the Pokemon: Let's Go games, you no longer encounter Pokemon randomly, unlike in previous such games. You can actually see the Pokemon walking or flying around in the game world. Thus, you can move your character towardsa Pokemon to start the catching sequence.

However, for more powerful Pokemon like Snorlax or Articuno, you need to battle them first before you can catch them.

You can take up to six Pokemon into these turn-based battles. Each Pokemon has up to four skills that it can use in battles. You canswitch Pokemon during battles, which is handy - especially when you find an ill-matching opponent. For example, when your water-fearing rock Pokemon Onix comes up against a water Pokemon Blastoise.

The graphics of the game world, characters and Pokemon are superb - not photo-realistic, but fantastic in an anime sense. All the Pokemon move as they should while their battle animation is detailed and entertaining.

Furthermore, I finally feel like Ash Ketchum, the main protagonist of the Pokemon cartoon series. This is because my Pikachu can defeat much stronger opponents, which is not the case with Pogo.

If you are a Pogo trainer, you have the added incentive of transferring your Pogo's Pokemon into this game. Doing so not only increases your experience, but you will also receive a mystery box in Pogo. Opening this mystery box allows you to catch the new sought-after Pokemon Meltan. Enough said.

• Verdict: With its balanced blend of old game mechanics and a new catching mechanism, coupled with great graphics and gameplay, Pokemon: Let's Go, Pikachu! (or Eevee) will appeal to Pokemon fans both new and old.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2018, with the headline 'Let's Go, Pikachu! delights old and new fans'. Print Edition | Subscribe