A New Generation of Pokémon Trainers


“Mom! Did you know Caterpie evolves into Metapod?”

My six-year-old squeals from the navy and cream carpet of our family room as flashing TV lights complete Caterpie’s surprise evolution. She springs up from the couch and skids across the floor on black and yellow Pikachu socks to tug at my sleeve.

“Mom! You have to see this!”

I follow her bouncing blonde hair as she leads me to her brand new Pokémon team: Metapod, Pidgey, Rattata, and Eevee. I’m reminded of my own adventures in Kanto as I join her on the couch. My daughter’s eyes are shining with pride, and I give her a big hug.

“You’re on your way to be a Pokémon Master!”

Photo Credit: Nintendo, Polygon

Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee have introduced a new generation of gamers to the world of Pokémon. As my daughter turns back to the screen, closing her Pokémon menu, we both stare at a vibrant 3D Viridian Forest, complete with tall grass, lush bushes, and heavy, overhanging trees that fill the screen. Kanto has never looked so alive. The ponytail of her avatar swings back and forth in sync with Eevee’s tail. Eevee is her companion Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee, and it rides on top her red and white baseball cap. She heads into the tall grass, searching for new Pokémon.

With a flurry of leaves, a giant Beedrill with vibrating wings appears snapping its stingers.

Photo Credit: Nintendo

Gone are the random battles and wild Pokémon grinding that filled my Saturday afternoons. Wild Pokémon now appear on-screen. To catch them, trainers must use interactive Pokémon Go mechanics and throw Pokéballs through colored rings.

My daughter yelps - “What is that?” - and runs her avatar toward the buzzing Pokémon that’s as big as her. The catching screen appears and Beedrill dances around the screen followed by a shrinking red ring: a difficult catch. She winds back her hand, the Pokéball controller clutched tight in her tiny fist, and mimes a throw at the screen. The ball flies toward Beedrill’s head, but it dodges out of the way at the last second.

“Mom, can you catch it? It’s so hard!”

I take the controller from her, determined to show my daughter my Pokémon Master skills… but I’m rusty. I waste sixteen of her Pokéballs. The Beedrill darts left and right, jabbing at my poor aim and mistimed throws; this is harder than it looks. On my seventeenth toss with only six Pokéballs remaining, my Pokéball taps the wing of the buzzing Beedrill and snags the massive bug. The Pokéball wiggles:

Once. Twice. Three times. Click!

“OH MY GOSH MOM! WE CAUGHT A BEEDRILL!” My daughter races around the room with her hands in the air. “Thank you Mom! You’re the best Pokémon trainer. You’re like, a Pokémon Master!”

“Well, way back in 1998, I did beat the Elite Four…”

Photo Credit: Nintendo

It’s the day after Christmas, and I’m sitting under the yellow glow of a table lamp in my mother’s living room. A pink Gameboy Color is blasting the digital tunes of Pokémon Red. I battle Picnickers, Youngsters, Hiker’s, and Gym Leaders on my way to challenge the Elite Four. My very first team of Charizard, Dragonite, Pidgeotto, Raichu, Kadabra, and Rhydon bring my Rival Blue to his knees in ultimate defeat.

Who knew then a game about raising digital "pocket monsters" would endure two decades of success?

Snapping out of my memory, I look at the screen. Wild grass spins in the air again, but this time it’s the rare Veridian Forest Pikachu.

Photo Credit: Nintendo

A green ring circles around the electric Pokémon, and my daughter flicks the Pokéball at the TV with a confident grin, the satisfying click of her capture expected. Great throw. My daughter’s catching stats fill the screen: a bonus for catching Pikachu on her first throw and a bonus for catching a new Pokémon. The totaled experience points distribute evenly to her Pokémon team - Eevee levels up! - and I feel a pang of jealousy for generation Z. We had to fight 20 Pidgeys just to get our lead Pokémon to level once!

But it passes. This method is seamless and fun, and as she progresses through the game, her Pokémon are never too high or too low for the gym challenges.

Photo Credit: Nintendo

Back in the Viridian Forest, my daughter opens her Pokémon Box. Bill must have retired, because her Pokédex houses the storage box, not a Pokémon Center computer console, and she can access it at anytime. Twenty Pokémon fill the box, mostly Pidgey, Rattatas, and Caterpies. She uses the sort function to group her Pokémon by Combat Power level (you can read about CP level here) and selects her duplicate Pokémon.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“I’m sending the weak Pokémon to Professor Oak!”

“Why?”

“Because he gives me candy!”

Photo Credit: Nintendo

She confirms her selections and a message from Professor Oak appears thanking her for her contribution to his research. An assortment of stat-boosting candy fills her bag, and she feeds all of it to her Eevee.

“I want my Eevee to be the strongest. Isn’t she so cute?” She pops into the Partner Play screen, and Eevee bounces up and down calling out for love. My daughter uses the motion controls to scratch it under the chin and on the head.

“My friend Katie at school says you can get hats and shirts for Eevee to wear. I want to get her a pink bow.”

Photo Credit: Nintendo

I snuggle next to my daughter and disappear into the world of Pokémon for another hour. It feels bigger. Bushes and trees populate the roadside. Shadows and animations add depth and dimension to familiar areas. Battles feel personal, the arena’s dynamic camera showing shots of both trainers as they shout out commands.

Photo Credit: Nintendo

After encountering another tough-to-catch Pokémon - this time a Spearow - my daughter hands me a spare Switch controller. I shake it to drop into her game as the alternate boy trainer. I’m able to throw Pokéballs at wild Pokémon, battle in two-on-one battles using the second Pokémon in her line up, and run all over the screen. Unfortunately, I can’t trade, battle my daughter, interact with NPCs, or catch my own team. So while the two-on-one battles are fun, and the extra help catching Pokémon makes a small difference, I’d rather watch her explore Kanto solo than in limited co-op.

Photo Credit: Nintendo

By far the best surprise of Pokemon Let's Go Eevee is watching my daughter become a Pokémon Master. At every turn, she giggles and gasps as she discovers new Pokémon, defeats new trainers, and evolves her team. Rediscovering the adventure of Pokémon through her eyes reminds me why this game has endured over two decades of countless editions, consoles, and spins offs. The call of adventure, the bonds of friendship, and the spirit of competition are themes that transcend time.

Elite Four look out: we’re raising the next generation of Pokémon Masters!

Photo Credit: Nintendo

You should play this game if: you have a love for the Pokémon games and franchise. It’s a remake of Generation One, specifically Pokémon Yellow as your partner Pokémon stays by your side. The story is familiar (although there are some minor twists!), and the goal is the same: defeat Team Rocket and battle your way through eight gym leaders to challenge the Elite Four. The difficulty is great for beginners, and the new catching and leveling system based on Pokémon Go adds life to the series. I think this game is a perfect introduction for younger trainers just starting to get into the series and for adults looking to replay their first Pokémon adventure.

Photo Credit: Nintendo

#Nintendo #Pokemon

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