Mike Fahey and I have been battling all up and down Kanto in Pokémon Let’s Go. Now that our respective quests are at an end, we sat down to talk about Master Trainers, playing with kids, and how weird Pokémon type weaknesses are.
Gita Jackson: Hey Fahey! It’s amazing to be in the presence of another Pokémon Champion. Now that we’ve both finished the game, pet our Eevees hundreds of times, and defeated Team Rocket, what do you think you’re going to do next in Pokémon Let’s Go, if anything at all?
Mike Fahey: Find a nice bench to sit down on and while away the hours remembering my adventures. Watch the sun go down over Pallet town, Eevee sitting in my lap. He’s getting gray and isn’t as active as he once was, but we’ll face the sunset together. Or I’ll continue catching them all. There are still a bunch to catch.
Gita: How many have you caught so far?
Fahey: Are we talking total with duplicates, or percentage of Pokédex completed?
Gita: Percentage of Pokédex. I’m not a monster.
Fahey: I have obtained 80, and seen 144. So wow, I only have eight more to see. Then I can rest my weary head.
Gita: When I was a kid, I thought 151 was such a huge, impossible number. Compared to the amount of Pokémon there are now, that’s nothing. And I feel like the game spawns a reasonable amount of monsters so that you’ll end up seeing most of them before the end. I’ve caught 70, by the way. Gotta catch up to you.
Fahey: You’ve made up for it in quality. I have seen plenty, but I still have what, 72 to catch? And I will need to catch them in order to participate in what passes for Pokémon Let’s Go’s endgame.
Gita: Yeah, god, let’s talk Master Trainers. Have you tried to fight any of them yet?
Fahey: I have walked past many of them, let’s just say that. I have yet to be in a position where I’ve stumbled upon a Master Trainer of one of the leveled-up Pokémon in my party. I guess I have a lot of grinding to do. How about you?
Gita: I’m in the same boat. I really want to find the Eevee Master Trainer to test my mettle, though. Someone I spoke to recently told me that they’d only been able to beat one Master Trainer so far, so it seems like the challenge is there. It’s just such a weird, artificial construction.
When you fight a Master Trainer, they only have one Pokémon, and you have to try to beat it with that same Pokémon. You can’t use anyone else in your party. In theory it’s a good challenge, but in practice it’s just a weird, super-hard thing at the end of a relatively easy game. I don’t know if it’s worth my time to actually invest in it.
Fahey: While we have been talking, I found the Rhyhorn Master Trainer. He told me the Rhyhorn I had seemed strong and challenged me to a fight. Thing is, my Rhyhorn is level 21. His is level 70. So yeah, that’s a whole hell of a lot of work. And yes, I was one-shotted.
Gita: Good lord.
Fahey: Yeah. Your Pokémon heals up after the battle, so at least it doesn’t leave you stuck with a Pokécorpse until you hit the Pokémon Center.
Gita: Well that’s nice, at least. Speaking of one-shotting—I think we both knew this game was going to be divisive, but I was not prepared for how frequently I was going to one-shot literally every Pokémon in every single battle. I’m of two minds on the combat, but did Let’s Go strike you as easier than the previous games? I know that hardcore fans have been decrying these games for children for getting easier over the years.
Fahey: I’d say it was a little easier than previous games. My Jinx has a move called Double-Edge, which kills most things pretty quickly, especially with the amount of stat-enhancing candy I’ve fed him. Candy is killer in this joint.
But I think part of it is how well long-time players know their stuff. Exploiting weaknesses has always made the game easier. If I am going into the fire gym, I’m bringing Kabutops, a ground/water Pokémon, and he’s going to tear shit up.
Gita: I think it might be hard for longtime fans of Pokémon to separate just how well they know this game from the actual design of the game. If we’re being honest, most type match-ups don’t make a lick of sense. Why are flying type Pokemon weak to ice?
Fahey: Flying is weak to ice the same way a plane’s wings will ice over in the winter! It’s why birds migrate. Perfect sense, as long as you can twist your mind around it. But a lot of them, not a lick. Steel is weak to fighting? What? I will admit, I played with a list of weaknesses open on my phone.
Gita: I Googled every single one (except, like, plants being weak to fire). I am not ashamed. Fahey, you played a lot with your actual son, though. Was it easier or harder for him to grok the particularities of this game? Or did he, like a lot of children, just not care about that kind of stuff?
Fahey: Oh, poor Seamus. He is not good with decisions. When faced with a set of four moves, he looked to me to pick one. I think he picked up on some weaknesses over time, but decisions make him freeze up. I bet if I got him a Pokémon reference book he’d have them all memorized in days, though.
I’ve been playing Pokémon Go lately on my phone, trying to gather monsters to add to my Switch game, and I am seeing creatures I have never encountered before. Or I just forgot. God I am old.
Gita: It really struck me playing Let’s Go how Pokémon designs started weird, but they definitely got weirder and worse over the years. Like in the original 151, there are some weird ideas, but most of the time I can identify the pun or cultural story they’re based on. But in the later games... Honedge? That thing is just a floating sword. Come the heck on.
Fahey: Several of the creatures I am capturing in Pokémon Go look like colorful roaches, which is...great.
Pokémon Let’s Go is a purer experience, though. It is that original 151. It is an introduction to a world where no one can stop talking about Pokémon. It’s streamlined and simplified, sure, but it’s still got that classic feel. I will always cherish the original Red and Blue grind, but this is a nice, relaxing way to revisit a classic.
Gita: In my review I tried to place Let’s Go in the context of not just the rest of the games, but what Pokémon means to people outside those in video game fandom. I know a lot of people, especially women my age, who don’t consider themselves gamers but still play Pokémon. One of my friends even asked for a 3DS specifically for Pokémon and nothing else for Christmas a few years back.
It’s important to understand that Let’s Go is not just serving us, people who play tons of games and are obsessed with these Pocket Monsters, but people who basically play one game. I think it does its job of selling Switches to those people and introducing them to a more modern Pokémon very well.