The Commodification of Pokemon

Conveyor Belt 'Mons...

There is a lot to like about Pokemon: Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu. Smart quality of life improvements are everywhere from being able to see exactly what you will encounter in the wild, access all of the pocket monsters in your box from the party menu and the loud, obnoxious beeping of a team member at low health stopping after a few seconds. There are other aspects that I’m not as fond of whether that is the abandonment of wild Pokemon battles or, what I’m here to talk about today, how the new catching system takes away the feeling of having a team.

In previous games, I would never complete the Pokedex but I would try to catch at least one of anything I came across. I never was into the hyper-competitive side of Pokemon in terms of getting perfect EVs and IVs so I trained up whatever I had and grew a bond with my squad. However, in Pokemon: Let’s Go, it feels like an assembly line if you want strong party members.

Catching more and more of the same Pokemon in a row increases a combo catch chain where the more you catch a ‘mon in a row, the stronger they will keep becoming. So if you wanted a Pikachu with the best stats possible, you would catch them over and over and over. Once you find one you like, you can release the rest or, send them to Professor Oak as it has been changed to in this game. You get candy for the Pokemon you send off, so I would get a bunch of Pikachu candy in this scenario that can be used to power up the electric mouse that I finally settled on.

Eventually, you can also get a player ability called ‘Judge’ where when you bring up one of your ‘mon’s summary pages, you can press ‘Y’ and the game will tell you what kind of stats they have whether, “Ok, Good, Great, Amazing or Best.” And the first time I did this, it was deflating. At least half of my party had ‘Ok’ stats and I felt like I had wasted my time. I could go out and get a catch combo to get a more powerful version, but I’m attached to the one that I have. It’s at the point where I’m over halfway through the game and I don’t have a set party which is unheard of for me.

I’m probably (almost certainly) overthinking this, but this feels like the whole “designer baby” thing where human embryos are genetically modified to have desirable traits. My teams in the past have always had imperfections and I liked powering through those to prove that you don’t need each of your party members to be perfect in order to succeed. At the end of the day, with how in your face the game is about how good your Pokemon is or not this is the least drawn into a Pokemon game I have ever been, and I love Generation I, It is what I started with. But this remake makes them feel more artificial than alive which has contributed to why I just now finished my adventure.