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‘Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu!’ and ‘Eevee’ E3 Impressions

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If I wasn’t totally enamored with the franchise after the release of Pokémon Red and Blue back in 1998, then when developer Game Freak released Pokémon Yellow a year later, I was completely captured.  Nearly twenty years later, I was presented the opportunity to try my hand at the game’s forthcoming re-imaginingPokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! at the Nintendo booth at E3.

Taking the new Poké Ball Plus peripheral in hand, I was allowed to experience Kanto, the original Pokémon region, in a way I never imagined I would.  I was immediately transported back to a time when I was first discovering Pokémon, before my relationship with the franchise had Bellossom-ed into what it is today.  Sure, it was just a brief demo, but if first impressions are anything to go on, then Game Freak have masterfully crafted what appears to be a Pokémon game for everyone.

For the veteran like myself, Pokémon: Let’s Go promises to be a new way to experience the Pokémon generation that started it all.  For the newcomer, Let’s Go is a casual, approachable introduction to the series that may end up catching new trainers just like Yellow did me all those years ago.

pokémon let's go

The E3 demo took place in a vibrant Viridian Forest, familiar terrain for old fans, though realized like never before in stunning high definition.  The forest is made even more lively by the presence of gorgeously rendered Pokémon on the map itself, wading through the tall grass and making the world feel lived in.  Random encounters are absent, instead, the player can choose to engage with particular Pokémon on the map, or avoid them altogether.  No need for a repel!

Pokémon encounters don’t operate like the traditional RPG encounters where players must battle and weaken a Pokémon before they capture it.  Instead, they operate like the more casual encounters from Pokémon GO.  Utilizing the Switch’s motion controls, capturing Pokémon involves simply throwing a Poké Ball at a Pokémon.  Strategy is limited to opting to feed the Pokémon a berry to make it more friendly toward you and maybe opting for a stronger ball type.  Success is measured by accuracy, timing, and a little help from lady luck.  Successfully catching a Pokémon not only means a new potential ally, but also rewards items and allots experience across a players active party of Pokémon, helping them learn, grow, and prepare for that next Pokémon battle.

Training Pokémon might look different in Let’s Go, but trainer battles act exactly like they do in the core Pokémon games, suggesting that Game Freak is keeping some key components, like combat, consistent between Let’s Go and core RPGs.  The rest of the experience, however, is a far more casual affair and comes off as incredibly relaxing and soothing, sensationally less like a strategy RPG and more akin to something like Animal Crossing.  Encounters are quick and easy, menu navigation is fast and friendly, utilizing only two buttons, and traveling through tall grass has never felt so good since unwanted encounters can be entirely avoided and highly desirable Pokémon are found out in the open!

pokémon let's go

Beyond that, the gameplay, particularly the capturing, is deeply satisfying and absolutely enhanced by the Poké Ball Plus and, presumably, the features offered by the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers.  Landing a perfect throw provides its own satisfaction, though it does take some getting used to.  Using the motion controls, the game required less of a pitch and more of a direct flick in the direction of the Pokémon, similar to in Pokémon go, to ensure thrown Poké Balls didn’t miss their mark, resulting in some awkwardness at first that got more natural as the demo progressed.  Underhand tosses and overhand lobs worked admirably as well, resulting in some “nice,” “great,” and “excellent” throws for me.

More sensational is the HD rumble feature in the Poké Ball Plus, which rocked realistically as Pokémon settled in it, and produced the most satisfying click each and every time a Pokémon has caught, which I’m sure the Joy-Con are equally capable of creating, though admittedly without the full experience including light indicators and peripheral sound effects.  Though not necessary, the Poké Ball Plus was surprisingly comfortable, and, even with nothing more than a joystick that doubles as an A button and only one other button on top, was more than capable of handling the game.  The device also doubles as a Pokémon GO Plus, will allow players to carry their Pokémon outside of the game in some capacity similar Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver‘s Poké Walker, and even comes with the mythical Pokémon Mew as an added bonus.  I will absolutely be buying on for myself.

Pokémon Let’s Go might not be the traditional RPG seasoned veterans were looking for, but the “core” adjacent rethinking of the Kanto classic title isn’t trying to be.  Instead, it’s trying to be a game for everyone.  For the uninitiated, it’s an approachable introduction to a beloved franchise.  For them and for everyone else, it’s simultaneously a new way to experience a treasured title and series.  It’s an unexpected surprise of an experiment that I look forward to diving deeper into.  As I held a physical Poké Ball in my hand that lit up, swiveled, and clicked simulating the presence of a Pokémon contained inside, I couldn’t contain the grin that immediately spread across my face.

Tim is not the droids you are looking for. He resides quietly in the Emerald City where he can often be found writing, reading, watching movies, or playing video games. He is the Xbox editor for Goomba Stomp and the site's official Pokémon Master.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. John Cal McCormick

    June 13, 2018 at 3:51 am

    When you played it did it seem like there would be any option to play this without motion controls? Like, chucking the Pokeball with a button or something? I’m not that fussed about this game at all because I like the traditional Pokemon experience, but I might be tempted to give it a go as a nice little relaxing catch ’em up as long as I don’t have to use the Joy Cons.

  2. Helen Jones

    June 13, 2018 at 8:11 am

    I’ve got to say I think I’ll miss battling wild pokemon, the GO approach takes away a lot of the challenge/sense of accomplishment for me… But then on the other hand, how much sense did it ever make to have us beat up the wild pokemon we wanted to befriend?

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‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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