Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! – The Death of the Random Encounter?

With the release of Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and its much more appealing cousin Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! the Pokemon franchise took a bold step towards innovating not only Pokemon, but RPG’s as a whole. Let’s Go removed Random Encounters. They removed one of the core pillars that many people believe make an RPG. Yet here we are, and I am going to go on record and say that the Random Encounter should die. For the most part.

But why? I hear you cry. Well there are a few reasons, so i’ll start at the top and say that the inclusion of wild Pokemon to Kanto quite literally brings the game to life by giving you a fully realised world. Traversing the caves, mountains and beaches as the local Pokemon go about their everyday life is a pleasure. I mean you could just be minding your own business and BAM! a 10ft Dragon appears in the sky and you proceed to hop on your prehistoric pterodactyl and take it on. Way more exciting then getting a loading screen.

Now I can avoid all those blasted Pidgeys!

Speaking of which, Random Encounters force you into loading screens, then into lengthy battles, followed by more loading screens. Multiply this by several hundred and you have a system that simply does not respect your time. Then you add in the infamous Zubat cave and my God, its like your life is getting forcibly removed from your body. What’s even worse is when you want to get to the Pokemon Centre, but there is a tiny bit of grass between you and your destination and you know for a fact a bloody Pidgey is going to appear and stop you in your tracks.

You know what fixes all of that? Choice. Now choice in Let’s Go! is choosing not to catch that 50th Zubat. Choice in other games could be choosing not to run into that group of enemies. Or choosing to fight that specific mob so you farm specific items for a quest etc. Heck, it could be as simple as giving you the option to turn Random Encounters off. Now you can make your way through low level areas, or back to towns after a difficult battle without worrying you’re going to get ambushed along the way by that bloody Pidgey that I swear has been following me since Route 1.

Spotting a wild Gyrados is a highlight of any play session

Whilst I clearly have some strong opinions on Random Encounters (and Pidgey’s), they are not without their merits, and I would be remiss if I did not at least post some sort of counter argument. In fact I believe that Over-worlds, a feature not found in Pokemon and becoming less common in today’s games, really benefit from Random Encounters. Aesthetically this is because an over-world is much more abstract than your typical view point. Therefore having enemies ambushing you as you journey makes a lot more sense in a ‘game-y’ kind of way. Or at least way more sense than having a 6ft Charizard hiding in knee-height grass. Like before however, being able to turn them off would be a plus.

So here is the biggie – Dungeon Crawlers. Dungeon Crawlers are probably the biggest exception to the ‘No Random Encounters‘ rule, mostly because they are designed specifically around a few key concepts. Firstly you are exploring a vast, unknown labyrinth. Therefore knowing where your enemy is before you hit them up is counter productive. Secondly you’re incentivised to grind. So having limitless Random Encounters lets you take your time and soak up that sweet, sweet EXP. Finally these games are meant to be nostalgic since they’re intentionally drawing from Wizardry – otherwise known as the original RPG. So they get a pass for that really.

Darn Zubat caught me off guard!

So here we are. You made it to the end without hunting me down and harvesting my body and crafting an elaborate set of armour from my remains. Whilst I am not completely against Random Encounters in every RPG, I feel like Let’s Go! really shines a light on a future where RPG’s mostly move away from them and instead focus on more realised, immersive worlds. Let me know your thoughts down below.

Check out my Let’s Go! Review for more Pokemon awesomeness.

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