If you’ve ever wanted to feel like the very best, like no one ever was, then the Nintendo Switch’s newest controller peripheral — Pokémon: Let’s Go!’s Poké Ball Plus — could be the perfect fit for you. The accessory is cute, comfortable, and is probably the closest thing we’ve ever gotten to physically being able to throw Poké Balls in order to catch ‘mons. But is it worth the $40 purchase, or can you live with it staying on store shelves? Here, we’re going to run through all the pros and cons of having the Poké Ball Plus as a second controller for your Let’s Go! games, and determine whether or not it’s something you really need.
I’d like to start off with one of the Poké Ball Plus’ greatest selling points: Mew. Nintendo and the Pokémon Company advertised fairly heavily that every purchase of the Poké Ball plus would come with a Mew inside the accessory, allowing players to release the Mythical Pokémon pretty shortly into the game’s beginning.
This is admittedly cool, though the general consensus I’ve heard over this decision was not a good one. On one hand, Game Freak is barring one of the original 151 Pokémon behind a pretty steep paywall (keep in mind that Mew is not required for full Pokédex completion in-game); and on the other hand, if Mew gets released for free via an event later down the line, a lot of the people who paid the $40 might feel a little upset, and deservedly so.
Like the Pokéwalker before it, the Poké Ball Plus also gives Trainers the ability to transfer one of their beloved monsters from the game directly to the device. Maybe it’s the Pokémon nerd in me, but just the idea of getting to pick one of my Pokémon from my game, send it to the Poké Ball Plus, and then throw it in my backpack and walk around with it is exciting. Not only does walking around with the Ball give you rewards like experience and items, but you can also interact directly with your Pokémon by slowly moving the ball back and forth and rotating the joystick. A LED surrounding the joystick lights up to indicate which monster is currently in the ball (pink for Mew, yellow for Pikachu, etc.); and your little buddy even talks with you (the best way a Pokémon can) depending on how you interact with it. Keep in mind though, only Pikachu and Eevee have their anime inspired cries while inside the ball. The remaining 151 monsters in Let’s Go only have their original, retro cries while traveling inside.
And, if you’re still a regular Pokémon GO player (like I am), there’s even more reason to bring your Poké Ball Plus out with you. This new controller essentially acts the same as the Pokémon GO Plus that original was released in September of 2016. While it’s a little more bulky, this is a great peripheral to have because it allows you to catch Pokémon and spin Poké Stops without having to keep your game open or your phone unlocked.
Honestly, the outside functionality is where the Poké Ball Plus really shines for me. Again, this might be because it really does make me feel like a Pokémon Trainer running around with this in my bag, and it doing a good job of satisfying little eight year-old me, but I think the developers did a really good job of giving this little golf ball-sized piece of plastic some good usage outside of the one game it’s compatible with.
Now, that’s not to say that the Plus doesn’t come in handy while you’re playing Let’s Go!, either. As a controller, this thing does exactly what it’s supposed to do, even if it does it a little funky. Having the main joystick also serve as the main button is a little off-putting at first in my opinion, and definitely caused a few issues for me in the beginning as I was getting used to it. It’s also easy to forget that shaking the Plus in-game effectively acts as the Y-Button, something you wouldn’t know unless you read the prompt at the very beginning, when connecting the controller.
Overall, these things get easier as you play more with it, and become something you get used to quickly. This is especially true considering how much you’re using the Plus; with wild Pokémon in abundance, you’ll be throwing a lot of Poké Balls in-game. A lot, a lot.
Throwing Poké Balls with the Poké Ball Plus works exactly as you’d expect it to, and for the most part is quite good. The motion controls are on par with what we expect out of Nintendo Switch motion controls at this point, and the only real drawback is that every once in a while I find that the aim is not quite as accurate as I want it to be or the depth won’t measure to the point I was hoping for. This would be a bigger concern if it were limited specifically to the Poké Ball Plus, but this is an issue I’ve found with the Joy-Con to an extent as well. Realistically, motion controls will never be as accurate as the responsive touch on a touchscreen, so while I’m not thrilled with the fact, I can’t say I’m particularly surprised at it either.
Of course, that brings me to the point of how well it stacks up against the Joy-Con in-game and, the truth is, it doesn’t. It’s not worse than the Joy-Con by any means, but there’s nothing inherently better about playing the game with this versus the Joy-Con if you don’t value the novelty behind it.
And from a longtime Pokémon fan, let me tell you that the novelty is great. The Poké Ball Plus is made of some really high-quality materials, fits comfortably in your hand, and doesn’t take up a lot of space in the real world, meaning it won’t be a burden to have on your desk or table. The issue I’ve found to have the most with it in the real world is the safety strap and finger ring — these are not removable without taking apart the controller itself, and while that’s a fairly easy process on its own, it’s really up to you whether or not it’s worth it. (You could always just cut the strap, but it won’t look as clean and of course keeps you from reattaching it in the future, should you want to.)
For a $40 price tag, it’s hard to recommend this controller for the casual player over the controllers that work just as well, have more buttons, and come with the Switch already. While the pricing makes sense from a technical standpoint (it acts as one Joy-Con, and two cost around $80), it’s important to remember that the Poké Ball plus only works with Let’s Go!. And while I can’t be mad at the price considering all the other features it offers, I can completely understand why some people might hesitate to pick one up.
For the major Pokémon fans out there, the ones who are still playing Pokémon GO religiously and would do anything for this franchise that’s taken up so much of our lives (this includes me, in case you’re wondering), there will be no better feeling than finally getting to simulate throwing a real Poké Ball, and catching monster after monster with it. It’s a really fun gimmick, I won’t lie.
But for the general audiences, I can’t say that it’s worth buying — at least not at full price. At the end of the day, the Poké Ball plus really is a gimmick first and foremost, and unless you truly think having Mew at the near-start of the game is worth $40, I can’t say that your experience will differ all that much if you save the money and play with your Joy-Con instead.
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