The PokeBall Plus: Is this thing worth buying?

Pokeball-Plus

When Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! were released late last year, they came alongside a peripheral that was intended to act as a dedicated controller for the games. Not only that, it also functioned similarly to the Pokemon Go Plus accessory for smartphones.

Is this thing worth buying?

I ended up getting one a little while back, and after having played with it quite a bit, I think I can answer the question: it really depends on whether you play at least one of the two Let’s Go games, and whether you play Pokemon Go. And even if you play both, it’s still a “maybe”, because there still wouldn’t be a guarantee that it would appeal to you. Personally, I think I got my money’s worth, but not everyone would have the same tastes in game accessories as me.

The PokeBall Plus functions as a dedicated controller for the Pokemon: Let’s Go games. As far as I know, any attempt to use the controller with any other game would only result in failure.

When used with the Let’s Go games, the PokeBall Plus is a motion-sensitive controller. As a controller, it’s pretty simplistic. It has a main button, which would be the button of the pokeball that we’ve been seeing all these years. The main button basically acts as your “A” button: you use it to talk to people, make menu selections, interact with Pikachu, that basic A button stuff.

But here’s the catch: the main button is actually a “click” feature by pushing down on a control stick. So, the button that you use to make selections such as executing attacks? You also use it to move around, and to highlight different options and different attacks. I’m not a fan of it. It’s way too easy to attempt to select something accidentally because the stick is moved in a direction.

The spherical shape of the controller does make it disorienting when it comes to moving in a direction. There’s not really much in terms of tactile feedback to determine how the controller is oriented in one’s hand. That means that you have to look down at it to determine whether you’re holding it right. At the very least, the rubber coating of the controller does prevent it from slipping, so you don’t have to reposition it very often. Having said that, a spherical controller isn’t terribly ergonomic.

There’s also a “B” button on the controller, and it’s on the top of it. It’s simple, you use it to cancel selections. There’s not much to it, and it works just as you’d expect. But when outside of battle, it acts as a “pause”, which brings up the menu, and also closes it.

Shaking the controller acts as the “Y” button when prompted, but also provides a shortcut to interacting with Pikachu/Eevee. When in battle, and Pikachu/Eevee’s special is available, shaking also provides the shortcut to using it.

Now, here’s the big thing: when confronting wild pokemon, the PokeBall Plus provides that extra bit of simulation. The motion controls work similarly to the joy-con, but you get that added satisfaction of swinging a Pokeball at a pokemon with an accessory designed to expedite the experience. It’s accurate, too. In fact, it seems like the PokeBall Plus is more accurate when throwing Pokeballs than an ordinary joy-con.

Another nice touch is that the opening around the control stick of the main button is illuminated by what may be RGB LEDs, which can glow certain colors depending on what you’re doing in the game. It glows certain colors when attempting to catch pokemon, and when you catch one, it emits a color that corresponds to the pokemon that was just caught. Cooler still is the fact that the PokeBall Plus also makes sounds, such as cries of pokemon that were just caught. It’s little things like that that makes the PokeBall Plus a very thoughtfully-designed product.

Having said that, it’s still the case that the right way to catch pokemon in Let’s Go is to undock the Switch and play in handheld mode, especially if you intend to chain pokemon for large amounts of candy.

Another added function of the PokeBall Plus is that you can send one of your own pokemon to it, and take it around with you as you go about your day-to-day business. When you do this, the controller acts as a step counter. You’ll be able to “play” with the pokemon inside by making it active with the control stick, and it’ll respond to shaking, “petting” motions, and moving the control stick in circles. I’m still not entirely sure what the benefits of playing with the pokemon might be, but certain activities might increase the rewards obtained when sending the pokemon back to the game.

Players that wish to raise legendary pokemon or other pokemon that are very difficult to obtain candy for in Let’s Go would appreciate that the PokeBall Plus makes it possible to obtain candy for these pokemon in substantial quantity. Just put the pokemon in, take it for a long walk, perhaps use the device with Pokemon Go, and when you send your pokemon back to your game, you’ll likely get quite a few species-specific candies.

Aside from sometimes enjoying the novelty of a Pokeball-shaped controller, the main thing I use it for in Let’s Go Pikachu! is getting lots of species-specific candies. It’s not hard to get tons of Oddish Candies in-game, but getting lots of Mewtwo or Meltan candy? Obtaining lots of candy specific to legendary pokemon is a tall order in Let’s Go without the help of the Pokeball Plus.

Now for the main thing that I use the PokeBall Plus for: as an accessory for Pokemon Go. As a Pokemon Go accessory, the PokeBall Plus rules. It functions basically the same as the Pokemon Go Plus accessory: when you pair it with your game, it allows you to play Pokemon Go somewhat passively.

Here are the main perks:

  • It vibrates when a wild pokemon is nearby. Push B to consume a regular pokeball attempting to capture it. If it works, you catch the pokemon. If it fails, it flees.
  • It automatically spins PokeStops you’re near. Wild pokemon seem to take priority, so you might have to attempt to capture them, first.

That first point is great, because if you manage to accumulate regular pokeballs in massive quantity, you can just spend them out quickly, and if you catch something with one, great! You get the EXP, candy, and stardust that you normally would, but if you use the PokeBall Plus in this manner, you’re currently only able to use regular pokeballs this way, and it’s only ordinary throws. But hey, if you’d otherwise just chuck those pokeballs out to make room for great balls and ultra balls, what’s the harm in spending them like this?

Also, this provides a quick way of gaining experience: Just set a Lucky Egg, walk through a WalMart parking lot or some similar place, and use the PokeBall Plus to try catching lots of pokemon. Using the PokeBall Plus to attempt a capture may not be a sure thing, but it bypasses the long animations associated with using the app, so you could gain lots of EXP fast if there’s lots of pokemon around to capture.

I’m able to accrete pokemon to myself while walking down the street. What an age we live in!

And if you’re wearing a heavy coat and don’t have your phone out, how would anyone know whether you’re playing Pokemon Go? Of course, that would only be a selling point if you cared whether anyone found you out.

Overall, I’m pleased with the PokeBall Plus, but I know that it’s not going to appeal to everyone. If you have one of the Let’s Go games, it adds a novelty to the experience. But to be honest, I found myself using a joy-con while playing, instead. If you play Pokemon Go, and want to add to the experience what feels like a late-game power-up in a video game, then you might find yourself enjoying the PokeBall Plus. But it’s most likely to appeal to you if you fall into both categories.

However, if you don’t play Pokemon Go, and you’re starting to move on from Let’s Go to some other games, then the PokeBall Plus would likely start to spend a lot of time sitting in your entertainment center as a conversation piece.

Also, for the modders out there: the matte nature of the rubber may make it difficult for paint to stick to the thing. It’s a shame, I was looking forward to seeing what people would come up with.

But hey, while the promotion is still running, you can still get a Mew out of the deal. Supposedly, it’s a limited-time thing, but I don’t know how long it’s supposed to last. Also, if it’s the Mew that you’re in it for, it would be much safer buying the PokeBall Plus new. Only one Mew would be distributed for each individual device.

The very specific nature of this accessory makes it difficult to score. If you don’t have at least one of the games it’s specifically-designed for, the PokeBall Plus is likely to be an expensive piece of plastic. But for hardcore Pokemon fanatics that wanted more of an element of immersion, it might be a dream come true.

Based on my own feelings about it, I can give the PokeBall Plus a score of 8.4 out of 10.

I wonder whether this thing would be compatible with any future Pokemon games? There might be some potential for expansion, here.

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