In the 90’s one of my favorite things in the world was Pokémon. I couldn’t get enough. I played the games on my Gameboy, had complete 1st edition sets of the Base, Jungle and Fossil cards, and habitually watched the anime. Pokémon stayed with me through my adulthood, but seemed to fizzle out in the public eye for a while. The buzz started again in 2013 when the late great Satoru Iwata, of Nintendo, and Tsunekazu Ishihara, of The Pokémon Company, created a little April’s Fool’s joke with Google Maps. Well, it wasn’t little, it was a game challenge that lasted a day, to travel the globe and catch every single Pokémon. This was just the type of thing to get fans, like me, losing their minds with the possibility of actually playing a game where you could catch Pokémon in real life. Some decisions were made, and an unfortunate passing occurred, but in 2015 Tsunekazu Ishihara announced plans for an augmented reality game that did just this, and dedicated his announcement to Satoru Iwata. And now, three years later, we finally have it: Pokémon GO. Oh yea…
Created by The Pokémon Company and Niantic Labs (Ingress), Pokémon GO is a mobile Augmented Reality game that is available for Android and iOS devices. The game takes hold of your phone and uses your camera and GPS to map your location in the real world. As you travel the world, your in-game avatar does the same. Pokémon appear throughout the world and can be captured using Pokéballs, and a little aim, to be added to your Pokédex. They can also be trained, battled, upgraded and evolved into more powerful Pokémon as you continue your journey. While there are some common types that are seen a lot, there are also rarer types that can only be found in certain locations. Water Pokémon will tend to appear more near bodies of water, such as lakes or oceans, while Grass Pokémon will appear in more leafy areas. This is a ridiculously cool feature which forces you to be active and play with others. From what the creators have said, you would have to transverse the entire world to find every single Pokémon, which for most is not a likely scenario. Instead you can do what Pokémon Trainers are meant to do: Trade! The game promotes travel and encourages adventure and exploration by adding several features throughout the world.
The game sets up Pokéstops and Gyms which are located at landmarks, historical locations, art installments and other places of interest in the area you are located in. Pokéstops are really fun to hunt down and loot. They are small areas that can be traveled to in the real world to nab some free supplies such as additional Pokéballs and other helpful items. The night of release I spent traveling around my neighborhood tracking down landmarks and getting more balls! There’s a clock tower in my neighborhood that I’ve lived next to for ten years and never paid attention to, until that day when I realized it was a stop. Gyms are a lot of fun as well, but they will take some time before being able to enjoy. They are not available until Lvl 5, so definitely spend some time exploring and catching Pokémon before bothering to find a gym. Once you reach Lvl 5 you can start battling your little pocket sized monsters in various Gyms located at larger landmarks. When you spot a gym, the icon on your screen will show which Pokémon is currently the top dog of the gym. When you click on the gym location you can scroll through all of the gym leaders and the beasts they chose to leave on that gym. Gyms are leveled up by having members of the same team train against their gyms and eventually getting the gym high enough to add another Pokémon to defend the spot. Opposing teams can come and fight their Pokémon against the gym leaders and try to struggle for control.
Battling gyms is awesome for the most part, but isn’t really my favorite part or my favorite mechanic. The battle mechanics are like nothing we have seen before in the franchise. Battles basically boil down to taps for light attacks, hold and release for special moves, and swipes to dodge. CP, or combat power, is an all-encompassing stat that measures the power that’s inside each Pokémon (See what I did there?) The higher the CP, the better chance you have at standing up to stacked gym. One amazing function that has crossed over is weaknesses and advantages of Pokémon types. Water is still Super Effective against fire and attacks can still fall if dodged. The system that dictates which types are effective against others is still the same so having a prior knowledge of the original games is tremendously beneficial. So, knowing which types to put into a battle against the defending team is an important strategy if you want to take over your local gym. This makes for some really fun battles and gym rivalries, or at least it would if people were decent.
Ok, so I obviously love this game, I love Pokémon and always have. But, some of the people playing this game are becoming a huge disappointment, and really seem to be going out of their way to ruin a good thing for everyone. There are three teams that you can choose from, once you reach Level 5, to fight for in gym battles. Each team is represented by a Legendary Bird and has its own lore with different traits and motivations for catching Pokémon and becoming the best. Team Red, or Valor, is represented by Moltres, Team Blue, or Mystic (TEAM MYSTIC WOOT) is Articuno and Team Yellow, Instinct, takes their lead from Zapdos! This whole team gym battle situation could be delightful competitive fun, but unfortunately some people have taken it to an unhealthy level. I have heard plenty of stories, seen plenty of memes, and personally experienced countless examples of prejudice and bashing of other players, even to the extent of threatening opposing teams for trying to take their gym. I’ve seen it from every team, so when I hear that “Team Valor are the worst people” I think, No, the people you ran into are the worst people. Small groups of imbecilic jerks do not represent the team as a whole. I hope that moving on, people can just realize that this is supposed to be a fun game, and competition is awesome, but nobody needs to continue to propagate this animosity for other players or other teams. It is clear that the people who sustain the hate simply need to watch the Pokémon 2000 movie that shows what happens when the Legendary Birds engage in battle. Spoilers: it’s not good for anyone!
Speaking of imbecilic, I would like to address the “casualties” the game has seen as of this point. Let me start by saying that if anyone really has been hurt, robbed, or attacked that I definitely feel bad about that and extend my well wishes. I will say this though…We need to start taking responsibility for our own actions. Pokémon Go did not make you walk across a highway. You chose to do that. The game did not make you drive into a wall or oncoming traffic. You chose to be an irresponsible human being. Irresponsible people will always find a way to do irresponsible things and this game is not the reason that poor upbringing has caused some unfortunate issues. I can only speak for myself and the people I play with, but from what I have seen, most of us are being respectful and smart, and playing in a healthy way that has left me in awe.
As far as the rest of the gameplay is concerned, there is not too much to it. At this stage in the game’s life the main goal is to catch them all. And, you know, to be the very best like no one ever was. But filling your Pokédex has always been the end game to Pokémon titles as far back as Red, Blue and Green. Traveling around whatever your version of Kanto is has been widely appealing to people of all ages. I love finding new Pokémon in different locations, and have even gotten sucked into farming specific species and evolving them to add to the roster. At first I wanted to ONLY catch my Pokémon in the wild, but I remembered how big of a part evolving and training played in previous installments and fell in love with it all over again. Evolving seems to be the most efficient way to accumulate extremely strong Pokémon to battle with as well. Catching Pokémon is a fun minigame and replaces the battles that occur when we encounter wild animals. You use your finger to throw Pokéballs at your prey in hopes that they stay sealed in their new shiny would be homes. There are some strategies to this that keep it from being a monotonous task including a closing circle, which also denotes difficulty, around the Pokémon that you want as close to the center as possible for a better chance of them staying caught. There is also some style you can add to your throws with the curve balls, which are used by twirling the Pokéball before you “throw” it, similar to changing item styles in Mario Maker. To me, this minigame makes more sense than having your owned Pokémon beat the crap out of wild animals before catching them, raising them and loving them, so I don’t mind that this has been changed for this game.
Pokémon Go has quite literally changed my daily routine for the better. That seems like an exaggeration, I know. I haven’t taken as many walks in the last 6 months as I have in the last 6 days. I am getting out to new places in hopes of finding new Pokémon and Pokéstops, and best of all, I’m making so many new friends. Living in Las Vegas, you can imagine there is no shortage of popular tourist attractions to choose from, all of which have at least one Pokéstop, but I have learned about new places and art installations in my city simply because this game has led me to them. Typically when I play I decide which park or neighborhood I want to explore, I close my app, and I drive to that location. Once I arrive I pull out the app and start to walk. Parks are my favorite locations because they tend to be filled with new species, are usually lit with Pokéstops (and lures), and also tend to have at least one gym. I’ve come across countless parks with 50-100 people playing and having fun together on a daily basis. Complete strangers meeting in these random places, helping each other find things, giving pro tips for spawn locations, and sharing fond memories of their childhood and what they love about Pokémon. I cannot say how excited this has made me to play this game every day. Going out on a limb, I think that the camaraderie and the human interaction has been more fun for me than the game in general. That is not to say it isn’t fun, because there is so much in it for someone like me, but to be able to meet hundreds of new pals because of a video game is awe inspiring. There is a large memorial park in my city that I visited the other day, and hundreds of people came to play. I saw people bringing flowers and dropping them at memorials for people they have never met just out of respect. To me, these experiences are a testament to how this game can and should be played. Trading and Battling amongst players is not implemented at this stage but has been promised for future updates, and hasn’t stopped record breaking amounts of people from enjoying what is already available in the game.
This game has had an insane following since its release. Pokémon Go became one of the most downloaded apps after about two days and has now surpassed Candy Crush which previously held the record for the most used smart device app. It currently has over 10 million downloads on Google Play and iTunes and is still rising. In my own town we held our first large Pokémon Go meetup on Sunday July 10th where over 2,000 people showed up to hunt, play and search for imaginary animals together. The news stations in town all covered the incredible turn out and showcased what kind of amazing things can happen when these type of phenomenon are handled with respect and integrity. The high number of players has definitely been a wonderful thing to witness, but has also added to the most prevalent issue with the game. Server issues and bugs plague the common trainer more than bullies seeking milk money ever did in the 90’s. Since the first day, fans were crashing the servers leaving many people unable to even launch the app. The server issues have definitely been addressed and are being worked on but there are still minor issues a week after launch. I fully expect that these issues will be a thing of the past eventually, along with notion that Pokémon is a franchise exclusively meant for 10 year olds.
All in all this game has made a tremendous advancement in the gaming world, along with its sister game Ingress, which was also created by Niantic. The face of mobile gaming is changed and I can’t wait to see what other advancements in gaming come from this type of ingenuity. From young to old Pokémon has a place in many of our hearts so seeing them get this type of attention is incredibly exciting. Obviously this game will not appeal to everybody. If you are looking for Pokémon: Red or Blue, this game may not be for you. It isn’t meant to be that game but it does celebrate the love of those characters. This is not, by any means, the next Pokémon game. It is a completely different beast and for that I am glad. If you are looking for that type of game, Red, Blue and Yellow are conveniently available to download for your 3ds on the Nintendo Eshop, and in the winter we have Sun and Moon to look forward to. Pokémon Go is currently available for iOS or Android devices now and waiting for you to say “I choose you!”
Rating: SUPER EFFECTIVE!!!!
PRO TIPS: The game is pretty self-explanatory, so I will just say this…Please play smart. Play Responsibly. Play with all of those things your guardians taught you. Common sense does not just go out the window because there is a Haunter across the street. Also Bring Water, Bring Chargers!!
GOTTA’ BE SOMETHIN’ WRONG: Battery life is decimated by the app. While the issue is not unnoticed by Niantic, it is still a ubiquitous problem. I watched my battery go from 100% to 20% in about two hours or less. As of this writing the only money I have sunk into the game has been in gas and a portable charger to extend my play times because this app is definitely a phone killer!