PSA: I haven’t been able to do one of these for a few weeks, my laptop died and I’m too lazy to get outta bed and do it on my iMac, it was a tragic time and after a few weeks all that was up was the hard drive cable was fucked. The silver lining is I got a hard drive upgrade because I thought it was the drive at first.
Before I talk about Pokémon GO I need to clarify a few things. I am a COLOSSAL Pokémon fan, to this very day as a 27-year old man, it’s one of my favourite franchises of all time. Just laying that down so you can be sure the views of Pokémon GO come from a seasoned fan and NOT a Genwunner.
With that out of the way let’s get down to business.
What is Pokémon GO and How Does It Work?
While I’ve been away, you may have noticed a new app dropped on iOS and Google Play called Pokémon GO, if you haven’t, I have no idea what to say, the game’s fucking huge (I believe at the time of writing it has 45million players). The concept is pretty straight forward, the app uses your phone’s GPS to see where you are in the real world, using this information it places random Pokémon on the map, you tap the Pokémon and try to catch it using Poké balls. There is a Professor, a man that has taken the internet by storm, Professor Willow. When you first start up the game, the professor gives you a bit of a speech, you make your avatar and he places one of the 3 original starters (Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle) on the map for you to catch. The game only uses the first 151 Pokémon which is why I think it appeals to genwunners as well.
I know what you’re thinking and yes, the game does feature micro-transactions, it is a free-to-play mobile game after all. However, if you play the game the way it’s meant to be played by actually walking around and acquiring items from Poké Stops and battling to acquire certain gyms scattered across the land micro transactions are the last thing on your mind. A Poké Stop is a landmark (a church, pub etc.) where a player can go, get their phone out and acquire Poké Balls, potions, revives and even eggs.
“How do gyms work?” I hear you ask, the way gyms work in Pokémon GO is they are landmarks, like Poké Stops which become accessible when a player reaches level 5, they can challenge a gym and hold it (for like 5 seconds because they’re that many players). Basically, it’s a glorified game of turf wars because not only are you representing yourself but when you first access a gym, Professor Willow pipes up and asked you which team you would like to join, Team Mystic, Team Instinct or Team Valor, all represented by the three legendary birds respectively. The split between players has caused great banter on the internet and some bullying which is bang out of order, that’s just not the spirit of Pokémon or any game for that matter. It’s a good way to make the game competitive and could help the longevity of the game.
Pokémania Runnin’ Wild
Not only is Pokémania runnin’ wild again like it’s 1998, the app is bringing people together in a way I’ve never seen before, I mean this past Thursday and Friday I went to the park with a friend of mine. We’re not attached to the hip by any stretch of the imagination but virtually the only time I see this friend in work, not that I wouldn’t or don’t socialise with him out of work, the fact Pokémon GO had us going to the park wandering around trying to find some rare monsters is astounding. I’m even finding myself having conversations with random people I see, it starts with a simple glance and when you see each other on their phones, “Are you playing Pokémon?” is usually asked and that transcends to “Whats your highest CP?” and “What team are you on?” etc., there are Facebook groups which is getting people to organise get togethers and I’m sure when trading inevitably comes to the game, trading will be organised on social media as well.
There are two spots in my hometown which are sort of hotspots for Pokémon GO with 4-5 Poké Stops within a few hundred yards of each other, I want to say I’ve never seen these places so populated with people but I never took any notice. Basically, Pokémania is back and it’s fucking glorious.
How the Game Plays
As an avid gamer, here’s where I feel a bit short changed. IT’s a mobile game so I’m not really surprised that the gameplay isn’t up to scratch. The general idea of the game is so well thought out, such a simple idea making use of the modern day smart phone, using GPS etc. It takes vision to make a game like this, my mother was wandering round the living room the other day looking for a Gastly, Niantic and Nintendo are on to something here.
Pretty simple, you walk around and when you see a Pokémon in the wild it’ll flash up on the map, you click on it and you’ll start to try and catch it. It’s basically the Facebook basketball game but with Poké balls and Pokémon instead of a basketball and a hoop. You can also hatch eggs received from Poké Stops, you place an egg in an incubator and walk 2, 5 or 10 km until the egg hatches, but with Egg Incubators few and far between if you’re really into the game you may find yourself caving in and purchasing Poké Coins for a few extra Egg Incubators.
When you reach level 5, you pledge your allegiance to one of the teams I mentioned earlier and you’ll challenge Gyms with what I’m assuming would be your strongest Pokémon, when/if you beat a gym you’ll claim it for the team you’re on and leave a Pokémon there to hold the fort so other trainers can come and challenge you and the circle continues. I understand the game has to appeal to non-gamers in order to succeed which is why the battle system is just rinsing tap your Pokémon to attack and swipe your Pokémon to dodge, not rocket science and if you have a half decent Pokémon you can probably take down most gyms, you send in a team of 6. Now, I’ve always thought Pokémon is baby’s first RPG, that isn’t a knock to the franchise, Pokémon Red and Blue with Final Fantasy introduced me to a genre I hold near and dear (I’ve spoke about this before). The system doesn’t sit right with me, there’s no strategy, all you do is type and swipe with thought about weakness and what is the best option for you, I would of enjoyed it more if it was more similar to the cannon series but that’s just me, that being said I do enjoy the turf war element to it.
My Dislikes of Pokémon GO
When this game first got announced I thought I’d be over it within a week. It’s nearly been two and I’m not. There’s something about going the town/the park or simply driving about looking for these virtual creatures, however, there are some things that downright piss me off about Pokémon GO.
The app crashes constantly, I have to restart the app frequently when I’m having a session and it gets in the way of what is usually a good time and don’t even get me started on the servers. The first couple of days this game was available to me I could not get on to save my life the servers have gotten more stable since but it was so annoying, Niantic mustn’t of realised what they potentially had with Pokémon GO and I believe a shaky launch was probably inevitable.
It’s also too simple, even for a Pokémon game. When you see a wild Pokémon part of me wants to send out Charmander (or whoever), weaken it and then catch it but instead all you have to do is flick Poké balls until it’s caught or runs away and maybe even throw it a few Razz Berries if it’s not behaving itself.
And the worst thing about Pokémon GO?
The people that don’t play it. I know Niantic and Nintendo can’t do anything about this, but this is quite simply the worst thing about the game is the people that don’t play it. I’ve heard borderline nasty comments aimed at people who play it, “You sad b*stards” and “Get a life” being a tame few, and no one is forcing you to play, but don’t put down the people getting out and having a good time, if these people were sat in their basements slurping Mountain Dew and putting in 12 hour shifts on video games they’d also complain. I say too each his own, but on the other hand people straight up falling off cliffs and walking out into busy roads trying to catch Pokémon don’t set a good example to the decent people playing the game.
Pokémon GO is great, as a product not so much. It’s bringing people together in a way I have never seen before and that has to be admired. If it’s going to remain relevant is up to Niantic and Nintendo, battling and trading with your friends should come soon and I it’s my assumption they plan to roll out more generations when the timing is right, starting with Generation 1 was smart, it’s the most popular (by a country mile) and it’s less daunting, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “This was my childhood”. You wonder whether this game would be as popular if it wasn’t a Pokémon and I think Niantic’s previous game, Ingress proves that it doesn’t. Ingress is pretty much the same game minus the Pokémon, whether Nintendo saw this and thought that’d make a good Pokémon game is anybody’s guess, but here we are.
The fact that Nintendo’s stock sky rocketed to its highest it’s been since the Famicom came out in Japan and eclipsed Sony at one point tells you everything you need to know about the current state of that company, pretty much bin off the hardware and go multi platform like EA and Ubisoft. But that’s a conversation for another time.
Anyway, why are you still here? You’ve got Pokémon to catch 😉