If you grew up in the 90s (if you read our site, chances are pretty high that you did), then you’re surely familiar with the Pokémon phenomenon. The franchise that spans video games, an animated series, and a trading card game celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Commemorating that milestone birthday is the new mobile game, Pokémon GO. Available on iOS and Android this week, the game has become a viral hit, with a new generation of fans discovering the obsessive collecting aspect of the game and nostalgic millennials reliving their childhoods.
Pokémon GO follows the concepts laid out in the main series video games. Anyone who’s played Red, Blue, Gold, Silver or any of the dozen titles will know what to do. You take the role of a Pokémon trainer, travelling the world and collecting and battling the hundreds of creatures that inhabit our streets. Now, however, with modern Augmented Reality (AR) tech, your very neighborhood becomes a site for Pokémon to be found.
Every kid has always dreamt of being a Pokémon trainer in real life, and now Pokémon GO makes that dream a partial reality. The game uses your real world location and overlays it with a multitude of features. When you walk in real life, the game tracks your location and throws up various Pokémon to be caught. With the use of your phone camera, it appears that Pokémon are literally in front of you and your surroundings.
Not only can you catch Pokémon, but you can also visit real world ‘PokéStops’ and Pokémon Gyms. ‘PokéStops’ are specialized locations, where trainers can pick up useful items like Poké balls and lures, useful for catching more Pokémon. Pokémon Gyms are also locations where you can stake your claim. You can also challenge various gyms and reduce their prestige value in order to claim it as your own.
Since Pokémon Go is barely ten days old, there are still a lot of glitches and bugs to be found. The ‘walking in real life’ concept is cool in theory, but becomes a bit of a drag. Not to mention the fact that more Pokémon seem to be found mostly in large cities rather that suburban towns, putting big city players at an advantage. If you live in a small town, you’ll spend your days catching Doduo and Weedle, or just walking long distances without a single critter popping up. Not to mention the constant lags and freeze issues that plague the game. Signing in also is unreliable (the game uses either your Google account or your Pokemon Trainer Club account info), with error screens perpetually displayed. If you have a phone with an outdated camera or a slow connection, you can forget about enjoying the game. Oh, and that phone battery isn’t going to last you very long when playing continuously with your location, data, and camera switched on.
Gameplay too is a far cry from the classic RPG elements. Although the premise is the same, the methods are different. You now need Pokemon ‘candy’ to evolve a creature, instead of leveling it up by battling. You need an ‘incubator’ to hatch eggs instead of just carrying it around. These aren’t necessarily bad, just different and a little weird for the seasoned Pokémon player.
Developer Niantic is currently ironing out the creases of the game, and already the game has improved in terms of reliability and stability. They have also promised cool new features like trading on the horizon. Soon you can also pick up the Pokémon GO Plus, a wrist device sold separately which alerts you whenever a Pokémon is nearby.
Judging by the massive success of the app, which today totals almost 21 million US gamers, Pokemon Go is a vision of the future. Few games offer the real world experience that Pokémon Go provides, in addition to the nostalgic and addictive process of capturing all the Pokémon. It isn’t a perfect game, but boy does it have potential and staying power. Not to mention the fact that it’s an excellent time killer. Go ahead, put on your trainer cap and catch ’em all!
Images courtesy pokemongo.com
What do you think of Pokémon Go?
Edited by: Kelly Conley