Pokémon is cool again? It seems so.
You remember Pokémon, it was that plucky anime from the 90s, well if anyone was like me and enjoyed it, good news, its back!
It has returned in the form of a new mobile app/game called “Pokémon GO” which has recently become available pretty much worldwide. I’m sure you’ve heard this news as it is all over social networks in recent weeks, with a multitude of tips and memes related to the app.
How to play
The app seems to be more orientated to the “Gotta catch ‘em all” slogan that the franchise uses, and not so related to the “battles” like the Nintendo games usually centre around. This means that the main aim of the game is to fill up your pokédex with all of the first generation Pokémon that you can. However the game also does incorporate a “battle” aspect, as there are “Pokémon Gyms” but not the Pokémon Gyms you’re used to from the games. Instead these gyms can be controlled by the players. Taking control of the gym will gain you experience and will help out your “team” (consisting of red, yellow and blue, this can be selected when first beginning the game).
This app also exchanges the “level” based system for training Pokémon that was used in the games, for a more sophisticated system, that more accurately represents the Pokémon’s strength. This change also means that the way Pokémon evolve has had to change. Instead of training Pokémon like in the game, you now need to catch lots of Pokémon to obtain “candies” of that particular Pokémon to make them evolve.
The game also has a way more hands on approach to catching Pokémon, as the phone uses GPS, mobile data and the phone’s camera, much like Google’s Ingress game (which was created by the same developer, Niantic), to create a very realistic experience. The player must travel to wherever the Pokémon maybe to catch it, and try to successfully catch the Pokémon by physically throwing a pokeball at it, creating a fun and challenging mini-game. It doesn’t involve any sort of battling, which differs heavily from the regular games.
Due to the nature of how to catch Pokémon on this app, it is impossible to do well at this game by staying in your house, which gives it a dynamic different to most games on the market now. Also this means that it gets the players out of the house more, this has affected lots of areas, particularly city centres with trainers coming out in large number to find “Pokéstops” and rare Pokémon. Along with this, people are exploring their surroundings more, due to certain Pokémon being area specific (e.g. water Pokémon may only be near rivers/lakes) and they may even meet new people through the app.
However, people who go out due to the app are most likely going to be spending the time they’re outside looking down at their phone, on the app, not looking where they’re going. This has already created controversy and in some cases reports of people being hit by cars etc. because they weren’t looking where they were going, as they were distracted by the app. Whether or not this is Nintendo’s fault is unclear as they do have a warning for the player to not get distracted by the app during the loading screens. But whether this is enough is unclear, and we will need to see how this develops in the future.
Also this app uses mobile data, and a lot of it, which could create lots of money issues for young children, not really knowing what they are paying for. The app also drains phone battery very quickly, which is a major issue I have noticed, but this can be forgiven, as it is genuinely a lot of fun. This can also be avoided by a portable charger/power bank. One of the more creative methods I have seen is connecting a power bank to a belt, and having it on permanently as Pokémon GO “fuel”.
In overview this is a new, free app that has had lots of hype prior to release due to a large, loyal fan base. It is great for people like myself who have been massive fans of the franchise for years, and also it is allowing people to get into the franchise if they haven’t before for whatever reason. This opens up a whole new generation to Pokémon, a game I enjoyed so much as a child and would love this generation to experience that too. Also it offers nostalgia to people older than myself who also grew up with Pokémon.
It is a fun game, which is seemingly never ending, a level up system for the player to keep it fresh, and it takes advantage of the latest technology, and the quickest expanding and most popular gaming market, mobile gaming to offer a new, unique experience.