A lot of people that aren’t Pokemon fans seem really confused right now, some of them even frustrated, as to why their Facebook feed or their Instagram is currently nothing but Pokemon GO screenshots. Understand that, silly as you may personally find it, Pokemon was one of the biggest, most influential things to ever hit pop culture and even after over 20 years, it is nowhere close to running out of steam. Pokemon is a juggernaut, and more than just a game or a cartoon to many of us. Almost every new Pokemon game brings with it the massive media blast you’re witnessing at this moment, but the difference with Pokemon GO is that it is a mobile phone game that is free to download. This means that even people that don’t have up to date Nintendo hardware, and even people who have never actually played a Pokemon game can just go download it off of their app store right now, and join in the fun. I fall into the category of Pokemon fans who were reared in the golden age of the 90’s, who has played every Pokemon game ever released on launch day, and who has 2 monsters from this massive franchise permanently etched into my leg. I was as hyped up as everyone else about the potential of Pokemon GO. The issue is that, just like that softball team that all the kids’ parents signed them up for against their will in 2nd grade, potential doesn’t really matter if you don’t put forth the effort.
Pokemon GO is what happens when Geocaching and Pikachu get real cozy after a romantic dinner. Using the GPS technology built into your phone and VR implementation using your camera, you can at long last travel across the land, searching far and wide (OK, it’s out of my system now). Much like any other Pokemon game, the goal is to catch all of the Pokemon and fill out your Pokedex while also training to compete in gym battles, proving yourself not only capable of capturing, but controlling these creatures. Unlike any other Pokemon game, you really have no motivation to do so other than bragging rights. Your phone will display a rudimentary map with a 3D character sprite on it that moves, as accurately as is possible with current GPS technology, as you move. Depending on your location, different Pokemon will be available to you. When you are close enough to a Pokemon’s coordinates, you can tap it to initiate a battle. Unlike a regular Pokemon game, in the battle, you will only throw Pokeballs attempting the capture the Pokemon (battling is only done in gyms and is simplified). While you can disable the VR functions, leaving them on will project the 3D image of the Pokemon you are facing onto the environment in front of you. The visuals are only so good, what with this being a mobile game and all, but you can get some pretty hilarious results out of this feature. I’m still waiting to find a grimer in a super market bathroom. While Pokemon GO currently only features the cast of the original games, and to my knowledge no one has spotted any legendary Pokemon, Missingno was apparently included among the roster. I think this is easily one of the worst launches in videogame history. Not only is the game currently riddled with bugs, and I don’t mean Pinsir and Scyther, but the servers can barely handle all of the traffic they are currently receiving. Nintendo claims they didn’t expect the game to be as popular as it is, but do you sincerely believe that? This is Pokemon! People have been over hyping this game for over a year. Nintendo knew exactly what they were getting into, and needs to admit that they made mistakes and were not prepared. You may be wondering how Nintendo intends to make money off of this application, and if you guessed microtransactions, you’d be correct(check out Mike’s list here). You can spend your real money on more pokeballs, and items such as incense to attract more Pokemon. There’s also a device coming called Pokemon GO plus, which I may write about if I decide to purchase one.
Pokemon GO is an intriguing concept, and even though it’s only moderately entertaining and bit lacking, it is innovative and I think that through this game, many advancements will be made both for other mobile games and for potential updates or sequels. While Pokemon GO is not optimal, I feel players are certainly going to make fond memories. Earlier today, I had a job interview and while waiting, I took out my phone and caught an Eevee that just happened to be right in front of me to pass the time. It’s neat how the dog park in my town is a pokemart, the church down the street from my friend’s house is a gym, and North Carolina State University is the Bell Tower. I’m not sure how they went about deciding which landmarks were going to be what. However, there are some more rural areas where the game is not playable, and my house is one of them. I live way out in the sticks, and even though I have a functional cell signal and GPS signal, and even while connected to Wi-fi,the game lists no Pokemon as being nearby and there are no landmarks. I understand why rural areas have yet to be seeded (if they’re going to be at all), but it kind of sucks a bit of the adventure out of the game for me. Yeah, it’s fun to run around campuses and parking lots with your friends, but why can’t I find Pokemon in the woods behind my house, too?
Pokemon GO is probably going to be popular for quite a while, especially if they update it with new Pokemon and new features down the road. While the game only offers a couple of activities and minimal entertainment, it’s the marriage of technologies that make the game interesting. I’m not saying that the game is necessarily bad, as I greatly enjoy the short amount of time I have spent with it, but it’svery lacking,and boils down the “Gotta Catch ’em All” slogan to its simplest form. As the game warns each time you boot it, please be aware of your surroundings as you travel across the land, searching far and wide (I lied). No Pokemon is more valuable than your life.