Pokemon is a series that has been in the spotlight for a very long time. Ever since the release of the very first Game Boy, aspiring Pokemon champions have been training to be the very best, like no one ever was. As time has gone on, the graphics have changed and some new mechanics have been introduced, but it’s still been pretty much the same old song and dance. We’re not saying that there’s anything particularly wrong with the tried and true, but for some time, fans have been wanting something a bit different.
One of the biggest requests have been some sort of MMO on console where they could see the series truly evolve into something bigger. While we still don’t have that dream coming into fruition just yet (fingers crossed for something on the NX), Nintendo has finally begun releasing its other take on the highly popular franchise. Pokemon GO is an augmented reality (AR) game that lets you catch the collectible critters right in your neighborhood… sort of.
The game shows a cartoonish map of your actual town, with streets and buildings all accounted for. Locations are designated as shops, centers, gyms, and areas where you can capture specific Pokemon. This makes the whole adventure feel more grounded in reality. You are no longer just playing some avatar (although there is some avatar on the screen), it is you and you’re the one becoming the best. You want to catch Pokemon? Then you have to go out into the world and seek out their locations in order to add them to your location. There’s no more ‘regions,’ earth is your map.
Now, for the time being at least, Pokemon GO is very rudimentary. Battles are limited to gyms, and the actual mechanics aren’t as in-depth as you may expect after having played the handheld iterations. There are also some key systems not in place, specifically trading and battling with friends, but they will be implemented at some point in the future. Because of this, though, it’s difficult to definitively say how good (or bad) Pokemon GO is. Yet, it’s clear to see quite a bit of potential that helps to set this mobile game apart from the core series, quite possibly in a big way.
The AR aspect is one of the biggest factors in Pokemon GO’s potential. Fans are already used to walking around maps they’ve seen time and time again on their Game Boy or 3DS screen, but stumbling across new Pokemon in places you’ve actually been to is something that is still mesmerizing, even if it is relatively simple. There’s just no comparing seeing an alert on your phone and then lifting it up to see a Pokemon chilling in front of your house. It’s like every kid’s fantasy come true – the chance to be a legit master in the real world.
You can actually catch these Pokemon by using Pokeballs, and you’ll still have to deal with those nerve-wracking shakes as you wait for the catch to be finalized. This promotes exploration in the real world, through your neighborhood and parks, giving a reason to check out new areas. This may be a bit divisive for those fans who want a more classic, sit still kind of experience, but it is a fitting transformation for the franchise.
It’s odd, because it’s not what fans were asking for, yet, so far at least, it feels right. If you would’ve told me 10 years ago that I’d willingly walk around New York City in search of Pokemon, I would’ve laughed in your face after convincing you to trade your Kadabra to me. But, after finally seeing Pokemon GO in the wild, it’s amazing how many of us never really considered the possibilities.
Pokemon GO may possibly be the game fans have been wanting, they just may not have realized it until now.