Pokémon GO is probably the most awaited mobile video game coming out in the near future, and with good reason. It’s bringing the full Pokémon experience, including catching Pokémon, training them, battling them and trading them – to smartphones. Under development at veterans Niantic (known for Ingress), the game looks poised to become one of the biggest mobile game launches in history. Here’s what we’ve learned from the field tests that you absolutely need to know.
#1: Where (And When) To Find Pokémon
At the moment, only Generation I Pokémon have been included in the game, presumably because they’re the most popular. It has long been confirmed that the type of Pokémon you will encounter in the world will depend on where you are. Water-type Pokémon, for instance, will only appear near water bodies (rivers, lakes, oceans).
Interestingly, however, the time of the day might also affect the Pokémon you encounter, as we have at least one report of a user catching a Gastly at night with his phone flashlight turned on. It is likely that patterns for when which Pokémon are available to catch may be patterned after Pokémon Gold and Silver, which also featured day-and-night cycles in the game.
#2: Catching Pokémon and Augmented Reality
Needless to say, you can catch Pokémon in the game. When you encounter a Pokémon, you will enter Augmented Reality (AR) mode, overlaying the Pokémon on top of an actual video feed from your camera. You can also choose to turn off AR mode if you’d prefer, rendering the Pokémon on a 3D surface.
Unlike traditional Pokémon games, you do not use an existing Pokémon to fight encountered Pokémon. Instead, you throw balls at them directly to catch ’em. The better the ball, the higher your chances of catching that Pokémon. Your trainer (i.e. your avatar in the game) earns experience for throws and catches, and you get a bonus for the first catch of the day. You can also choose to run away from encounters if you’d prefer.
#3: Gyms and Gym Membership
To gain a gym membership, you first need to gain a high enough Trainer level (by earning experience through various activities, such as catching Pokémon). You will then be asked which Team you want to join – Team Red, Blue or Yellow. This will grant you membership to that Team’s gym. All gyms belonging to your team will become ‘available’ to you, while other Teams will become ‘enemy’ gyms.
At a friendly gym, you can train Pokémon, which enables a “Training Meter”. You will get experience and “Gym Points” for training your Pokémon. Gyms will have levels and will gain “prestige”, moving up tiers. There will also be a Gym Leader (because whatever would a gym be without a gym leader), and this person will determine the order of the Pokémon to be battled in a gym. Which takes us to…
#4: How Battles Work
Battles in Pokémon GO are, surprisingly, in real-time, and not turn-based as in previous games. You select your ‘team’ of Pokémon and then give them items to properly buff them up for the coming fight. Battles can take place in AR mode, just like how you catch Pokémon.
Your Pokémon will have Health and Energy, and you can only fight with one Pokémon at a time. Once you enter combat, you can choose to either Dodge the enemy attack, use an item or Attack the enemy. If you choose to attack, you get to pick between a quick attack, or a strong, charged attack. If you choose to dodge or use an item, you will deplete your stamina. Naturally, types will be important and will work just as they have in the traditional Pokémon games.
Battles are time-limited and take place in rounds. If you run out of time, you lose. Your goal is to beat all of the Gym Leader’s Pokémon, if you are a challenger. If you are a defending Gym Leader, you can specify the number of quick and charged attacks to perform, and which Pokémon to target.
#5: Items, PokéStops and Eggs
PokéStops will dispense items, experience, eggs and gems, and will have a cooldown period, which sounds on par for a free-to-play mobile game. Items will be broken up into tiers, and can be further purchased with gems. Gems can also be purchased with real-world currency.
Examples of items found in the game include PokéBalls, Potions, Revives and Food. Interestingly, some items are intended to work at night. There are also ‘heavy’ versions of items and ‘multi-throw’ items, amongst other interesting options.
You can also carry eggs in an egg bag, which carries a whopping 500 eggs at a time (that’s a lot of potential omelettes). Each one will have a progress bar showing you how many kilometers you have walked lugging that egg around.
#6: Where is Pokémon GO Coming Out?
According to Tsunekazu Ishihara, CEO of The Pokémon Company, Pokémon GO will initially launch in Japan, Europe and North America. It will later be expanded to Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle-East. He left out Australia & New Zealand when mentioning the regions, but seeing as the region is host to the game’s field tests, it is likely that they will be included in the initial release.
#7: When is the Release Date?
The short answer is: some time this year. Pokémon GO was announced to release in 2016. We are almost halfway through the year now, and neither Niantic, nor The Pokémon Company, nor Nintendo has made any announcements regarding when the game will come out exactly.
Releasing this year would be important, however, as this year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Pokémon franchise. This year will also see the release of Pokémon Sun and Moon in November, and following the hype train might be important for Nintendo.
It is also important to keep in mind that 2016 might only apply to the initial round of releases in Japan, Europe and North America (and possibly Australia & New Zealand). The second round of release globally might very well take place in 2017 instead.