Ah, Pokémon GO. What it was and what it could have been. It was a sensation that gripped so many people only to come crashing down.
Let’s think back to early 2016 when Pokémon GO was just an innovating idea. One that got people excited. It was touted to be an AR game which would essentially be the closest thing to Pokémon in real life. Given the popularity of the original games and how many people have watched the anime over the years, it was something many of us were really looking forward to. Skip ahead to July: Pokémon GO is released and is an instant hit. It becomes the most downloaded app game; even people who have never had anything to do with Pokémon start playing it. It gets to the point where people in other countries hack their phones to play it. The app isn’t exactly like a Pokémon game and has its own mechanics. You basically walk around, looking for Pokémon and have to catch as many as possible. To evolve them, you need to catch more of the same rather than battle. So the game gets one of the great things about Pokémon right, the catching aspect. Wanting to catch all the Pokémon and evolve the ones you have gets everyone in a frenzy to walk down every possible street and try and see how many critters they can catch. Unfortunately, there is nothing more to Pokémon GO. That’s it. If you aren’t willing or able to go on two hour walks around pokéstop populated areas, the game basically becomes unplayable. This is because it’s the only way to get pokéballs and it is the only way to get health recovery items which you need to level up or fight at gyms. Also, a lot of features from the original games are absent in GO. You can’t form a good team and have strategised battles, you can’t battle gyms and collect badges, there’s no story to indicate progression, and you can’t even battle or trade with other people.
These are all crucial elements that made the original Pokémon games so popular. Though there was hope that Niantic would expand on the GO concept and add on some of the missing elements, it didn’t, and without them the novelty of Pokémon GO wears out fast. There weren’t really any rewards or stories to keep us going. We never felt any connection to our Pokémon. In the Pokémon games, we could pick certain Pokémon, battle with them, and raise them. In GO, it became just about catching them and discarding them for more candies.
Battling is a big part of Pokémon; the competitive battling scene is really strong and can be as complex as chess. In Pokémon GO, gyms are the only place you can battle your Pokémon against those of other players. The battles are just about tapping the screen, which spams your basic attack, until you build up enough charge to hold down on the screen to charge up an advanced attack that does more damage and pauses the battle to play a cut scene. This mechanic is dull, infrequent, and does not compare to the more intense and strategic battling of the Nintendo games.
The novelty of Pokémon is catching them, but GO’s mechanism manages to muddle that up. In the original games, catching them all is very possible, provided you put in the time and effort. You also need to battle Pokémon before you catch them which makes the act of catching more intense and more satisfying. In GO, all you do is throw pokéballs, taking away some of the appeal. Also, only certain Pokémon are common, the rest vary between rare and non-existent. You need to go to all sorts of areas and really push yourself just to complete a fraction of the Pokédex and get your beloved Charizard.. If you “gotta catch em all” but you actually physically can’t, what’s the point?
And now? Well, Pokémon GO is dead now. It didn’t go down overnight, it was more of a gradual decline as people started to get bored and realize there really wasn’t anything left to do. Even the rivalry between the three factions couldn’t keep it going. The rivalry was really just people insulting each other on the internet. And sure, updates might be coming out soon introducing new Pokémon and features but honestly, it’s too little too late.
It’s a real shame, Pokémon GO could have become something really special. Unfortunately it jettisoned a lot of what made Pokémon special with the end result being a mediocre game which was constantly plagued with server issues. Maybe in the future it will make a resurgence and regain its lost glory, but until then, I’ll play Pokémon Moon.