I haven’t gone to confession in a number of years but but I have a confession. I haven’t played Pokemon Go in 2 and half years. See, after the initial hype died down I felt no longer challenged and at times at a disadvantage because of NOT living in a city environment. I deleted the game and went on with life until a number of my close friends convinced me to give it a go and I must say I’m glad I did. Since the time that I’ve played, there were a lot of exciting features that have helped transform it into a more well-rounded game than I initially realized.
From PVP (player vs player) to trading and even in-game effects caused by the weather in the real world around you, Niantic has turned Pokemon Go into everything envisioned in the original announcement trailer, and in some ways even exceeded it.
As a 90s kid who grew up with Pokémon it is my pleasure to discuss a few of the most exciting features to come to Pokemon Go in the last two and a half years since I played.
1) Friends, Gifts, and Trading
Since my last foray into the popular AR game , Pokemon Go added its first true social media like feature: friends! Every player has their own friend code that you can share with other players. While I only have 9 (add me if you’d like!) I’m told you can add up to 200 friends to your friend list.
Once you’ve exchanged codes and accepted a request, you’ll be able to see your friend’s most recently caught Pokemon, and their stats regarding how many battles they’ve won, how far they’ve walked in the game, and how many Pokemon they’ve caught in total.
Once you’ve added a friend, you’ll be able to achieve one of four Friendship Levels: Good Friend, Great Friend, Ultra Friend, and Best Friend. Raising your friendship level will offer various rewards in the game, including lower Stardust costs for trades, extra damage during gym battles alongside a friend, and additional Premiere Balls during raids alongside a friend (nothing is more enriching then taking part in a raid with your best friends).
You can increase your friendship level with a particular friend by sending gifts (see below), trading, and participating in gym battles or raid battles together. Your friendship level can only increase once per day per friend, and this is how long I’ve been told by my friend Pete it takes to achieve each level:
• Good friend: 1 day
• Great friend: 7 days
• Ultra friend: 30 days
• Best friend: 90 days
You can only send ONE GIFT per day but I found if you send a gift at 11:59 PM you can also send another to the same friend at 12:00 AM (God, I love loopholes!).
2) Gift Giving
So you’re probably wondering what I mean by gifts right? Well, PokeStops will now occasionally drop Gifts, which you can send to friends on your list. Gifts will include a “postcard” from the PokeStop where you picked up the gift, as well as a various items such as: stardust, pokeballs, eggs, revive, and potions. Gifts usually also contain a special egg containing some rare Pokemon, depending where in the country or world you’re receiving them from you may get a real gem.
Gifts can also contain bonus Stardust, and don’t worry if you have not enough room in your bag but too many gifts you can delete unsent ones from your inventory (I haven’t, I sent those suckers). Did I mention you’ll also receive 200 XP for each gift you send a friend!?!
3) Trading Pokémon
Along with friends, Pokemon Go also added one of its most-requested features since launch: trading! Only catch is you can only trade with players on your friends list, and you have to be within 200 meters of each other to trade.
Players receive candy bonuses depending on the original catch location of the Pokemon being traded. If the Pokemon were caught far apart, you’ll receive extra candy for the Pokemon you’re trading.
Finally, the HP and CP of Pokemon traded to friends will be reset, resulting in random new stats for the Pokemon you receive. The range of possible HP and CP outcomes can be extremely wide or extremely narrow depending on your friendship levels, with Best Friends much more likely to receive stronger Pokemon.
4) PVP Trainer Battles
If you’ve been away for a super long time, like me, it’s not just trading you’re missing out on! Pokemon Go added its other most requested feature: PVP (Player vs. Player) Trainer Battles.
Starting a trainer battle is pretty easy you just scan a Battle Code. In the ‘Nearby’ menu in the lower right corner of the screen (which normally shows Pokemon and Raids in your area), a new Battle tab allows you to view a Battle Code, which is essentially a QR code featuring your trainer’s avatar.
A player standing close to you can scan your code (or you can scan theirs) in order to initiate a battle. This means you’ll need to be standing directly next to anyone you’re hoping to battle, with one major exception: you’ll be able to battle against your Ultra or Best Friends remotely over the internet.
Pokemon Go Trainer Battles are 1 v. 1, and each player uses a team of three Pokemon. A set of Pokemon will be recommended to you (based on CP and HP levels) but you don’t have to pick what they recommend. Pokémon can be replaced manually, or you can select from one of your pre-made Battle Parties prepared ahead of time.
5) You Can Now Select Your Pokemon and League
Before you can choose your team of Pokemon, you’ll need to decide which League you want to battle in. Trainer Battles will let you decide between three Leagues:
• Great League: Where each Pokemon must be 1,500 CP or under
• Ultra League: Where each Pokemon must be 2,500 CP or under
• Master League: Where each Pokemon have no CP limits
Once the battle begins, it’ll be familiar to anyone who’s tried Raid or Gym battles in the past. You’ll tap to use your Pokemon’s Fast Move, which will build up energy and eventually allow you to use a more powerful Charge Move. In battle, you’ll be able to choose which Charge Move you want to use once you’ve built up enough energy, then you’ll have an additional few seconds to charge it up even more.
During that window, the opposing player will have the option to use a Protect Shield. Each player only gets two of these to use for the entire battle, so you’ll need to be careful in deciding which Pokemon and which attacks to use them against.
At the end of a battle, both players will receive prizes regardless of whether they win or lose, which include the possibility of Stardust or Sinnoh Stones, which allow you to evolve some Generation 4 Pokemon. You can earn these rewards three times per day by battling other players. Battling against a player is also a new option for your once-per-day friendship increase.
Players can also train by fighting against AI-controlled versions of the three Team Leaders (Blanche, Candela, and Spark), which are also accessible via the Battle tab in the Nearby menu. Once per day, players can also earn rewards from this method of training (with the same potential prizes as battles against real players).
6) Dynamic Weather and Pokemon Spawns
Looking at the main screen when you boot up Pokemon Go, the logo in the top right represents the current weather. Weather in Pokemon Go is dynamic and corresponds with the actual real-world weather around you, and it changes every hour.
Eight weather states are currently available in Pokemon Go: rain, wind, snow, fog, sun (daytime), clear (nighttime), cloudy, and partly cloudy.
The in-game weather will affect the Pokemon spawns around you, with certain types more likely to appear in certain conditions and the attack power of certain moves boosted during battles.
Weather has been one of the most significant changes to Go since it launched, completely changing what appears around you and potentially making your neighborhood have different Pokemon day to day. If you could only find Pidgey, Rattata, and Zubat in your house back at launch, you might be surprised by how diverse the Pokemon population has become.
7) Field Research and Special Research
Back on the main screen, you’ll see the pair of binoculars in the bottom right which are how you access Research.
There are two types of research. First, “field” research is something you can complete multiple times per day. These are basic tasks (hatch an egg, catch 10 Pokemon, etc.) that you’ll generally complete during typical play anyway. You can obtain new tasks by spinning any PokeStop, and you can hold up to three at a time (or trash the ones you don’t want). The tasks will either give you items or an encounter with a Pokemon as a reward, with better rewards for harder tasks.
Once per day, the first research task you complete will give you a daily stamp. For every seven stamps you get, you’ll have the chance to open a Research Breakthrough Box, which awards you with an encounter with a rare or legendary Pokemon. Each month gets a different Pokemon, so if you get your seventh stamp on October 31, you’ll get October’s Pokemon if you open the box immediately, or November’s if you wait until the next day.
The second type of research is “special” research, which is the closest thing Pokemon Go has to a story mode. Special research gives you a mission and a series of multiple tasks to complete for a unique reward. Special Research tasks so far have included A Mythical Discovery, which entails completing various sets of tasks in order to encounter Mew, as well as A Ripple in Time to obtain the Mythical Pokemon Celebi, and the Halloween-themed A Spooky Message, which offered the Ghost-type Pokemon Spiritomb.
These missions are peppered with appearances from Professor Willow, who will appear in cut scenes at the end of each step to share some new information and assure you you’re on the right path.
You can hold multiple special research tasks at once, and they’ll never expire, meaning you can start the game right now and begin your quest for Mew or Celebi if you haven’t already, and you’ll still be able to start it even once new special research appears. Each player can only obtain a single Mew and Celebi, and you won’t be able to transfer or trade them, so don’t worry about accidentally losing yours!
8) You Can Participate In Raid Battles and Level Up Quicker Using Lucky Eggs
As you walk through the world, you may see messages pop up periodically that a battle is about to begin nearby, or you may see timers on top of gyms. Both of these are part of the raid battle system that Pokemon Go added since their launch.
If you find a raid before it’s begun, you’ll see an egg on top of a gym with a time countdown to when that egg will eventually hatch into a raid boss. There are five tiers of raids, and the color of the egg corresponds to the difficulty of the Pokemon inside.
Tier one and two raids are in pink eggs, which are the easiest type of raid. You can totally win these alone or with one other person. These are also the levels I recommend you start off with (unlike me who tried taking on a four tier boss alone and it was ugly).
Tier three and four raids are in yellow eggs, which have a wide range of difficulty. In almost every case, a level three raid can be beaten solo by a high level player, but may require the help of a few others depending on your battle party. Tier four raids can be more difficult, but can generally be beaten by five or six players at most.
I’ve read about (but have not see first hand) the Dark eggs which represent legendary raids, from what I gather these are the most difficult to complete. Some legendary Pokemon are easier to battle than others, with high level players able to take down some with just two players, or others requiring closer to a dozen players to defeat. In general, 10 players is a good rule of thumb, especially across a range of different experience levels, and if you have a full raid lobby of 20 players you should have no trouble at all.
The actual process of battling a raid boss will be much, much easier if you take the time to understand attack types. For example, knowing that a water-type Pokemon does super effective damage to a fire-type since fire is weak to water may sound simple, but there are extra factors that can help you do even more damage. STAB (or Same Type Attack Bonus) means that a Pokemon will do extra damage if they’re using moves that match their own type, and understanding movesets and damage output is important if you want to defeat a raid boss with a small group.
After you beat a raid boss, you’ll get a few raid items, then have a chance at a bonus challenge, which allows you to try to capture the Pokemon you just fought. Depending on how much damage you did and which team currently controls the gym where you battled, you’ll receive a set number of Premiere Balls at the end of the raid, and these are the only balls you’ll be able to use to catch the Pokemon. If you run out of balls, the Pokemon will flee, or if you catch it with extra balls leftover, you won’t get to keep your extras.
If you want to try out a raid, you get ONE free raid pass a day by visiting any gym. Otherwise it’s invitation only. If you’re trying to level up, raids are also one of the fastest way to gain XP in the game, so if you have any Lucky Eggs (which double all of the XP you earn for 30 minutes) in your inventory, I highly recommend you use them!
Overall from what I have gathered Pokémon Go has made drastic improvements which have made playing so much more easier and fun. If you, like me, have been away from the game for a while then I highly recommend re-downloading it and giving it another try.
Love you. Mean it.