Zachary Landau | Asst. A&E Editor
Seven months down the line, I still do not know what to make of “Pokémon GO.” I don’t think anyone really knows what “Pokémon GO” is.
What are you supposed to say about a game that is barely a game, is not widely regarded as particularly good and yet has made more money than the GDP of some countries?
I find this question particularly frustrating because Niantic does such a terrible job at managing its money maker. “Pokémon GO” is still, seven months later, a trash game; it crashes frequently, drains batteries, and its battle mechanics still do not work as intended. I still don’t understand how catching Pokemon works. Trading, a feature promised the week that “Pokémon GO” launched, has yet to see release. It is all a mess.
This is to say nothing about its retention. Niantic has made feeble attempts to get people to continue playing the game, such as hosting holiday events, but real, substantial updates did not start coming till this week.
Granted, these updates are really good, and “Pokémon GO” is 100 percent closer to its original promise because of them. But does that justify replaying it or downloading it for the first time?
The main bulk of this update are the new Pokémon. After (weirdly) adding only a handful of new monsters in Dec, Niantic released the majority of the Generation II Pokémon into the wild, bringing the total number of creatures to about 220. This is obviously great, as the main appeal of “Pokémon GO” is, well, collecting Pokémon, but it also has the funny side effect of working against the other mechanics of the game.
What do I mean? Well, let’s say you want to evolve your Golbat into a Crobat (the latter being part of this update). Collecting the 100 pieces of candy necessary to make this happen is a lot harder because Zubat are far-less common now. This problem also rears its head when powering-up Pokémon, as candy has to pull double-duty and both evolve and strengthen your creatures. In essence, capturing specific Pokémon is even more tedious because they are all less common, making the other parts of the game a drag to complete.
However, I feel like this is a worthy trade-off. Again, capturing and collecting Pokémon is still the best part, so having nearly a hundred more to find and capture is really fun. I would imagine this is especially true for those who may have given up on the series after the first game; this update provides an easy entry into discovering how “Pokémon” has changed since 1999. Not only that, but one of the new items added to this update, the Pinap Berry, doubles candy earned for each capture, helping expedite candy farming.
The tracking feature, which has been added on and off for the past few months, has also been put into full effect. This mechanic shows which PokéStop a Pokémon is next to in the “Nearby” menu, and if the player clicks on the footprints underneath the Stop, the game will show you where it is on the map. The functionality of this feature is dubious to say the least. On the one hand, it makes finding Pokémon a lot easier, but it also removes the whole sense of discovery that made the game a lot of fun to play when it launched. It discourages players from asking others where they caught their monsters, which is a shame as those conversations were always great fun.
This update also adds more customization options for your characters. Some of them are nice, such as new colors for the default jackets, but most are rather pointless. There are microtransactions for new clothes as well, and they range from pretty cheap (about 50 cents for a pair of glasses) to way too expensive (like five bucks for a shirt). They are mostly harmless, though I do not envision myself, nor most reasonable people, deliberately paying for them.
Besides, it is much funnier to exploit the new ability take your socks and shoes off and run around like a troglodyte hunting for your next meal.
Sentret are supposed to be a particular delicacy.
Does this make “Pokémon GO” worth playing though? That depends. Like before, the game is best played with others, and despite these big updates, the core collection aspect of the game is still intact. If trading was added as part of this update, I would have definitely said yes, as it would enhance that interpersonal connection that makes the game fun even more. As is, “Pokémon GO” remains as that weird phenomenon that still somehow is making tons of money.
Like, ridiculous amounts of money.
More money than any one entity should really have.
So much money.