Pokemon has officially left the 90s behind.
Nintendo teamed up with Niantic Labs to revitalise the title for 2016, and that includes creating an app that is very much mobile and equipped with fancy tech like GPS and augmented reality, all of which enables you - the player - to actually catch Pokemon in your real world.
That app is Pokemon Go. It's an iPhone and Android game that you've probably seen mentioned all over Facebook, Twitter, Reddit... heck, your coworkers are probably even playing it and talking about it in between meetings. So, here's everything you need to know to catch 'em all.
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What is Pokemon Go?
Everyone has heard of Pokemon. It's a franchise that involves fictional creatures called Pokemon (pocket monsters), which humans - known as Pokemon Trainers - try to catch and battle each other for sport. The franchise started as a Nintendo-published video game for the original Game Boy and eventually spawned into trading card games, animated TV shows, movies, comic books, and toys.
Now, via Pokemon Go, it's an augmented-reality game.
You don't need to know Pokemon lore or anything about the franchise to get involved with Pokemon Go. That said, it is a lot like old Pokemon games: you catch Pokemon, battle in Poke Gyms, evolve, etc - only now you're doing it all in the real world. You're no longer using a D-pad to navigate an avatar around. You physically walk about now, and your virtual avatar follows your every movement. Technology, man.
Pokemon Go is exciting because you're not only catching and battling Pokemon, you're exploring the real world, discovering cool places and monuments in your town (which are dubbed Poke Stops or Poke Gyms), playing with friends on occasion, and getting a taste of augmented reality without having to don a massive or pricey headset, such as Microsoft Hololens.
All you need is a smartphone, the Pokemon Go app, and a good pair of trainers.
How do you get started with Pokemon Go?
Download Pokemon Go for iOS or Android. It's free. Then, sign up for the game. You'll need to use your Google account or create a Pokemon Trainer Club account. After signing up, you'll customise your avatar. You can choose gender, eye colour, hair colour, clothes, and a backpack style.
After you've finished customising your avatar, you'll get a starter Pokemon option. Three Pokemon will appear in front of you. You can choose from Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle. Once you capture one, the other two will disappear. However, if you walk away from the original trio about four times, you'll get Pikachu as a fourth starter Pokemon option. Once you've done this, you'll enter the Pokemon Go map.
The map is the main area of the game. It's like Google Maps. You'll see unmarked roads, your local landmarks (dubbed Poke Stops or Poke Gyms), and rustling leaves (which means wild Pokemon are around). As you navigate, your avatar will move. Also, you'll see your player icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. You can tap this to view your information and achievements.
You'll also see a Poke Ball icon next to your player icon. Tap this to access your Pokedex (has information on all the Pokemon species you've caught), Pokemon list, Items (this is your backpack; it stores all the items you picked up during your journey), and Shop (lets you buy special items to attract Pokemon or enhance the game).
And finally, you'll see a Nearby Pokemon icon in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen. Tap it to see nearby Pokemon. Speaking of Pokemon, they might sometimes appear in the map, along with a tiny vibration. Whenever you see one, tap on it to try to catch it.
How do you catch Pokemon?
At the start of the game, you'll capture your first Pokemon, then you can catch others. Just walk around. You'll eventually find Pokemon. They appear most often near Poke Stops, so visit your local landmarks, tourist spots, populated areas, etc. As you walk around, your avatar will move on the map using GPS. And when a Pokemon is nearby, it'll appear on your screen with a vibration.
You can then tap the Pokemon to try to catch it. Tapping will zero-in on your avatar and launch an AR experience in which the Pokemon hops around your environment. Once you've found a Pokemon, throw a Poke Ball to catch it (tap and hold on your Poke Ball, and when the glowing ring shrinks, flick your Poke Ball at the Pokemon to hit its head and then release your finger).
If you did that right, you'll capture the Pokemon. Stronger Pokemon need a more powerful Poke Ball. If the ring surrounding the Pokemon is green, you can catch it. If it's yellow, you have a chance. If it's red, you'll need many Poke Balls or more powerful Poke Balls. Pokemon might also try to escape the Poke Ball after a couple shakes, but just throw another Poke Ball and recapture it.
You can also throw curve balls by swirling the Poke Ball before you flick it at the Pokemon. This will give you a better chance of catching that Pokemon, if you get the throw right.
If you're low on supplies, go away. Keep in mind other players can catch the same Pokemon. Your friend might see the same Pokemon, but you can both grab it. You can also use special items to lure Pokemon to your location. Incense, for instance, attracts Pokemon to you for 30 minutes. If you use Lure Patch at a Poke Stop though, every player there can catch it for up to 15 minutes.
Pokemon Go 101: Pokemon, PokeStops, and more
Okay, so you don't need to know anything about Pokemon to get started with Pokemon Go. We'll still cover the basics, however: At the start of Pokemon Go, you'll be able to catch the original lineup of Pokemon. But Pokemon come in many types, shapes, and sizes (over 100 are available).
Pay attention to types as you play. You'll see Fairy, Psychic, Electric, Grass, Water, Poison, Flying, Ghost, Bug, Rock, Ground, and Normal. Pokemon types are limited to certain areas. You might keep finding Pidgey in one area, but if you come across a local river, for instance, you might find Water Pokemon. Also, if you wait until night, you're more likely to spot Fairy Pokemon.
PokeStops are landmarks in your area. They can be as inconsequential as public pools or as important as statues. PokeStops let you collect items, experience, Poke Eggs (they hatch into Pokemon when you use incubators), etc. You'll see them as blue poles with cubes on your map. Tap them to see which landmark it is connected with, and then check in when you're nearby.
The blue cube will turn into a disc when you're close. Tap it to visit, and inside you'll see a Poke Stop symbol and the location's photo and details. Swipe on the disc to spin it, and you'll get items in return (like Poke Eggs, Poke Balls, etc). As you increase in levels, you'll unlock new items. And once you visit a Poke Stop, the pole will turn purple and can't be visited for 10 minutes.
Pokemon Go isn't just about Pokemon. It's also about you - the Poke Trainer. You can gain levels as a trainer by catching Pokemon, walking to Poke Stops, and battling at Poke Gyms. When you reach higher levels (level five), you can fight in Poke Gyms, get stronger Poke Balls, help make your Pokemon more powerful - and the higher level you are, the better you can take over occupied Poke Gyms. As you move through levels and gain XP, you can power Pokemon higher.
Once you get to level five, you can visit a Poke Gym, where you can join one of three coloured teams: Instinct (Yellow), Mystic (Blue), or Valor (Red). Unlike the original games, the team you choose has nothing to do with the Pokemon you find. After picking a team, you'll join other players across the world, and each team works together in a group sport of sorts to reign supreme.
In teams, you can join up with your friends. Your team can take over and level up gyms. When you occupy a gym, you also get Poke Coins and Stardust - both of which help you to level up and evolve your Pokemon. Similar to Poke Stops, Poke Gyms are important things in your actual world, and all battles take places in Poke Gyms.
Entering an occupied Poke Gym starts a battle and you'll pick your Pokemon to battle and challenge the defenders. If the Gym is allied to your own team, then you'll be able to train in the Gym, gaining XP and boosting the power of that Gym for your team.
Items are necessary. You need Poke Balls to catch Pokemon, for instance, and incense to lure Pokemon, and potions to heal them after battles. You can buy items with real currency disguised as Poke Coins, or you can collect items by visiting Poke Stops, but you never know what you'll find at a PokeStop. Most will help you catch new Pokemon or revive Pokemon.
You can also find Lucky Eggs, which give you double experience for 30 minutes. There's Lure Patches too, which attract Pokemon to a PokeStop, and Razz Berries, which help you to catch more of the same species of Pokemon, and Poke Eggs, which hatch into new Pokemon.
In the latest version of Pokemon Go there are also Special Items. These are available at Poke Stops and are necessary to make some of the new evolutions.
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Speaking of Poke Eggs, they need to be placed into an incubator. You start the game with an incubator. You need more incubators if you want to hatch several eggs at once. Once the egg is incubated, you'll need to walk around before it hatches. You might have to walk six miles before it hatches, and the app must be open the entire time to log your steps.
However, you can only carry nine eggs, so it's worth loading up your incubator as soon as you can.
Candy and stardust
Now, evolution doesn't work the same in Pokemon Go. Pokemon don't evolve or level up after battles. Instead, you must catch many of the same Pokemon. That'll drop Candy and Stardust. You can also send unwanted Pokemon to the Professor for a single candy, but you can never get that version back. Once you've caught enough of one Pokemon type, use the candies to evolve it.
Certain candies only work for certain Pokemon, though they can be used to level up any Pokemon in that evolutionary chain. You can use Candy that Charmander dropped to evolve a Chameleon. Doing this will give you the next evolutionary stage of a Pokemon, raising a Pokemon's CP (how well a Pokemon can attack) and HP (how much heat a Pokemon can take).
Stardust is needed to power-up a Pokemon, to make it a better fighter.
How do Poke Gyms and battles work?
This part of the game is less about walking around and augmented reality. It's more about group sport.
If an opposing team has occupied a Poke Gym, you'll need battle their Pokemon to try to take it over. When you enter an occupied Poke Gym, you'll start a battle. Your Pokemon must now attack and dodge the opposing Pokemon (tap the screen to attack; press and hold to launch a special attack; swipe to dodge an attack). You want to get your opponent's Pokemon to zero hit points.
To take control of an occupied Gym, you must win all the battles against the opposing Gym Leaders' Pokemon and knock that gym's level down to zero. You can also claim unoccupied Poke Gyms for your team and level them up.
Also, other trainers will leave some of their best Pokemon behind to defend their Poke Gyms. You'll need to enter Combat mode to claim the Poke Gym as your own. Once you've won them back, don't forget about them, as training there will keep adding prestige to your Gym and make it harder for others to take from you.
As you lose battles in Poke Gyms, they will lose prestige. Poke Gyms earn prestige when you train your Pokemon, and they lose prestige when other teams win battles in them.
What's the Pokemon Go Plus?
It's a $30 wearable. It comes with a band and clip and lets you play Pokemon Go without taking your phone out of your pocket. You can wear it on your wrist, backpack, or wherever you want. It'll alert you when a Poke Stop or Pokemon is nearby via different vibrations. You can also use it to activate a Poke Stop and catch a Pokemon via different pressing patterns.
There's also an Apple Watch app that does much the same thing, giving you an insight into what's happening in Pokemon Go, without you needing your phone in your hand.
Pokemon Go tips and tricks
Buy an extra battery pack
Pokemon Go will kill your phone's battery. It needs to be always open so it can access your Wi-Fi, GPS, camera, and more.
You'll need another battery to play this game for more than an hour. You can also switch off the AR component to squeeze out some extra battery life, but in reality, you'll need to buy a spare battery before you head out.
Use Pikachu as your starter Pokemon
After you sign up for Pokemon Go and choose your player character, you'll be asked by the Professor to catch a Pokemon. You'll get a chance to catch the classic stater Pokemon: Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur. However, if you physically walk away from them until your phone vibrates, and then repeat this about 3 to 5 more times, Pikachu should appear for you to catch too.
Ditch AR to improve catch rates
If you want to catch Pokemon, hit the button on the top-right of your screen that says "AR" during Capture mode. This will take you to the virtual Pokeworld. It's not as cool as the AR world, but it will improve your catch rates.
Trade duplicate Pokemon
Certain Pokemon appear based on time of day, location, etc. So, you'll likely catch more than one of the same type. But this doesn't waste a Poke Ball. Duplicate Pokemon can be traded to Professor Willow for candy. You can of course use candy to increase the stats of your Pokemon. Just click the Poke Ball icon, then select Pokemon, and hit Transfer by the Pokemon you want to trade.
Keep your app open to hatch eggs
Eggs hatch based based on how many miles you've walked with the app open, so you'll need to make sure you put the egg in an incubator and then keep Pokemon Go open so it can registers your miles as you walk. To check your progress, tap the Pokeball at the bottom of your screen, and then select the Eggs menu. You can only carry nine eggs, so get incubating as soon as you can.
How to spot wild Pokemon
If you see leaves rustling on the map, chances are there is a Pokemon hiding you can try to catch. Different areas have different types of Pokemon.
Check your Poke Ball rings
When you decide to catch a wild Pokemon, focus your camera on the Pokemon. The white pointer ring will change size and colour. The smaller the ring, the more likely you are to capture the Pokemon. Also, before you throw a Poke Ball, check the colour: green equals easy, yellow equals moderate, and red equals tough. So, if it's red, you probably won't catch the Pokemon.
Pick up goodies at PokeStops
PokeStops have random goodies, including Poke Eggs for hatching new Pokemon, Poke Balls for catching new ones, and Potions or Revives for healing your Pokemon while in Combat mode. Visit PokeStops every day to get this stuff. Simply walk up close to it, tap the blue icon, then swipe it to make it spin. All your loot will then appear.
Spend Poke Coins on rare items
Pokemon Go has real-world currency in the form of Poke Coins. You can spend these on a number of items in the shop, but you should focus on rarer items that are hard to get from PokeStops, such as incense and lures.
Lure Pokemon to you
Sometimes you won't be able to walk around and find wild Pokemon. So, draw them to you. You can use lures like incense to attract Pokemon. Simply hit the Poke Ball at the bottom of the screen, tap Items, and select Incense to lure them in (a purple ring will appear around your avatar).
Want to know more?
Check out Pocket-lint's Pokemon Go hub for more news, reviews, and analysis.