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Opinion: Is Pokemon GO The Mobile Pokemon Game We Deserve?

Ever since the first Pokemon games were released 20 years ago, fans have dreamed of going out into the world and catching the unique and powerful monsters for themselves. Now, with Pokemon GO, we will see our first opportunity to do just that, courtesy of a partnership between The Pokemon Company and Niantic, Inc.

It’s a game that many of us thought we’d never see made, and I for one am very excited about the prospects that the title holds. However, it should be said that as of late I feel that it’s best to be cautious with my optimism until the AR project’s release.

Pokemon GO will be the first game in the series to be made specifically for mobile devices and, although many people would have been happy just to see the original titles ported onto the platform, it’s arguably better that we’re getting an all-new project as Nintendo branch out in the market.

The game’s reveal trailer was certainly a cause for excitement, showing some impressive graphics of Pokemon in the modern world, as well as a flashy group encounter with a wild Mewtwo. However, now that Pokemon GO is in beta, it seems that many of the features that fans were looking forward to might not be included – at least right away.

The exploration-themed title will see players moving around the real world, collecting supplies such as Pokeballs from special locations and using them to capture many of the creatures featured in the Pokemon franchise. For those who aren’t as inclined to track down items, micro-transactions will of course be readily available. The extent of this use of real world currency is unknown at the present, though it should be noted that a premium currency system called Jewels is extremely prevalent in Nintendo’s other mobile title, Pokemon Shuffle.

Of course, the freemium model is something that we should expect due to Pokemon GO being a free-to-play app, but I feel that how micro-transactions are handled will make or break the game upon release. If creatures begin to be impossible to catch in lower quality Pokeballs, it might inspire players to delete the app, rather than continue throwing money at their device in order to purchase more Great or Ultra balls as the developers may have hoped.

While I’m sure that many long-term fans would be more than happy to pay a lump fee for the app, the freemium model is often more profitable for the company and I can’t say I blame the Big N for its decision, though I am disappointed with how the Pokemon GO Plus device seems to have been handled. In a game already lacking the traditional Pokemon combat system, something we have already expressed our concern for in the past, the wearable accessory seems to do little more than prevent Pokemon GO users from actually needing to unlock their phones in order to play.

Though the 3D modelled Pokemon look well-designed, and in general the app has a very visually-pleasing interface, the GO Plus streamlines the catching of Pokemon even further than it already is – making it little more than a button pressing simulator that asks fans to pay $34.99 for the privilege to not have to actually play the game. It’s such a waste of potential for a device that could have so many other features, acting as a Streetpass-type product that registers nearby trainers being just one of them.

My biggest fear for the game is that, while it features Pokemon, it seems very much like a re-skin of Niantic’s previous project: Ingress. Both titles are very similar and, though I and many others have a lot of love for the Pokemon franchise as a whole, its easy to see Pokemon GO becoming boring fast. This holds especially true for those that have played the previous game (probably even more so for those who buy the GO Plus). That said, I have faith that Nintendo can potentially make the gameplay work, so long as the company isn’t too greedy with it, something that is a big ask given the $30 million development costs.

To counter some of the negatives that I’ve already mentioned, Nintendo’s announcement that people will have to travel all over to collect every Pokemon is oddly exciting. Visiting new areas in order to catch that region’s unique creatures is something that appeals to me, as it gives players a reason to actually get out and explore. It also allows each capture to feel more personal, as it can have its own story behind it. And if large-scale events like Mewtwo or some other legendary show up like we saw in the trailer, I think we could see a lot of fans making the effort to capture the exclusive creatures.

Combat in Pokemon GO is seen as a disappointment for many people, and I would agree that the lack of the traditional battle system does weaken the game significantly. Still, there is a sort of fighting system implemented. Rather than choosing your creature’s moves, the Pokemon fight by effectively comparing levels and passively dealing damage. The animations look smooth, mind you, and Pokemon can still be trained and toughened up using the Gyms, so I wouldn’t say that combat is totally excluded from the game.

The way gyms are handled is also interesting, with players leaving a Pokemon to act as a sort of gym leader like we see in the main series games. The big difference is that you don’t have to be there for a rival player to challenge your authority, something that is likely to lead to some fierce competition once players begin competing for the same local gym. I think Nintendo needs to be careful to implement some sort of timer or level-limiter though, or we’ll end up with particular teams dominating areas by holding all the gyms with impossibly strong creatures, making the game incredibly taxing and less fun for newer players.

All things considered, I believe that Pokemon GO could be a title that potentially ends up being very good for both players and developers. There’s little doubt in my mind that it will be popular upon release, and that Nintendo will make its money back, but it all comes down to how much content there is left to explore after a few weeks of the app being out. If the game gets some extra content alongside Pokemon Sun and Moon‘s release, that would certainly be a good first step for the game.

Ultimately we’ll just have to wait to find out what kind of content Pokemon GO has to offer when it releases. From what I’ve witnessed online, players in the game’s beta have mixed opinions about the title, so it’ll be up to each of us to decide for ourselves what we really think. Personally, I will be playing the game on release day, though I don’t see the GO Plus devices to be worth a buy any longer.

That way, if the game is a disappointment, at least we haven’t lost anything by playing. And while I’d be happy to pay for the app, I can’t see micro-transactions being something that I’m ever likely to get involved in.

What do you think about Pokemon GO Ranters? Is it the mobile Pokemon game we deserve? Leave a comment and let us know.

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