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What is Pokemon GO? Everything you need to know about Nintendo’s new mobile game

There’s a lot of buzz circling around Pokemon Go, and we’re here to catch you up. Here’s everything you need to know about the new mobile hit.

Pokemon go on phone

If you have ended up here, you are either wondering why social media is blowing up over Pokemon GO, why groups of people are congregating at places all over town, or are just trying to better understand this brand new mobile game. Don’t worry, we have you covered and will be explaining the whole thing to you momentarily.

What is Pokemon GO?

Screenshot_20160707-145239 For starters, hopefully you already know about Pokemon itself? Nintendo’s popular game for its handheld systems, Pokemon is a game where you capture, collect, train and fight monsters in the world. It gets far more in-depth than that, but we are opening up a whole different can of worms at that point. I’ll draw some comparisons out to the normal game and the mobile game as we talk about it, but if you wanted to make the jump from one to the other, both will give you all the info you need to know.

Pokemon GO is an AR (Augmented Reality) game that works on iOS and Android devices. When you are playing the game, you will see a map of your immediate area on the screen. As you walk around and move about, your character will do the same thing. As you move, you may encounter Pokemon that pop up on the map. Tapping the Pokemon on the map with create an encounter with them and you will need to hold your phone or device up and find the Pokemon in the vicinity. You have to hit the Pokemon with a Pokeball, which you do by swiping on your screen. Once you’ve done this, the Pokemon will be caught and you will have a new Pokemon in your collection. Yay!
Screenshot_20160711-084549 You can also raise Pokemon by finding eggs and putting them into an incubator. The incubator will hatch the egg after you’ve walked the distance required for the egg to hatch.

Collecting and training Pokemon will raise your Trainer level. As your trainer level grows, the Pokemon you encounter will become stronger and more difficult to catch. You can also choose a team once you make it to level 5. Of course, Team Valor is the only right option, but there is also Team Mystic and Team Instinct. These teams won’t change much about anything you do as far as catching Pokemon, currently, but will come into play in other aspects of the game.

Collecting Pokemon isn’t the only thing to do in Pokemon GO though. All over the world, on your game map, landmarks and poplar locations have been converted into PokeStops or Pokemon Gyms. Both types of locations offer a bit more to do in-game. Visiting a PokeStop will allow you to get some free items by swiping the circle on your screen. It seems that you may also encounter more Pokemon in the area of these locations as well. You definitely will when a lure has been dropped, which I’ll talk about in a bit. The second location in the game are Pokemon Gyms. Here, you take your Pokemon and fight to control the gym. You can also spar with members or support the gym leader by making other people fight your Pokemon, if they are on your team. Controlling, or helping control a gym will give you a few rewards, so trying to get one is a great idea.

Let’s get a little more detailed about Pokemon GO

Screenshot_20160711-084514 So you need a little more info than just that standard crash course? Good! Let’s go back to the Pokemon first. When you catch a Pokemon, you earn stardust and 3 candy for that type of Pokemon. You can use both the stardust and the candy to strengthen the Pokemon, or just a hoard of candy to possibly evolve the Pokemon into a new form. Not all Pokemon can evolve and it will take anywhere from 12 pieces of candy, to 400 pieces to evolve a Pokemon in Pokemon GO. Fortunately, if a Pokemon can evolve, the game won’t let you try and your trainer level will limit how far you can strengthen a Pokemon as well. This will help you from wasting valuable resources. When you evolve a Pokemon, you want to strengthen it as high as you can before you do so. This will allow that Pokemon to have a higher CP (Combat Power) and ultimately become stronger.
Screenshot_20160711-084529 Catching wild Pokemon isn’t just running around and throwing PokeBalls at them either. In Pokemon GO, tougher Pokemon will become harder to catch. Knowing the tricks to catch them will be a lifesaver and will save you time and possibly money. When you hold your finger on a PokeBall to throw it, you will see a large white circle around the Pokemon and a colored circle within it that changes in size. The color of the second circle will be anywhere on the color spectrum from green to red. Green will be easy catches and will require minimal effort. The closer a Pokemon’s circle is to red, the more you will need to do to bag it. The first trick is to try to make the second circle as small as possible, it will improve your chances to catch it. Next, you want to try to hit WITHIN the small circle, this can be very difficult but will get you more experience and will improve your odds. There’s also a hidden trick, where you can hold the PokeBall and spin it in a circular motion. This will cause the ball to glow and start spinning. When you throw the ball, it will have a curve in the direction you spun it. This will also improve your chances, but will give you a bonus too if you catch the Pokemon on the first try. There is also a berry item you can use which will make the Pokemon a little easier to catch as well.

Tips and tricks to Pokemon GO

Screenshot_20160709-201215 As the game has been out for only a handful of days, Pokemon Trainers are still getting the hang of how the game works. There’s a lot of the game left up to interpretation and if you’ve made it this far, you may be looking for some answers to questions. Well, I’ll do my best to help you out here.

When you look at your map, when playing Pokemon go, you may see Pokemon in your area by hitting the small bar in the lower right corner of the screen. This will display up to nine Pokemon in your area, with footsteps under them. No footsteps means you are actively encountering this Pokemon on your map. One footstep means the Pokemon is hiding a few meters in your vicinity, up to 50 meters away. Two footsteps means that you’ll need to search a bit for the Pokemon, as it is 50 to 100 meters away. Three footsteps means that the Pokemon is 100 meters or more away and you’d better get walking if you want to catch it. If you tap on a specific Pokemon at this menu, you’ll see the Pokemon in the corner, with the distance footsteps. This box will flash green when you head in the right direction, so you can find those three footstep Pokemon, as long as you are willing to do the work.
Screenshot_20160711-084603 When you fight at a gym, if you swipe left or right, your Pokemon will dodge the attack. This takes timing and you will need to “get gud” if you want to be able to use this tactic efficiently. It’s important to know how your Pokemon fights as well. My Pinsir and attack as fast as I can hit the screen, but my Pidgeot attacks slow and hard. You can use a special attack each time a bar segment at the top of the screen on your side fills up. Special attacks are done by holding your finger on the screen.

Understanding items can also help in the game. Using incense will increase the encounter rate as you walk around and a lucky egg will double the experience you receive for anything you do in-game for 30 minutes. If you are planning on evolving a Pokemon, or hatching an egg, try to use a lucky egg prior for a ton of experience.

Every in-game item can be acquired for free, either by leveling or visiting PokeStops. If you have visited a PokeStop and already received items from it, it will be purple. If you wait for five minutes, it will turn blue again and you can get another round of free items. There is no limit to how many times you can use a PokeStop. Another neat PokeStop trick is to use a lure module on one, once you’ve received some. This will boost the Pokemon encounter rate for everyone around the PokeStop. No joke, people will show up from all over. If you want to meet fellow players, this is a great way to do so, and you get experience for doing it too!

Before we get Pokemon Go-ing…

Here’s a few final things you need to know before going out there and becoming the next Pokemon master!

You will want to try to catch all the Pokemon you can, this means you will end up with tons of the same Pokemon. If you look at a Pokemon’s stats, you will see their attack power and their special ability. It’s perfectly fine to transfer your Pokemon to Professor Willow, as he will give you candy for that type of Pokemon. Consider keeping an eye on your Pokemon’s special attack though, because some Pokemon can have incredibly powerful attacks that use a different element than normal.

Speaking of elements. you will want to know how your Pokemon fairs against other Pokemon types. A fire Pokemon does half damage to other fire Pokemon and water Pokemon. A water Pokemon does double damage to a fire Pokemon. There’s a really big chart over at Pokemon Database that can teach you all the strengths and weaknesses.

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Longtime games journalist and Florida resident. I'm a Guinness World Record holder, wordsmith extraordinaire, MOBA fan, devoted dad and husband. I'm here to spread the gospel of video games.

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