If you’re traveling across the land, searching far and wide, for Pokémon to understand the power that’s inside, pretty soon you’re going to have to search a little wider, as the game’s developers hope to recapture the Pokémon craze of last summer with a massive expansion to the game.
Pokémon Go, the wildly successful mobile game released by Niantic last July, in which Pokémon exist in the world and are catchable via augmented reality and GPS technology. At launch, 145 of the original 151 Pokémon from the original Game Boy series’ Red and Blue Versions were available. A later update revealed the elusive shapeshifter Ditto. While legendary Pokémon from Generation 1 are still absent from the game, likely reserved for special events, the first hint of Generation 2’s imminence came late last year when the Baby Pokémon from the Gold and Silver Versions (minus Tyrogue…more on that later) were added to Pokémon Go’s roster.
To the delight of many Pokémon trainers, Niantic announced this morning that over 80 of the second generation of 100 Pokémon, as well as a crop of new features ranging from new items to new interactions.
Let’s talk about these 80 Pokémon. Presumably, this will be all besides the legendaries: Suicune, Raikou, Entei, Ho-oh, Lugia, and Celebi, plus the seven babies already introduced (Cleffa, Igglybuff, Pichu, Togepi, Magby, Elekid, and Smoochum). That’s potentially 87 new Pokémon. Of particular interest will be the implementation of Unown, a mysterious Pokémon with 28 different configurations, each resembling a letter of our alphabet or a punctuation mark. It’s…unknown (sorry, sorry) if Unown will be included in this batch or not.
Some of the new Pokémon evolve from those already in the game. Golbat can now become Crobat. Slowpoke, who used to evolve into only Slowbro, can now possibly evolve into Slowking as well. Savvy trainers familiar with the game’s second generation have been stockpiling the candies needed to evolve these creatures for months, but it seems that may be irrelevant. Also included in Niantic’s announcement is news of new evolution items, available at PokéStops, which will be used to cause these Pokémon to evolve into the new creatures. My expectation and hope is that my several hundred stockpiled Zubat candies can still be used to evolve Golbat, who only has one potential evolution, while these new evolution items will be used to select which evolution creatures who have multiple possibilities, like Gloom (Vileplume or Bellossom), Eevee (the existing and randomized evolution into Vaporeon, Flareon, and Jolteon now being expanded to include Espeon and Umbreon), and the aforementioned Slowpoke, plus several others.
In addition to evolution items, the selection of Berries is being expanded. In the mainline Pokémon games, Berries are fruits found in trees and given to Pokémon, who can use them autonomously in combat. Many a competitive player has hoped for the original Berry, which automatically heals the creature during a battle, to be introduced for Gym gameplay. Alas, that is not included, but we will be getting the Nanab Berry and Pinap Berry. Nanab Berries will slow down a wild Pokémon, making it easier to capture. The Pinap Berry grants a trainer double candy if the Pokémon is caught on the first ball throw after the Pinap is used. To accommodate these new items, the capture interface is being redesigned to make selection of items more convenient, with multiple menus instead of the current long list.
They also announced a mysterious update to interactions during wild Pokémon encounters. The official press release reads, “When you encounter Pokémon in the wild, don’t be surprised if they react in new ways as you’re trying to catch them.” This could be something as simple as new animations, but as someone who grew up playing Pokémon on the Game Boy, I’m really hoping they find some way to implement the original encounter system, where your team of Pokémon had to battle the wild monster to weaken it for capture.
This update, plus expanded character customization, is due to roll out later this week. Current rumors indicate Saturday will be the release, according to an accidental leak by a German retailer that was blasted all over popular Pokémon Go sites such as the Silph Road subreddit. While fans still await features such as Apricorns, special balls, Legendary Pokémon, trading, and breeding, it’s safe to say that, weather permitting (or not … I’ll be out in the snow if need be) those who want to be the very best (like no one ever was) have over eighty new challenges, because as any fan knows, to catch them is our real test (to train them is our cause).