The last month has been big for Pokemon fans: announcements of Ultra Sun and Moon, confirmation of a mainline Pokemon game coming to the Switch, the North American championships this past weekend, and the upcoming anniversary of Pokemon Go.  While it was one of the hottest games in 2016, I was concerned with the staying power of Pokemon Go.  Niantic has been hard at work keeping it in the spotlight and keeping trainers happy.  If the arrival of nice weather has you out there trying to catch ’em all again, here’s what you may have missed over the past year.

A sweet new loading screen, for one.

Generation II and More Ways To Get Resources

My modest Gen II collection to date.

One of the more common questions from players was when we would be able to catch Gen II Pokemon.  That time came back in February with the addition of over 80 new Pokemon to catch, evolve, and train.  Gen II includes not only a slew of brand new Pokemon but also new evolutions of existing Pokemon like Scizor, Crobat, and Pichu.  The update also included evolution items like Metal Coats and Sun Stones for certain Pokemon, meaning your evolution could be delayed until a Pokestop coughs up the item you are waiting for.  All in all, the world of Pokemon Go is now packed with even more Pokemon to find.

There are also a handful of additional ways to gather resources aside from visiting Pokestops and spending money in the shop.  Daily streaks give you bonus items, stardust, and more for your first catch and Pokestop visit of the day.  You’ll receive more candy for catching evolved forms of Pokemon, five for second forms and ten for third forms as opposed to three for base forms, giving you an incentive to try and wrangle in harder to catch Pokemon.  The buddy system lets you tag a Pokemon as your buddy who walks with you and “finds” candy every X kilometers.  It’s an easy way to get candy for Pokemon that aren’t prevalent in your region or to get the last few candies you need to trigger an evolution.


Gyms Have Been Reworked

Gyms are now more friendly for challengers and teammates

Gym battles sounded so promising at first — holding an area for your team and showing off your strong Pokemon while getting coins to do so.  Unfortunately, the gym system soon broke down into impenetrable walls of 10 Pokemon each at 2000CP or more.  The recent gym overhaul changes all of that with a couple of key tweaks.

Each Pokemon in a gym has a motivation meter, shown by the heart above, that depletes both over time and after losing battles.  Lower motivation means lower CP and once a Pokemon’s motivation drops to zero it’s kicked out of the gym.  This change along with the reduction in gym size from 10 Pokemon to six and only allowing one of any given Pokemon in a single gym makes gym battles approachable again.  The days of three Snorlaxes and two Dragonites clogging up a gym are over.  The motivation system gives players a reason to approach gyms owned by their team even if it is full, too.  Feeding friendly Pokemon berries will not only increase their motivation and CP but give you stardust in return.  On top of that, all gyms now double as Pokestops.


Team Up With Other Trainers In Raid Battles

Bring a group to take down these powerful Pokemon

Raids are a new type of battle added with the gym overhaul update.  In a raid, teams of up to 20 trainers battle single Pokemon with enormous CP values for a chance at not only unique items like Rare Candies and TMs but also catching the Pokemon that was defeated.  Gyms have a chance to turn into raids denoted by an egg on top of the gym with a countdown timer.  After the egg hatches and shows the Pokemon to come, players have an hour to group up and prepare for battle.  Raid battles last for five minutes and follow the standard tap-and-swipe system just with a much larger player pool than normal.

If your team is able to down the massive CP Pokemon (full list here), you’ll have a chance to catch a more normal-sized version of that Pokemon with special Premier Balls earned based on your performance in battle.  Running out of Premier Balls causes the Pokemon to run, so throw carefully!

Raids are another good way to play Pokemon Go with your friends.  One of my favorite memories of playing early on is when about 20 people were all trying to catch a Dragonair at a local park.  Raid battles are a great way to create more opportunities for large group play.  I haven’t been able to participate in a raid yet as the level requirement, which is now just five, was lowered from 25 only a few days ago.  I do look forward to putting my best Pokemon up to the test, though.


Other News and Notes

I’ve gone over the biggest changes in Pokemon Go’s first year but Niantic has been busy with frequent updates.  Some other highlights that you may have missed depending on when you last played:

  • Team leaders can appraise your caught Pokemon to ballpark their IVs and stat potential.
  • Gym sniping has been stopped by only allowing the player who finished the gym to enter that gym for a short time.
  • The nearby feature actually works again!  A small picture of a nearby building or landmark shows where a Pokemon can be found.
  • Multiple Pokemon can be transferred at a time for quicker roster cleanup.
The pre-battle screen is also way cooler looking now.

Each of these updates has been a positive one and I’ll be playing more Pokemon Go now that the weather has made a turn for the better.  I’ve already played more in the past week than I did in the six or so months prior.  Being able to catch more Pokemon, gather more resources, and take down gyms more easily has made playing Pokemon Go more approachable for the less intense player.  I’m still waiting to see how legendary Pokemon and trading, two things Niantic said were in the pipeline months ago, will play out.

Millions of players continue to play Pokemon Go and I count myself among them again.  Have you continued playing since launch?  Will you jump back in now?  Let me know in the comments section below!

1 Comment »

  1. So I’ve had a complicated relationship with Pokémon Go as chronicled on my blog. The most recent changes I think have been for the best and give hope that the game might have some more interactive elements. I’ve still got it installed, so there’s always that chance I’ll just check every once in awhile…

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