Pokémon GO (Mobile) Review

The World is Your Safari Zone

Pokémon GO takes the evergreen Pokémon series and converts it into an accessible and addictive mobile game. The free-to-play app has already affected the world in such a unique way, bringing millions of people outside to capture creatures using their smartphones. Interesting news headlines have emerged detailing unusual events regarding Pokémon GO’s widespread popularity. Pictures and stories of trainers’ journeys have gone viral through social media. The app has even brought people together, with players meeting up to look for Pokémon and making new friends along the way. Pokémon GO is a special breed, and the big question is what about this game makes it work.

Gameplay

The premise of Pokémon GO is simple: travel across the land, searching far and wide for creatures known as Pokémon. Pokémon GO uses a smartphone’s GPS tracking functionality to locate where you are in the real world. Your character appears on a simplified map on your screen and walks wherever you go. Based on where you are, a Pokémon may appear, which you may touch to initiate an encounter.

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Catch all your favorite Pokemon, including Pikachu!

Catching Pokémon

Unlike in the main Pokémon games, you don’t battle a Pokémon to catch it. You flick a Pokéball towards a Pokémon using a simple upward swipe. When your Pokéball lands a hit, it sucks in the Pokémon and shakes a few times. If the Pokémon does not escape from the ball, then you have successfully captured it. If it breaks out, then you can try again with another Pokéball. For those familiar with mainline Pokémon games, the most similar comparison to these mechanics is the Safari Zone, which focuses on catching rather than battling.

This simplistic system works due to its intuitiveness. While Pokémon GO doesn’t tell you what to do with the ball, it’s easy to figure out. You don’t need to deal with any menus or health meters. Just flick the ball and hope it hits. As you catch more creatures and gain experience, you can perform more options. For example, you can feed Pokémon berries and use upgraded balls to increase capture rates. You can also perform curveballs and “excellent” throws with careful technique and timing.

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Flick a Pokeball towards a Pokemon to capture it.

What truly brings the Pokémon world to life are the GPS tracking and augmented reality functions. Pokémon GO follows you in the real world, and different Pokemon appear depending on your location. Water Pokémon appear more frequently around lakes and oceans, whereas Ground Pokémon are more common in drier climates. This distribution of Pokémon makes the game feel more authentic. Trainers may find themselves seeking out new locales near and far to find rare Pokémon. A handy tracker informs you on which Pokémon are nearby and how close they are.

The location dependency’s downside is you may not find much beyond the most common creatures such as Pidgey or Rattata. In a smart move, the app rewards you for catching repeats of Pokémon. Every time you capture a Pokémon, you receive candy exclusive to that species. By amassing enough candy, you can evolve your Pokémon into stronger creatures. While some Pokémon like Pidgey take only 12 candies to evolve, a Magikarp requires a whopping 400 candies. Through this clever evolution mechanic, the developers have turned the flaw of too many repeated creatures into a strength.

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Nearby Pokemon Tracker – Water Pokemon are more common near bodies of water.

Pokémon GO also takes advantage of augmented reality (AR) by using your smartphone’s camera to superimpose the Pokémon onto real-world backdrops. You can take pictures of your AR Pokemon and share them online via social media. This small feature doesn’t affect the game and can be turned off, yet it goes such a long way in bringing Pokémon to life. With most of the original 150 Pokémon available for capture, this app will appease nostalgic fans.

Pokéstops and Microtransactions

Though you may be tempted to catch every Pokémon you see, Pokéballs are in limited supply. Running out can be devastating, especially when you see a rare creature nearby. Luckily, there are some features that make it easy to restock these commodities. One option is to travel to Pokéstops, which are located at areas of interest, such as churches, museums, and train stations. You can refill on Pokéballs and other items by spinning the medal at the Pokéstop. Although you only get a few items at a time, you can respin the Pokéstop after about five minutes.

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The cubes in the distance as well as the nearby Pokemon medal represent Pokestops.

You may also receive Pokémon eggs at Pokéstops, which you can hatch by walking a certain distance (2, 5, or 10 km). This is a smart move that encourages exercise by taking advantage of the app’s portable nature and your desire to search for Pokémon.

If you are unable to get to a Pokéstop, you have the option to buy Pokécoins with real world money. These coins are used to buy any of several items, including Pokéballs, Lure Modules that attract uncommon Pokémon to a Pokéstop, and incubators for hatching more eggs. This fare is typical for microtransactions, with slight discounts offered for bulk purchases. Buyer beware: most items for sale only increase opportunities for catching Pokémon but do not guarantee capture.

Leveling Up and Gyms

For every important action you take, such as catching or evolving Pokémon, your character gains experience points. By leveling up, you can find Pokémon with higher Combat Power (CP). CP is an indicator of strength and factors in a Pokémon’s health, attack, and defense. A Pokémon’s CP can be increased using candy and stardust, both gained by capturing Pokémon. The higher your trainer level, the stronger the Pokemon you can obtain. Strong Pokémon matter for a key feature of Pokémon GO: Gyms.

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The flashy stadium tower is a Gym.

Upon reaching level 5, you choose one of three teams to join: Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue), or Valor (red). These teams act like factions, introducing a competitive multiplayer aspect. The goal of each team is to claim gyms, which are scattered around the world, usually at places of interest. Claiming a gym is as easy as depositing a Pokémon into it. However, if a gym is already claimed, it becomes trickier.

In order to take another team’s gym, you must battle the Pokémon deposited there. Much like catching, battling is simple and intuitive. Tap the screen to attack, and swipe to the left or right to make your Pokémon dodge. Unlike mainline Pokémon games, your Pokémon only has two attacks. The first is your basic attack, activated by tapping. This builds up a gauge for your second stronger attack, unleashed by holding your finger on the screen. The battle system isn’t as satisfying as in traditional Pokémon games, but it fits the mobile platform well. If you defeat every Pokémon, the gym’s power level, known as prestige, decreases. If you win enough times and lower the gym’s prestige to zero, the gym becomes unclaimed, and you can place your Pokémon in the gym. You can increase your own team’s gym prestige by challenging it. If you raise the gym’s prestige enough, your teammates can add their Pokémon to the gym’s ranks, building up its defense. You also gain bonuses for having Pokémon at gyms such as valuable Pokécoins, so the incentive is huge.

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The simple battle mechanics suit the touchscreen.

This engaging gym warfare is made possible through the developer Niantic, who previously made the multiplayer location-based game, Ingress. By adding this competitive element, Niantic has made a game that can keep going even after you’ve caught ‘em all. When many people are playing nearby, you may unfortunately find that gyms switch owners within minutes. Keeping Pokémon at a gym can be difficult unless you are actively building up your gym’s prestige. Nevertheless, gyms make for exciting showdowns between teams and is a welcome addition to the already addicting catching aspect.

Glitches

Pokémon GO is inherently fun, but it would be remiss to not mention the frequent glitches that plague this app. Servers tend to go down during big releases, and it was especially problematic when the app first launched. While servers have been better since then, this is an ongoing issue. Other problems that have afflicted the app include glitches where it is nearly impossible to reduce a Pokémon’s HP to zero during a gym battle and inaccuracy of the nearby Pokémon tracker. If you pay for anything using real money, be aware that any number of server issues or bugs may render certain purchases useless.

The Social Factor

There is a huge positivity that outweighs any negativity regarding this app. Pokémon GO is a highly social game that allows for unique experiences with people around you. This is one of the best outcomes of this app. Pokémon GO is a shared experience, meaning that people in the same area will encounter the same Pokémon. If ten people are looking for a Bulbasaur, they will eventually end up in the same place. Whether this was intended by developers, these people can then talk about the Bulbasaur they’re tracking and share leads on other nearby Pokémon. Because strategies for catching and fighting are only vaguely explained by the game, trainers can get together to share tips, similarly to how people shared Nintendo game secrets decades ago. Finally, the presence of teams leads to friendly competition, with people banding together to take down gyms and finding camaraderie. This app also lends itself to meetups, from small parties to citywide gatherings.

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Yes, everyone here is trying to catch that Bulbasaur.

Graphics and Sound

Each individual Pokémon’s design looks good, as if they were lifted from Pokémon Stadium-like games. The designs aren’t as beautiful as those of more recent titles. The map lacks details or labels, showing your character on a flat terrain with only a vague indication of where you are.

The music is catchy, with a fast tempo to get you pumped up to walk. The app has the same composer as the mainline Pokémon games, which leads to authentic music that is similar to the original’s tunes. Although it’s nice to have the song running as your personal walking theme song, it can get repetitive. Luckily, you can turn it off at any time. The iconic Pokémon cries are also authentic to the original.

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The Pokemon designs are simple and cute.

Playtime/Replayability

Pokémon GO has an addictive gameplay loop, encouraging players to catch them all. It is a time consuming but satisfying goal for anyone who has grown up with Pokémon. A medal achievement system provides incentives to catch many Pokémon of different types. Even though the game is entertaining, the drive to keep going will differ for each person. Your interest in the game may vary depending on which Pokémon are nearby. If you are in a densely populated area, you may find more Pokémon, Pokéstops, and gyms. If you are in a less-populated area, you may find less things to do overall.

Pokémon GO can also take a toll on your phone’s battery life. Possible solutions are to keep the brightness down, music off, and the handy Battery Saver mode turned on. Surprisingly, Pokémon GO doesn’t use a lot of data, which is great considering most of your adventures will likely take place outside of Wi-Fi zones. If Niantic can maintain a steady update schedule and keep players interested by adding more features and Pokémon, then this app is sure to have longevity.

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Gotta Catch ‘Em All!

Conclusion

No matter what you think of Pokémon or the app itself, it is undeniably clear that this game has the potential to make positive impacts on players’ physical and mental health. Pokémon GO encourages exercise and leads to meeting other players around you. Without social elements, Pokémon GO is still a highly addictive game, with the broad appeal of a popular franchise, intuitive mechanics that simplify traditional Pokémon gameplay, and the allure of rare Pokémon encouraging flocks of people to leave the comforts of their home. Server issues and glitches can impair the ability to play this game. Nevertheless, the addictive “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” gameplay loop warrants any Pokémon fan’s attention.

If you have even a passing interest in Pokémon, I highly recommend Pokémon GO.  The best time to get into the app is when others are also playing it. Pokémon GO creates communal experiences, where you can make new friends, travel with comrades conquering gyms, and share stories and pictures. Pokémon GO has the ability to bring very different kinds of people together. The best part is that everyone’s story is unique. The friends you make, the conversations you have, the pictures you take, the places you go; these are all parts of your personal Pokémon adventure. An app’s features can be rated, but your own personal experience throughout your journey is priceless.

Score: 8/10

What are your thoughts on Pokémon GO? How has your experience been so far? Do you have any fun stories to share about your Pokémon journey? Who are your favorite Pokémon that you’ve caught? What team are you on? Please share any thoughts in the comments section below!

Note: Please remember to always watch your surroundings when playing Pokémon GO. Please do not play while driving. Stay safe and remember that it’s all about having fun! Take care, Pokémon trainers!

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The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD (Wii U) Review

Shining through the Twilight

The long-awaited The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess first launched with the Nintendo Wii. It was a great game to sell Nintendo’s new console, bringing a darker story and refined visuals to the Zelda series. In preparation of the franchise’s 30th anniversary and the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Twilight Princess was remastered for the Nintendo Wii U. There are only a few new gameplay features, but the HD remaster looks crisper than ever and is just as fun to play as it was back in 2006.

Story

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD’s story is unchanged from the original. Its story should be familiar to anyone who has played other mainline games in the series. Link is a farm boy living in Ordon Village. Following an attack by shadowy beasts, he is suddenly transformed into a wolf and sent to the Twilight Realm where he meets Midna, an implike creature, who asks for his help in defeating the King of Twilight.

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Midna, the Twilight imp girl, steals the spotlight.

While the story is edgy, with some introspective cutscenes and graphic action sequences, it’s not that special. Although there are some important story sequences that adorn the first half, the second half is mostly rushed with very few important events between dungeons up until the end. It’s as if they had an idea, but decided to forgo it halfway through in favor of a focus on dungeon design. While this is actually effective from a gameplay perspective, the game is left with a half-told story and underdeveloped characters. The huge exception and saving grace is Midna, a Twilight imp brimming with personality. She is spunky and snarky, while displaying a lot of heart and dynamic character growth. The villain is also interesting and plays off of her very well. While the overall plot is decent, Midna’s tale is well-told and is worth experiencing.

Gameplay

Much like the story, gameplay should be familiar to anyone who has played a previous Zelda game, especially Ocarina of Time or A Link to the Past. The opening tutorial is still a little slow, but the game grants you freedom as soon as you get through it. Exploring the world and traversing through dungeons are the two main aspects of this game. On the exploration side, Hyrule Field is a vast area filled with secrets to discover and collectibles to find. Getting around is a breeze thanks to your horse, although she has a tendency to bump into trees and cliffs if you’re not careful. The ability to brandish your sword while on horseback is exciting though not used much. Unfortunately, the field is sparse, with a small number of enemies covering its large surface area. With several towns and calmer locales making up the rest of the map, overworld exploration could easily eat up hours of playtime.

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Travel across the field on your faithful steed.

Dungeons are the meat of most Zelda games, and the ones in TP comprise some of the most entertaining in the series. The dungeon designs are very cohesive, with two or three central mechanics featured in each, such as controlling water flow or bringing a statue down a tall tower. These creative concepts encourage mastery of a dungeon item, which is a key weapon that helps you solve the puzzles within. Some items help you throughout the game, such as the grappling Clawshot. Many of these items are mainstays of Zelda games, but have additional clever functionality here. For instance, the Iron Boots not only let you sink in water, but also take advantage of its magnetic properties for some creative wall-climbing gameplay. However, others are less versatile and are generally mostly used in its dungeon like the wall-grinding Spinner, which is a fun item but has limited utility.

TP’s combat uses the effective L-targeting mechanic that Zelda games are known for. By using the ZL button to target your enemies, you can attack and dodge freely. Special learned moves let you vanquish foes in style. Each dungeon also ends in a boss fight, and TP has some of the most epic bosses in series history. Dungeon items are again used cleverly against these huge monsters, and nothing is more satisfying than slashing your sword continuously to finish off a boss.

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Combat is intuitive, thanks to L-targeting.

This game’s dual world mechanic is between the normal world and the Twilight Realm. You don’t actually spend much time in areas covered in Twilight, but you are forced to become a wolf form of Link during those sections. Wolf Link can’t use items and instead attacks with pounces and bites. He is clunky to fight with, but you luckily don’t have to use him much outside of the Twilight Realm sections. The realm also features a slightly time-consuming subquest in which you must collect Tears of Light hidden in a province to dispel the Twilight. While this is a little annoying, TP HD actually removes some of the Tears that were in the original games, making this subquest go by more quickly.

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Being a wolf is certainly different, but not better than regular Link.

There are plenty of collectibles to keep you busy throughout your time in Hyrule. Pieces of Heart increase your max health, although it now takes five pieces to fill a new Heart Container as opposed to the standard four, a small but noticeable change to the grind. Hidden Poe ghosts and Golden Bugs return from the original. Hidden Poes used to be a hassle to find in the original, especially since there were so many, but a new Ghost Lantern now assists you by illuminating when a Poe is nearby. New to this version are Stamps, which can be used on Miiverse posts and feature the Hylian alphabet and other fun images. Although they aren’t that useful, they are placed in new hard-to-reach locations or replace other items in select chests to give veterans something new search for.

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There are some new collectible secrets to discover in these intricate dungeons.

There aren’t many new additional features in TP HD. The world map is no longer reversed as it was in the Wii version. In fact, the non-mirrored map combined with button inputs replacing waggle motion controls makes this entry more similar to the original GameCube version. The Wii U GamePad is used effectively, allowing you to manage items on the fly. You can also look at a map, your status, or play completely on the GamePad if you desire. Additionally, the GamePad’s gyroscope assists your aim when using items like the Bow or Clawshots. Finally, there is amiibo support, though only for Zelda-themed amiibo. For the most part, you can either refill arrows, restore health, or double damage inflicted on yourself with compatible amiibo. Wolf Link’s amiibo, which comes with some copies of the game, offers an additional enemy rush dungeon – the Cave of Shadows – which you must complete as Wolf Link. This is a true challenge, testing players’ skills with the hard-to-use wolf form, though this bonus feature doesn’t add that much for those only interested in the main game.

Graphics and Sound

Twilight Princess looks beautiful in HD. Character models are more refined, cutscenes show off better detail, and the world is impressive to gaze at. Additionally, the game looks a little cleaner, lacking a yellow filter that was present in the original. The artstyle is still a little on the ugly side, with character designs that are only memorable for looking bad. The main cast looks better and smoother than ever though.

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The world looks better and less yellow than the original version.

The music is well-composed and resembles an orchestral sound. There are many great tracks from the calm Lake Hylia to the spaghetti western stylings of the Hidden Village. The overworld theme has also become iconic with the music changing depending on the time of day and current location. The music effectively sets the mood with a good mix of melancholic tunes and triumphant tracks. The music that plays when you are wailing at a boss is still one of the most fist-pumping songs in any Zelda game. Unfortunately, there isn’t voice acting, unless you count Midna’s garbled Twilight language. It’s easier to forgive since there was no voice acting in the original game, nor has the series had it up to this point. However, the cinematic sequences and characters’ lips syncing to the dialogue make this lack of voices more apparent and even a little awkward.

Playtime/Replayability

The game is lengthy, taking anywhere between 35-50 hours, depending on how much you explore and how many collectibles you are aiming for. A perfect 100% file can take very long just based on the sheer amount of collectible items alone. A new Hero Mode, in which hearts don’t appear and Link takes double damage, is available from the beginning, so challenge-driven veterans can dive right in. Hero Mode is also flipped, which matches the mirrored orientation of the Wii version. The Cave of Shadows, the new Wolf Link exclusive dungeon unlocked by scanning its amiibo, also increases replay value.

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If you wanted a flashy Zelda game, then you’re in luck!

Conclusion

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD is an astounding remaster worth replaying. Even if Nintendo didn’t add anything to the game, it would have already been a fun experience thanks to the clever dungeon design and large explorable overworld. The game has some trouble finding a good pace with a slow opening and a more rushed second half, but the game is overall solidly designed with intuitive puzzles and unique items. Characters are mostly missed opportunities, but the playful Midna makes up for it and steals the spotlight. The added Cave of Shadows, amiibo support, Hero Mode, Stamps, and different control schemes go a long way in making this feel like a unique experience, especially if you’ve only played the Wii version. Twilight Princess takes the beloved mechanics of the 3D Zelda entries and refines it superbly. This beautiful HD remaster is worth playing for anyone who loves the Zelda series.

Score: 9/10

What are your thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, both original and remastered? Do you have any fond memories of this game? What are your favorite dungeons and items from Twilight Princess? Please share any thoughts in the comments section below!