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Pokémon GO Review: 'I wanna be the very best!'

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The wise old Professor Oak once warned us,"It's dangerous out there" and that warning couldn't be truer now that your favourite digital creatures have merged with the real world, via Pokémon GO. The widely addictive augmented reality mobile game has managed to bring back my nostalgic excitement of catching Pokémon whilst providing a fair share of frustration.

Update: Pokémon GO was reviewed on a Samsung S7, in South Africa - a region, which falls outside of the specified eligible countries listing. The server issues and technical problems that are mentioned below, could be as a result of the third party installation required in order to operate the game locally or due to the fact that the game hasn't been officially rolled out to cater to the South African network. 

A nostalgic welcome to Pokémon GO

Signing into Pokémon GO is a rather simple process, you can do so using an existing Google account or via the Pokémon Trainer Club. Once signed in, get ready for a trip down nostalgia lane as the classic Pokémon music kicks into gear alongside a lab-coated senior citizen who begins your induction ceremony. Once you've been officially introduced, its time to create an avatar. 

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The avatar creation process is rather simple, pick a female or male character, choose what skin, eyes, and hair colour you want from a preset colour pallet, add clothing choices, done. Pokémon GO doesn't allow trainers to see one another's positions or avatars while roaming the streets, suburbs or open world. The only time other users will able to view your character is when you take over a gym position, which we highlight further down in the article. 

Once you have chosen your avatar, it's Pokémon GO time. Your first Pokémon that you will be able to catch is a selection between the three starting Pokémon (Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander) from the Gameboy Blue, Red and Yellow titles. If you are not interested in any of the aforementioned Pokémon you can walk away from them three times and have a Pikachu pop up as an additional choice.  

I choose you Pikachu! Now, what?

Choosing a starting Pokémon has always been a critical moment in kicking off your adventure in the past. In Pokémon GO, however, your starting Pokémon will fall to the bench, never to really be used again. This is a result of the current way that you evolve your Pokémon which fundamentally boils down to you catching the same Pokémon enough times to evolve it into. 

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Catching Pokémon is rather simple, all you have to do is flick your Pokéball is the direction of the Pokémon on screen and hope that you secure the catch when the ball lands. The game has moments where the screen freezes, which results in you losing the Pokémon that you are trying to secure. Screen freezing while catching Pokémon has been rather frequent, where I'm personally averaging around 3-5 screen freezes per day.

Once you start gathering more Pokémon, you will start to level up your character. Once you hit level five you will be able to choose your faction. 

I own this gym! 

There are three factions in Pokémon GO Team Instinct (Yellow), Team Mystic (Blue) or Team Valor (Red). Being apart of a faction allows you to capture gyms for your team, which will, in turn, earn you Pokémon coins and stardust (used to increase Pokémon power) but only if you have assigned a Pokémon to the location. 

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Gyms are located in specials areas and work on a leveling system, where each level represents the amount of Pokémon at the gym. If a gym has yet to be claimed, you can do so by placing a Pokémon to the tower, thus taking it to level one. If members of the same faction battle against your Pokémon they will begin to level up the gym. The higher the level, the more Pokémon your faction can assign. 

Opposing factions, however, will try to take over the gym for themselves by attacking the gym with up to six of their own Pokémon. If they lower your gym rank to zero, the tower will become neutral, which will allow the opposing faction to take control. 

There is a gym located relatively close to my workplace, and I have had to battle to keep control of it. I found people pulling up outside, just to see the gym go over into their control. Naturally, I fought back and took control. The problem was that I didn't have enough faction members to back me up, which meant that I couldn't hold the gym for too long as I only could set one Pokémon to defend it. That said, it seems like he or she doesn't have many accomplices either - so may our epic battle to control the gym continue my unknown nemesis. 

I fear for our future 

The social interaction is really what makes Pokémon GO one of the most fun experiences in gaming for our generation. The traditional boundaries of gaming have been breached open, thanks to Pokémon GO which actively encourages you to go outside to catch 'em all. One of the most entertaining moments I have experienced was when I reached a stop street, turned on the game and noticed two Pokéstops (areas which give you free Pokéballs, potions, eggs, and other randomly generated items) that were located directly next to one another. 

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The two Pokéstops were University buildings which consisted of lecture rooms. As the flow of students left, I noticed that two lure modules (which attract Pokémon to the location) had been dropped on the respective Pokéstops. What transpired was one of the most awesome moments in gaming that I have ever been a part of.

People from all corners of town rolled in to take part at the local catching Pokémon festival that was taking place. I managed to chat to some people and learn some new tips on how to use certain items to their full potential. We compared our Pokémon that we caught, and once it was all done everyone went on their merry way. 

There is one larger concern here, as classes were still in session and some learning decided to stay and play Pokémon GO instead. That is why I fear for our future.

Closing Thoughts

Pokémon GO is by no means a great title when it comes down to its core gameplay and mechanics. There are loads of little bugs that have yet to have been fixed. The application constantly freezes and the servers are all too often unavailable for you to load into the game. With that all being said, I still love it! 

What it boils down to is that I get to catch Pokémon, meet new people, get outside and challenge for control over gyms in my area. Pokémon GO could be a flash-in-the-pan generational phenomenon, that is unless the game received some major upgrades before users get fed up with the in-game issues. For now, I'm willing to forgive all the aforementioned problems so long as I can do my best to catch'em all! 

How has your Pokémon GO experience been thus far? Let us know by commenting below or hitting us up on Facebook or Twitter.

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