Many Pokemon fans have been feeling the hype for Pokemon GO as beta test emails finally roll out after what seems like forever. The game has been years in the making and is packed to the gills with features to show for it. While most of the game is made to feel much like one of the classic Game Boy games may have felt if it had been launched today, some of the classic formula has seen serious reworks, tweaks abound, and there are a good number of features that even modern Pokemon games on Nintendo handhelds and the legions of fan games and unofficial MMORPGs lack.
For starters, this game makes use of augmented reality in multiple forms. You have a map that shows your current location and where prominent landmarks like gyms and catchable Pokemon are, and then you have a real-time camera view that superimposes the game's assets, namely the iconic Pokemon, over what you're seeing in the real world. Suddenly, saying that there's a Squirtle in your pool is no longer the stuff of schoolyard jests. Catching that Squirtle, however, is more luck-based than in the past; instead of weakening wild Pokemon to catch them, GO players simply tap the right button to throw the ball and hope it sticks. Naturally, better Pokeballs like the Great Ball and Master Ball are a part of the equation.
The part of the game that relies on mapping has been developed by Niantic, the Google spinoff that created the widely popular augmented reality game Ingress. On the map, you'll be scoping out where you need to go to find new Pokemon, gyms and other prominent features. Certain Pokemon, just like in the classic games, will only appear in certain parts of the world, which means those hoping to catch 'em all will have to do some traveling. Battles take place in a timing mini-game sort of fashion with stats playing a part rather than stealing the show. This is a bit more reflexive than the turn-based scuffles the series is known for, and team battles are fair game, which plays nicely into the faction system.
Missing from previous Pokemon titles, GO sports three factions for players to choose from; Yellow, Red and Blue, after the original three Pokemon games in the United States, one of the territories where the game is seeing its initial release and beta testing. The three factions can control certain landmarks, such as gyms, and must battle for control of them. Many of the key landmarks in the game where one would find things like gyms are actually prominent landmarks in the real world. There's plenty for casual and hardcore players to experience, both alone and with friends. A wearable called the Pokemon GO Plus can go on a user's wrist and pair up to their phone to notify them of completed tasks and landmarks nearby, keeping users from wandering into roads or bumping into things while looking at the map and questing for Pokemon.