GOing in circles

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Editor's note: The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the largely-fanatic views of other Imprint staff.

Ever since Nintendo, Niantic Labs, and the Pokemon Company came together to announce Pokemon GO last September, people have been clamouring to get their hands on this mobile app. The reason that such a small application has spurred millions into a fever pitch is that Pokemon GO fulfils one dream every Pokemon player has — to catch the titular creatures in real life. After a long wait, Pokemon GO has finally landed on the Google Play and Apple App stores for everybody to download.

After reading the last sentence, you might be thinking, “But wait Andrew, Pokemon GO hasn't released in Canada yet.” Yes, the app isn't officially available in the Great White North, but there are ways around such technicalities. If you are willing to take the risk of downloading a virus straight to your phone, possibly being banned from the game or losing all progress when it officially releases, there is way to download Pokemon GO from another country's app store. Unfortunately, I have a curious mind and didn't want to wait to see if this “supposed” next evolution of Pokemon could live up to the hype.

Currently, Pokemon GO doesn't live up to thepicture that the misleading marketing tries to paint in my opinion. While it is an augmented reality game like Niantic's other title Ingress, Pokemon GO isn't the augmented reality Pokemon simulator people thought it to be. Right now, GO is a oversimplified Pokemon game at best and a stagnant wallpaper of happy Pokemon at worst. I swear I'm not bitter over all the server problems.

I understand that mobile gaming is a much different beast than console, handheld, and PC gaming. It's just disappointing to see the core elements of Pokemon stripped down to the bare necessities in order to accommodate the platform. There is no strategy in throwing a Poke Ball with the flick of your thumb to catch a Pokemon. Plus, battles are devoid of any thought as you furiously tap and swipe the screen to activate random attacks. Although these decisions were made to make GO approachable for the casual crowd, there are more creative ways to adapt these key Pokemon mechanics to mobile. For example, adding the ability to toss rocks or giving food to Pokemon as a way to increase/decrease the chance of successfully catching it or making certain attacks activate by swiping in a particular direction.

Considering you need a constant internet connection, Pokemon GO isn't worth downloading if you don't have data. Jumping between wi-fi hotspots to find a stable connection grows tedious rather quickly. Also, none of the Poke Stops, places where you can replenish much sought after items like Poke Balls, I ran into were anywhere near these hotspots, thus forcing you to go the microtransaction route if you want to continue playing.

Even if you have data, Pokemon GO is easily the buggiest title Nintendo has ever published. Servers go down regularly, the game will mute whenever a notification goes off, disappearing models, game freezes, and the evolution particle effects will cause the game to slow down to a crawl. Most of these are small things, but they make the title feel like it’s still in beta.

For everything that is underwhelming and frustrating about Pokemon GO, it has a ton of potential. Even with my restrictions, GO nails the feeling of discovery that is at the core of the Pokemon franchise. Since the game has been a huge success, there is no doubt Niantic will be updating it in the coming months. Those updates may address the stability issues, improve on the game's lack of depth, or make it more inclusive for those of us that don't have data. As much as this might sound like a cop-out, these possibilities are Pokemon GO's biggest strength and will get me to redownload GO upon its official Canadian release.

Right now, my opinion on Pokemon GO remains the same as when the game was announced. The concept of catching Pokemon in the real world is great. Sadly, the execution currently can't live up to images that have been built by the game's marketing and our wild imaginations. Could GO one day be the ultimate Pokemon experience? Yes, but we live in the present, not the future. So right now, I will stick to playing Pokemon on my 3DS.

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