So everyone around you just can't stop talking about Pokémon GO and how they can't wait to play it. Heck, even your parents are thinking about giving the game a go. But the truth is you’re still wondering, “What on earth is a Pokéball?!"
It's alright, we got you covered. All of your Pokémon questions will be answered in time! But first let's start off with the basics - what even is a Pokémon?
In short, Pokémon is a "pocket monster". Japanese cartoonist Satoshi Tajiri invented Pokémon in 1995, and the original Pokémon game was on the Game Boy (Pokémon Blue FTW, no dispute).
The franchise also includes trading cards, a TV show, some movies and stuffed animals. Its famous catchphrase "Gotta Catch Em' All" tells you enough - to catch as many Pokémons as you can with Pokéballs.
Now, there are literally thousands of species of Pokémons but the original generation featured 150 characters, ranging from Bulbasaur to MewTwo. If you are completely unfamiliar with Pokémon as a concept, chances are you’ll probably recognise Pikachu, the unofficial mascot of Pokémons.
What do Pokémons do? Are they like pets?
Well, sort of. Pokémon "trainers" catch and train Pokémon to fight against each other. In the original games, you fight other trainers, and you can fight your friends too.
Now that you've caught up with the history of Pokémon, let's move on to Pokémon GO, the insanely addictive phone game that's taking over the world by storm
Pokémon GO is a free-to-play mobile game that you can download for iOS or Android. While it's free, you have the option to use real money to buy PokéCoins (they vary from USD0.99 to USD99.99). Those PokéCoins are used to purchase Pokéballs or other in-game items you need to be able to catch Pokémons.
The game works by using your phone’s GPS for your real-world location and augmented reality to bring up those cool-looking Pokémon on your screen.
On top of that, you can customise yourself with clothing, a faction and other options while you level up as you play
There are three separate teams - Team Mystic, Team Valor and Team Instinct - presented to the player after hitting level five, the moment in the game where many of its features finally open up. Note that after choosing a faction, you won't be able to change.
Each faction has a leader, a set of "values" and a Pokémon as its symbol. After joining a faction, you'll be grouped with your fellow teammates and battle other team's Gym.
To truly enjoy the game, you have to ACTUALLY get off your couch and wander around in real life! At night, there are different Pokémons from the one during the day. They appear through your phone's camera like this:
Real life environments come into play as well - if you're near water, you'd find a water Pokémon, if you're near grass, chances of you finding a grass Pokémon is higher. The more Pokémons you catch, the more points you score as a trainer.
Since you start the game with limited Pokéballs and they're honestly pretty darn expensive, you'll have to walk to different Pokéstops to collect more... balls
These Pokéstops are usually at interesting places around your city or community. You might find a Pokéstop at a popular cafe, landmark, art piece or other places of interest. Pokéstops can be identified on your map by looking for the blue circle with a Pokéball in the center.
Once you've accumulated enough experience points to reach level five, you can train your Pokémon at the nearest Gym, marked by a wacky-looking laser tower in your map. What is a Gym, you might ask?
Gyms are in-game locations that are typically tied to major real-world areas where you can battle other trainers. If a gym is held by your faction, you can select a single Pokémon and train against other members of your team, raising the amount of prestige points associated with the gym.
The higher the prestige, the more Pokémons can be stationed at the gym, which in turn grants higher daily bonuses of stardust and Pokécoins that can be earned.
Gyms held by a rival faction, however, need to be battled for. If you and your fellow members defeat the Pokémon stationed there, you can lower the gym’s prestige and eventually return it to a neutral level and it can be claimed.
You can't be leveling yourself up as a trainer and neglect your Pokémons! A Pokémon can evolve and become more powerful but you'll have to feed them stardust or candy.
To evolve your Pokémon or make them more powerful, you’ll need to give them stardust or candy. These items are collected whenever a Pokémon is caught.
Each type of Pokémon requires a specific amount of candy to evolve. A Squirtle, for example, might need 25 pieces of candy to evolve, while a Pidgey needs 12. Each Pokémon comes with a certain amount of candy when you catch it, but it’s typically enough to evolve a Pokémon or power it up significantly.
Candy is specific to each species, so you can only evolve a Squirtle with candy obtained from capturing Squirtle. Stardust, however, is not specific to individual Pokémon.
While response to the game has been overwhelmingly positive with people trading stories of friendships and discoveries made, Pokémon GO has had its share of literal pitfalls
A girl found a dead body while playing, a group of teenagers used the app's in-game features to lure people close and rob them.
The nature of the game also means you may be tempted to loiter and trespass a little. Just like how players are parked in front of this man's house 24/7 after it was made into a Gym. Poor guy.
Nevertheless, the game will only eventually get better and more addictive. Niantic, the company behind Pokémon GO plans to release a companion writes device that alerts players of nearby Pokémon even without a phone. There are talks of a multiplayer feature in the works too!
The wearable accessory - which links to a smartphone via Bluetooth - is expected to cost USD35 (RM140). Players using the wristband will be able to catch wild Pokemon with a simple click of a button, as well as collect in-game items at PokeStop locations without having to pull out a smartphone.
The ability to trade your hard-collected Pokémon with friends and strangers will come sooner than expected. "It's kind of a core element," said John Hanke, CEO of Niantic.techinsider.io
With all that being said, the game is a modern day phenomenon. Nintendo's stock has skyrocketed. It's set to overtake Twitter in Daily Active Users and has sped to the top of the App Store charts in 5 hours.
Get this - it hasn't even been released in most of the world.
So, should you give Pokémon Go a try?
From the looks of it, Pokémon Go is a really fun game, but its ability to bring strangers together in different places while establishing friendships is something pretty awesome.
Most importantly, it taps into a sense of childhood imagination and wonder that most other games can’t. If you grew up as a 90s kid playing Pokémon, this would help you to live out your deepest Pokémon desires. Like come on, you can finally go out to catch Charmander like Ash Ketchum!
It’s also a bit of an escape. While that certainly applies more to virtual reality, which can immerse you entirely in another world, Pokémon Go gives you the opportunity to for once forget about all the terrible sh!t happening out there, explore the beauty of the world, and catch some awesome Pokémons along the way.
Pokémon GO is currently out in the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Word has it that it would release in more countries, including Malaysia, later this month! Get excited!