Pokémon Go takes the popular franchise and brings it into the real world through augmented reality, allowing us to play the game while exploring our physical environments at the same time. It doesn't just put pocket monsters into a more realistic context, but it changes the game in some major ways that may delight some players... and upset others.
The Verge got an early look at Pokémon Go and noted some interesting differences. By now we've seen how we can attempt to capture Pokémon by visiting their real-world locations with our smartphones and throwing a pokéball, but the gameplay still differs in significant ways from what we've routinely come to expect over the years.
You don't battle to capture, but rather rely on chance. This may result in an in-app purchase system akin to gambling, as you'll need a stock of better balls if you want to catch 'em all. Niantic, the team behind Pokémon Go's development, wanted to simplify the process of obtaining your pocket monsters, but it remains to be seen if they favor user experience or business goals in the final game.
Furthermore, while you can battle with other captured Pokémon, you don't do so in the traditional, simplified turn-based battle system we've seen in the games for years. Instead, it's a series of rapid tapping to blast your enemy away before they can do the same to you.
While you used to visit gyms to battle leaders for badges, eventually making your way to the Pokémon League to earn the title of champion, that doesn't really work in a real-world context. The game can't really end, and its central benefit is exploration, so Niantic opted for a different strategy as the Verge explains:
"Similar to Ingress' global conflict, which had players pledging to a side to capture "portals" around the world, Pokémon Go will let you join one of three teams: Red, Blue, or Yellow. From there, you can travel to notable landmarks and take over gyms, which is Pokémon parlance for a kind of group HQ. To take a gym back from an opposing side, you'll have to travel to that location and do battle against the opponent's Pokémon."
Pokémon hasn't changed much over the years, and this new version of the game offers a very different experience. While many have criticized Nintendo for failing to breathe new life into the franchise, others might consider Niantic's approach to be an uncomfortable departure from what they're used to.
We're sure to see some growing pains and complaints as time goes on, but Pokémon Go plants the seeds of the next evolution of the series. It can run on many smartphones, but with the help of Google's Tango and mixed reality headsets, we'll likely see far more immersive versions of this game and games like it in years to come.