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Double Takes: Pokémon Go is a great revival, but how long is its shelf life?

Double Takes is a series in which two Emerald writers compare notes on a recent piece of media. In this installment, Emerald writers Chris Berg and Mathew Brock share their thoughts on the new app Pokémon Go.

Watch the Pokémon Go Super Bowl spot below.

Chris’s take:

It’s hard to deny that Pokémon Go is an objectively bad app. The game’s augmented reality effect (wherein it transposes a 3D Pokémon on a live camera feed) looks shifty, the location tracking is often inaccurate, and the servers have been hilariously unreliable from the start. Not to mention the lack of any meaningful features from the core series, like training, battling outside of gyms or trading with friends.

But what can be so easy to miss, is that Go perfectly captures the spirit of this franchise. At the core of the series has always been a simple desire – finding tiny monsters, collecting them, and boosting their skills to become the very best that ever was. Combine that with the social hooks native to the app’s design, and it becomes a natural fit. That’s why it’s attracted millions of players in less than a week, and returned Pokémon to the forefront of pop culture. I’ve never seen anything like this, in terms of getting ordinary people to unite over digital incentives. Other GPS-based games like Ingress (whose development team would later spearhead Go) have had deeper features, but lack the magnetic charm of Nintendo’s creation.

I don’t know if Pokémon Go has a future. Nintendo’s last app Miitomo had a similar spark of interest, only to quickly fade from a lack of depth. It’s hard to say if this will see the same fate, but for now we can all appreciate this one-of-a-kind phenomenon as it unfolds.

Follow Chris Berg on Twitter @ChrisBerg25

Mathew’s take:

It seems like everyone, young and old, has caught the recent Pokémon bug and have all been thrust abruptly back to their childhoods. As a long time fan of the series, this is great news for me; I finally have an abundance of people with whom I can talk about Pokemon, without it being incredibly awkward. I’m sure you know the old saying: gotta catch em’ all.

Pokémon Go captures the essence of the Pokémon franchises by boiling it down to its most basic elements and mixing in some elements of the rather niche augmented reality genre of mobile games. Traditional fans of the franchise might be a little disappointed in the game’s simplicity, but it still provides one of the best experiences the emerging AR genre has to offer. It definitely fulfills that childhood fantasy of traveling around a world filled with magnificent creatures and collecting them in a pocket-sized menagerie, exactly like the original Pokemon games were intended to do for children living in cities.

The game focuses primarily on the collecting aspect of Pokémon, since battles are restricted to gyms and streamlined to tap-to-attack and swipe-to-dodge motions. It’s a little disappointing but perfectly understandable, given the scope of a mobile game. Collecting new or more powerful Pokémon never fails to feel satisfying, whether you’re catching a herd of Eevees to evolve a Flareon or hatching dozens of eggs until you get a Snorlax.

Overall the game has everything a traditional Pokémon fan needs to enjoy themselves, while also being accessible enough to attract a whole new audience of smartphone users. If nothing else, the game will continue to prove to Nintendo that the mobile phone market is a perfect place for them to thrive.

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Chris Berg

Chris Berg