My neck feels like burnt toast. My body is sore and I limp around the house, but strangely, I feel great. That’s the sign of good Pokemon Go Fest. Niantic pulled off a decent facsimile of its flagship event this weekend. Rare Pokemon spawned along with their shiny versions. The celebration had a storyline first featuring the celebration and then a takeover by Team Go Rocket.
The only missing element was the spontaneous community that forms around the gathering. It’s the feeling of belonging when you see thousands of “Pokemon Go” players in one place and knowing that you are sharing the same experience as them. That’s when you meet new friends and find people who will trade you that missing Pokemon to complete a collection. Trainers also couldn’t challenge each other to local battles, which has become a bigger part of the game since the introduction of the Go Battle League.
The disappointing parts were the event breakdowns early on and the issue with expectations. Some trainers — like me — assumed that we could see the debut of Mega Evolution, but we did not. Instead, players could pick up Victini and Shadow Mewtwo earlier than non-ticketholders.
Still, the event was great if you found the right place to play and if you had friends around you. Much of the enjoyment from these events is catching rare Pokemon. These are shiny versions of normal ones and they’re also harder-to-find pocket monsters that show up in the wild, raids or eggs.
As one reddit user pointed out, some of the habitats on Day 1 were better than others. Over the course of 10 hours, the habitats rotated so players had two chances at each set. The grass and water biomes were the most disappointing. Like other biomes, each had a shiny version debut: With grass it was Tangela and with water it was Qwilfish. The rest of the Pokemon were decent but didn’t have too much use other than Venusaur and Blastoise. Both are viable Pokemon if they had their Community Day moves, and in the future, they could be powerful with Mega Evolution.
The Friendship Habitat featured the debut of shiny Woobat and had a few Pokemon that are useful in defending gyms and in Go Battle League. The biggest catch — other than the Bat Pokemon — was a shiny Chansey, which is one of the best gym defenders in the game. Togetic, Mantine, Maril (which evolves into Azumarill) and Clefairy (which evolves into Clefable) are all great in the Go Battle League.
The best two habitats were Battle and Fire, which featured some of the most sought-after pocket monsters in the game. The Battle habitat had one of the biggest prizes of the weekend in Gible (which could be shiny) and a slew of shiny and regional Pokemon — Zangoose, Seviper and Durant. Creatures such as Alolan Grimer, Dratini and Croagunk all have evolutions that have relevance in Go Battle League. Durant made its debut as the shiny for the habitat.
Meanwhile, the fire biome was carried by Litwick and Darumaka. Both Pokemon are rare and the opportunity to catch them in the wild was a huge reason that the fire hour was great. Adding in Alolan Marowak, which was only available in raids previously, made it the best overall hour to catch Pokemon. Shiny Heatmor debuted during this habitat.
If Niantic improved the type of spawns available for each biome, it could have been even better overall. Not everyone was out there searching for shiny Pokemon. Others were looking for the perfect individual values for Pokemon relevant in Go Battle League while others just wanted to fill in their collection. Having better grass and water spawns such as Tropius or Seele, both of which are important GBL could have made the day better for different reasons. Tropius is a regional found in Africa and southern Europe that’s a big advantage in GBL for those who have it. Seel has a shiny version that’s rare and its Dewgong evolution with a certain moveset is important in GBL.
Day 2 featured the Team Go Rocket takeover. This had a quest line that’s more familiar to Go Fest veterans. Players had to fend off Giovanni and his minions who have taken up shop at PokeStops and descended on players via balloons. Completing the tasks unlocks shadow versions of the legendary birds — Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres — and the final boss is Mewtwo, which was epic. The final reward was Victini, the Victory Pokemon.
Thankfully, Day 2 was more slower paced than the grind of Day 1. Having incense allowed ticketholders to get many of the rare spawns that appeared the first day. Trainers could remove frustration from powerful Shadow Pokemon unlocking their potential. In addition, Niantic added Palkia and Dialga, two important legendary dragons, to their raid lineup and what’s even better — everyone could access them. This allowed newcomers to the game to get some of the legendary Pokemon they may have missed.
Not everyone will be happy with Pokemon Go Fest 2020. Some players put too much emphasis on grabbing rare shinies. Meanwhile, the number of shiny Pokemon players caught depended heavily on luck and where they played. Places with high spawn densities would have more success than players who played from home in a remote area. Also, some trainers may not get the Pokemon they wanted. When that’s the case, they could always trade with their community once shelter-in-place orders are lifted or eased.
Speaking of community, Niantic tried to create that with Team Lounges and the bonus unlocks for each hour, but during the frenzy of catching, I ignored much of that. The push to create community fell flat. A better way to build a feeling of community amid a pandemic would have been to take advantage of streamers on Twitch and YouTube. Several players streamed their experience. Before Day 1 and Day 2, I would watch trainers around the world and see their Go Fest experiences. It was a way to get a preview for what’s in store for me and experience the event vicariously through others.
Watching these streams would ruin the surprises for each day, but that points to another problem with the event. Because it was the same everywhere, trainers in western regions got an advantage over eastern players. It would have been better to slightly change parts of the events for Asia, Europe and Africa, and the Americas so that the trainers there could have their moments of revelation.
Despite that, it was a good first attempt at creating a worldwide Pokemon Go Fest. It proved a success for Niantic. With millions of trainers from 124 countries and regions participating in the event, the virtual gathering did its job of bringing joy to the fanbase. Niantic reported that nearly 1 billion Pokemon were caught and trainers defeated 58 million Team Go Rocket members while sending 55 million gifts. Trainers on average walked nearly 15 kilometers each. The event also raised $10 million that Niantic will donate to nonprofits that are rebulilding their local communities. It will will also fund new projects from Black gaming and AR creators that will exist on Niantic’s platform.
So catching Pokemon over the weekend did some good. Perhaps, next year, Niantic can build on this experience and continue this style of event while also keeping the magic of the destination celebrations intact.
©2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)
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