The Agent Reviews A Game… UPDATE: The NEW Pokèmon Go

Catching ’em all just got a bit more interesting.
Source: Business Insider

As of the writing of this, we are one week from celebrating the one-year anniversary of the release of Pokèmon Go. Personally, I hope to hang out at a HUGE meet-up in Nashua, NH while celebrating a friend’s birthday (provided I get the time off).

And just in time for the festivities, Niantic Labs and Nintendo have made some major changes to the game that – in my eyes, at any rate – are much needed and long overdue.

There are three major changes to this year-one update we need to concern ourselves with; the revamped gym battle system, the new raid battle system and some new items to improve gameplay.

The Pokèmon Gyms have been completely rebalanced to encourage a more competitive atmosphere and the changes are simple enough to follow. They are as follows:

  1. Gyms, in addition to their original functions, now also act as special Pokèstops that give additional bonuses if spun by someone of the same team controlling the gym.
  2. The max number of Pokèmon allowed at a gym has been reduced from ten to six.
  3. Pokèmon will defend the gym they are assigned to in the order they have been placed, not by order of CP Level.
  4. No gym may have more than one of the same kind of Pokèmon.
  5. Instead of training to level up a gym to assign more Pokèmon and battling to lower gym levels and remove Pokèmon, a motivation system has been introduced.
    • Frequent defeat will cause a Pokèmon to lose morale – temporarily lowering its CP level until it’s motivation reaches zero and it returns to the owner.
    • Motivation can be restored by feeding any berry to a Pokèmon, thus returning its CP up to its original point and allowing it to defend longer.
  6. When a Pokèmon is removed from a gym, it returns to its owner with a number of Pokècoins to be used in the shop based on the amount of time spent defending.

These changes make the gym battles so much more enjoyable. There’s more of a challenge and incentive to try to defend and maintain gyms, you can’t cheese people with a wall of Snorlaxes or Blisseys, fresh faces are more likely to appear in gyms, and gym defense rewards are applied automatically.

Gyms also serve as the site for the other new addition to the game; raid battles. What is a raid battle? Well, you remember that scene in the trailer where everyone in a major city gathers in the middle of the square to ROFL-stomp Mewtwo? Yeah, it’s like that.

Raid battles are group efforts of up to 20 players to take down a RIDICULOUSLY overpowered Pokèmon – up to and including legendaries – using the same battle mechanics as the gym battles. Should the group be successful, everyone involved is granted a number of Premier Balls (you know, those white Pokèballs you get in the other games for buying other balls in bulk) based on their individual performances. You then get the opportunity to use those Premier Balls to capture the raid boss (note that I said OPPORTUNITY; you can still fail to catch it as with any wild Pokèmon). I sadly didn’t get to join a group, but I did solo a lower level Croconaw that I was fortunate enough to catch with my second ball.

Finally, these raids can also net you new items. They include Golden Razz Berries (a more powerful version of the normal Razz Berry that also fully restores motivation), Rare Candy (used to level up ANY Pokèmon) and Fast and Charged TMs (used to change the fast and charged attacks of your Pokèmon).

So, what do I think of the changes? Well, like I said, these are all changes that the game desperately needed to add challenge and renewed interest in the game. It won’t result in the server-destroying frenzy we saw when the game first dropped, but it has clearly brought some players back to the fold and is catching some fresh eyes.

If I had to complain about anything, it’s that the shop still doesn’t have options to buy stronger Pokèballs beyond the standard model. That would have been the first thing on my list. All you would need to do is give an appropriate price hike for the boost in quality.

Still, you can believe that I’m playing harder than ever before now that this update dropped. I hope to see you out in the field on the anniversary.

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Not Quite Two-Dimentional: How I Would Improve Nintendo’s 2DS

Source: Kotaku.com

An apt metaphor for Nintendo’s consistent track record with hand-helds.
Source: Kotaku.com

As a birthday gift to myself, I bought a Nintendo 2DS and a copy of Pokemon X. As a result, my biggest fear is that I’ll never get any productive work done again.

The more that I used it though, the more problems I started to find. Of course, since I have an obsessive compulsive need to nitpick everything regardless of quality, I’m going to share with you the design choices I would have made in building the 2DS.

Disclaimer: THE 2DS ISN’T BAD

I just want to point out that I don’t think the 2DS was mishandled by Nintendo or that it was a bad idea in general; quite the opposite. I think that it’s a great piece of technology that reaffirms Nintendo’s dominance in the hand-held gaming market (excluding tablets and smart phones which, for the most part, won’t be practical in gaming until they give us proper action buttons).

I think there are quite a few great design improvements. The larger size and more centered button layout better fits my hands, the removal of the 3D gimmick was a welcomed change as it was unnecessary and didn’t work well anyway, and the lower price tag is great for gaming on a budget.

So, if I love the 2DS so much, why am I complaining about it? The answer is simple: nothing improves until you acknowledge what doesn’t work. The gaming industry, and Nintendo in particular, lives off of building up from what was successful and trimming off the dead weight. Perhaps Nintendo will see this article and consider these changes for there next iteration of the DS – unlikely, I realize, but I can still hope.

Make It Collapsible Again

I’ve read a slew of complaints on forums about how people can’t fit the 2DS in their pockets because it doesn’t fold up like it’s older brother. I’ve never had this problem before – presumably because my big, fat, Scottish fanny can accommodate larger pockets.

That said, I can’t help but feel that being able to fold the 2DS for storage would have been nice. I understand that they decided on this to remove a structural weak point in the design (many is the DS that has snapped in two in someones back pocket), but not only did closing the console up make in compact, it also protected the screens from damage while carrying it.

I understand that doing this would mean returning back to the original button layout and losing the one I love now, but I feel it’s a small price to pay for functionality. Something else that will ruin my beloved layout…

Make The Screens Bigger

At the time of writing this, I have a searing migraine from having to read text in head splitting Eye-Strain-o-Vision. My already terrible vision is not helping matters.

The point of compressing the screens was to make room for the comfortable button layout I love so much. But again, it’s a matter of choosing the lesser evil. If my thumbs cramp up, I can stop and take a break until I recover. If my head is throbbing, that’s going to follow me all day long.

Rework The Pedometer and Play Coins

One of the things I love about my 2DS is that it forces me to socialize and be physically active in order to get the most use out of it – something once thought impossible for introverts like me to do. Knowing that, I wish that it would challenge me a little more.

This is a gripe about the 3DS line in general rather than the 2DS specifically. As it stands now, the 2DS gives you a ‘Play Coin’ to spend on in game items for every 100 steps you take with a maximum earning limit of ten coins per day. The problem is that I can reach my daily max just walking across the street to go to class. As you can see, it’s hardly a workout.

There are a number of ways to handle this. You could increase the reward requirement to 300 steps for a coin (three steps roughly equate one meter, so 1000 meters for the max reward), but not everyone is that dedicated. Alternatively, you could have it measure distance traveled rather than steps taken by using a GPS tracker, but many conspiracy theorists would complain that ‘the man’ is trying to watch him through his toys.

Instead, I’d suggest programing an automatic difficulty adjustment feature. Have the 2DS keep a log of how many steps you take everyday and raise the requirements for a coin reward if they consistently and significantly break through the ten coin threshold. This would add a slowly rising challenge to the workout and give the player something to strive for.

Game on!

Not only am I looking forward to playing and exploring my new 2DS, but I also look forward to what Nintendo pulls out of it’s hat in the future. I hope that they continue to improve on the past to entertain and edify us in the future.