If you’ve been on any form of social media over the past week, you’ve probably seen that Pokemon Go is everywhere (even if some people want it to go away). What many thought would be a silly one-off game for the nerdiest of nerds has quickly embedded itself as a game-changer for the mobile gaming industry.
Think about it. People are actually going outside to play a video game now. I ran into dozens of other Pokemon Go players yesterday wandering around my nearby Pokestops. This is unlike any game we’ve ever played before.
But if you’re just getting started, it might seem a little daunting, so we’ve made a list of 10 things you need to know to be the very best.
Don’t Power Up Pokemon Right Away
After you catch a Pokemon, you’ll see a Power Up option underneath it. It may be tempting to do this as soon as you nab your first Pokemon (or even with your starter), but you should really wait.
You see, powering up Pokemon doesn’t evolve them — and you’ll probably find a more powerful one soon enough anyway. Strangely, the only way to evolve Pokemon is to catch more of the same Pokemon to get more of that Pokemon’s Candies.
For instance, let’s say you pick Charmander as your starter. You want to level it up right away, so you spend your hard-earned Stardust and Charmander Candies on it to power it up. Even if you never run into another Charmander in the wild, your Charmander won’t be that strong until it evolves into Charmeleon or Charizard. You’ll soon catch other Pokemon that eclipse your powered up Charmander by tenfold.
Plus, you’re very likely to run into a wild Charmander at some point that has a higher CP (essentially, its level), and then you’ve wasted your Stardust and Charmander Candies on a lower-level Pokemon.
The better idea is to wait until you’ve caught enough of a single Pokemon to evolve the one with the highest CP — then start powering up your fully-evolved Pokemon. Which brings us to the next point.
There’s not much use in having duplicate Pokemon in your party, but there is use in transferring them. If you scroll down the bottom of any Pokemon’s page, you’ll see a transfer button below the map of where you caught them. If you press this, that Pokemon will be transferred to Professor Oak (which means gone forever, basically), and he’ll give you one Candy for that Pokemon, which means you can evolve your remaining Pokemon quicker!
Every Pokemon you catch gives you three Candies for that Pokemon, but by transferring away any duplicates, you’re essentially getting four Candies per Pokemon. Just be sure to always transfer away your Pokemon with the lowest CP. If you have a 200CP Bulbasaur and a 40CP Bulbasaur, always transfer away the 40CP.
Except Not Always
The only time you might not want to do this is with Pidgeys or maybe Rattatas. The thing is, evolving Pokemon gives you 500XP towards your trainer’s level. So while you might not want a bunch of Pidgeottos, you do want a bunch of XP for evolving your Pidgeys into Pidgeottos.
The reason Pidgey is the popular choice for this is because it only costs 12 Pidgey Candies to evolve it. Some other Pokemon, like Rattata, require 25, while most require 50 or 100. That, combined with how insanely common Pidgeys are, makes them XP treasure troves.
So, once you’ve got maybe 120 Pidgey Candies in your bag and 10 Pidgeys in your party, go ahead and evolve then, and you’ll get a whopping 5,000XP. On top of that, there might be a strategic time to evolve them all, as we’ll look at in the next section.
Save Your Lucky Eggs
Lucky Eggs are pretty magical little items that give you double XP for 30 minutes, but you need to use these sparingly. They’re rare to come across for free, though they can be bought with Pokecoins (which are usually purchased with real money). That being said, it’s wise to use them at the most opportune times.
One of these times might be when you have a bunch of Pokemon (cough, Pidgeys, cough) to evolve all at once. Since each evolution nets you 500XP normally, you’ll snag a huge 1,000XP for every evolution with your Lucky Egg activated.
The other time you might want to use these is when capturing a bunch of new Pokemon. This could be immediately when you’re starting out, since every Pokemon will be new, or it could be when you head to new terrain. For instance, if you live in a city surrounded by Pidgeys and Rattatas, head to the beach for a Pokemon Go-inspired day of catching new Water Pokemon, or maybe take a hike through a forest looking for some Grass Pokemon.
Pokestops Refresh Quickly
Pokestops are a necessity for any Pokemon Go player because they give you the items you need to play the rest of the game, like Pokeballs, Revives, and Razz Berries. After you go to one and spin the coin in the center of the screen to release your reward, the Pokestop will turn purple and be unusable.
However, it will refresh back to blue in about five minutes if you’d like more goodies. You don’t even have to leave and come back, you can just stay camped out on your favorite Pokestop! If any local hangout areas are also Pokestops, maybe like a library, a park, or a bar, you can just hangout there with some friends and check back in with the Pokestop every few minutes.
Avoid Spending Money
Nintendo has a good game plan here. The game itself is free, and you can play for quite a while before you feel the need to buy anything. But eventually, you’re going to run out of Pokeballs or Potions or something, and spending some real cash on those Pokecoins (via in-app purchase) to get some items is going to look tempting.
Now of course, if that’s what you want to do, go for it! But if you’re too frugal to allow yourself to spend money on a mobile game, Pokestops are going to be your best friend. They’re the only free way to obtain items, so find your favorite Pokestop and get familiar with it using the tips in the last section.
Once you hit level 5, you’ll have access to gyms. They’re going to look super intimidating when you’re a little level 5 trainer and your strongest Pokemon is a 157CP Pidgeotto. The gyms around you will probably be dominated with 1,000CP Flareons and Arcanines, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck.
The first thing you need to consider is your team: Instinct (yellow), Valor (red), or Mystic (blue). Which team you choose only affects who you’ll have to fight for gyms and who you can help control gyms. So try to coordinate with your friends to be on the same team so that you can take gyms or defends gyms together.
Once you’ve chosen a team, every gym around you that is controlled by a different team is a target — and you have two big advantages. The first is that anyone attacking a gym gets to use a party of six Pokemon, and the second is that you can work with a type advantage.
For instance, let’s say there’s a gym owned by a 500CP Jolteon and a 600CP Electabuzz, and all of your Pokemon are around 400CP. That might seem like an impossible challenge, but it’s not.
Choose your Pokemon based on their type advantages, and you’re good to go. In this case, Ground is strong against Electricity, so if you have a couple Sandshrews or Geodudes, you’ll easily be able to go up against this gym. And don’t forget that you get to bring six Pokemon. So even if your first couple Pokemon faint against the Jolteon, you still have four more to take down the Electabuzz.
Once you beat the ruling champs, their gym’s prestige will go down. This might mean you have to fight them again to lower the prestige until it hits zero, or (if it was already low), it might just free up the gym. You can then take it by pressing the icon in the lower left and leaving one of your strongest Pokemon there.
Pokemon that faint while taking a gym require a Revive to get their health back up to half, and then Potions to heal them completely. If you leave a Pokemon at a gym, it will be there until someone else defeats it, and then it will magically reappear in your inventory with only one HP.
The actual fights in the gym are nothing like they used to be in Pokemon, where it was turn-based and you had four moves to choose from. These fights happens in real time. A quick tap on the enemy uses their first attack, a swipe on your characters dodges, and once the little blue bar in the upper left is full, you can tap and hold on the enemy to use a special attack.
Most people choose to just repeatedly tap on the enemy and forget about the other options, but there are times the other moves can come in handy. If you can time the dodges correctly, you can get a couple hits in, then dodge, and keep up that pattern for a while.
Also, you need to pay attention to the types of moves your Pokemon has. For instance, Ponyta can have Tackle as its first move and Flame wheel as its second. That means that even if you’re battling a Grass type (which is weak against fire), the quick taps on the enemy won’t be super effective. You’ll want to use the second attack, which is Fire type, to do some real damage.
If you leave a Pokemon at a gym, you are then defending that Gym. You can only leave one Pokemon at each Gym, but anyone else from your team can add Pokemon to that Gym as well, depending on its level.
Each gym has a level, and the higher that level, the more people from your team can add in Pokemon (and the harder it is for opposing teams to take it). To raise the level, you have to train at the gym, which means using one Pokemon from your party to fight the ones defending the gym. Winning will net you some XP towards your trainer, as well as Prestige, which raises your gym’s level.
When training, you only get one Pokemon, not your whole party, and you’ll get more XP for training with a lower-level Pokemon than what’s at the gym. Plus, when they faint, they end with one HP, so you can get them back in fighting shape with only Potions — no Revives required.
Also, it’s worth noting that you can snag a nice Defender bonus for every Pokemon you currently have in a gym. Just go into the Shop and press the Shield icon in the upper right. You can only do this every 21 hours, so its most advantageous to do it when you know you have as many Pokemon in gyms as is currently possible. You’ll get 10 Pokecoins and 500 XP for each Pokemon, which is a nice deal considering the only other way to get Pokecoins is with real money.
Track & Catch Pokemon
Running into Pokemon might seem random, and it largely is, but you can control it to some degree. Tap on the little Pokemon in the lower right of your screen and you’ll see which ones are nearby. Three footsteps means kind of far away, two footsteps means close, one footstep means very close, and no footsteps means it’s literally about to appear.
The thing is, this only gives you a radius. So the trick is to tap on the Pokemon you’re hunting down, and that will minimize it to the lower-right with the footsteps shown. You can then walk and change your route based on the footsteps. If it has three and then disappears, turn around and go back. If it’s staying at three, trying moving in a different direction until it goes down to two. Trust me, you can hunt down some awesome Pokemon this way.
When you finally find a Pokemon, you’ll need to flick Pokeballs at it to catch it (that’s right, no fighting here). If it keeps breaking free of the Pokeballs, you might want to use a Razz Berry to ensure a better chance of catching it. When you get to higher levels, you’ll have access to Great Balls and Ultra Balls, but for now, Pokeballs will do.
On the Pokemon, there will be a shrinking circle that repeats. It will be green for easy catches, orange for harder ones, and red for very hard ones. To have the best chance of catching it, wait until the colored circle is at its smallest to start your throw. The circle should then be at its largest when the Pokeball hits it, which should cause the words Nice! or Great! or Excellent! to appear. If you catch it when that happens, you’ll get an XP bonus.
Sometimes, Pokemon are going to run, and that sucks, but there’s no way to prevent it.
Don’t Worry About Data
I’ve heard a lot of people worrying about how much data Pokemon Go was going to use up on their devices, but I’m happy to report that the damage is actually pretty minimal. While most people in the US have 2GB per month or more, Pokemon Go has only used about 90MB for me in a week of relatively high usage.
On my phone, that’s a bit less than Tumblr, Instagram, the Play Store, and Facebook — and significantly less than the 1GB of data Snapchat has used or the 2GB that Twitter has used.
So if you’re regularly using any of those popular apps, you definitely have room for Pokemon Go as well.
Get Pikachu as a Starter
When you begin, three Pokemon will appear around you: Charmander, Squirtle, and Bulbasaur. Well, if you’d rather have a Pikachu, don’t choose any of them and just wander around for a bit. Eventually, a Pikachu will appear. Catch it, and the other starters will disappear.
This is a cute little Easter Egg, but it’s honestly not that useful. All four of the starters have about the same rarity in the wild, so you’ll probably run into a Pikachu or Charmander at some point anyway. Plus, your starter immediately becomes obsolete when you catch higher CP Pokemon. I mean, I’ve already transferred my Bulbasaur back to the Professor after I caught a higher CP Bulbasaur.
Any More Tips?
Those are some of my best tips for new Pokemon Go players, but there could obviously be more to add to this list. If you have any suggestions for playing this awesome new Augmented Reality game, let us know down in the comments!
Be sure to let us know once you’ve caught ’em all.