It finally happened: more than 80 new monsters have been added to Pokémon Go in the app’s latest update. They’re wandering the world map in droves, breathing new life into a game that has gradually lost player interest since its overwhelming debut las summer.
Remember what it was like to play the game when it first launched back in July? True, you’re less likely to find crowds of people hovering around Poké Stops or gyms these days, but what this update has returned to the game, just like when it first debuted, is the joy of discovery.
After months of playing, it was disheartening to fire up the app and only find ultra-common Pokémon like Pidgeys and Rattatas in range. Niantic started spicing things up around the holidays by first dropping in Santa hat-clad Pikachu all around the world, and then making the hard-to-find “starting three” monsters (Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle) more plentiful for a stretch. But those were short-lived promotions.
Now, Pokémon Go has been permanently expanded with its largest update yet, and the excitement of going out into the world and finding new monsters has returned. I spent the last few days on the prowl for these new creatures, and found that the fresh beasts themselves aren’t the only interesting things about this latest upgrade.
My biggest concern with the update was that most of the new Pokémon would join the ranks of the game’s harder-to-find monsters, and that the most common creatures would be the same ones we’ve seen since launch. Luckily, that fear was quickly dispelled once I updated, opened up the map, and immediately found a Ledian—sort of an alien-ladybug-looking thing.
And then the owl-like Hoothoot. And then the raccoon-esque Sentret. And then the Xatu, Spinarak, Natu, Wobbuffet, Wooper, Ledyba, Swinub, and many more. Yes, thankfully, they’re all over the place. I’ve been playing in and around Chicago’s north side, and while common monsters like the Pidgey and Weedle still appear, Pokémon Go has clearly slanted its spawning monsters towards the latest crew.
These 80-plus new monsters are all second-generation Pokémon from the Johto region, which means they first debuted in Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver for the Game Boy Color in 2000. All of the monsters released in the initial incarnation of Pokémon Go, meanwhile, were from the original Game Boy games, Pokémon Blue and Red. Back in December, Niantic pushed out just a few of the Johto creatures as baby Pokémon that could be hatched only from eggs, but held back on unleashing the rest into the world.
Some of these new Pokémon, particularly the hatchable ones, fall into the bloodlines of the previous species: the adorable Pichu, for example, can evolve into a Pikachu, while Igglybuff can evolve into Jigglypuff and Cleffa can evolve into Clefairy. Also, the common Eevee now has two more powerful forms to evolve into: Espeon and Umbreon. (As before, there’s a naming trick to ensuring that you get the evolution you want.)
Most of the new monsters, however, are totally new species that have their own chains of evolution within the game. Grass-type monster Chikorita can be evolved into Bayleef and then Meganium, the teddy bear-inspired Teddiursa can evolve into the more realistic bear-like Ursaring, and there’s quite a bit more. At a glance, some of the Johto region Pokémon are a bit sillier, but that’s a trend that only gets stronger with each successive generation ahead.
Long story short, if you open up the app and start wandering around, it shouldn’t take you long to find new Pokémon—quite possibly several of them. And duplicates too, as my trove of dozens of Swinub make clear (they’re all around Chicago). But as mentioned before, new monsters aren’t the only noteworthy addition with this update.
Even more to find
New items are also available in Pokémon Go, and while that might not sound terribly exciting, some of them add a new kind of hunt to the game. For the first time, some Pokémon evolutions require specific items, and these items can only be found via Poké Stops.
Five special items are available, and they’re needed—alongside candy specific to each Pokémon species—to trigger certain kinds of evolution to obtain eight new creatures. For example, if you find a Metal Coat and have enough candy, you can evolve an Onix into the new Steelix, or the familiar Scyther into a Scizor. Meanwhile, a Sun Stone can change a Gloom into a Bellossom or a Sunkern into a Sunflora, and an Up-Grade will evolve a Porygon into a Porygon2.
Since these special items aren’t sold in the store, you’ll have to pick them up randomly from spinning Poké Stop markers. After a few days of play and probably somewhere around 100 Poké Stops visited, I’ve managed to snag two Sun Stones but none of the others. And I don’t have enough Gloom candy to complete that particular evolution, so right now I’m just biding my time. Still, given that you probably won’t stumble upon those special Pokémon on the map, these new evolution items add another wrinkle to the chase.
Also new—and again, not sold in the store—are two additional types of berries you can use during the capture sequence. The usual Razz Berry remains, which makes a Pokémon easier to catch, but now you can also find and use the Nanab and Pinap Berries. The Nanab Berry is used to calm down the more frantic Pokémon, helping to slow their erratic movements to ease your capture attempt, while the Pinap Berry will earn you more Pokémon candy with a capture.
Helpfully, Niantic has also made it easier to swap between both Poké Balls and Berries thanks to the revised interface, which puts icons for both on the bottom of the screen so that you can quickly swap between types. Now you don’t have to leave the battle screen to use a more powerful Poké Ball or pull out a Berry. Handy!
Lastly, this update also adds more style options for your avatar, many of which cost PokéCoins. Most of these apparel choices cost about $1-3 worth of real cash, although there’s a top hat for as much at 800 coins (roughly $6-8 worth, depending on bundle). They’re purely cosmetic perks, and some are pretty silly—such as the red and blue 3D glasses seen here. I couldn’t resist.
It’s exciting again
Between the new Pokémon especially and the other twists, I definitely felt a renewed vigor in playing the game the past few days. I was pretty into the Christmas promotions some weeks back, but once the Santa-hat Pikachu and starting-three Pokémon disappeared from the map, my interest started to wane again.
With this new update, I spent a few hours in dogged pursuit of fresh captures and know that it’s just the tip of the iceberg. After all, I’ve found just 27 of the Johto creatures so far and haven’t been able to use any of the evolution items. There’s still plenty to discover out there, and this update ought to keep fans busy for a while. I know I’ll be playing regularly again for the foreseeable future.
If Niantic can keep up the occasional promotional periods, start implementing long-promised features like trading, and begin making some of the held-back Legendary monsters available, then hopefully Pokémon Go will maintain some buzz and excitement until the next batch of monsters arrives. Those charming beasts, from 2002’s Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire, will hopefully pop up sometime later this year.
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Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based games, apps, and gadgets writer whose work has been featured in more than 70 publications. He's also a work-at-home dad to an unruly four-year-old.