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Pokémon Go guide: Everything you need to know to get started

Published Jul 8th, 2016 11:15AM EDT
Pokemon Go Guide
Image: Pokemon

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If you own a smartphone, chances are good that you’ve either downloaded or thought about downloading Pokémon Go this week. Unsurprisingly, the app that turns everyone into a real-life Pokémon trainer has become a bona-fide hit just days after launching, but despite its obvious appeal, Pokémon Go can be frustratingly obtuse when it comes to explaining the rules.

In order to help you navigate the wild world of Pokémon hunting, we’ve put together a guide to walk you through the first steps of your journey as you work your way up to becoming the ultimate Pokémon master.

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Pick a starter Pokémon

Pokemon Go Starter

When you boot up Pokémon Go for the very first time, you’ll be given the option to choose between the three classic starter pocket monsters from Pokémon Red and Blue: Charmander, Squirtle and Bulbasaur. Just tap on the one you want, toss your Poké Ball at it and—voila!—you’ve captured your first Pokémon.

Get your bearings

Keeping in mind that Pokémon Go takes place in the real world, it’s important that you get your bearings when you first log in to the app. You’ll see a map of your surroundings with your character in the center and, providing you live in a fairly populated area, floating blue squares and large platforms dotted around the map. The blue squares are Poké Stops and the platforms are gyms.

You won’t need to worry about gyms until you reach level 5, so, for now, focus on visiting as many Poké Stops as you can. Not only will the Poké Stops reward you with free items and Pokémon Eggs (which will hatch once you pop them in an incubator and travel a few miles with the app running), but you’ll also likely run into Pokémon you can catch as you travel from one stop to another.

Take a trip

Pokemon Go Catch

Although you might feel ridiculous walking in circles with your smartphone pressed up against your face, one of the best things about Pokémon Go is that it forces you to get out of your comfort zone if you want to succeed.

On my lunch break yesterday, I walked down the street to pick up a sandwich. On my way there, I ran into two Zubats and a Doduo. After work, I walked over to the local bar to grab some dinner and meet up with friends. Guess what I ran into on my way there? More Zubats and Doduos.

If you want to expand your collection significantly, you’re going to have to leave your neighborhood. This guide happens to be going up on a Friday, so rather than sitting around in your home or apartment all weekend, plan a trip into the city or take a drive down the coast… and bring a few portable chargers with you.

Turn on Battery Saver mode

Pokemon Go Battery Saver

The most frustrating thing about Pokémon Go is that the app has to be running in order for it to function (unless you have the Plus accessory, which no one does at the moment). If you want to be alerted when a Pokémon appears, if you want to hatch an egg or if you want to visit a Poké Stop, the app needs to be open on your phone, which means you’re going to kill your battery pretty quickly.

Thankfully, the app comes with a Battery Saver mode, which you can find in the Settings menu in the top right corner of the screen when you tap the Poké Ball icon. In order to activate Battery Saver mode, just turn your phone upside-down — the display will go dark while the app keeps running.

Transfer your extra Pokémon

Pokemon Go Transfer

Alright, so you’ve made it out of the house and captured a couple dozen Pokémon. Now what are you supposed to do with the duplicates? At the moment, you have two options: keep them, or transfer them to Professor Willow.

The only reason to keep a duplicate Pokémon is if it happens to have better stats or attacks than the others. For example, if one of the Zubats I caught had a greater CP (combat power) value, I’d keep it and transfer the others. Transferring a Pokémon to the professor will permanently delete it from your collection, but you’ll be rewarded with a Pokémon-specific candy, which can be used to evolve that Pokémon (along with Stardust, which you receive for capturing Pokémon).

Level up and gym battle

Pokemon Go Gym Battle

Now that you understand the basics of the game, it’s time to get out there and visit Poké Stops, capture Pokémon, hatch eggs and avoid walking into strangers and stationary objects while you stare at your smartphone.

Everything you do will reward you with experience, which contributes to your level. Once you reach level 5, you can finally face off against gym leaders in the area. Unfortunately, Pokémon Go doesn’t feature the combat system we’ve all come to know and love from the portable Pokémon games — instead, once you initiate a gym battle, you’ll just have to tap on the screen as fast as possible to attack and swipe to dodge attacks from the opposing Pokémon.

It’s not ideal, but to be fair, drawn out, turn-based combat doesn’t really suit a mobile app that wants to keep you moving. If you manage to defeat the gym leader, you can claim the gym for your own and start collecting rewards.

We’ll have plenty more on Pokémon Go in the coming days and weeks, but this should help get you started on your journey to become your city’s top trainer.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.