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Pokemon Go: Everything You've Missed If You Haven't Played Since Launch

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An overview of some of the best features for new or returning players.

(UPDATED on July 25 with Lucky Pokemon)

Earlier this year, The Pokemon Company made waves with the announcement of Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee, two new Pokemon games that will return to Kanto (the region of the original 151 Pokemon) on Nintendo Switch in November.

On top of that, Pokemon from Kanto that you’ve caught in Pokemon Go will be able to transfer to Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee, meaning millions of Go players can get a head start on completing their Pokedex this fall.

If you stopped playing Go after the initial hype died down or if you never picked it up, there are a lot of exciting features that have helped transform it into a more robust game than you probably realize. Here are a few of the most exciting features to come to Pokemon Go in the last year or so.

Friends, Gifts, and Trading

This summer, Pokemon Go added its first true social feature: friend lists! Every player has their own friend code that you can share with other players. You can add up to 200 friends to your friend list.

Once you’ve exchanged codes and accepted a request, you’ll be able to see your friend’s most recently caught Pokemon, and you can also see stats including how many battles they’ve won, how far they’ve walked in the game, and how many Pokemon they’ve caught in total.

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Once you’ve added a friend, you’ll be able to achieve one of four Friendship Levels: Good Friend, Great Friend, Ultra Friend, and Best Friend. Raising your friendship level will offer various bonuses, including reduced Stardust costs for trades, extra damage during gym battles alongside a friend, and additional Premiere Balls during raids alongside a friend.

You can increase your friendship level with a particular friend by sending gifts (see below), trading, or participating in gym battles or raid battles together. Your friendship level can only increase once per day per friend, and this is how long it takes to achieve each level:

  • Good friend: 1 day
  • Great friend: 7 days
  • Ultra friend: 30 days
  • Best friend: 90 days

PokeStops will now occasionally drop Gifts, which you can send to friends on your list. Gifts will include a “postcard” from the PokeStop where you picked up the gift, as well as a various items. Gifts can also contain a special egg containing an Alolan Pokemon, one of the alternate forms of generation one Pokemon that the game added this summer.

Gifts can also contain bonus Stardust, and you can delete unsent gifts from your inventory. You’ll also receive 200 XP for each gift you send a friend!

Along with friends, Pokemon Go also added one of its most-requested features since launch: trading! You can only trade with players on your friends list, and you have to be within 200 meters of each other to trade.

Players receive candy bonuses depending on the original catch location of the Pokemon being traded. If the Pokemon were caught far apart, you’ll receive extra candy for the Pokemon you’re trading.

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Finally, the HP and CP of Pokemon traded to friends will be reset, resulting in random new stats for the Pokemon you receive. The range of possible HP and CP outcomes can be extremely wide or extremely narrow depending on your friendship levels, with Best Friends much more likely to receive stronger Pokemon.

Dynamic Weather and Pokemon Spawns

Looking at the main screen when you boot up Pokemon Go, the logo in the top right represents the current weather. Weather in Pokemon Go is dynamic and corresponds with the actual real-world weather around you, and it changes every hour.

Eight weather states are currently available in Pokemon Go: rain, wind, snow, fog, sun (daytime), clear (nighttime), cloudy, and partly cloudy.

The in-game weather will affect the Pokemon spawns around you, with certain types more likely to appear in certain conditions and the attack power of certain moves boosted during battles.

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Weather has been one of the most significant changes to Go since it launched, completely changing what appears around you and potentially making your neighborhood have different Pokemon day to day. If you could only find Pidgey, Rattata, and Zubat in your house back at launch, you might be surprised by how diverse the Pokemon population has become.

Field Research and Special Research

Back on the main screen, the pair of binoculars in the bottom right are how you access Research.

There are two types of research. First, “field” research is something you can complete multiple times per day. These are basic tasks (hatch an egg, catch 10 Pokemon, etc.) that you’ll generally complete during typical play anyway. You can obtain new tasks by spinning any PokeStop, and you can hold up to three at a time (or trash the ones you don’t want). The tasks will either give you items or an encounter with a Pokemon as a reward, with better rewards for harder tasks.

Once per day, the first research task you complete will give you a daily stamp. For every seven stamps you get, you’ll have the chance to open a Research Breakthrough Box, which awards you with an encounter with a legendary Pokemon. Each month gets a different Pokemon, so if you get your seventh stamp on May 31, you’ll get May’s Pokemon if you open the box immediately, or June’s if you wait until the next day.

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The second type of research is “special” research, which is the closest thing Pokemon Go has to a story mode. Special research gives you a mission and a series of multiple tasks to complete for a unique reward. The first and only special research task so far is A Mythical Discovery, which entails completing eight sets of tasks in order to encounter Mew.

These missions are peppered with appearances from Professor Willow, who will appear in cut scenes at the end of each step to share some new information and assure you you’re on the right path.

You can hold multiple special research tasks at once, and Niantic says they’ll never expire, meaning you can start the game right now and begin your quest for Mew if you haven’t already, and you’ll still be able to start it even once the next special research task appears. Each player can only obtain a single Mew, and you won’t be able to transfer it, so don’t worry about accidentally losing yours!

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Pokemon Go most recently added the mythical Pokemon Celebi as its second Special Research quest. So far, it's only been released for people who went to Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago, but we expect that to change in the future,

Raid Battles and Legendary Pokemon

As you walk through the world, you may see messages pop up periodically that a battle is about to begin nearby, or you may see timers on top of gyms. Both of these are part of the raid battle system that Pokemon Go added last year.

If you catch a raid before it’s begun, you’ll see an egg on top of a gym that will eventually hatch into a raid boss. There are five tiers of raids, and the color of the egg corresponds to the difficulty of the Pokemon inside.

Tier one and two raids are in pink eggs, which are the easiest type of raid. These are generally battles you’ll be able to beat yourselves, or maybe with the help of one or two other trainers if you’re a low level.

Tier three and four raids are in yellow eggs, which have a wide range of difficulty. In almost every case, a level three raid can be beaten solo by a high level player, but may require the help of a few others depending on your battle party. Tier four raids can be more difficult, but can generally be beaten by five or six players at most.

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Dark eggs represent legendary raids, which are the most difficult to complete. Some legendary Pokemon are easier to battle than others, with high level players able to take down some with just two players, or other requiring closer to a dozen to defeat. In general, 10 players is a good rule of thumb, especially across a range of different experience levels, and if you have a full raid lobby of 20 players you should have no trouble at all.

The actual process of battling a raid boss will be much, much easier if you take the time to understand attack types. For example, knowing that a water-type Pokemon does super effective to a fire-type since fire is weak to water may sound simple, but there are extra factors that can help you do even more damage. STAB (or Same Type Attack Bonus) means that Pokemon will do extra damage if they’re using moves that match their own type, and understanding movesets and damage output is important if you want to defeat a raid boss with a small group.

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After you beat a raid boss, you’ll get a few raid items, then have a chance at a bonus challenge, which allows you to try to capture the Pokemon you just fought. Depending on how much damage you did and which team currently controls the gym where you battled, you’ll receive a set number of Premiere Balls at the end of the raid, and these are the only balls you’ll be able to use to catch the Pokemon. If you run out of balls, the Pokemon will flee, or if you catch it with extra balls leftover, you won’t get to keep your extras.

If you want to try out a raid, you can get a free raid pass once per day by visiting any gym. From there, additional passes can be purchased from the shop, or you may receive a special invitation-only EX raid pass if you meet certain conditions (which you can read about here). EX raid passes are currently the only way to battle and catch Mewtwo, but we expect other EX raid bosses to be added in the future.

If you’re trying to level up, raids are also one of the fastest way to gain XP in the game, so if you have any Lucky Eggs (which double all of the XP you earn for 30 minutes) in your inventory, we recommend you use them!

New Pokemon Generations and Shiny Pokemon

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Pokemon Go currently includes Pokemon through generation 3 (Hoenn), which originally in Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire. As of this writing, 375 unique Pokemon are currently available in the game, including some that can only be obtained through raids and research, and others that only appear in certain parts of the real world.

All 151 Pokemon from generation 1 (Kanto) are currently available in the game. Most recently, Pokemon Go began to add the first of several Alolan forms of Kanto Pokemon, which are alternate versions of original Pokemon that appeared in generation 7’s Pokemon Sun and Moon, which take place in a region called Alola. So far only Alolan Exeggutor has been added, but Niantic says more are on the way.

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99 Pokemon from generation 2 (Johto) are available, which originally appeared in Pokemon Gold and Silver. While it’s been over a year since generation 2 came to Pokemon Go, one Pokemon (Smeargle) still hasn't appeared in the game, though most players expect Smeargle to show up in an event sooner rather than later.

Generation 3 is still ongoing in Pokemon Go, with 125 Pokemon added so far, leaving 10 still missing. These include mythical Pokemon like Deoxys and Jirachi, as well as Pokemon who evolve with special circumstances, like Nincada and Clamperl. While we expect Jirachi to appear in Special Research in the future, it’s a mystery how other missing Pokemon from generation 3 will be added.

Pokemon Go has also finally introduced shiny Pokemon, which are rare Pokemon that feature alternate coloring but don’t otherwise offer any kind of advantage over their traditional counterparts beyond bragging rights. Shiny Pokemon are quite rare under normal circumstances, but the odds of encountering one can be boosted during special events, or for Pokemon that can only be encountered in raid battles like Absol and Mawile.

Your best chance of encountering a shiny Pokemon comes on Pokemon Go Community Day, which is a monthly event that takes place for three hours on a single day and features a Pokemon with a unique move. During the three hour window of community day, the featured Pokemon will spawn in massive numbers, and the odds of encountering a shiny are significantly increased.

Lucky Pokemon

Following the introduction of trading, Pokemon Go introduced Lucky Pokemon.

Pokemon have a chance to become Lucky Pokemon when they’re traded. Lucky Pokemon will require less Stardust to power up than regular Pokemon, so you won’t have to spend as much to get them to their maximum CP.

A Pokemon is more likely to become Lucky the longer it’s spent in your Pokemon storage, so Pokemon from the game’s launch two years ago probably have a better chance than something you’ve caught recently.

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In addition to getting a cool sparkly background, Lucky Pokemon have a higher chance to have good stats, which, coupled with the reduced Stardust cost, can make it easier than ever to have strong Pokemon for battle.

Connecting Pokemon Go to Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee

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Of course, the current most exciting reason to play Pokemon Go is that you can bring your Pokemon with you to Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee in November.

We don’t have a ton of details yet, but we do know that Pokemon you transfer from Go will appear in a special park where you’ll have to re-catch them. The director of the game, Junichi Masuda, also confirmed to IGN that if you have a shiny variant of a Pokemon in Pokemon Go, it will still be shiny when you bring it over to Let’s Go Pikachu or Let’s Go Eevee, though costumed Pokemon like hat-wearing Pikachu and sunglasses Squirtle won't transfer.

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee and Let’s Go Pikachu, but you can find what we know so far in our hands-on impressions of Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee from E3.

For much more on Pokemon Go, see our full list of generation three Pokemon and read about the people keeping Pokemon Go alive and well in 2018.

Andrew is IGN’s executive editor of news and currently has a complete Pokedex. You can find him rambling about Persona and cute animals on Twitter.