This last weekend offered the world Pokémon GO Festive 2021. That year, the biggest annual mobile game event tried to create a more open-minded atmosphere, but still managed to end it all with the steamiest squib imaginable: a quest series that focused solely on Hoopa that didn’t include Hoopa in any way.
The global event was split in two very different halves, with Saturday’s activities focused on collecting pocket monsters and a half-baked, deeply disappointing story about collecting a band of Pokémon performing for a concert. A concert that never takes place. But it was nothing compared to the slow, pathetic farting sound that the raid emphasis made on Sunday.
POGO The creators of Niantic seem really lost lately when it comes to writing event-quest stories. As for the past five years, this is where the friendly-looking Professor Willow shows up, over-enthusiastic about the latest secrets uncovered through his research, and then you get some typically generic challenges to unlock every next step in the Mini-story. These will likely be: “Catch 20 different types of Pokémon” or “Make three great throws” or “Defeat two Team GO Rocket Grunts”. They have little or nothing to do with the story, but you must be actively playing the game to unlock the next rewards and, most importantly, certain Pokémon to catch.
It’s the last part that makes most of the quest chains to play with. Saturday was pretty sweet in that regard, choosing between a Rock Pikachu or a Pop Pikachu and then between various other monsters that you collected with a unique hat. No hat that in any sense
Willow has consistently told you that this is all leading to a concert, and the piece of the day was adorned with notes that fell like confetti all over the world. Before POGO has had music-themed events and they indeed culminated in an adorable musical number. I couldn’t wait to see what my raw Pikachu accompanied by Gardevoir and Galarian Ponyta would deliver. The answer: a photo bomb. That was it in the truest sense of the word. You took a snapshot with a photo bomb in the final stage of the requested quest. And did something else later, just to emphasize what a colossal little deal it was. After months of Musical numbers from the real world How could they not even have a clip of Katy Perry’s Electric?
(I should add here that the game did Delivering a Meloetta to players at this point, which would have been a bigger deal if it had been more than a 1600 2 * and the story had been from it.)
Maybe they’ll save Sunday for a grand finale, I wondered. It was special: every single Legendary Pokémon the game has seen in five years should be available in raids at once. And yes, absolutely, thanks to the game’s (surprisingly) generous supply of remote raid passes (there were 11 available for free) and a small swipe of coins from gyms for a few more, I was able to fill in all of my gaps and collect every Legendary, that I had missed so far. Including a shiny Altered Forme Giratina. (All of this is in spite of POGOs hideous catch rate fixing bullshit.) But as for the story? Well, the hopes were damned high.
The day before the event started, POGO’s current loading screen changed subtly. Hovering over the idyllic evening ship scene, Hoopa, star from one of my son’s favorite Pokémon films, appeared. Pokémon the Movie: Hoopa and the Clash of Ages. Hoopa never appeared in the mobile game, despite appearing in the mainline games after Generation VI. So he came, right ?!
Then Willow’s action made it clear. These magical rings appeared in the sky and legends streamed through! That’s Hoopa’s whole thing. Then he checks his name. “Look here – it’s the Mysterious Pokémon Hoopa.” In fact, he’s starting to prepare players to catch the mythical beast that changes shape.
“That explains why these Legendary Pokémon appeared the way they did. Hoopa uses these rings to move things from place to place – including himself. It won’t be easy to catch.
“According to reports from the team leaders, Hoopa doesn’t seem to be in the area at the moment. Let’s use this time to prepare to catch it, huh?
“Why don’t you challenge a few raids with other trainers and catch a few Pokémon for now? To catch hoopa you need your skills at the highest level. Now let’s go!”
Yay we will catch it! He said it!
It was only a two-part quest, which seemed strange, but half of it won five raids so it would take a little longer than usual. Coincidentally, I had the special delight of a GO Fester caught by the UK Covid-19 contact tracking system at home. My plans to take the boy to the nearest town to attend the event were cruelly dashed. So I used remote raid passes and the magic of the Poke Genie app to do this.
And when it was done? The big graduation? The end too Pokémon GO Festive 2021? I swear to god there wasn’t one. You got your 10,000 XP, three silver pinapberries, and 3,000 stardust, and Willow didn’t even say a word. It just stopped. Pllrrlllbbtthhhbbthhhh.
Who does that? Who organizes the big annual event, changes the loading screen with that tease, and then literally tells you that you’re looking for a fan-favorite Pokémon that has never been in the game and then just doesn’t? What has Niantic got to do with creating such an anti-climate?
It doesn’t really bother me. I thought it was stupid and was disappointed that all the efforts to end the quests despite my government house arrest resulted in nothing of interest. But I’m 43 too and I can handle it when a cartoon drawing doesn’t appear on my phone screen. But my six year old? This is a whole different deal.
I’m rather frustrated with the simply poor narrative design and minimal effort. This is a game that is fun Billions for Niantic, with such an enormous player base that global bonus tasks such as “Catch 20,000,000 Pokémon” were completed in minutes on Saturday. They asked for money to attend the GO Fest, albeit less this year than before. Couldn’t put together an animation where the Pokémon put on a little concert ?! They couldn’t prepare Hoopa well and be in the game even though they were literally telling the players they were going to catch it? (Yes, those who browse websites analyzing upcoming events and reporting what rates will be available would already have known – they are not most of the people.)
It just feels so half-hearted, so cobbled together. They put some weird hats on a handful of Pokémon and make previously established legendaries appear in raids. The promise of shiny hauls has not been fulfilled, at least in my experience. I caught at least 400 Pokémon over the weekend for a total of two. That is significantly less than normal!
Niantic could deliver so much more if they wanted. Instead, it feels so stingy, almost to the point of contempt. Sure, they have to keep the balance, not just throwing everything at the players at once until it breaks the appeal of playing on. But come on something something special would have been nice, apart from the fact that Pikachu is wearing another damn hat.