Liverpool's first Pokémon Go Fest event struggles to land a critical hit
Alike the humble Bidoof's typing, Liverpool's Pokémon Go Fest was nothing more than normal.
This weekend millions of fans gathered to celebrate Pokemon Go's fifth anniversary within what was the app's largest global event to date. Pokemon Go Fest 2021 saw real-world gatherings take place in many major cities such as London, New York, and Auckland, and it demonstrated just how much of a juggernaut the game remains all of these years later. Fortunately, I was able to secure myself a ticket to this year's event, and I was even able to travel to Liverpool to compare the overall experience both in-person and virtually.
Undoubtedly, one of the main draws here was the day one Special Research challenge that saw players curate their own music concert in order to attract mythical Pokemon Meloetta.
Here players were given the freedom to select the genre of the performance and the Pokemon that would star as backup dancers. What I personally enjoyed about this section is that it included brand-new music from long-time series composer and director Junichi Masuda. Masuda has been with the series since day one and he has composed original music for games Black and White and Red and Blue. What was disappointing though is that you never got to see this stage play in action despite doing all the busywork.
The main theme of day two was largely different as this revolved around legendary Pokemon randomly appearing in Raid Battles. The raids here were divided into four different attributes (Frost, Lava, Thunder, and Wind) and these were revolved between throughout the day. Having legendaries spawn this frequently made it easier than ever for players to shiny hunt them and some of these Pokemon even had increased shiny odds. Something of which was worth the price of the ticket alone was that the game rewarded you with a Remote Raid Pass every time you completed a raid. Usually, these passes cost 100 Pokecoins (or £0.79) in the store and the cost of a Go Fest ticket in the UK was slashed to just £4.99 before the event.
Along with the legendaries, Pokemon Go Fest also featured several new variants of creatures that hadn't previously appeared in the game. Ten new shiny Pokemon, which included Audino, Tympole, Whismur, made their debut during the event and so did several new costume forms of existing creatures. You could snag yourself either a rock or pop-themed Pikachu (depending on the genre you chose) and Flygon, Gardevoir, and Galarian Ponyta could be found wearing cute hats to tie in with the festivities. Additionally, Pokemon like Chatot and Sawk, and Throh, who are usually region-specific were catchable by all.
Habitat challenges made their return once again this year and rewarded players if they collected 10 different Pokemon from four separate environments. The 40 Pokemon within these Jungle, Desert, Ocean, and Cave settings appeared frequently throughout the weekend and I felt they made for a diverse selection of typings spanning across many generations. What I found disappointing though was that there wasn't some form of grand reward for ticking off all of these Pokemon. Instead, you only received 20 Ultra Balls, 1,000 Stardust, and 1 Incense for completing each respective one.
As previously mentioned, this year's Pokemon Go Fest consisted of 20 real-world events that were held on a global scale. As I live in Leeds, I jumped at the chance to attend the event held in Liverpool, but I was instantly filled with a sense of regret. After roaming the city for several hours in the scorching sun and following around fans wearing Pikachu hats, I eventually found the event next to The Royal Albert Dock. Here fans could take photos next to a canvas displaying the game and cutouts of Professor Willow and Blanche. Additionally, goody bags filled with freebies like posters, postcards, and a hat were given out, but this appeared to be all that was present in terms of the "real-world experience."
My disappointment grew even deeper once I got home and took a look at other global events. In Chicago over the weekend, a giant 50-foot egg was placed in Maggie Daley Park with a countdown timer. Once it hatched, players who registered for the event were able to participate in an animated raid, which was projected using the egg as a screen. Liverpool's event, whilst being free and the first one to be held in the city, really paled in comparison and I couldn't help but feel it was a little meaningless given Go Fest's virtual nature. That said, completing the app's in-game challenges and taking in the sights of landmarks such as the Cavern Club and the Wheel of Liverpool still made for a pleasant day and it was great seeing fans of all ages group together to trade and hunt down Pokemon together.
Whilst the in-person event that I attended was lacklustre, I still had a great time with Pokemon Go Fest and a virtual ticket was certainly worth the money. The weekend offered plenty of opportunities to catch exclusive Pokemon whether it was new shiny forms or legendaries within raids and its story-based Special Challenge I found to be engaging. Truth be told, I spent an unhealthy amount of time being glued to my phone and that alone says a lot about its overall quality. Hopefully, though, the organisers either slim down the list of real-world events next year or put some extra effort into ensuring they're all consistently as good.