Pokemon Go’s TCG Crossover Made It Feel Like 2016 Again

Remember when Pokemon Go first launched and the world finally knew peace for one glorious summer? I was part of a crowd that rushed out of a park and towards an unsuspecting pub to catch an Electabuzz. I ran into the woods for a Dratini on more than one occasion. As time has gone on, even loyal players don’t have the energy for these kinds of shenanigans anymore – there are no Pokemon rare enough, for starters – but this week I found myself taking a speedy detour to catch a Slaking. Yes, you read that right.

I had a bad time at Go Fest, but Pokemon Go has been smashing the events since. Adventure Week actually got me adventuring, a feat I never expected this game to achieve in 2022, and Community Day seemed successful even if the next one isn’t quite as exciting. The game is still failing its rural players, but the TCG Crossover event has been another unexpected success for players in more urban areas.

I didn’t expect to like the TCG Crossover event. The Kanto starters and Pikachu in a shit hat? I’m going to play the game, but forgive me for not engaging to the best of my ability. Okay, there’s new-to-the-game Wimpod, but it’s a 400 Candy evolution that will inevitably get a Community Day before too long. Fast forward two weeks, however, and I’ve got enough Candy to evolve one of my four Lucky Wimpods, my bag is full of Pikachu, and I’m running down the road to catch a Slaking. What happened?

For starters, the event came with numerous Collection Challenges. You basically need to catch all of the Pokemon listed in the challenge (or evolve them, or trade for them, depending on the specifics of each particular challenge) and you get a nice reward. I’m a sucker for FOMO, so I couldn’t do without the little badge you get for completing each one. They were easy enough to complete, especially as they synergised nicely. The rewards for the easier challenges gave you encounters with most of the Pokemon you needed for the harder challenge. Apart from Dragonite and Slaking, that is.

I was playing Portal 2 with my brother when he noticed a Dragonite on the nearby radar. It was only a five minute walk away, so we got up, left our house, and went to catch it. As it happened, the game glitched and pretended it had despawned as we approached it, so we actually made the journey twice. At that point, I wondered if Pokemon Go had recaptured the spirit it had in 2016, but it wasn’t quite the same. We’d pondered and discussed the effort required in leaving the house before eventually deciding Dragonite was worth it. Not for the Pokemon, but for the challenge. There was no excitement about it, just begrudging acceptance.

That wasn’t the case with Slaking. I want to take a moment to clarify something: I have so many Slakings. I caught 20 shiny Slakoth on Community Day, I have over 1,000 Candy, I maxed out one of them to sit in Gyms, the full works. But because I needed to complete this Collection Challenge, I ran for another.

The PokeStop in question is at the top of a bridge over a train track. I arrived breathless and excited, scrolling back and forth to see where the Slaking would spawn. And there it was, lounging across my screen with performative nonchalance like it knew what it had made me do. There’s a smugness to Slaking, a smugness that rubbed off on me as I made the Excellent throw to complete my final challenge.

The reward was terrible, a single Meltan for my troubles (I have a Level 49.5 shiny Melmetal and enough XL Candy to max out another), but I didn’t care. In that brief moment, I felt like I was running for my first Dratini all over again.

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