Niantic and Pokemon Go teased a new buddy system recently, and, much to my surprise, it came out before Christmas even though all the teasing was for 2020. So now we have a buddy system that is far, far more than just a Pokemon idly standing by your side getting candy.
The candy earnings are still there, but there’s a bunch of new features for your buddy, making them actually feel like some sort of companion that does things, and rewarding the player for doing tasks with their buddy. As well as the candy earned by walking, you can now feed your Pokemon berries so it appears in the ‘real world’ with you, wandering around and cheering whenever you pet it. The Pokemon will follow you about quite happily, smashing through buildings and running in circles around you.
The buddy system also now has stages, just like Pokemon Go friends, going from Good Friend (simply giving your buddy Pokemon some berries to eat) to Best Friend, with each stage giving various boosts – Great Friend will allow your Pokemon to find presents and help while catching things, Ultra Friend will allow your Pokemon to find souvenirs and “find locations” (not really sure what that means) and Best Friend will give your buddy a ribbon and allow them to get a CP boost in combat, so it can fight. Not sure if this is permanent though.
What does this cost the player? Not much, really. Just a few berries every three hours. Your Pokemon only joins you when it’s fed berries, and once you fill them up, they’ll stick around for three hours. There is a new berry item that will fill up your Pokemon and let it stick around longer, but you only need like 3 Razzberries or 2 Golden Razzberries to fill out your Pokemon’s hunger meter anyway.
You can also earn hearts, which are used to level up the friendship with your buddy. There’s a maximum of 10 hearts to be earned per day, and you need 300 hearts for the maximum rank (so it takes about a month and a bit to get to max rank assuming you do every step every day, more likely closer to 2 months though). Playing with your Pokemon is pretty easy, you just rub their belly, as is taking a snapshot. Battling together is somewhat tricky based on what you’re walking (a 300CP Snivy isn’t that good for battling) but you can just do battles against Spark, Candela and Ice Queen and that counts no problem. The only hard task is visiting a new place (i.e. an unspun Pokestop) because smaller areas won’t have many of those available to spin. You can also walk 6km a day with your buddy out to earn hearts as well, one for every 2km.
But frankly the best thing about this update is just seeing our Pokemon alongside us, being able to give them treats and rub their bellies and play with them. They’re all so cute and this update… refreshes how we see some of our Pokemon. Sure, most of our Pokemon will be cannon fodder and deleted to be turned into candy, but at least some of our Pokemon are, well, buddies.
I just wish I had AR+ mode, so I can play with my Pokemon more…