Heavy talked to Pokemon GO Senior Game Designer Laura Warner and Product Lead Matt Slemon about how the feature will work and how they’ve implemented it in a way that remains true to the spirit of the mechanic as it was in the core Pokemon games.
Here’s everything you need to know about Pokemon GO Mega Evolution.
1. Mega Evolution Will Add a New Twist to Raid Battles
Mega Evolution basically allows your Pokemon to evolve one additional time temporarily.
Mega Evolution was introduced to the core Pokemon games with the release of Pokemon X and Y in 2013. In the core Pokemon games, you had to make your Pokemon hold a special, Pokemon-specific Held Item known as a Mega Stone so they can transform in battle. Mega Evolving not only changed the appearance of the Pokemon but could also upgrade their stats, change their abilities and even change their types. Mega Evolution was seen in other Pokemon titles from both the core series and spin-offs: Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!, Pokken Tournament, Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, Pokemon Shuffle, Pokemon Rumble World, Pokemon Picross and Pokemon Masters according to Bulbapedia. However, the new generations of the core Pokemon titles from Pokemon Sun and Moon onward didn’t include the mechanic, opting instead to put the spotlight on new gimmicks: Z-Moves for Pokemon Sun and Moon and Dynamaxing and Gigantamaxing for Pokemon Sword and Shield.
In Pokemon GO, not only will Mega-Evolving your Pokemon make them more powerful than their regular forms but when you take a Mega-Evolved Pokemon into a Raid Battle, all the other players will get an attack boost as well as an additional bonus if their attacks are the same type as the Mega-Evolved Pokemon. So if you’re going into battle with a Mega Charizard X, fire- and dragon-type moves will receive the additional boost. Slemon said to think of it as Mega-Evolved Pokemon bringing in their own weather boost to battle. This attack boost will not only stack with the weather boost but also any friendship bonuses, according to an email sent to Heavy. Each player in a Raid can have one Mega-Evolved Pokemon on their team, though Pokémon can benefit from attack boosts from only one Mega-Evolved Pokémon at a time.
Slemon said that the way they’re implementing the boost changes the way players interact with one another. Niantic saw during play testing players coordinating so that if one Mega-Evolved Pokemon faints, another player can Mega Evolve their Pokemon to take over. He also said that communication is key so that players can decide on what Mega Evolution to use and what Pokemon to use to take advantage of the damage boosts.
“That level of strategy I think is something that never really was rewarded before and it’s something we really wanted to push,” Slemon said. “The Raid Leader mentality is something we wanted to add into Pokemon GO – to have explicit reasons why you might want to talk to someone about this on Discord while you’re playing with them.”
2. Mega-Evolved Pokemon Can Be Used Outside of Raids
Mega-Evolved Pokemon can also be used in battles against Team GO Rocket members, Gym defenders and even other players, according to the blog post. You can also use the GO Snapshot features with Mega-Evolved Pokemon and even make them your Buddy Pokemon with the Buddy Adventure feature.
However, there are a few restrictions for when you can use Mega-Evolved Pokemon. You cannot compete in PvP matches in the GO Battle League with a Mega-Evolved Pokemon, though you can still take one with you into battle with another player using the QR matching mechanic. While you can use Mega-Evolved Pokemon to attack Gym defenders, you cannot use your Mega-Evolved Pokemon to defend Gyms.
There are also restrictions on what Pokemon you can Mega Evolve. You can only have one Mega-Evolved Pokemon at a time. If you Mega Evolve another Pokemon, the old one will revert back to its original form. In addition to only certain Pokemon being able to Mega Evolve, Shadow Pokemon and Clone Pokemon cannot Mega Evolve. So if you have a Clone Charizard from certain in-game events or a Shadow Charizard, you can’t Mega Evolve it.
Pokemon will remain Mega-Evolved for a limited time, inside and outside of battle. Warner said that the exact time Pokemon remain Mega-Evolved is still being fine-tuned as it comes closer to launch, but they reassured players that it’s going to be ample time to enjoy your Mega-Evolved Pokemon.
3. Here’s How to Mega Evolve Pokemon
To Mega Evolve your Pokemon, you need to collect a new resource known as Mega Energy, according to the blog post. They work similarly to Pokemon Candy in that each Pokemon has their own specific Mega Energy. Once you’ve Mega-Evolved a Pokemon, the energy needed to Mega Evolve it again will decrease from that point going forward. If a Pokemon has multiple Mega-Evolved forms, like Mega Charizard, then each form will have an initial cost, according to an email sent to Heavy.
Warner said that the primary way to earn Mega Energy is from Mega Raids, Raid Battles with Mega-Evolved Pokemon as bosses. Slemon said that these Raid Battles aren’t just five-star Raids with Mega-Evolved Pokemon; it’s its own tier of Raid Battles with its own Raid Egg. They made it that way so Mega-Evolved Pokemon don’t crowd the Raid Table and make it hard to find Legendary Pokemon. The faster you defeat a Mega-Evolved Raid Boss, the more Mega Energy you’ll get, further rewarding players that use Pokemon with a high damage per second and those that team up with other players.
You can also earn Mega Energy via Special Research quests. There’s one quest coming soon, “A Mega Discovery,” that will award Mega Energy for Beedrill. Warner said that in the future, Mega Energy could be earned through Field Research tasks as well.
There will also be a special in-game event in September focused on Mega Evolution, according to the blog. The event will last for three weeks, with each week focused on a different task. From September 1 through 7, players will be tasked with completing as many Mega Raids as possible. The next week will focus on taking your Mega-Evolved Pokemon to compete in Gym battles, Team GO Rocket battles and PvP battles (excluding the GO Battle League of course). The week after that will focus on using the Buddy Adventure mode with your Mega-Evolved Pokemon and taking snapshots.
4. Here’s the Pokemon You Can Mega Evolve Currently
Here are the Mega-Evolved Pokemon that Niantic have made available with the launch of the feature:
Mega Charizard X
Mega Charizard Y
PokeMiners found assets for Mega Pidgeot in their datamine of a recent update, thought the report hasn’t been confirmed yet. Warner and Slemon only mentioned the three Kanto region starters and Beedrill when talking about what Mega Evolutions they’ll focus on at launch.
Slemon said that the team didn’t want to overwhelm the players by giving them too many Mega Evolutions.
“I think the starters are great because people have good familiarity with them, so when you’re introducing a new mechanic, it’s easy to onboard yourself onto the rules of that mechanic,” said Slemon.
It’s also fitting since in Pokemon X and Y, you can choose one of the three Kanto region starters in addition to one of the three the Kalos region starters.
Here are the rest of the Pokemon from the core Pokemon games that received Mega Evolutions listed by Pokedex number:
The game will include a Mega Pokedex within the Pokedex so you can keep track of the Pokemon you can Mega Evolve and the ones you’ve already Mega-Evolved, according to the blog.
5. Niantic Is Also Changing the Way Raids Work
Slemon said that the Raids in Pokemon GO will “Mega Evolve” along with the Pokemon.
Pokemon GO is going to start rewarding faster clear times with more rewards. Slemon said that they wanted the game to acknowledge players getting better at clearing the Raids. The speed bonus will replace the team contribution bonus going forward according to an email sent to Heavy.
Niantic is also going to remove the two- and four-star Raid Battles. What they’re going to do is keep the difficulty level for one- and three-star Raids the same but give them the rewards of two- and four-star Raids respectively.
Slemon said that they made the decision based not only on what Raids the players were playing the most but how they thought about them. He said that a one-star Raid is something you can complete no matter what your level is or how many players you have. A three-star Raid is something you can solo (complete on your own) only if you’ve put effort into your Pokemon and use bonuses to your advantages or if you have a couple of friends to help you out.
“So those had very clear value propositions,” Slemon said. “Two-star Raids were like one-star rates but with a slightly different table of what’s available. Four-star Raids similarly was like the middle child between the three-star Raid and the five-star Raid where if you have enough people for a group you might as well do a five-star Raid but if you don’t have enough people for a group and you’re a high level player you might as well do three-stars. Four-star Raids are in this weird spot where it has like a two and a half person requirement and it just wasn’t something that people were responding well to.”
Slemon said that if players really miss two- or four-star Raids then they’ll definitely consider finding a way to bring them back and make them work.
Slemon said that for Mega Evolutions they could have just taken the easy route and just copied as closely as possible how it worked in the core Pokemon games, but Pokemon GO is supposed to be a game of Pokemon in the real world and that’s the “grounding theory” behind any feature they add.
“The power of the Pokemon should be leaking out from it, like it should help everyone around it, it should be like a big spectacle moment where everyone like turns and looks,” Slemon said. “You should have those hero Pokemon that sort of headline your party. In the future as we go into like GMAX [Gigantamaxing] and the Z-moves and Ultra Beasts and all that stuff, I’m sure we’re gonna have similar types of thought processes like what does a Z-move look like in our world as opposed to the fantasy world of Pokemon.”
Warner added that when incorporating mechanics from the core Pokemon games, Niantic wants to focus on the aspects that make Pokemon GO special.
“That’s why it’s [Mega Evolution] not just beneficial to you but also benefits anyone you’re playing with because we really wanted to make that social experience shine,” Warner said.
Warner said that everyone who works on the game is a huge fan of the Pokemon franchise and the games.
“I know even just for myself I can’t wait to get my first Mega Charizard X and have it as my buddy following me on the map,” Warner said. “We’re also fans and we’re also excited to get these features… We’re as excited as the fans are.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Mega Evolution is out now when it’s coming this week. Polygon reported that the feature is coming on August 27.