Pokémon GO Event Review: 5th Anniversary Celebration

Now that the GO Fest 2021 frenzy is out of the way, let's take a look back a bit at the previous event in Pokémon GO: the 5th Anniversary Celebration. Was this event worthy of such a milestone? Let's get into it.

5th Anniversary graphic in Pokémon GO. Credit: Niantic
5th Anniversary graphic in Pokémon GO. Credit: Niantic

What worked in this Pokémon GO event

  • 5th Anniversary Pikachu: Flying Pikachu is the best costume Pokémon of all time. I don't really see a debate there. Bringing it back with the 5th Anniversary balloon was a great move. I wish it spawned a bit more personally, but it also didn't feel unfairly rare.
  • Great Shiny release: Darmanitan was the new Shiny, and I was very impressed at how prominently it was spawning. Niantic has had a bad habit of spacing out Shiny releases, building hype, and then putting new Shinies in raids and Eggs only or making them prohibitively rare in the wild. Darmanitan had none of those issues.
  • Return of Shiny Meltan: I wish we had time for one more Meltan box than we did, but hey — it was a nice surprise of a feature. Meltan was absent for way longer between the last two releases, so hopefully this is a sign that we'll be seeing this little metallic hitter more often.
  • Tyranitar in raids: This was a great opportunity for earning rare Larvitar Candy. Unfortunately, it was pretty much the only thing worth raid.
  • Visual effects: The fireworks were simple and lovely. I was surprised they did these ahead of GO Fest, though, so I can't wait to see what they have in mind for the big event this year.

What didn't work in this Pokémon GO event

  • Tier One raids: There wasn't much here. Raids have been a problem all year with Tier One and Three feeling like an afterthought. This 5th Anniversary event was a great opportunity to feature something like costumed Pokémon of the past or simply something to make the smaller raids stand out.
  • Starter focus: The event focused heavily on Starter Pokémon, which are very common outside of events. I get that these species are iconic and this is the anniversary, but nearly every spawn that wasn't Darmanitan or Pikachu was uninteresting.
  • Collection Challenge: The Starter problem leaks over to this. This Collection Challenge was by far the most annoying set of tasks Niantic has asked of players in Pokémon GO. Many of the starters needed to complete this were hidden behind tasks which made this a chore. On top of that, the rewards were bland. We were promised a "massive amount of Poké Balls" and received 80. That's… not a Collection Challenge worth worrying about.


Here's the thing about this event: it had to ride the line. It had to be good because it's the 5th Anniversary event. That's a major milestone. However, it also had to not overshadow GO Fest 2021 or Ultra Unlock, which essentially have to be the best events of the year or they don't really work. With that in mind, while the Collection Challenge was flawed, this was one of the better Pokémon GO events of 2021.

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About Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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