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Here's How Pokémon Go's New Buddy Pokémon Feature Works

Weeks after teasing the new feature -- and the painfully slow rollout on the App Store and Google Play over the last few days -- Pokémon Go's new Buddy Pokémon system is finally here. And while it's likely not the game-changing update it'll take to reawaken your crippling Pokémon Go addiction, it'll drastically improve your ability to evolve your best and rarest Pokémon -- if you know what to do. We'll show you how.

If you haven't already, you can get the Buddy Pokémon feature via the game's latest software update. Niantic Labs, the company behind Pokémon Go, said the buddy system allows you to choose one of your Pokémon as your "companion" in the game, you know, sort of like Ash and Pikachu (minus the whole best friends thing). By doing so, you'll be able to earn Candy for the Pokémon you choose as a Buddy simply by walking. Here's how to get started:

Choose your first Buddy Pokémon

The process is pretty simple. All you have to do is tap your Trainer avatar on the bottom left corner of the screen, then hit the menu button on the bottom right corner of the screen and tap where it says "Buddy." After that, you'll be prompted to choose a Buddy Pokémon from the list of all the Pokémon you've caught. Once you've selected a Pokémon, it will appear right next your Trainer, or in the case of small Pokémon like Eevee, on your Trainer's shoulder. Tapping on your Buddy Pokémon will take you to another screen where you can track your progress towards earning Candy. 

Really, the hardest part here is choosing which of your Pokémon to make your Buddy. 

Get all that sweet Candy

Now that you've finally decided on which of your Pokémon to take along for the journey of distractedly walking through your neighborhood, you can start earning the precious Candy that's ultimately used to evolve and power up your Pokémon. This could be particularly useful if you're dead-set on evolving your flailing Magikarp into a Gyarados and you're still 367 Magikarp Candy from the 400 that are required. It's also your best chance at evolving relatively rare Pokémon such as Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle without having to find and catch them. In other words, getting a Charizard just got way easier. If you're willing to walk. 

Speaking of walking, that's the catch: some Pokémon require walking longer distances than others to earn Candy. For example, while Pikachu requires walking 1km, other Pokémon like Growlithe require 3km. Some particularly rare Pokémon, like Dratini, will force you to walk as far as 5km to earn Candy. So, if you choose your Buddy Pokémon wisely and walk far enough, you'll be a Candy-finding dream team.

Niantic's support page offers a great piece of advice on this: "Remember to keep the Pokémon GO app open while you walk. Kilometers walked when the Pokémon GO app is closed won’t count toward earning Candy." As you may know by now, this concept also applies to distances needed to hatch Eggs.

Choose other Pokémon

Perhaps the best part of the Buddy Pokémon system is that you're not stuck with the first Pokémon you choose forever. In fact, you can choose a different Pokémon from your list whenever you want, but doing so will erase any walking progress you've made towards your current Buddy Pokémon's candy. For example, if you're 1.8km towards the 3km needed to get a Candy, choosing another Buddy Pokémon will set you back to zero. Luckily, the app will display a warning if you decide to do this. 

The point here, though, is to earn the Candy you need to evolve your Buddy Pokémon to its advanced form and choose another Pokémon you'd like to evolve and do the same. Not only will you finally get the Charizard or Raichu you've been dying to have for months, but you'll also start filling up your Pokédex in the process. The whole point of the game is to catch 'em all, right? And don't forget the Candy can also be used to power up your Pokémon as well (you'll have to spend Stardust, too, though).  

Look out for easter eggs

Although the Buddy Pokémon feature has only been around for a few days now, some players have already discovered at least one easter egg. Reddit user ReBootYourMind found that if you choose Pikachu as your Buddy Pokémon, it will jump onto your Trainer's shoulder after you've collected 10 Candy. It remains to be seen what bonus or easter egg you'll find if you reach 25km or 50km or 100km, but there's only one way to find out, right?

All said, it's probably safe to say the Buddy update probably won't reignite global Pokémon Go insanity, but then again, it could very well be enough to hold you over until bigger features arrive like trading, Pokémon Centers, and new generations of Pokémon sometime in the future. In the meantime, have fun with all that walking.

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Tony Merevick is Cities News Editor at Thrillist and, of course, chosen Pikachu to be his first buddy. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.