The inhabitants of an unnamed island consider the Pokemon Trading Card Game to be the most important thing ever conceived. You are a denizen of this island and want nothing more than to face the Grand Masters of the game. In order to do this you must defeat the masters of the 8 clubs and your rival, Ronald. The first step is going to Mason’s Laboratory– a lab completely devoted to the study of a children’s card game– and speaking with Dr. Mason to get your first deck of cards.
Are there any towns on this island? Farms? Natural resources? Or does it exist purely as a Valhalla of trading card games?
In a bizarre turn for Collectible Card Game tie-in videogames, the videogame for the Pokemon Trading Card Game was released in Japan before the playing cards were actually released. It would get pushed back for its American release because Nintendo of America was trying to focus on the sale of Pokemon Stadium and didn’t want to flood the market with Pokemon games. This caused the game to be overshadowed by the release of the actual card game. I can imagine many parents uttering the words, “Why do you need the Gameboy game when you already own the cards?”
Fun Fact: Two cards, Base set Electrode and Fossil set Ditto, had abilities that were too complicated to be put into the game.
Pokemon Trading Card Game released in the United States on April 10th 2000. It would face The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (Nintendo 64), Perfect Dark (Nintendo 64), and Diablo II (PC) around its release.
There was a sequel that was only released in Japan– to my eternal sadness.
Here’s the simple thing about kids and games, kids love to win therefore kids will cheat. And when it comes to games like this, the adults don’t know the rules, so there’s no way for them to moderate it. I started playing the game when I was a kid but between the cheating and the theft I got fed up with it really fast.The Gameboy release however had all the fun with none of the stealing or cheating. It was also nice to hear the rules from an objective source– kids will also bring up house rules at the exact moment it’ll cause you to lose.
“Oh, well, my Staryu is on the sand of a beach so your electrode’s electric attacks won’t have any effect.” Damn kid logic.
The player’s goal is to defeat all of the club leaders and then go on to face the Grand masters. Facing the club leaders typically involves facing the other members of the club, having enough club leader medals, having enough cards, or defeating enough opponents overall. Each club has a theme so it behooves the player to build a deck that is strong against the theme of the club– or the player could just build a completely busted good deck but I’ll talk about that more later. When the player defeats any character they are rewarded with 2 packs of cards, giving them more options to face different opponents. Some cards are more rare than others so the player might have to face club members multiple times before they get the desired card.
The game involves playing basic pokemon, attaching energy cards to them to use their attacks, evolving them– which provides different abilities with different costs, utilizing pokemon powers, and using trainer cards that affect the game in various ways. Some trainer cards allow the player to draw more cards for their hand, search their deck for a card and put it in their hand, remove an energy card from a opposing pokemon, heal a pokemon, and all sorts of other weird stuff. A deck can only have 60 cards, no more, no less, and there can only be 4 copies of any card in the deck, except basic energy cards. The goal of any deck is to utilize all of these elements in making a strategy that’s effective.
Sometimes the Challenge Hall hosts a Challenge Event. The player will face 3 randomly chosen opponents from the game and if they defeat them all then they get a special promotional card that can only be acquired from these Challenge Events. Because the opponent is random it’s not possible to build a deck that’s designed to defeat them based on cards weaknesses and resistances, so it’s the ultimate challenge the game has to offer. They occur randomly so check every once and awhile.
The special Surfing Pikachu is just one of the promo cards. They’re not all powerful, but they are pretty cool.
This game provides the player with the ability to own all of the Pokemon cards without requiring the need to purchase, or store all of that useless cardboard. Players can still duel each other in the game using the Gameboy Link Cable, so they player can get the whole experience of the game– with a built in referee! This game also included cards that hadn’t been or wouldn’t be released in physical form– so it’s got even more cards with none of the cardboard.
By the way, this game has a bunch of different opponents.
The pixel art of the card art looks really good and each attack has its own animation. The dialogue for all the characters in the world that you can’t actually play with is sometimes really funny.
Speaking of funny characters, the game has a hidden opponent. His name is Imakuni? He’s a Japanese musical personality who’s taken up the game. He shows up in club lobbies sometimes and defeating him nets the player 4 packs instead of just 2.
The game uses simple addition and multiplication so it’s easy for a kid to play. But the strategy can get intense. It’s easy to learn but difficult to master.
The story is super weak and almost non existent. The world the game takes place in doesn’t even make sense. Are wars won over the game table? Because characters in the game take it that seriously and it just seems strange.
After the player wins a few medals he’ll get blindsided by his rival, Ronald. Ronald’s deck is always something the player hasn’t seen before and the player doesn’t have an opportunity to change or alter his deck before he faces Ronald. This leads to a lot of frustration because defeating Ronald is the only way to acquire certain promo cards. So if the player has a deck that just happens to be vulnerable to Ronald’s deck then Ronald will win and the player will miss out on permanent advantages. The only way to prevent this is to reload the last save and recover your progress. It’s the worst thing about this game.
I swear certain rare cards are more rare than other rare cards. I’ve got 12 Aerodactyls that I’ll never use and only have 2 Computer Search cards, then again someone that loves Aerodactyl might only have 2 and have a pile of Computer Searches they don’t know what to do with.
The order the player faces the Grand Masters is random and the player can’t alter their deck before they face the first Master. After beating the first Grand Master they’re allowed to alter existing decks or even make new ones more suited to the next opponent, which is announced unlike the first. This makes it so the first Grand Master is difficult to defeat because it might be a Master with a deck that is better suited against the player’s even though the player is using a deck that’s well suited against a different Master. I’d understand if the player had to make one deck that could beat all of them, that would actually be really interesting but the fact that the first one is random is a strange choice.
Alright, I didn’t know if this was good or bad. It’s really easy to make a deck that’s so good that it’ll never lose. I’ve developed a strategy that never loses me a match. I have been playing it since I was a kid so I might’ve just played too much. A few cards from the base set were banned, Bill and Professor Oak in particular. These bans didn’t go into effect until long after the game was released. The use of these cards can make decks far more effective than the game expects leading to easy wins.
I like this game a lot. It’s wonderfully portable, it’s got satisfying gameplay, and it offered a real value for me when I was a kid– heck it came with a real promo card in the box. That being said, I am quite blinded by the Pokemon nostalgia factor so I’d like to hear what someone would think if they hadn’t played it growing up.
Next Week: Spyro the Dragon for the Sony Playstation