Retro Scope: Pokémon Trading Card Game

We take a look at this exceptional Pokémon spin-off for Game Boy Color.

By Anthony Vigna. Posted 10/17/2013 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Pokémon X and Y released not too long ago on Nintendo 3DS, and everyone has been talking about them nonstop. It comes to no shock to me that basically everyone who owns a 3DS is currently glued to their portable, as Pokémon fans have been clamoring for its release since it was first revealed. Even the majority of Nintendojo’s staff owns the game by now!

Well, except for me.

While most people on staff are focusing on what starter to pick, I’ve been focusing on what deck to form before I face off against the four Grand Master card players at the Pokémon Dome. I am, of course, talking about the Pokémon Trading Card Game for Game Boy Color.

I consider this game to be a hidden gem amongst the fantastic Pokémon series. Pokémon TCG was released roughly a year after Pokémon Yellow came out, which was when the series was first starting to gain massive popularity. By that time, everyone I knew was still obsessed with Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow, leaving a minority of people to appreciate the game. However, those who actually did own Pokémon TCG at the time had something truly special. While our very own Robert Marrujo recently listed Pokémon TCG to be his fifth favorite Pokémon spin-off, I’d have to say that it’s my personal favorite Pokémon spin-off of all time.

Pokémon TCG holds such a high place in my mind because it does everything I would expect from a Pokémon spin-off. Instead of deviating from the established formula in its entirety, it keeps most aspects of the core gameplay while also offering a new experience. Pokémon TCG is all about collecting monsters, trading them, and battling them against other trainers. The game even features role-playing elements within a brand new region, gym leaders, a snobby rival, and Grand Masters that are strongly reminiscent of the Elite Four. While I absolutely love the creativity of spin-offs like Pokémon Snap, they do not have the elements of Pokémon that got me addicted to the series in the first place. Pokémon TCG has everything I love about Pokémon games, and it does it in a completely different way.

The whole concept of the trading card game was elusive to me from the beginning. Everyone I knew in elementary school owned the cards and we battled each other, but we were too young to figure out how to play the game. Every time I bought a new deck, I got rid of all of the elemental energy cards, which were useless in my mind. The kids I played with used fully evolved cards without properly evolving them, and used the most powerful attacks without setting them up or looking at the specific rules of each move. In the end, there was no rhyme or reason to how we played the game.

What I encountered in the world of Pokémon TCG was completely different from my real world experience. In Pokémon TCG, I learned the rules the second I started playing. I started to realize that all of those useless energy cards actually had a purpose, since the attacks a Pokémon could use are determined by the number of energy cards attached to it. Because you can only use one energy card per turn, the player must constantly choose between attaching them to their Pokémon already in play or building up ones on your bench.  I also found out that you couldn’t just play Charizard to dominate your opponent, as you need to draw and play both Charmander and Charmeleon beforehand to earn the right to use that card.

There’s a lot of depth to building a deck, as the player must pick 60 different cards between various Pokémon, energy, and trainer cards. Certain decks are only good in specific situations, so the player will need to create multiple decks in order to beat the game. It may sound tedious, but it’s a lot of fun to strategically plan out each individual deck. However, no matter how good your deck may be, it still comes down to the luck of the draw. In core Pokémon titles, you generally know how well you will do by the levels of your Pokémon. In Pokémon TCG, there’s always a feeling that your opponent will best you, making every battle a challenge.

While you could just play the card game itself, Pokémon TCG on Game Boy Color offers accessibility. It offers a world full of virtual people who want to play the game with you and give you free packs of cards for victorious matches, which I think is a better alternative to buying them with real money. If you have never played it before, I highly recommend that you track it down so you can experience this often forgotten classic.

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