What was wrong with me in 2000? Why was I so obsessed with something as crazy and bizarre as Pokémon? I needed everything I could get my hands on that related to that yellow mouse that came out of the balls. Videogames Toys Action Figures TV Show VHS Tapes of Said TV Show Drinks Foods Pogs Trading Cards Trading Cards TRADING CARDS TRADING CARDS THE GODDAMN POKÉMON TRADING CARD GAME. I was a god in that field. Every time we visited the local P&C, I would grab my Dad’s sleeve and beg him on hands and knees for just one more booster pack just one more Dad dear ol’ Dad I’m only four cards away from having the complete Here Comes Team Rocket set and I just need that one shinny Lapras card I’m never going to use in a deck but it’s just so shiny Dad Dad DAD DAD DAD DAD. And my father, dear ol’ Dad, he’d lean down right next to me, with a big ol’ smile on his face, and say with so much glee, “Son, I will be a proud man when you start playing Magic.”
Magic (as in Magic: The Gathering) would be something I’d pick up three or four years later, but when it came to my cardboard crack-substitute during my time as a friendless 5th-7th grader, the source was the Pokémon Trading Card Game. I mean, I was already a big fan of the Pokémon videogame, and I wished every birthday that someday I could go on my own Pokémon Journey, so until evolution had accomplished my bidding, I had to make due with the TCG. After the card game had about a year and a half to settle into the United States, Nintendo threw out a videogame based on a card game based on a videogame. The result was Pokémon Trading Card Game.
Willing your suspension of disbelief is the rule when trying to understand this game. In a world where card games are SERIOUS BUSINESS, you are a young lad who aspires to be the greatest Pokémon card player. In order to accomplish this great feat, you must travel around Kanto a nameless continent unidentified landmass, visiting the eight Pokémon Gyms Card Clubs to defeat each Gym’s Club’s Gym Leader Club Master and earn that leader’s Masters’ badge medal. After obtaining the eight badges medals, you need to travel all the way through the dank and dangerous Victory Road to the middle location on the overworld map and enter Indigo Plateau the Pokémon Dome to challenge the Elite Four Grand Masters, duel your Fill-In-The-Blank Name rival, Ronald, obtain the Legendary Pokémon Cards, and be crowned the greatest Pokémon card player of the land! On the way, you will meet new friends, get into dangerous situations, find love, and learn why the GameCola end-of-the-year awards are bullshit collect, trade, and battle with Pokémon cards.
And how. There’s a lot to love here if you’re a fan of the trading card game. Every card from the original three sets—Base, Jungle, and Fossil—are present and accounted for, in addition to a few dozen new cards, exclusive to the game. At the opening of the game, Professor Oak Mason presents you with three Pokémon decks to choose from based around the original three starter Pokémon: Bulbasur, Squirtle, and Charmander. After fighting and defeating other card players at the clubs, you’ll gain more cards through booster packs, allowing you to start customizing your orignal deck to make it more effective, or start a new deck from scratch. My favorite part of trading card games is taking down another player with a deck all my own, and PTCG lets you live that dream in spades.
There’s no shortage of opponents to trounce, either. Every Club has three members, plus the one Master. In addition , there’s the occasional tourney at the Challenge Hall, with rare cards for the victor, the occasional rival battle, the four Grand Masters at the Pokémon Dome, and the always bizarre encounters with the ever bizarre Imakuni? (the question mark is part of his name). Every player in the game has their own decks, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, so players constantly have to build new decks or tweak existing ones to face each and every challenge.
Oddly enough, this game’s soundtrack has some of the most memorable videogame tunes I can think of. Most of the music has a light and bouncy feel to it. The standard battle theme is a nice little toe tapper, but the Club Leader battle theme is honestly one of my favorite tracks on any handheld title. The opening sets the mood for the tension to come, and then it just goes into this awesome “you can do it, bro!” groove that makes me glad it’s the song playing during the longest matches in the game. This is, to me, some of the best 8-bit music in the world. Sitting here, hammering out this review while listening to that very song sing out of my Game Boy Pocket takes me back to a simple time when I’d have traded a Base Set Charizard (the really AWESOME one that had 120 HP!) for a holographic Physic Energy card, hoping to one day trounce some unsuspecting kid with my deck full of RAZZLE-DAZZLE.
Of course, like many Game Boy games, back before the times of wi-fi and Friend Codes, multiplayer in Pokémon Trading Card Game was made possible through the use of a Game Link Cable, an item I was not able to come across in the days of my youth. What caught my interest when I was browsing through this game again, though, was its use of the GBC’s infrared port, as well. This is a feature of the handheld that I can’t remember using for anything other than Pokémon Gold and Silver‘s Mystery Gift mode; there simply aren’t that many games that took advantage of this primitive form of wireless communication. Without wires, players can trade cards and share their decks with other players, which seems like a nice touch, building on the emphasis of the “Trading” in Trading Card Game.
I can’t remember the last time I actually looked at my Pokémon cards, but I’m certain it’s been at least seven or eight years since I have actually payed attention to the game, after I had moved onto Magic. The thing about trading card games is that, as time moves forward, and expansion after expansion churns its way through, the games become more and more complex, and stronger and crazier cards make their way to the surface. It makes me wonder what could happen if a kid who plays the card game today got his hands on this videogame, and noticed the simplicity of these early sets. I’m not going to be that guy who hangs around children’s card game tourneys, approaches Little Timmy, pulls a primitive toy out of my pocket and asks him if he wants to play a real game, but it’s interesting to me to see how something you loved to do as a kid relates to that same activity nowadays. This might just be me still being new to the fact that I’m not a kid anymore, but I also like to think of this paragraph as filler to make my articles longer and therefore give me a longer rod in The Great GameCola e-Penis Race of ‘010. Not that I need much help. Those guys think Master Chef jokes still pass for humor.
This game is an interesting beast. It captures the fun of playing the card game of yore, and that’s all it really needs to do. I highly suggest taking a look at it, especially if you were caught up in Pika-Fever like I was a decade ago. And if you’ve got a little tyke clutching his Piplup cards close to heart, show Lil’ Billy how it was done in the good ol’ days. Then do what my father did and turn him on to Magic.
Even though you soon, like I did, will discover that crack is simply cheaper.