Do you remember, as a child, collecting hundreds of those cardboard pokemon? Do you remember utterly freaking out when you finally got a Blastoise, or the famed Charizard? If so, you probably also remember this video game adaptation of the game that took over the free world: Pokemon: Trading Card Game.
The Pokemon TCG was obviously taken from the actual card game, my theory is that it was created to teach kids how to play it. It has most of the same cards as in the actual game, they still have the same attacks and functions as well, but with some lovely new editions exclusive to the Gameboy. This video game is a bit dumbed down, probably so even younger kids could learn to play.
For instance, the math, (such as damage counters, weakness and resistance points) is done for you, which is also helpful and makes things run a lot quicker and smoother. Attacks aren’t nearly as complicated as on the real cards, and it is much easier to keep up with the game, as it gives you a direct play-by-play of everything. You may also check the field at any time, and the computer players are very patient as well as predictable, making them not much of a challenge if you know what you’re doing. I thought it would be confusing when I picked it up, but it is very easy to learn and will have you playing like a master in no time at all!
The story line is pretty similar to other games of the Pokemon title. You are a young boy who wants to achieve greatness in the Pokemon world, but since real pokemon don’t exist in this game, he decides to go on a quest to inherit the Legendary Pokemon Cards. But to do this, he must collect the Master Medals (similar to badges) from each Pokemon TCG club in the game. There are eight clubs, each to a specific type, much like the gyms in other games. These eight clubs are: Grass, Fire, Water, Lightning, Fighting, Science, Rock and Psychic. If anyone can collect the master medals, they will be eligible to inherit the Legendary cards!
For this installment, you have Dr. Mason as your mentor. You will begin in his Lab, and it’s pretty easy to tell that he is obviously this game’s version of the beloved Professor Oak. He will teach you how to play the game, and even lead you to your first victory against Sam, one of his assistants! The controls are easy, as Dr. Mason will explain it all. You basically walk around on the field with the control pad, press “A” to talk, place cards, and make other interactions. You can press “B” to cancel an action, but many times it will be too late to cancel if you happen to place the wrong card.
After learning to play the game, you may choose from the three following starter decks, all ironically named after the starter pokemon from Red and Blue: Bulbasaur and Friends, Charmander and Friends, and Squirtle and
From time to time, make sure to check Dr. Mason’s computer. He’s standing right there the whole time to talk to you, but for some reason he still will send you e-mails with information about each Club Master. He will also generously give you a booster pack containing useful cards for each Master. Be sure to check often to get those cards! You can also check the glossary, which has terms that are only used in the pokemon game that you might not understand, but should, such as “Deck”, “Hand”, and “Active Pokemon”. I never used this. The other functions are to view your Card Album, which is divided into the five different booster collections you can receive, such as Colosseum, Evolution, Mystery, Laboratory, and Promotional Cards. Try to “catch” them all! You can also print out your favorite cards if you have a Gameboy printer.
However, if you go into the room adjunct from Dr. Mason’s room, you will find a bunch of machines and some other lab techs wandering around. If you would like, you can talk to the lab techs and battle Aaron, who will invite you to “test” your new deck by dueling him. This guy is the only thing of interest here.
After you are released from Dr. Mason’s tutoring, you may go on and do whatever you please for yourself. There’ really isn’t much to see, save for the 8 clubhouses and a couple other assorted buildings. Since the game doesn’t really tell you what’s what, I will briefly tell you about each of the buildings you will encounter and what the purpose is.
But wait! Upon entering your first club, you will meet the character that will make you groan: Ronald. To your relief, he is not the annoying Gary from the other games, but he is a whole new, equally annoying character whose cockiness will make you want to punch him in the nose. He will come rushing out of the club bragging loudly about how easy it was to win his first Master Medal. When you tell him you are also trying to inherit the Legendary Cards, he will laugh in your face as well as throw some insults in with it, then run away like the coward he is. The nerve!
In each club, there are three rooms. The first room you enter has a big emblem on the floor of the club’s medal, as well as a nice Clerk lady who will tell you about the club. If you go into the room on the left, you will enter the club’s lobby. There you will find random people, some will even offer to trade cards with you. Occasionally, a club member will be hanging out at the card table, and may challenge you to a duel. Each time you win a duel, you will get booster packs to increase your card cache. There is also a desk with two more ladies, receptionists of the Battle Center and Gift Center. In the Battle Center, you can duel your friends via link cable using any portable Gameboy system.
With the Gift Center, you can give and receive both cards and deck configurations using the infared link on the Gameboy Color. Keep in mind that you can only use the Gift Center if both you and your friend use a Gameboy Color system.
Another feature you can use to have fun with friends is Card Pop! This feature will randomly generate a new card for you and your friend. You may access this feature from the main menu when you turn on the game. It is rumored that there are some cards that can only be obtained this way, called “Phantom” Pokemon. It is only useful to Card Pop! with the same friend once, as it will read the ID numbers and always generate the same card. It might be like looking for the needle in the haystack, but if you’re a fan of this game and want the Phantom cards, find as many owners of this game as you can and Card Pop! with everyone.
After you find your way around the clubs, it will be useful to start learning an important aspect of the game, which is building decks.
There are two ways you can build decks. If you want a specific kind of deck, you can always make your own from scratch. I usually do this, it beats trying to get certain cards for the autodeck feature. At first, you probably will be stuck to modifying your starting deck. Mine was Bulbasaur and Friends, but eventually it became “Shocking Embers” deck, when I changed out the Grass pokemon for Lightning, and the Water pokemon for Fire! How many and what types of cards you choose is up to you, as long as your deck configuration contains at least 60 cards.
If you really like a deck you hand-crafted yourself, you might want to save it in the big machine located in the room to the right of Dr. Mason’s lab. It is the one at the very southern part of the room, called the Deck Save machine. It should be easy to locate, since it’s the only one that is not an Autodeck machine. This machine can save up to 60 deck configurations! As you can only carry 4 decks with you at a time, this machine is useful to save deck configurations so you can rebuild them at any time.
The other way to create new decks is to use the Autodeck machines, located in the room to the right of Dr. Mason’s lab. All but one of the machines is down, but you can reactivate the various machines as you collect Master Medals. Each machine contains configurations for many of the decks you encountered in your Club challenges! The only downside is that you must have all of the required cards to make the certain decks. You may check the instructions to see how many and what kind of cards you need to have. These machines come in handy as you challenge different clubs. For instance, a deck from the Lightning Medal machine would work well against the Water Club members!
Now that we have been through the basic outline of the game, I will emphasize on some of the stranger aspects of the game. For instance, who is Imakuni?! This is basically a strange life-form who calls himself a musical star, and he appears to be dressed in a mouse costume. He will randomly appear in various clubs, facing the picture on the wall in each lobby. You can duel him and win several booster packs. Even if it seems like he is winning, he will pull out his famous Imakuni? Card and confuse his own pokemon every time, mucking up the situation and carving a path for your victory. Want an Imakuni? card for yourself? He will give you two of these in certain battles!
You will probably notice that besides Dr. Mason’s Lab and the eight clubs, there are still three more buildings to discover. (Where’s your house?!)
These buildings are Ishihara’s house, The Pokemon Dome, and The Challenge Hall.
Ishihara’s house is not really that special, it is empty at first. All you will find is a wealth of books with useful information about the game in them. After Ishihara returns, he will trade rare cards with you!
I will get to the Pokemon Dome at the end, so we can talk about the Challenge Hall for now. Every so often, they will hold a Challenge Cup. I went ahead and won the game without visiting this area once, so I missed plenty of rare card prizes. (D’oh!) Don’t make my mistake and visit them regularly to check for competitions. What’s in it for you? You have a shot at winning rare Promotional cards, as well as honing your skills as a duelist.
You needn’t go to the Pokemon Dome until the end of the game, to challenge the four Grand Masters. They are just like the Elite Four in every other Pokemon game. You will have to fight Courtney, Thunder Steve, Gentlemanly Jack, and Rod all in a row. Each of them possess one of the Legendary Cards, and they are all obviously extremely powerful. Luckily, you can have a minute to change your deck and save in between duels. I got through these with no problem. Best of luck to you!
As for graphics, they are the same as in Red and Blue. If you have a Gameboy Color, it makes use of the color feature to splash the landscape and some of the cards! There are even certain characters whom look exactly like the trainers from those games! In the line of graphic quality and music, nothing much is different. The card graphics look great, though! I was very pleased with these. It is also pleasing how when the cards use attacks, it actually looks like a pokemon battle. This feature really draws you in and makes the card game seem more real and less boring than I expected.
That’s really all there is to the game. I was disappointed that there were no shops to buy booster packs or individual cards you want, you must win them all in duels. The story line isn’t as in depth as the other games, and I found it a bit lacking. I saw a lot of potential, but it somehow came up short of what I hoped for. However, it’s a good game to play if you ever wanted to learn the Pokemon TCG, and will amuse you and have you thinking on your toes for hours. It’s a different kind of Pokemon and I found it refreshingly challenging.
(Not to be confused with Yu-Gi-Oh, but this is still funny.)