Title :Pokemon Trading Card Game
Platforms :Game Boy Color
Publisher :Nintendo of America
ESRB Rating :Everyone
Game Rating :8.0
Review by :Richard Rae

While Pokemon began as a Game Boy product in Japan three years ago, it seems that its real popularity here took off when the Pokemon Trading Card game that took Japan by storm did the same thing in America, thanks to Wizards of the Coast. Now the card game has essentially returned to its origins, with Nintendo's release of "Pokemon Trading Card Game" for the Game Boy Color and Game Boy. 

In this game, your main character "Mark" (or whatever you want to name him) is on a quest to be a Pokemon Card Game Grand Master. To do this, Mark must excel at the Pokemon Card game and not only win matches against other players he comes across, but beat the Masters at the eight "Clubs" and two Arenas that are on Pokemon Island. These include the Battle Club, Aqua Club, Stone Club and others, culminating at the Pokemon Dome. It's pretty obvious by the Club names as to the types of Pokemon deck mixes the members favor. 

Mark's first stop is at Dr. Mason's laboratory. Dr. Mason is a glasses-wearing card-expert counterpart to Professor Oak, and he'll give Mark an introduction to the cards, explain the basics, take you through a tutorial game, then let you pick your first 60 card Deck; as with standard Pokemon, you 'll have a choice of a Bulbasaur deck, a Charmander deck, or a Squirtle deck. Your choice determines the make-up of the deck; for example, the Bulbasaur deck is weighted towards grass and water Pokemon. 

Now armed with his new deck, Mark then begins his quest by visiting the different Clubs, which are very much like a Pokemon Center and Gym combined. The "Center" sections have PCs for card management, e-mail and play tips, receptionists who'll handle Game-link battles with a second player, and there are many Club Members around who are happy to take you on in a competition or trade you cards. When you win against an opponent, you get electronic "booster packs" and periodically will get special "Promo" cards which are unique to the game. Your overall goal will be to obtain the Eight "Medals" from the different Club Masters on your way to Ultimate Grand Master status yourself in the Pokemon Dome against the four Grand Masters and your Rival. Be aware, though, that many of your opponents are tough players and play is authentically dependent on skill and the "luck of the draw". 

Shuffling and dealing animation is nice, and all elements of the regular card game are present: the Prizes, the Bench, Active Pokemon, Trainer cards, Energy Cards, evolution cards, etc. There's even the coin toss whenever it's called for (it's a Pikachu coin!), and you instantly get feedback and markers placed when your Pokemon is asleep, damaged, or poisoned. 

Besides being able to save your game, you also can print your card lists and cards out with a Game Boy Printer. The Game Boy Color supports the "power off save" feature. If you're in the middle of a card duel and you have to turn the game off, you'll see a menu item that will let you pick the game up where you left off. You also can decline that option and pick up from your last manually-saved position. 

You also have the great capability to build up to 3 additional decks of 60 cards with different mixes and and name them for your use — thus, you can duplicate real decks you are familiar with. You also can trade cards or get special "Card-Pops" with a friend using the IR ports in the Color Game Boy, or do a 2-player battle with your GBC-equipped friends. 

The game is very addictive, perhaps as much, if not even more so than the original Pokemon game. It certainly is maddening to watch a carefully planned strategy taken apart by an CPU opponent who has the cards in his favor and whose Pokemon seem unbeatable — and you often find yourself slapping your forehead and saying things like "Man!! What was I THINKING by putting that Bulbasaur out there with no Grass Energy in my hand!" 

For me, though, the best part is that you don't have to mess with the different decks, cards and counters all over the place. For the cost of two pre-configured "real" Pokemon decks, you can have all the (older) cards, several unique cards, endless booster packs, and you'll never lack for someone to play against. 

Whether you're a fan of the Pokemon card game or of the Pokemon video games in general, this electronic version will give you the best of both worlds, and then some.

This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Gamebits, 29-May-00