Pokemon TCG (Game Boy Color)
It’s impossible to discuss the early days of the Pokemon series without also mentioning the Pokemon Trading Card Game. Together with the anime and video games, the Pokemon TCG was a big reason why the franchise was so explosively popular in the late ’90s. While I never had much interest in playing the actual card game with my friends, like other kids at the time, I was obsessed with collecting the cards, which is what led me to discover Pokemon TCG for Game Boy Color.
As its name suggests, Pokemon TCG for Game Boy was a digitized version of the card game, featuring the same rules and cards as the physical game. What made the title so compelling, however, were its RPG elements. Just as in the mainline Pokemon games, your ultimate goal is to travel to different clubs, each of which specialized in a particular type, and defeat the eight Club Masters. After collecting their badges, you earned the right to face off against the Grand Masters–TCG’s equivalent of the Elite Four.
Compared to other card games, the Pokemon TCG was fairly simple, but that accessibility was another reason it translated so well into a video game. As in the mainline titles, Pokemon cards have different elemental strengths and weaknesses, and you need to exploit them if you hope to defeat the Club Masters. Of course, given the nature of card games, battles often hinged in part on luck (there was only so much you could do if you drew a bad hand), but it nonetheless felt very satisfying to devise strategies and build a well-rounded deck.
The Game Boy Color game would receive a sequel in Japan, but that, unfortunately, was never localized. While it seems unlikely that we’ll ever get another proper Pokemon TCG video game, its spirit lives on in Pokemon TCG Online, a free-to-download digital version of the card game. It’s not a proper follow-up to the Game Boy title–TCG Online doesn’t have RPG elements like the Game Boy game, for instance–but it’s a lot of fun in its own right, which shows why the trading card game has been able to remain so popular for over two decades. | Kevin Knezevic, Associate Editor