Review: Pokémon Trading Card Game (Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console)

Pokémon Trading Card Game is a video game based on the card game which is based on other video games.  Did you get all that?  Basically Pokémon Green, Red and Blue were so immensely popular, it wasn't long before a card game featuring the monsters was devised in Japan.  The game was later published and distributed by Wizards of the Coast in the United States to massive success.  For a while you couldn't go to a school playground without seeing kids either dueling or bartering trades, of course all of that stopped when practically every school banned the cards as they had become a source of serious contention.  When the video game version came to the US in 2000 Poké-Fever was in full swing and so the game sold relatively well.

Now that the game has been released to the 3DS Virtual Console, I have decided to write up a quick review to determine whether or not the game is worth purchasing.

Presentation

First things first, the game manages to bring in almost all of the cards from the first three runs of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, the Original Set, the Jungle Set and the Fossil Set.  Each of the cards' images are faithfully recreated, which is somewhat impressive considering this is a Game Boy Color (GBC) game.  The cards are easy to distinguish and they look pretty sharp all things considered.

The Original Pokémon Cards sets.

As for the overworld of the game...it's pretty simplistic, even by GBC standards.  It retains the overhead perspective of the series' main entries,  but with a tiny, uninteresting world it is not very impressive.  

The music is alright.  Not nearly as catchy as the series' main entries, but it is by no means bad. To be honest I usually play the game with the volume down while listening to music since sound does not really play a major role in the game.

Gameplay

This is where the game truly shines.  Somehow Hudson was able to recreate the tabletop experience with the extreme limitations of the GBC.  Playing the game brought back some very fond memories of going to my local Toys R' Us and playing in the Pokemon Trading Card Game League.

Because of the nature of card games, much of the game comes down to luck, but there is plenty of room for the player to employ strategy to increase his or her luck.  Apart from that, the card duels are just super addicting. 

The main goal of the game is to defeat the eight Club Masters scattered across the game map on your way to defeating the four Grand Masters in order to inherit four legendary Pokémon cards.  To get you started, the kindly Dr. Mason gives your character a starter deck based on one of the three starters from the original games.

From there you are able to duel a great number of people.  Each victory nets the player booster packs of cards.  The new cards you collect can be used to modify your decks and create entirely new decks as well.  Part of the fun of the game is trying to collect all 228 of the cards and using them in new combinations.  Collecting paper may not be as exciting as collecting and training monsters but it is still utterly addicting.

One note on the AI in the game: it's inconsistent.  Sometimes my opponents felt like the Bobby Fischers of the Pokémon Trading Card Game, and other times they felt like four-year-olds with ADHD.

Replayability and Value

The game's paper-thin story will not take long for players to plow through, but since each duel has so many random elements, you can re-deul many of the NPCs and get just as much enjoyment out of it.   It's sad that the multiplayer elements of the game have been crippled on the 3DS; it would have been great to be able to duel friends, but it's understandable.

I still think $5.99 is a bit too much for a Game Boy Color game that is not Zelda or a mainstream Pokémon  title, but you should be able to get a good amount of enjoyment rom this game, so if you've got $6 to spare I would recommend this game.

Final Level:

The Good:

+ Cards have been faithfully recreated.

+ Addicting gameplay. 

+ The fun of collecting all the cards.

The Bad:

- Short story.

- Empty overworld.

- Spotty AI

Verdict:

7.5 out of 10 - Very Good

This is easily one of the best Pokémon spin-offs.  For any fan of the series, or anybody looking to relive some 90s splendor, this game is a must-have!

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