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Pokémon. Those small creatures have quite a history that continues to write itself. North America's first taste was on the Game Boy. Red and Blue paks appeared in those Game Boy and Game Boy Pockets that were seemingly lost only a few months before. Children everywhere are suddenly speaking a strange new language, with words like Charizard, Oddish, and Pikachu. The West has never been the same.
Following this surge of new life came a flood of Pokémon products. None of these caught on more than the Trading Card Game. With every new promotion that Pokémon brings, they tie it all back to the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Finally, the series completes the circle back to the Game Boy, with the release the digital version of Pokémon: Trading Card Game.
The point of the game is very simple. The main character is just an ordinary person, who overhears from a friend that the Pokémon Card Masters are choosing one person to inherit the Legendary Pokémon Cards. To challenge the Pokémon Card Masters, one must first claim a badge from each of the eight Card Clubs. As usual the "friend" decides to be your bitter rival, and is always one step ahead of you... again. Nothing in the plot is any different from the last Pokémon games.
The main difference from previous games is that instead of Pokémon to train, you collect cards. You can't train cards, so you have to collect more of them instead. Every time you win a battle, you are given one or two booster packs, each containing 10 cards. There is also an email system where Doctor Mason will occasionally mail you a hint on the next Club leader's deck, and a booster pack or two. There are four sets of booster packs: Colosseum, Evolution, Mystery and Laboratory. There are also 18 promotional cards, for a total of 2286 cards to be found. While the number seems large, the only real trouble will be tracking down when and where to locate the promo cards, as you'll receive most of the others during the regular gameplay.
If you don't know anything about the real Trading Card Game, the game may seem harder than the easy rating, but not to worry. The learning curve of the game is fairly quick, and the starting area is a great place to practice. Once you have learned how to modify and strengthen your decks, the only thing left is to gain the cards to make the deck more powerful. To do that, you need to battle.
The battles are relatively easy, but the opponents are not pushovers. The key is not how many powerful cards you have, but picking the right ones to use in the first place. Since each Club is from a specific type of cards, the best deck to use is one that will either have resistance to that type, or a type they have a weakness to. A little bit of luck never hurts in a card game either. There is no penalty for losing a match, so experiment with what cards make powerful combos, and which are duds.
Gameplay is fairly minimal in this game. There is no overworld map, except to transfer from one building to another. The table layout for each battle seems cumbersome at first, but there are quick commands with the B button that cover most of the main areas of the table a player would want to view. This is very helpful when trying to decide if it's time to play that Trainer card that will put the game back in your favor.
While thinking about the next move, the music is well done. For once, it is the limitations of the hardware that stops the music from its full potential, as the music is one of the best collections done for the Game Boy to date. The sounds are minimal, but appropriate and accurate when used.
The localization is almost flawless. With the use of a compressed font, the game is able to display large amounts of information on the Game Boy's small screen with minimal scrolling which is a grand idea, and almost neccessary to portable games for some time now. If you compare the text to what is found on the real cards, it will be almost, if not exactly, identical. Very well done.
Overall the quality of the game is far better than its predecessors. The length of the game however, leaves the player simply wanting more. Since the game starts with choosing from three very different decks, replay value is good. If you are an avid player of the real Trading Card Game, this game will not interest you, as the AI of the opponents is fairly predictable. If you don't have many cards, or any at all, but want to play the TCG none the less, this game is the perfect answer.
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