Part 1: Welcome to TCG IslandTitle Screen
Before I jump into another long main series Pokemon game, there are other gems here and there. I skipped a lot of side games when I did Conquest a fair while back, but the TCG games for the GBC are pretty damn good. Or, they're good sandboxes, but you'll get what I mean soon enough. As always, peep the music, it's some 8-bit deliciousness.
Look at all those crazy options. Our MC is Mark, but with a bandana like that, he needs a cooler name.
Never Seen Again Narrator: One day, Marco heard a rumor: "The Legendary Pokemon Cards... the extremely rare and powerful cards held by Pokmeon Trading Card Game's greatest players... the Grand Masters are searching for one to inherit the legend!" Dreaming of inheriting the Legendary Pokemon cards, Marco visits the Pokemon Card Researcher, Dr. Mason...
You want to learn how to play the Pokemon Trading Card Game? So you, too, finally want to start playing the card game. Well, dueling is more fun than just collecting cards! First, you should try playing with a practice deck. Here, I'll give you this deck. And now you need an opponent... hey, Sam! Play with him for a while!
Yes, Dr. Mason. Hello, Marco.
First, ask Sam the basics of the game.
OK, Marco. What do you want to ask about?
This game was very, VERY much intended for you to be your introduction into the TCG, but I'll tell you all about it in Side Notes to go over each mechanic, but I'll do a quick rundown during our first proper duel. Don't worry, it's very simple, and that's one thing I love about it, but if you combine it with 20 year old AI, you get a game that is also... very simple, but more on that in a bit.
Since this is your first time, just try to learn the basic steps. I'll be coaching you. So follow my advice. If you don't do as I say, we won't be able to proceed. It might be easier if you read the Pokemon Trading Card Game instruction booklet while we play. OK then, let's start your practice game!
We have to follow exact steps, but that's no fun to watch. Instead let's talk about some other things, like artwork!
I hope you like DYNAMIC POSING, this game is full of it. Also note the design on the back of the card, which is the Japanese one, which are localised to the familiar design. This game follows the TCG incredibly closely, down to even weirdly small details.
And the professor for this "region", modeled on one of the game designers of the TCG, Kouichi Ooyama, who has also worked on Pokemon Duel, and even Earthbound! I'll be using character artwork where appropriate and in-game headshots for everyone else, since there's not much artwork, especially for TCG 2.
Hmm... let me add some of my own cards to yours! Now, Marco, what kind of deck do you want?
Ah, the classic choice. Well, not really, you can trade cards with your friends and battle with them, but there's no exclusive choices to be made, if you're diligent, you can obtain all 228 cards in the game all by yourself! ...okay 226, but we'll get to that later. Basically, what I'm trying to say is choose whichever you like, all 3 decks are good choices, Squirtle is the most broken, Bulbasaur is the most consistent, and Charmander is the fastest. This choice won't matter in the long run for this LP.
You should duel with many different people. Why don't you go to one of the club cards. There are many people playing at the cards. Collect new cards and try building a new deck!
Ah, much better, the starting message speed is just awful. Also this setting lets you speed through any animation that you can't already skip, it's very nice. Watching a speedrun of this game can be hard since they speed through menus and make the screen flash so many times in a short space of time.
Pokemon cards! Listen to what people have to say and read the books on the bookshelves. If I have any information, I'll send you an email, so check the PC every so often to read your mail!
Let's go and log onto 1997 Outlook on this personal computer.
Are you getting the hang of the Pokemon Trading Card Game? I have some information for you about Booster Packs. If you want to collect the same cards, duel the same person many times to get a particular booster pack! By doing so, you will be able to collect the same cards, making it easier for you to build your deck. Another method for collecting cards is to use Card Pop! When you and a friend use Card Pop!, you will each receive a new card! One you Pop! with a certain friend, you won't be able to Pop! with that friend again, so find many friends who own the Pokemon Trading Card Game for Game Boy and Card Pop! with them to get new cards! Oh, here's something for you...
Like with the actual game, you won't get very far with just your starting deck, you need to also obtain booster packs for 10 random cards.
There are 4 different booster packs, based on real ones that contain around 50 unique cards each, totalling to 208. This is where you'll get what you need, though your starting deck can get you so far. All booster packs contain one energy, usually an evolution or few, may contain Trainer cards and is the best way for you to scramble some kind of useful deck, since the game has a pretty bad time making good decks for you to use. This game draws from the Base Set, as well as the first two expansions, Fossil and Jungle, with two exceptions of a Base Set Electrode and a Fossil Ditto due to their complexity. These refer to the Japanese expansions, so there's no regular versions of cards that are holographic, like ours were.
I'll be sending you useful information by email. I'll also attach a booster pack for you. So check your mail often. Mason Laboratory, Doctor Mason
Alright, let's take a look at our starting deck to the sweet tunes of the pause menu. You can have 4 different configurations at once, but you can save deck lists in this lab, so be as free as you'd like... within the confines of your pulls, of course.
Oh... oh no... this is a really bad deck. What the hell is going on? There's no cohesion, no structure, they literally gave you like 80 cards and randomly threw 60 at you to pick up off the floor. Basically, to make a deck worth anything, it needs four components: your main star, the Pokemon you're building up and using to attack, this can just be one evolution line, but is usually two as a backup. Next is your support Pokemon, who have moves or abilities that help your main or hinder your opponent, it's up to you how many different Pokemon you use and with what main mons. Third is your Trainer cards, which are one time use effects and can be used as many times as you have them in your hand. Finally, Energy, the backbone to your deck. These are attached to your Pokemon once per turn, with exceptions, and fuel your attacks. You usually want around 12-18 of these, depending on your strategy.
Let's give this a quick edit, remove most of the garbage we won't use, since a deck is only useful if you're able to pull off the strategy as smoothly and effectively as possible. Little difficult to attack when you don't get any energy since you keep drawing random Pokemon. You can have up to 59 energy in a deck, since the hard limit is 60 and you need at least one Pokemon to make it a deck, but all other cards have a limit of 4. This is why the Charmander deck is useful, since it starts with two Bill cards, the best card in the game. I'll be going over specific cards here and there, there's a lot of interesting ones to talk about, but how about we actually get battling something, eh? It's only been 80 images!
You always face Sam with the practice deck, but by choosing Normal Duel, you can do whatever you want with that deck and aren't railroaded into a specific strategy.
If you want a lot of different energy, this is where you go to grind, it's relatively quick. If you're building multiple decks at once, you need a lot of energy since any that's used for one deck can't be used for another without dismantling it, just like in real life. Which is also annoying as fuck, but forces you to be strategic when you have limited options such as this game.
If you win, I'll give you a booster pack - but it only contains energy cards. Ho-ho! Please choose the deck you wish to duel against.
Let's finally see what this game is about, using our pretty shitty starting deck.
At the start, both players shuffle each other's decks and draw 7 cards. From that initial hand, you choose a Basic Pokemon to start out front as your Active Pokemon. If you don't have a basic Pokemon, you put your hand back, reshuffle and draw 7 again, and continue until you get something. It later games this is a mulligan that lets the opponent draw an extra card for how many times you had to do this, but since there's no penalty here, it's definitely a strategy to only use one line and get the right Basic up front.
If you have any other basic Pokemon, you can place them on the Bench, but it's not mandatory, then you place down however many prizes, 1-6. There's 3 winning conditions, first is if you knock out enough opposing Pokemon to draw all of your prizes. Second, if you knock out your opponent's Active when they have no Bench Pokemon to move up to replace it, and third, if your opponent is unable to draw a card at the start of their turn due to an empty deck.
Ah, coin flips, bane of my existance. You always want to go first so you can set up first and attack first, it wasn't until later in the TCG that attacking on the first turn became prohibited. If the coin lands on its side, congrats you're a wizard, but also flip again. You also don't use any random coin for this either, there are specific TCG coins you must use to decide stuff, though each player has their own coin. And no, we can't change ours, that's next game.
Considering this is a small screen, they get everything they need on this. Seeing the pixillated base set art is also real cool. Ignore the levels, it's just lore fluff.
Alright, off to a good start... all Pokemon have various attacks they can do when they have the requisite energy, though no Pokemon has more than 2 attacks and no move costs more than 4 energy. Don't quote me on it.
Status conditions are a thing and they work a little differently, such as Paralysis making you unable to attack or retreat for your turn, but is always healed before your opponent's next turn. Using an attack will always end your turn, though you can end it at any time without attacking, or doing anything really.
Some cards are pretty important, and I'll post the full artwork of them and talk about them in detail. What better one to start than with Bill? It's as simple as it is effective, since you can use as many Trainers in a turn as you'd like, if you're lucky, getting 4 Bill means 8 free cards, which is ridiculous. Always have Bill, always use Bill, he is your friend and lover. It doesn't work well with the other main Trainer you should have in every deck, but it's a small price to pay for such useful utility.
Playing this game means moving through a fair few menus due to the small screen, but this overview screen is very useful to see what's up. You can look at any Active or Bench Pokemon at any time, as well as both discard piles.
It's always important to brush up on what your Pokemon can do, as some attacks have additional effects to them, positive or negative. All Pokemon have 1 type, as well as one weakness and usually a resistance. As you saw from the deck menu, there's only 7 types in the game, Grass, Water, Fire, Lightning, Fighting, Psychic and Colourless, with all but the last having an associated basic energy with it. This crunches down some other types, Rock and Ground become Fighting, Poison usually becomes Grass, but can be Psychic, while Ghost is also Psychic. Flying and Dragon are Colourless, Ice is Water and Bug is Grass. When Dark and Steel were introduced, they became their own types, Darkness and Metal, as well as their own energy, as did Fairy. Dragon took their time to get a type, but not their own energy.
Uh, anyway, energy costs, it depends on the specific Pokemon, even the same move on different Pokemon. The star symbol is Colourless and you can use any energy card towards that cost, while specific symbols require that energy. Damage is always done in multiplies of 10, and is a damage counter system, which you use a physical bag of and place on your Pokemon. You also turn the card different ways to represent status ailments, thankfully that doesn't happen here. Retreat costs range from 0-4 energy that need to be discarded for the Pokemon to swap with another on the bench. Useful to get the hell outta there, but also cures any status conditions. The symbol on the side represents rarity, which doesn't really mean much, but you can surmise some cards are harder to find than others.
All cards also contain various fluff at the end which doesn't mean anything much, but it's always good to check your opponent's weakness, they take double damage from a Pokemon that is that type, even if the attack itself uses different energy or whatever. Resistances work the same way, but are usually only -20 or -30, which isn't as impressive, but the power ceiling is still pretty low.
Since we can't attack, might as well do whatever, we've got plenty of HP. Computer Search is another very important card, discard 2 cards from your hand to pick any one card from the deck, shuffling after. Uh, yeah that's amazing, good way to get a specific Basic down, since you need it for evolving. Or to pick a draw supporter to make your hand less shit. Since you're able to look through the whole deck, this is also a good opportunity to see what you have left, and if anything important is in prizes.
We'll just end our turn, evolving a Pokemon heals them of status, but you can't evolve on your first turn, and it wouldn't be useful anyway, since Charmeleon needs 3 energy minimum to attack and we'd get paralyzed again before killing it.
Like so. And bonus, an opponent using a card means I don't have to explain. ...still gonna, very good card to have, it's as if you drew an energy, and that's always important to do.
Hey remember that evolution advise I gave? Well I didn't follow it.
At least I didn't get screwed by it. Charmeleon is a very good budget card, dishing out consistent damage once you get the energy going. Slash does 30 damage for 3 energy, fine, but Flamethrower does 50 damage for 2 Fire energy and a Colourless, though you have to discard one Fire to use it. Still, the opponent doesn't really do that well if you constantly deal out hits and knock out their main hitter, since they usually focus on building up on one Pokemon at a time, making them a prime target.
There's no strategy to prize picking, just do whatever. I won't go over every card, but I will highlight any good ones we see and their best move. Rampage does 20 damage plus 10 damage per damage counter it has, so up to 50 more, which is interesting on decks that can control what damage Pokemon get. It does flip a coin to see if it confuses itself, but that's still not bad if you can keep it going.
Ooh, tricky evolutions. For whatever reason no AI will ever use Prophecy, which lets you look at the top 3 cards of either deck and rearrange them. So we have some time before it actually attacks. Dark Mind also deals 10 damage to a Benched Pokemon, but weaknesses or resistances usually aren't applied to bench mons.
That Grass energy is really screwing Aaron over. Let's just say the AI doesn't do much forward planning. He could've retreated too, but chose not to.
There we go, they usually retreat if they've taken damage, which can be annoying, but hey, they're burning energy, what do I care?
That blows, but at least it got confused. If you're about to attack, flip a coin, if heads, continue, if tails, deal 20 damage to yourself and end the turn.
This is a Fire deck after all, so let's power up Arcanine. Kangashkan's Fetch is good for biding time, since it's very tanky. Comet Punch requires 4 energy and you flip 4 coins, doing 20 damage for each heads. For attacks like this, use the average damage if you want to bother with it, so 40 damage, which is alright, but is also very slow.
Ah nice, Kanga has 3 retreat, so this is faster, but we got lucky with the coin flip.
And here's the second half to Bill. Professor Oak is tricky, but absolutely essential to get a better hand, at the cost of burning what you already had. Usually you can justify to yourself doing that, but it always hurts. But definitely use it when you're absolutely sure you can't use anything else in your hand and you must use it now! Or just go through your deck without a care in the world and get everything you need to win faster, up to you.
Alright, we've got him on the ropes! 1 energy for 20 damage? Yes please! And Machop can even take a hit or two, very nice early card.
If you're just falling short, then Pluspower is a very useful card. Your attack on that turn does 10 more damage, and it can stack up to +40! It's situational, only if you're gonna get knocked out next turn or want to knock something out now, but definitely has its uses. Its opposite is Defender, which stacks up to 40 less damage from opponents. Meh.
Alright, we've done our setup, now it's time to finish this up.
Easy as that. Another Flamethrower, same as Charmeleon's.
Ho-ho! How about it? Did you get a feel for your deck? Ho-ho! Came again. I'll be glad to duel you any time.
Battling Sam is faster, but it's true that if your deck can't pass this test, something has gone horribly wrong.
It's time to finally leave the confines of the lab and experience a truly open world game! Seriously, the entire game is open to us. ...it's a very short game, please clap.
What? It's you, Marco! What are you doing? Huh? That's a deck! Are you... trying to get the Legendary Pokemon Cards? WHAT!?! I can't believe it! You? The Legendary Pokemon Cards? Ha ha ha ha ha! Don't make me laugh!!! Alright! Listen up! I'll teach you what it's about! To inherit the Legendary Pokemon Cards, you must defeat the 8 Club Masters and get the 8 Medals! Then you have to go to Pokemon Dome and defeat all 4 of the Grand Masters there!!! There's no way you can do it!!! You might as well just give up and go home! 'Cause the Legendary Pokemon Cards are gonna be mine! I already won the first medal! See ya, Marco! Ha ha ha ha ha!!!
Fighting, Science and Fire Clubs
CLERK: Here at this club, we duel using Fighting Pokemon. No dirty dueling is allowed! Only nice, clean duels are allowed in this club.
I have to warn you that you will be unable to defeat me! If you wish to duel with me, you must defeat my pupils first! My pupils are training at other clubs! Go see if you can defeat all 3 of my pupils!
Of course, it's never that easy, most of the leaders won't fight us without some preamble and it differs for each one.
MAN: I prefer collecting the cards. By the way, would you happen to have Rapidash? If you do, I was wondering if you might want to give it to me? How about it?
Each club has the main room and then the side room with a variety of people. Some want to fight, others want to trade cards. We won't be able to do any trades yet, but we will, and it's definitely not worth it, but if you're lucky to get the right one to trade, might as well?
Talking to a Club Leader or going to their main room, or other various triggers will have Dr. Mason send you an email. I'll post these when we actually fight them since he gives you hints on what deck they're using. You'll want to trigger these often, because...
Mmmmmmmmm, each email has a different booster pack. Gotta collect 'em all!
Here's stuff we can't do, wheeeeeeeee. Still, if you had a friend (lol...) then this could really last as a game. Card Pop! is from the main menu and very useful to get new cards, including 2 we can't get anywhere else! We'll hack them in later.
Water, Rock & Psychic Clubs
CLERK: This is a club devoted to Water Pokemon. There are many different types of Water Pokemon, so it's fun just to collect them.
If you wish to duel Amy, go defeat Sara and Amanda first. Then I will test your skill, and if by chance you should win, I will introduce you to Amy, the Club Master!
That's another one we can't do just yet, but since the game is pretty open, there's not much of a difficulty curve, aside from what you get in booster packs. Oh yeah, every single Trainer we can fight in this game has a portrait, of which I'm using the next game's, since they're clearer and more colourful.
LASS: dressed all in black! You'll find him dancing away in the lounge at one of the clubs! He stands out, so it shouldn't be too hard to identify him. But maybe you shouldn't go near him!
Grass & Lightning Clubs
Alright, next one, if there's any various trades or side things, we'll cover them when we actually go to that club for realz, but for now, we're just browsing.
CLERK: This club is for girls who love to grow flowers. The Pokemon cards used here are also beautiful flowers.
There's one of the Fighting club. We'll get back to him later or whatever.
...hmm, let me see... if you defeat... 3 members of the Grass Club, I'll tell you where she is. So, how about it?
Alright, something we'll have to come back later for. Not all club members are in the main room, but only the Fighting club members actively leave their club. Also while the main rooms are different, the lounges aren't, so I won't show them all now.
CLERK: This club is for technicians who love the sciences. The Pokemon cards used here are those with the powers of science!
middle of an important experiment! He has no time to see someone like you! If you really want to see him, you must defeat me first!
Oh neat, another email, even though we didn't talk to Rick.
Another Laboratory pack, surely all these random mons that have no real relation to each other can gel with our current deck!
CLERK: This is a club for boys with a burning passion for Fire Pokemon. Fire Pokemon have the greatest attack power of all Pokemon!
to inherit the Legendary Cards? WHAT!?! You have almost no cards! If you wish to duel me, go collect more cards!
Well this is nice. We need 300 cards to fight Ken, which is easy enough, we can fight everyone infinitely to get all the cards we need.
CLERK: This club is for people who use Psychic Pokemon. Psychic Pokemon are difficult to use, but they're very strong.
...alright, uh, let's come back.
More mail and another Laboratory. He definitely likes sending those. This Ditto is actually really interesting since it's a game exclusive card that's never been made, to replace the Ditto left out from the Fossil expansion. It's still not very good, but there's a fair few cards made for this game, some made available, some not.
Defeat the Masters of the 8 Clubs and attain the 8 Medals. Once attained, defeat the Grand Master here at Pokemon Dome... then you shall inherit the Legendary Pokemon Cards."
Yes! The Legendary Pokemon Cards will be inherited here at Pokemon Dome! Of course, I, Ronald, will inherit the cards! Hey, did you collect the medals? Duh! That's pretty obvious you didn't! There's no way you could collect them all! Why don't you just give up? See ya!
You can activate this moment up until you collect 7 medals, since Ronald will always say he's one ahead of you.
CLERK: At this club, we use decks made up of mostly Lightning Pokemon. Would you like to get charged up with us?
You can fight a leader right now if you wanted, honest guv.
CLERK: This club is for members who use Rock Pokemon cards. Rock Pokemon are defensive and take very little damage.
Isn't Rock good, Marco...? Rock is hard and strong! Doesn't crumble under pressure! After you duel me, you'll know I'm right! Come! Show me what you're made of!
There we go, Gene is the only Leader you can fight asap, though some others are easy enough, as you saw. All we care about is the booster packs, gimme gimme gimme!!!
The final booster mostly has, well, Evolution Pokemon. All 4 boosters contain cards from each of the sets this game has, so you've gotta collect them all lots of times to get the evolution lines you need. But there's just a little left of the island to explore before we finish up.
I'm a Pokemon Card Collector. I love collecting cards. I see you also love Pokemon cards. Please come see me again. We must trade some sometime. Oh! If you're playing with the cards, please read some of the books here. I believe they will be helpful.
Of course this chap is based on Tsunekazu Ishihara, the president and CEO of the Pokemon Company. He was inspired to create the TCG game, which he did at Creatures Inc., which formed from the disbanded Ape Inc., which created Earthbound! Weird how this all works out.
CLERK: will begin soon. If you win the Challenge Cup, you will receive a Promotional Card! Please join us for this competition.
Exciting stuff, soon is later, but that's everything on the island! Seriously though, we've seen every room in the game bar two (the door in the Challenge Hall is just decoration), so now it's time to decide on what order we're gonna do things in. And for that, I'll require your help to- hey what's that music?
I am the Super Musical Star, Imakuni?! I'll sing the Pokerap - you dance! La di da la di da la di da la di da... hey! Move those feet! What? Cards? You want to duel me? OK. But if I win, you dance! OK. A 1-match duel with 6 prizes! ...whatever that means...
...right, yeah. Okay, so Imakuni? is one weird motherfucker, and he's probably one of the greatest people on the planet. So Tomoaki Imakuni is a musician who performed some music for the Pokemon anime. He also loves the TCG and heavily promoted it, so he's got quite a few cards to his name. They're all gag cards and they're absolutely amazing. He was even a designer for the first two Ranger games! So let's see how tough he is.
Ponyta has two good attacks that also require 2 energy, so give it a second.
Alright, uh, cool.
Nothing much to it, this Slowpoke can make us forget one move for a turn, but this is a damage race we'll win.
Your Active Pokemon is now Confused. This card cannot be put down on the field as a Pokemon.
Dances and sings in the Pokemon Card Game TV CF Song "Can You Name All the Pokemon?" If you see him in the streets, be sure to greet him by saying "Imakuni?, hello".
So yeah, this is an actual card that was first available in English in this game! It was a Sep 1997 CoroCoro insert and was later printed in English for the Generations expansion. It's as useful as you think it is, but you know, he might be cuter than Pikachu...
Onto actual mechanics, coin flipping is a cruel mistress, but I've been working on something in the back.
Dugtrio absolutely wrecks shit. 4 energy for Earthquake is a little steep, but it does SEVENTY damage and oh no your bench took 10 damage, whatever. We could probably use Duggy for the rest of the game and never even blink. It's fun to play around with this game, but it has to account for you getting garbage from booster packs, so the difficulty is very, very low.
You should definitely battle Imakuni?, he's real easy and he gives you FOUR booster packs.
Ah, DCE is an absolute classic and is Colourless energy, but since it's classed as Special Energy, and was the only one of its kind for quite a while, you can only have 4 per deck. Still, incredibly important for those that can use Colourless energy, or if you just need a nice bump towards a specific attack. Not all decks need them, but those that do really really love them.
Alright, so what club are we gonna do first? How's this game gonna play out if I spend most of the game cobbling together a less and less shit decks from boosters? Well I'm not gonna do any of that.
This game is easy, only using one deck is boring, and I want to experiment, use some cards I've never even thought about, and I want you guys to contribute, because that's always fun. So I'm hacking in infinite booster packs and getting every single regular card.
And there we go, all done. I only need 4 of each card and a chunk of energy, but I got over 2000 cards getting the last little stragglers. It's definitely worth it, because now we're truly open world.
While we get some ideas going, let's take down 3 different clubs using a real proper deck of each of the starters, and see exactly how they work out. Now the fun begins.