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Come Home Again: Pokemon TCG Nearly 15 Years Later

Returning to an old pastime after so long, is collecting Pokemon Cards still as fun as it was?

During the middle of January, Nintendo Life shared a sneak peek look at the upcoming Pokemon: Trading Card Game mini-expansion: Detective Pikachu. Consisting of about 24 cards, the article showed off “Case File” sets, the collector’s chest (or lunch box as I call it), and some of the special cards. All Pokemon would be modeled around their CGI movie counterparts to help really cement the expansion’s uniqueness. Between this announcement and also watching a YouTuber named ProJared play the classic GBC game based of the trading card series, I was hit with an old nostalgic feeling.

I wanted to collect Pokemon cards again.

Soft Reflection

The Pokemon: Trading Card Game and I go all the way back to the late 90’s when the first series, Base 1, hit America. It was Summerfest in Milwaukee and my parents bought me my first card pack. I broke it open and inside was a Venusaur Holo, my first ever Rare. However, I didn’t have the card for long when some older kids came up asking to buy it and my mom encouraged me to sell it to buy more packs. I got like eight bucks and I never got another Venusaur, no matter the series. Live and learn.

I was there for all the original series put out by Wizards of the Coast, from Jungle to Team Rocket to Neo Destiny. I hung on through some of the early days when Nintendo took over, through the very awkward eReader era, and when beautifully drawn art was often replaced with cheap CGI pictures. It was a dark and weird time, watching the franchise change rapidly. Eventually, right around the Emerald expansion, I checked out of the game having lost interest.

While I dabbled a little with playing the actual game, that was never my true focus. Paraphrasing the villain of Pokemon 2000, I was merely a collector.

My white/green whale. I’ll get you one day again. One day.

 

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

Flash-forward to almost fifteen years later, and I have returned to the series with renewed excitement. Preparing for the mini-expansion on the horizon, I dug out my original TGC binder filled with my old sets, bought a ton of plastic sleeves to hold cards, and I even got a new binder to boot. I was more than ready to hop back on the saddle.

I didn’t stop at that. I went ahead and decided to buy five booster packs of what looked like the most interesting expansion available, Crimson Invasion. A focus on the Aether Foundation and the arrival of the Ultra Beasts in the Alola Region, the theming excited me to no end and that it would be a good warmup for the real deal. I took my supplies & packs home with me and that, I began my descent back into collecting after all this time.

Opening the first pack felt so satisfying and pleasant. Helping that feeling was being greeted by one of my favorite Pokemon, Houndour. Further in, I also got series’ mascot, Pikachu. It felt so strangely fitting that the electric rodent would be there after all these years, like an old friend welcoming me back. I got mostly Pokemon from old generations (one that I already had plenty of cards of), though my first new Rare was for a new dragon, Kommo-o. Wrapping it all together was a reverse-holo of a rather smug, strutting proudly Numel.

All in all, it was a good first set to come back to, fitting in some ways and encouraging in others for wanting me to bust more open.

Truly, one wishes we could strut around with that level of confidence.

 

Seeing New and Old Alike

Opening the rest and looking over my spoils, there were plenty of familiar and different features hidden within. With the familiar, each pack still had the usual setup of several common cards, a few uncommons, an energy card, and one rare. Reverse-holo was still around, which is when the rest of the card is holographic instead of the picture. Retreat costs, weaknesses, and resistances; they were all still there.

However, there were still plenty of surprises, returning and new. Booster packs had once again starting packing at least ten cards, the number having dropped during the eReader days. QR Code cards were added, allowing you to download a booster pack for the online version of the card game. New energy types have been added, like Fairy and Dragon, while old ones were made common, like Dark and Steel, in comparison to when they were rather rare. Pokemon sets were now organized by Energy Base instead of rare, then uncommon, and finally common.

There were even small revamps to odd concepts that were neat as well. The reverse-holo now had embedded images in them, showing the energy type of the Pokemon. GX cards, the super rare, powerful, and one-per-deck kind, had since replaced EX cards. There are now variants to GX cards and even some Trainer Cards that showed the full body of a Pokemon or a different pose for a trainer. All of these special cards even had bumpy texture to them to boot.

However, the best thing I discovered was the return of an old favorite feature. To make way for the dot strips during the eReader times, several features of a card had to be stripped away. The biggest one was the Pokedex info, flavor-text that gave each cards extra personality and uniqueness to them. It’s what made certain series like Team Rocket so much fun, and helped with adding theming to an expansion. Without them, the cards kind of got boring and helped contribute to me leaving. Now, the text was back, having returned around the Diamond and Pearl era. It feels so satisfying to see it again.

Seriously, you used to be special and holographic! What happened to you?!

Feeling the Nostalgia

After those five packs and buying about fifteen more (I need help), I can definitely say that I still enjoy the fun of collecting Pokemon cards. Getting a pack, breaking it open in a way where I can only see one card, and slowly shifting through each card individually. Taking a moment to appreciate the fine artwork of each picture and reading the interesting text at the bottom, it’s oddly soothing. While it certainly can be frustrating at times, like opening the second pack of a series and, somehow, getting over half duplicates of the first pack, there is satisfaction in it.

There’s also a bit of addictiveness to it. Like I said, there’s a rush to opening cards and discovering what you get, hoping for something new and unexpected. However, getting bad pack after bad pack really gets you wanting to buy more to turn the odds around, even if it is impossible after a while. I’m luckily able to break out of that mindset easier than I was as a kid, knowing when to fold and cut my losses. However, it can be very enticing.

In the end, I bowed out of Crimson Invasion… just as a new expansion popped up, Team Up. Part of me wanted to buy a bunch of those boosters and continue collecting, but I decided against it. I’d rather just focus on completing the rest of expansions until Detective Pikachu hits. If I was much younger, I would have bought a crapton of them. They do look cool with the new theme of Pokemon teaming up together to fight, like Pikachu and Zekrom, and the designs are very enjoyable. Still, I’ll just gracefully step away.

Looking on this brief jump back into the Trading Card series, I had a lot of fun. Remembering all the good times that came with the cards, getting a rush from opening new series, and seeing all the improvements made to the card game in general. I still don’t think I’ll be playing the card game any time soon, but I’ll be sure to check out the Detective Pikachu expansion. If not as a warm up for the movie, but as a way to dive further into my old joy and love for this part of the Pokemon franchise.


Enough reminiscing from me! Time to open more card packs!

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