With all of the hype built up around the Pokémon 20th Anniversary celebrations this year, I recently discovered the Pokémon Training Card Game Online while looking for games to play on my iPad. After poking around the app for a bit, I quickly started to find myself in that all-too-familiar hook of buying booster packs and hoping to get the next great card that will propel me to victory. Amid the confusion of the many different expansions and about four hundred Pokémon I don’t recognize is the heart of a game that hooked me back in the late 90’s. Since then, new additions have been implemented that keep the game fresh and help you get some of the Pokémon you know and love off of your bench, into the battle, and mega-evolved quicker than ever.
Three of those Pokémon are fan favorites Charizard (shown right), Blastoise, and Venusaur. The game has put into play a series of Pokémon-EX (extra) cards that allow a player to put a Pokémon’s final evolution straight into battle. EX cards tend to have a higher HP value and more devastating attacks than their standard, incrementally evolved counterparts.
While all of this sounds pretty great, these new cards aren’t without their caveats. For example, the stakes are twice as high when you have an EX card in play. When your opponent defeats your active EX Pokémon, they are then able to take two of their six prize cards instead of the typical one card they would take for knocking out any normal Pokemon. Still, if you can get the requisite energy cards onto your starter fast enough, a fully-charged Pokémon EX can give you quite the head start in a battle.
One of the biggest ways the Pokémon Trading Card Game is capitalizing on nostalgia this year both online and offline is with the Pokémon Generations Expansion. This set is primarily made up of Pokémon from the original 150 as well as the mythical Pokémon being used in other promotions throughout the year. The Generations booster packs are only sold in collector’s sets so far, each of which comes with two or four booster packs and an online code to redeem the same number of packs in TCG Online. This is where the game really got it’s hooks in me. It’s fairly easy to find people selling the booster pack digital codes online so if you (or your wife) don’t want a home full of Pokémon cards, you can build out your digital collection with Generations cards on the cheap!
That actually brings me to the part of the game I’m most conflicted about. The Pokémon Trading Card Game Online is a free-to-play game without microtransactions that would allow you to buy more booster packs with real world currency. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a company putting out a free-to-play game that isn’t begging you for money every two minutes. On the other hand, though, it’s clear that the game was designed to push players into retail stores to buy physical card packs that will also bolster their digital collection. Personally, I’d like the option to pick up a booster pack in game for $1-2 so I could expand my collection without paying $5 for a booster pack and then having 10 physical cards I don’t want.
Overall, I’ve been really enjoying the Pokémon TCG Online. Its tutorials are simple and straightforward and they help to make it a fun, non-intimidating way to caught up on all the changes the game has gone through. Also, when you don’t have to immediately plunk down $60 for the game, that nostalgia tastes that much sweeter…