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Game Boy Color’s Pokémon Trading Card Game Aged Like Fine Wine

The Pokémon trading card game has went through a tremendous amount of changes as the years have gone by, and hate it or love it, the game’s here to stay. Like many others, I got in during the base set and collected cards with gusto, taking part in battles, trades, competitions and group deck building, but the changes became too much and the card count too high, so I ultimately dropped out of the scene and moved on. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy some good old TCG fun with Pokémon.

The Pokémon Trading Card Game on Game Boy Color has long been one of my favorite handheld titles, not just because it has a surprising amount of content on the cartridge, but because it can actively kick your ass if you get sloppy with deck building or draw a poor hand. Despite being an old game, it pulls no punches and forces you into the simple but difficult decisions that made the game so interesting for me when I was younger. In fact, I cherish my time spent with this game so much that it’s one of the titles I still frequently play on the original hardware.

Check out the still sealed GB Meowth!

The Pokémon Trading Card Game puts you on a similar path as what can be found in the mainline series of Pokémon games. You’ll take your character on an adventure from gym to gym where you’ll do battle with other duelists and gym masters in an attempt to earn the four legendary Pokémon cards in an attempt to defy your rival that same glory. In doing so, you’ll collect a huge array of cards of all types and master your deck building, or lose trying.

Going about the various gyms will allow you to duel with gym members or, on occasion, other duelists who just so happen to be in the area. The game follows the TCG rules to the letter which means every game is decided by one of the following factors:

  1. If you have no active Pokémon or benched Pokémon, you lose.
  2. If you lose all of your Prize Cards, you lose.
  3. If you deck out (run out of cards) and have no active Pokémon, benched Pokémon or Pokémon that can be placed on your bench, you lose.

Sure, it doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re trying to decide between evolving your Growlithe into an Arcanine, but you don’t know if you’ll be able to sustain it while the enemy has a Magneton opposing you, the fear of running out of Pokémon and Prize Cards can be a pulse-quickening situation. But what does that mean for those of you who may be unfamiliar?

Well, each Pokémon requires a certain amount of Energy Cards to be able to pull of certain attacks or return to the relative safety of your bench. Arcanine is a powerful Fire Type evolution with 100 Hit Points and it comes with two fairly powerful attacks. The first is Flamethrower and it requires two Fire Energy and any other one Energy Cards of your choosing, it deals a whopping 50 damage, but you must discard one of your Fire Energy Cards to use it. The other attack is Take Down it requires two Fire Energy and any other two Energy Cards of your choosing for a huge 80 damage, but in return Arcanine will suffer 30 damage to itself. So it’s a tricky gambit. But if you have a Defender Trainer Card, you could use it on your Arcanine to reduce the damage it takes by 20, making Take Down a pretty good move to make, while still leaving room for a follow up FlameThrower in the next round!

That’s but a small taste of what one Pokémon can get up to, and with other monsters bringing in poisons, paralysis effects, freezing, burning, sleeping and even self-buffs like Swords Dance, the possibilities stack up quickly! But the enemy AI is no slouch, and if they spot a weakness in your defenses, they will hammer you.

With over 200 cards drawing from the Base Set, Jungle Set, and Fossil Set divided between three types of Card Packs, Colosseum, Evolution, Mystery, and Laboratory, there’s a huge incentive to keep grinding away at your opponents while honing your deck list and collecting them all.

I recently spoke about how I miss instruction manuals in games, well I’m glad to report that despite being rather small, due to the size of a Game Boy Colors’ cartridge box dimensions, the Pokémon Trading Card Game has an extremely vibrant instruction manual filled with quick and easy to read information like the status ailment descriptors shown above, to a detailed breakdown of how a real-world trading card breaks down into its on-screen counterpart. Little touches like this are always appreciated by me.

While I still enjoy playing the game on its original hardware, you can also grab it on 3DS for a mere $5.99, which in my opinion is a steal! A bargain to good for any fan of card games to pass up. If you think you have what it takes to rise to the top, then go for it! This game has aged beautifully, and it’s as fun now as it was when I first got my hands on it. Now if only I could find a way to load of my Moltress with Fire Energy to burn through my opponent’s deck… hmm.