Pokémon Trading Card Game - Game Boy Color
My old, beloved (and slightly grubby) copy of Pokémon TCG on Game Boy. — Image: Nintendo Life

Soapbox features enable our individual writers to voice their own opinions on hot topics, opinions that may not necessarily be the voice of the site. In this piece, Ryan explores the idea of a Pokémon TCG video game reboot and why now could be the perfect time for such a release...

Considering just how many Pokémon games are out there, and how good The Pokémon Company has always been at hoovering up every last penny from its global army of fans, it's pretty surprising to realise that the official Pokémon Trading Card Game has only ever been adapted into video game form twice – and even then, one of those was exclusive to Japan.

While the ideas might not always be for me, I'll always appreciate Pokémon being used in new and interesting ways – like an app that helps kids to brush their teeth – but we're talking about a series that isn't afraid to recycle old ideas whether fans care for them or not. There have been a whopping eleven Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, for example, and between main series entries, remakes, spin-offs, and mobile titles, fans of the franchise have become used to seeing a small handful of new Pokémon experiences launch each year.

Pokemon TCG
These classic Pokémon cards are making a comeback this year. — Image: The Pokémon Company

So how come the Trading Card Game format – an already-established game in its own right that has shifted a staggering 30.4 billion cards over the last twenty-five years – has been used so little? Would a new video game based on the card game make sense? Would it generate the insane levels of revenue the company would expect and help to shift even more physical cards? The answers to those latter questions are 'probably' and 'quite possibly', but I'd argue there's never been a better time for the Pokémon gods to give it a go.

As you'll likely hear countless times over the next few months as new products hit store shelves, this year marks Pokémon's 25th anniversary. A "very special" year of celebrations has been teased (Katy Perry's already on board, for starters) and knowing how much The Pokémon Company likes to revisit the past, you can be sure there'll be some nods to where the series all started thrown into the mix. Indeed, on a fittingly topical note, some iconic Pokémon cards are being rereleased as part of the fun.

Suddenly, a whole community of players who would meet up at clubs or game shops to play and trade can no longer do so

That's a good enough reason for a TCG video game reboot in itself, but of course the anniversary falls at a weird time with the COVID pandemic raging on; while video games have actually bloomed as a result of people staying indoors, the Trading Card Game is another story altogether. A potential dip in sales aside, trading card games shine brightest in social settings – the one thing that currently can't exist. Suddenly, a whole community of players who would meet up at clubs or game shops to play and trade can no longer do so, and heading to a store to pick up some booster packs isn't exactly the same jolly trip it used to be.

Now, TCG Online – an official and ever-expanding digital version of the game playable on smart devices – almost ticks all of the boxes. In TCG Online, you can battle opponents with digital decks that you've built yourself, buy new cards to add to your digital collection, and even redeem codes from real, physical packs of cards to add even more. It's a wonderfully accurate recreation of the game and definitely works as a substitute for the real thing, but it's missing something, and that something is video game magic.

Pokemon Trading Card Game Online
TCG Online's good, but it's missing one special ingredient. — Image: The Pokémon Company, screenshot: Nintendo Life

Let me quickly interject a line or two about the thing that inspired me to write this piece in the first place: Pokémon Trading Card Game for the Game Boy. One of the two video games based on the TCG to appear on console, it released across 1998-2000 depending on your region and had players building up their own decks made up of cards from the real Trading Card Game's first three card sets. From there, you take on eight clubs to defeat their masters and earn medals, before taking on a version of Pokémon's classic Elite Four setup. Once you're certified the very best (like no one ever was), you can go on to battle and trade with friends who have a copy of the game on their Game Boy, too.

I've been replaying it over the past couple of weeks and, while the nostalgia helps, I've really fallen in love with both it and the Trading Card Game itself all over again. Completing objectives to receive booster packs in-game – no purchase required – is super-fun, and pulling a digital version of the shiny Blastoise card that I still have in a folder at home today made me happier than a few lines of game code ever should. It has a decent plot, NPCs to talk to, a full collection of cards to unlock through skill and gameplay rather than via additional purchases, and it's all playable on a Nintendo console. It feels right.

Charizard Pokemon Card
Imagine being able to unlock all the cards from your childhood right up to the present day, all on Switch. — Image: Nintendo Life

So, let me put forward the idea of a new Pokémon Trading Card Game for Switch. Just like the mainline games, players can start off as novices, but this time with a single deck of cards as they set off on a journey to become the best card player the world has ever seen. Cards from the series' past are all correct and present – can you imagine getting that Shiny Charizard everyone wanted but now, in 2021? – and once you wrap up the game's story, you can go ahead and play against all your Switch friends online.

Now, you've got something that feels like a 25th anniversary celebration, helps players to enjoy the game safely online, would attract new players to the physical game, and could happily launch for a console that seems to re-energise any franchise that appears on it. Now it really does tick all the boxes, and I'm getting hyped at the very thought of the idea.

Usually, I'd wrap up by saying something along the lines of "you know, this'll never happen so don't get too excited", but it's really not out of the question. For one thing, Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution — a Switch game that lets you collect 9000+ cards from that series' history and play out scenes from its anime — does pretty much all of the things I've been talking about here but for Konami's collectable card game. And if New Pokémon Snap can finally bring back a series that last saw the light of day twenty years ago, why couldn't a 'New Pokémon Trading Card Game' follow suit?

Please, Pokémon overlords. Let it happen!

Are you a fan of the Pokémon Trading Card Game? Would you like to see a new, updated game for Switch? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.