The Pokémon Game the West Never Saw
This game could have been a classic, but fate kept it from Western eyes.
It's hard to believe nowadays, with PokÃ©mon being such a perennial phenomenon, that there was a time where Nintendo and GameFreak would pass on bringing a title to their always ravenous PokÃ©crazed audience in North America. Fifteen years ago though, their video game dynasty was just cementing itself into pop culture. PokÃ©mon Gold and Silver had just released in North America to even more critical acclaim and higher sales than the original PokÃ©mon Red and Blue. Adding to that success was the PokÃ©mon Trading Card Game, which was causing such a commotion that it was being banned from schools due to the distraction it was causing in students.
PokÃ©mon has had a number of much beloved spin-off titles over the years, and one of the best was Pokemon Trading Card Game for Game Boy Color. Designed in the same RPG fashion as the games of the main series, PokÃ©mon Trading Card Game had you facing down eight different card clubs to earn Master Medals to finally face down the four Grand Masters at the PokÃ©mon Dome.
PokÃ©mon Trading Card Game was packed to the brim with features, and included almost every card available in North America at the time. To this day it's a wonderful way to experience the game in its original incarnation and is currently available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.
So why then if this title was so successful was there such a gap between it and the recently released PokÃ©mon Trading Card Game for iPad, Windows, and Mac? Well, there was one. After the release of PokÃ©mon Gold and Silver in Japan, they received a companion trading card game. PokÃ©mon Card GB2: Here comes Team GR! released in Japan on March 28, 2001 and in an almost unheard of convention in PokÃ©mon games, is a direct sequel to the first title in the series. You play as the character from the first game, Mark (or Mint if you choose to be a girl), beginning just after you have defeated the Grand Masters and become the champion.
Unlike the first game, which simply centered around becoming the champion, the objective this time around is to defeat Team Great Rocket. Team GR has stolen pretty much everyone's cards, and it's your job to wage guerrilla warfare on them and stop their leader King Biruritchi. The game is much larger, with two islands with 16 card clubs to fight in, much like PokÃ©mon Blue and Gold's dynamic. Instead of medals you've gotta earn coins to reach different areas of the map, and there is a ton added to this edition that vastly improves on the formula started with the first.
So, it's awesome right?! Why didn't Nintendo bring it to the West? Well, back in the early 2000's the process of localizing a test heavy game like PokÃ©mon was year-long process. With the Game Boy Advance coming out, and the earliest chance to release PokÃ©mon Card GB2 in the West being around early 2002, Nintendo felt that it wouldn't be worth the effort and money to bring it across the Pacific.
It's unfortunate in the extreme that Western audiences never got a chance to play this game. It's even more fun and well made than the first in the series and is extremely faithful to the card game's rules and mechanisms. Although there have been fan translations of the game into English, this is legally dubious and there will probably never be an official release of the title.
However, PokÃ©mon fever is at an all-time high, and a virtual console release of this game would be sure to be a best seller. With Nintendo's experimentation with its IPs and approach to game releases, maybe, just maybe, we'll get a surprise.