Let’s not mince words. Pokemon is ultimately for children. Yes, many of us adults love it, but this isn’t one of those game series that has “grown up” with its audience while trying to appeal to older fans like Final Fantasy or Zelda. This is a franchise in an eternal state of maturation like Peter Pan.
But you know, like a lot of the best stuff for kids, there’s something for adults in it too. It’s like Doctor Who – a family TV show, but with legions of grown-up fans who probably should know better but love it nonetheless. I’m one of them, both for that blue box show and for throwing Pokeballs.
Go to the Pokemon World Championship and you’ll find that it’s one of the few esports and tabletop competitions that is age-categorized to ensure that the adult competitors don’t just wash away the kids who these games are really meant to be.
For a long time, I was pretty sure The Pokemon Company was largely content to gleefully ignore adult fans. It felt like all aspects of Pokemon were designed primarily for kids – and adults just had to get on board. I think it was great for the whims of the childhood series, though not necessarily great for the quality of the games. 10-year-olds generally don’t complain or understand the horrible, stomach-turning frame rate, so TPC still puts out technical pigs. Besides, it always seemed like a smart strategy.
But slowly but surely TPC is realizing that there is a strong distinct market for these fans. This is likely due to the fact that Pokemon Go is a massive phenomenon that touched many 90s kids who hadn’t thought about Caterpa in over a decade. Now the company is starting to cover this segment in more detail – and honestly, that’s what I’m here for.
For the anniversary of Pokemon, we got reissues of classic cards and other such Christmas accents. But the best part has just been revealed – Pokemon Trading Card Game Classic. This is for adults; young at heart and that’s a brilliant idea.
It’s so brilliant for two reasons. The first is pretty simple: nostalgia for Pokemon TCG is intense, but the card game has also changed a lot over the years. I’ve been flirting back to TCG and playing its online offerings forever, but my true affinity with this tabletop fighter lies somewhere between the Core Set and Neo Discovery. I downsized after that.
The rules of the game have changed and become more complex; old cards are not even legal in the modern game.
New TCG Classic exists for people like me, 30 year olds with fond memories of specific cards and builds who would probably play Pokemon TCG if there weren’t a whole bunch of new mechanics and meta to learn. And so it is.
If you missed the announcement during the Pokemon Anniversary Stream, the Classic Bundle basically features a bunch of Classic cards, offering three unique decks – one each themed around those classic Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise cards that the playground envied. It’s classic rules, classic setup. Neither is legal in the current TCG meta – it’s meant to be a standalone thing.
Pokemon teamed up with Nendo, best known for his cute but expensive Nendoroid figures, for the design. It comes in a sleek black box that unfolds like a prestige board game to create your playing field. Instead of flipping coins, you spin a ball in a roulette-like drum that lands heads or tails. Damage counters are cumulative and generally mega-premium compared to the main game. The cards themselves have sleek black backs – which both sets them apart from the originals and gives them a distinct “this is for adults” look.
This appeals to me even though I know the “adult” package will come at a higher price. No Western MSRP has been confirmed, but in Japan it is expected to be 35,000 yen, which equates to around $257 / £215. It’s expensive and I’m frowning but I know I’ll probably be there on my first day.
Other than that, I think it’s a damn clever idea. A few years ago, I reviewed Pokemon Battle Academy, which was a similar idea, but for the kids’ version of the game. What I discovered with this set is that having a universal Pokemon TCG set that is almost built like a board game has real power.
Basically, Battle Academy had everything you need to just play in one box. Three unique decks, a game board, everything you need to get started, and clear, step-by-step instructions. Just buy, open, play. No boosters, no starter kits that require a second deck to get started. Just the ability to play. It’s the same thing again, but as a premium product (probably 10 times the price, Battle Academy was just £20) and aimed at adults.
The adult focus is what justifies the price, which probably makes it attractive to TPC. Let’s admit it. And I hope they decide to be reasonable about how accurately they position it cost-wise in the West. But as a product concept, and as an idea for the future of the Pokemon franchise, I think it’s brilliant.
Pokemon should still focus on kids. That’s who it’s for and I would never want to rip off the franchise from them. But throwing dice to adult fans here and there can be exciting and also very successful. Lego has undergone a similar revival over the past decade, with adult-focused sets now a huge part of its business – and I really feel like Pokemon can do the same. Let’s hope TCG Classic is just the first step.