I’ve never had more mixed feelings about a Pokemon TCG expansion before. On the one hand, the Pokemon Go set is a wonderful celebration of what a phenomenon the mobile game has been over the last six years. On the other hand, the sheer amount of off-theme art and mechanics make it feel like two expansions stuffed together, and one of them has nothing to do with Pokemon Go. The incongruity of Pokemon Go and Sword & Shield features has the unfortunate effect of highlighting how much bloat the TCG has accumulated throughout this generation. As good as the Pokemon Go-themed cards and products are, I could have done without the rest of it.
In terms of presentation, this expansion nails the look right on the shelf. Almost every boxed product in this mini-set is wrapped in the iconic green fields and blue skies that greet you every time you launch Pokemon Go. The best themed boxes are the Team collections, which include a Team Instinct, Mystic, or Valor pin and a Full Art Trainer Card of either Spark, Blanche, or Candela. As a die-hard member of Team Valor, the Candela collection is the first TCG product I’ve considered keeping in the box. Those collections are the best example of what this expansion has to offer.
The set includes 88 new cards – less than half of the number of cards in a typical Sword & Shield expansion – and there’s plenty of great Pokemon Go references to find. Among the Trainer Cards are Egg Incubators, Lure Modules, and PokeStops, as well as the aforementioned team leaders and Professor Willow. It’s just the basics unfortunately, and you won’t find things like Poffins, Raid Passes, Incense, Star Pieces, or any of the Team Go Rocket leaders, but all of the trainer cards are at least from the game.
This isn’t the case with the Pokemon cards, which more often than not look like they could have come from any old set. You will find a few nice references to Pokemon Go throughout, including the peel-away Ditto cards that are just as cool as they look in the videos, as well as CG Pokemon in real-life locations, but there are also a lot of generic cards. Among the 74 cards that feature Pokemon, only 19 of them are styled after Pokemon Go – and I included five of those only because they feature Meltan/Melmetal.
I’m surprised that so many of these cards lack a real connection to Pokemon Go through their art, but I’m even more surprised to see mechanics that aren’t even featured in Pokemon Go. Two of the TCG’s most recent additions, Radiant Pokemon and VSTAR Pokemon, are heavily featured in this expansion, despite not appearing in Pokemon Go. One of the bigger, more expensive productions in this set is the Radiant Eevee Premium Collection, which features a Radiant Eevee pin, promo card, and eight Pokemon Go packs. It’s a great bundle, but it’s strange to feature a type of Pokemon that isn’t in Pokemon Go.
I know TCPi has to balance expansions for collectors and players, and that things like VMAX, VSTAR, and Radiant cards are important competitive mechanics, but I can’t help but feel like their inclusion hurts the overall theme of the set. As a collector and lover of Pokemon Go, I would have preferred the expansion to forgo anything that isn’t directly inspired by the mobile game, including regular cards that don’t match the aesthetic of Go. I’m especially unsatisfied with the MS_Paint style of Radiant Charizard, Radiant Venusaur, and Radiant Blastoise. Neither the mechanic nor the artwork represents Pokemon Go at all.
When the Pokemon Go TCG Expansion is hitting its marks, it's everything I could ever want. The Team Collections are a perfect example because they combine both games together so well. Unfortunately, a lot of this mini-set wouldn’t read as a Pokemon Go expansion if it didn’t also have the logo stamped in the corner of every card. Grab yourself your favorite Team Collection, open a few Pokeball tins if you like, but don’t worry about collecting ‘em all this time around. We may only have one more full set before the Scarlet & Violet generation begins, and I’m very much looking forward to a fresh start.
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