Pokemon has remained a multimedia juggernaut since Poke-mania reached its peak in the early aughts, but the franchise experienced a resurgence in 2016 with the arrival of Pokemon Go. Blending geolocation and augmented reality, the mobile game was an immediate hit, as eager players around the world flooded parks and stopped traffic in search of wild Pokemon.
Since that explosive debut, Pokemon Go has continued to grow. Now, six years on from the mobile game’s release, the Pokemon Trading Card Game has launched its first Pokemon Go-themed card expansion, and it’s a beauty.
Featuring nearly 80 new cards inspired by the hit mobile game, the Pokemon Go TCG set is a handsome collection that lovingly pays tribute to Niantic’s spin-off. What’s most striking is just how ably the set translates the essence of the mobile game into trading cards, both aesthetically and mechanically.
The card artwork is a particular highlight. The hand-drawn cards are beautiful as ever, but the expansion also introduces several photorealistic cards depicting Pokemon in real-world settings, harking back to Pokemon Go’s augmented reality nature. Not only are these cards stylistically unique compared to other Pokemon TCG sets, but they also capture a range of scenes, from a Charizard soaring majestically through a cityscape to a Snorlax hilariously obstructing someone’s doorstep.
Most creative, however, is the new Ditto card, which references the mobile game in a clever way. In Pokemon Go, the shapeshifting Ditto typically appears in the wild disguised as a different Pokemon, only revealing its true form once it has been captured. The new Ditto card plays a similar trick. Certain Pokemon cards in the set are marked with a small, easily overlooked Ditto icon in the lower left corner. Peel back the corner of these cards and you’ll discover the top layer is actually a sticker concealing the real Ditto card. It’s an ingenious way to recreate the surprise of encountering a Ditto in Pokemon Go.
As a casual Pokemon TCG fan who has only dabbled in the actual card game, I can’t speak to the metagame implications of the new Pokemon and Trainer cards. As collectibles, however, the Pokemon Go set is one of the most stunning TCG expansions in recent memory. New card sets are released at such a brisk pace that it’s often difficult for casual fans to keep up with, but the Pokemon Go expansion is worth seeking out, even if you haven’t felt the urge to buy Pokemon cards in ages.
The Pokemon Go TCG set is available to purchase in stores and on. You can read more about the collection and view the full list of new cards on the official Pokemon TCG website.
CNET was provided a complimentary set of cards by the publisher.