This box was intentionally left blank

OK, this is just gonna be a quicky update, nothing special.

ONE: I updated the Colordex… kinda. I mean, while I was waiting for something to happen, I pulled the attack button colors from HGSS, BW1 and BW2. Y’know, this stuff:

…it’s the boxes used between Gens 4 and 7 when you attacked via touching the attack you wanted on the DS’s touchscreen. Well, each type had its own color, so I added those colors to the Colordex. Sorta. I mean, I have all the color data now, I just need to add it, but I didn’t add that info yet. I DID add the sections for them and all the empty boxes, so the spots for them exist already… I just need to add them in. Until then, they’re just black.

TWO: I added a new page in the “Research & Theory” section for the Voltorb Flip minigame in at least Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver. I forget if they added it in any other game. But anyways, it simply shows every possible card you can get in Voltorb Flip based on the numbers you see on the side. So if you see 08/Voltorb1 (8 points, 1 Voltorb), that means you can expect two 1s, two 3s and one V. Pretty simple, huh?

Just FYI, the columns “A/B/C/D/E” simply represent the numbers that could exist anywhere in the list, it doesn’t represent the ACTUAL pattern for that row. So based on the above 08/Voltorb1 row (8 points, 1 Voltorb) example, this means it could be something like 1/V/3/3/1 or V/3/1/1/3 or 3/1/V/3/1 or 1/3/1/V/3 or… well, you get the idea.

Anyways, here’s a quick preview of what the full chart looks like:

Pts Voltorb A B C D E 1 2 3 V Sum
03 2 1 1 1 V V 3 0 0 2 5
03 3 1 2 V V V 1 1 0 3 6
03 4 3 V V V V 0 0 1 4 7
05 0 1 1 1 1 1 5 0 0 0 5
05 1 1 1 1 2 V 3 1 0 1 6
05 2 1 2 2 V V 1 2 0 2 7
05 2 1 1 3 V V 2 0 1 2 7
05 3 2 3 V V V 0 1 1 3 8
08 0 1 1 1 2 3 3 1 1 0 8
08 0 1 1 2 2 2 2 3 0 0 8
08 1 2 2 2 2 V 0 4 0 1 9
08 1 1 1 3 3 V 2 0 2 1 9
08 1 1 2 2 3 V 1 2 1 1 9
08 2 2 3 3 V V 0 1 2 2 10

Pretty nifty, huh? Hopefully this chart helps you in your next game!

Oh wait… so, why make this when there already is a Voltorb Flip solver? Well, first off the solver doesn’t show you what your possible cards are given a particular input, it simply just has you punching in cards one-by-one based on probabilities. This chart instead shows you what’s possible given a particular point/Voltorb combination. Plus maybe someone doesn’t want it solved for them? I think this chart makes for a fair compromise for players who still want to be able to solve it themselves and instead need just a little hint in the right direction. It’s about hand UPs, not hand OUTs here!

Anyways, that’s it for today. Again, nothing to write home about, just a small little notice about a small little addition or two…


Not quite a Gigaleak. More like a Decaleak. Centileak? .... Millileak.

With all the recent Gigaleaks and Megaleaks which have been revealing various mysterious bits of unknown and hidden Pokémon video game history to the masses… I must admit feeling like the Pokémon TCG has been left out in the cold a bit. Heck, not even a beta version of the Pokémon TCG Game Boy game surfaced! What rotten luck.

But recently I discovered something that simply knocked me off my socks. Initially I thought it was simply someone’s fake card that they managed to trick a professional card grader into sealing up for them… but the closer I looked into it, the more I realized that I stumbled upon something extremely important to the history of the Pokémon TCG. Here, take a look-see for yourself!

Wha…. what the heck is this??

Well, today I’ll give you the quick and simple story about how this card came about, but also break down everything there is to find out about this card… such as why making this Blastoise was the most PERFECT idea, to what exactly its mysterious “009/165” collector number might mean.

 


Just What Is This Card??

I first discovered this card—and, as I would later discover, it would be one of five known versions—on a Heritage Auction page for that card. The page itself describes its origins simply:

“Wizards of the Coast in mid-1998 commissioned Cartamundi to print two of these cards to be used as “Presentation” pieces to seek Nintendo’s approval to begin printing Pokémon cards in English. To add to the desirability, the card features one of the most popular Pokémon in the game, Blastoise!”

Just so you know, Cartamundi is a Belgian card printer, who have been printing Magic the Gathering since the very beginning and continues to print their cards to this very day. Since they were definitely printing for Wizards’ back in 1998, they surely would’ve been their go-to printer to help produce their first test English Pokémon TCG cards as well.

Anyways, the auction is long over, and this card ended up selling for $360,000! Holy crackers! Also, ignore the statement where it says that they had only two cards printed; as mentioned, this card is actually one of maybe five known versions. Four of them exist with a gold border and were graded by CGC Comics, and one with a black border which was owned by a Wizards’ employee who shared their copy to help with authentication. You should definitely read up on CGC Comics analysis of the cards on their website here, as they go through amazing details concerning where the cards came from and what they did to authenticate them. Now of the four versions of the Blastoise cards which were authenticated, three of them had a standard “Magic” foil and Magic: the Gathering card back, while the fourth had the Classic Holofoil and a plain white card back… this would be the one sold in the Heritage Auction.


The other three gold-bordered Blastoise, as well as an example of their Magic card back (source)

As you can see, they made multiple different versions, but they’re all effectively the same card. Even the sole Black-bordered version is the same, although it does have a few minor differences which leads me to believe that it was produced AFTER the gold-bordered versions. Here’s a quick breakdown of these two versions:

The one on the left represents all four gold-bordered cards, which you can also see the holofoil cutting into the Evolution box, similar to how the Japanese cards did holos for a while. With the Black-bordered card on the right, you can see the holo going “behind” the Evolution box. Now as the CGC Comics article discusses, the Black-bordered card comes from a test print sheet full of other Magic cards which were also being tested, so they most likely mixed this sole Pokémon card into it to maximize printing capabilities; therefore, the Black-bordered Blastoise is more likely because it was mixed into the Magic sheet versus any plans to produce Black-bordered Pokémon TCG cards. In any case, other than the border and the holofoil style, these two cards—and their kin—are effectively the same.

That said, it would’ve been interesting to see where the use of black-bordered Pokémon TCG cards might have gone. Like, the use of a black border was something Wizards did with Magic cards back then… well, I guess they still do it today, technically. But more like, they utilized black borders to denote card releases; the alternative was the use of white borders (which were reserved for card reprints), gold borders (which were used for non-tournament legal reprints), and silver borders (which were used for other non-tournament legal cards). Furthermore, this was something they did a lot back when they distributed the Pokémon TCG, so it makes me wonder about whether or not Wizards’ might have done something similar with the Pokémon TCG if given the opportunity to.


Magic: The Gathering’s old borders: Black, White, Gold and Silver

Anyways……

So its history seems pretty straight-forward: Wizards was clearly trying to impress Nintendo while in the process of getting the license to produce and distribute the Pokémon TCG outside of Japan, so they made these cards. Clearly it worked, because… well, they ended up getting the license! But what makes this card so important to Pokémon TCG history? After all, this kind of prototyping is pretty common with all brands and products, so what separates this from any other prototype?

Well first off, just like with the Gigaleaks, this is simply a rare look into the initial design process of what is basically the second most popular trading card game in the world! Specifically, it’s the very first “behind the scenes” look in the Pokémon TCG’s English design process, both chronologically and what has actually been revealed to the public. It’s especially important because these Blastoise cards look significantly different from what would ultimately be in English’s “1st Edition Base Set” release.

On top of that, these cards are also basically the ONLY version of this particular card in English. That is to say, the card that Wizards based their “commissioned presentation” on ended up being the CD Promo Blastoise:

…but despite these cards being made, a subsequent English version of it would never end up being produced. So aside from these test prints, there are NO English “CD Promo Blastoise”.

When you put this all together… aside from them being a one-of-a-kind English version of a promo card which otherwise never saw a Western release, they are also a one-of-a-kind early printing of English Pokémon TCG cards. So a card that is doubly one-of-a-kind? I’d say that’s top tier importance! That said, the only thing that brings it down a notch in terms of ULTIMATE importance is the fact that Wizards was basically a licensee contracted to produce and distribute the English version of the game. They didn’t own the game itself. So in a certain way, it’s not AS “official” as if it was a Japanese card, but it’s certainly more official than if, say, I made a one-of-a-kind Pokémon TCG card myself. Still, this isn’t to completely discredit its importance and value in the grand scheme of things… if there ever was a pantheon of the most historically important cards in Pokémon TCG history, this would certainly belong in it before even “1st Edition Charizard” would!

Of course, this is simply the history portion of this discussion and if all you wanted to know was where this card came from… well, there we are. But there’s still quite a lot left to go over when it comes to actually processing the true historical value of this Blastoise… which includes working out how different this Blastoise is relative to the designs that ended up appearing in the final English release of 1st Edition Base Set on January 9th, 1999, and therefore getting an idea of how Wizards came to that design. Well, beyond simply copying Japan’s homework. In fact, Wizard’s choice of a card like Blastoise was perhaps the best choice they could’ve made in order to impress Nintendo with, as it really nearly is an entire design document for pretty much every other possible card design… and all wrapped up in a single card.

 


Blastoise: an Entire Pokémon TCG Style Guide in a Single Card

First off though, to get an idea of how different Prototype Blastoise is to the final product, here it is next to an Unlimited-style and 1st Edition Base Set Blastoise. Here you can get an idea of what kind of changes occurred between their first initial design test and what ended up being designed for the 1st Edition runs, then finally the Unlimited-style run where the cards looked even more like their Japanese counterparts (tho only just).


1st Edition Blastoise scan from PkmnCards.com

As mention above, Blastoise was perhaps the most perfect card Wizards’ could’ve chosen to recreate, because it so perfectly encapsulates so much about the card game’s design style, rules, etc, all in a single card. If Nintendo representatives had any questions about “what English word will you be using to denote THIS game play element” or “what would this other card look like with this number of Energy”, all they had to do was simply look at the Blastoise card, and I’d say 95% of their questions could be answers right away. The alternative would’ve been to simply design and print multiple cards to cover all those different potential questions and possibilities… but Wizards producing the Pokémon TCG was not some fore-gone conclusion just yet, I doubt they would’ve had the time and ability to draw up a multiple cards. Besides, clearly printing needless cards was costly and time consuming—otherwise Wizards wouldn’t have needed to attach those Blastoise test prints onto sheets with Magic cards on it!—so why not be more efficient and just design one in English card… but choose a card that covers as much of your bases as possible. Makes sense, right?

So to get an idea of how perfect this card is when trying to showcase the core style guide that could be applied to every other card—at least in Base Set, Jungle and Fossil—here’s a breakdown:

  • Choosing a Stage Level 2 Evolution card also implies what a Level 1 Evolution card would look like (Level 2 has two gold lines, so Level 1 would have only one)
  • Blastoise has both a Power (“Special Power” instead of “Pokémon Power”) and an Attack
    • Though the word “attack” does not appear on the card itself.
  • Both Rain Dance and Hydropump establishes how Energy card types would be referenced: instead of an Energy symbol, the Energy type is actually spelled out
  • Rain Dance also shows that Special Conditions—Asleep, Paralyze and Confusion—would be written in italics, thus emphasizing the fact that those are Special Conditions instead of something else
  • It also showed some of the primary game ruling, namely that you can otherwise only play a limited number Energy Card from your hand each turn.
    • Technically it doesn’t say how many you’re limited to, but kinda implies a limit of one Energy per turn, by virtue of “as many … as you want”.
  • Hydropump attack uses three Energy, showing what both a 1, 2, 3 AND 4-energy cost attack would look like
    • That is to say, a 1-energy cost attack would look like that single middle Water energy on the bottom, while a 2-energy cost attack would look like the two Water energy on the top. And since we can see that a three-energy cost attack places energy in two rows, a FOUR-energy cost would simply be two rows of the 2-energy cost format
  • Hydropump also was an attack that did extra damage, thus showing what other attacks using multipliers would look like.
  • Furthermore, it was self-referential, thus establishing what other similar attacks would read like.
  • Since Blastoise’s HP is three-digits (100), that’s the fullest extent of the space needed for any HP between 30 and 120
  • That particular Blastoise is from a Japanese promotion involving trading cards (both the noun AND the verb), and then was released in a CD of various Pokémon songs… but the point is, it had a Set Symbol—a yellow lightning bolt—and that icon is placed right next to the HP. Therefore other sets—Jungle, Fossil, etc—would have their set symbols placed there.
    • Of course, where the “1st Edition” symbol would go is unknown, but I highly suspect Wizards had no plans for that concept until much later.
  • With a three-energy retreat cost escape, it could be easily imagined of what cards with one- and two-energy costs would also look like… possibly even no-energy costs (just simply nothing after that em-dash).
  • Other style guide standards are also showcased, such as:
    • what the action is to play something from your hand (“play”)
    • what these creatures are called (“Pocket Monster(s)”, “monster card”)
    • what kind of costs are involved in using them (“Energy”, “Energy Card”)
    • where unplayed cards are held (“[your] hand”)
    • when you can play your cards (“[your] turn”)
    • the verb and adjective of placing additional cards onto your Pocket Monsters (“stack”, “attach”)
    • how Pocket Monsters can defeat another (“[deal(s)] … damage”)
    • if “Special Power” can be known as something else (“ability”)

The only thing missing from this card which it doesn’t address is:

  • What a Basic Pokémon Pocket Monster card would look like
  • What “Hydropump” actually is (since it was self-referential, it doesn’t actually call itself an “attack”)
  • Where the Resistance would go

That’s pretty much everything missing… so I must say, choosing Blastoise was a pretty good choice for this purpose, as it clearly covered a LOT of different elements of game play in a single card.

  • inb4 “Charizard has a Resistance!” Yeah but it doesn’t have an attack that does extra damage, and it arguably also isn’t self-referential. Plus its attack uses 4 Fire Energy, meaning you wouldn’t have an idea of what a 1-energy attack would look like

That said, I’m sure the folks at Wizards didn’t think THIS deeply when deciding which card they wanted to print to impress Nintendo with, but hey… maybe they did? I mean, maybe they didn’t bullet-point everything like I did, but once they had at least got Venusaur, Charizard and Blastoise translated, I’m sure they all looked at each other and nodded: “Blastoise. It’s just too obvious.” And yeah, now we know why!

 


A Breakdown of the Proto-ness

But now that we have a good idea of WHY they chose Blastoise to build their prototype card off of… what exactly is going on with this card? Why does it look so different?

Once again, here’s my breakdown. First tho, clearly they went with a bit more of a literal translation of the Japanese card elements, or at least use of its standards… so we see stuff like:

  • “Level #” instead of “Stage #”
  • “escape” instead of “retreat (cost)”
  • “Evolved from” (past tense) instead of “Evolves from” (present/future tense)
  • “Stack this card on the monster card.” instead of “Put XXXXX on the Stage 1/2 card”
  • “Pocket Monster(s)” instead of “Pokémon”
  • “Special Power” instead of “Pokémon Power”
  • the literal use of “Water Energy Cards” versus ZW; this is because the original Japanese cards used Kanji forms of the Energy type instead of the actual Energy symbol
  • The “Level” evolution box creeping out into the card border—like the original Japanese card design—instead of staying inside the card frame
    • Incidentally, that evolution box design is the same one used in 1st Edition Shadowless Base Set cards, but was changed in subsequent Shadowed designs
  • The use of two bars to denote “Level 2″—also like the original Japanese—but the English cards (even in 1st Edition Shadowless) used one bar, regardless of Stage number
  • “HP100” instead of “100 HP”
    • This makes me believe that the other “HP #0” errors in 1st Edition Base Set Metapod, Caterpie and Vulpix might have been because those were the first cards to be designed and the decision to swap “HP #0” to “#0 HP” came a bit later in the design process…

Other significant design changes include:

  • Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first: is that Comic Sans?!
    • Actually, no. I did a bit of research at WhatTheFont (see right) and instead it’s a typeface called Tekton Pro; it’s used for the Pokémon’s name, HP, Special Power name, Attack name and Damage amount.
    • The rest of the card is good ol’ Gill Sans.
    • There is ONE other typeface used: the “Level” in the lower-left corner of the Flavor Text box. It appears to simply be some variant of Helvetica.
  • Card art is smaller, as is the Art Box area itself
    • I mean, yeah, the Art Box border is thicker, but that overall area itself is a bit smaller… then the actual card artwork is smaller on top of that.
  • As mentioned above, the Set Symbol was placed next to the HP instead of next to the Stat Box… which is mysteriously absent.
    • More curious is that, whoever designed this Blastoise clearly saw that the corner between the Stat Box and the Art Border was a nice place for the Set Symbol… yet they made the deliberate choice to remove the Stat Bar and move the Set Symbol up by the HP.
  • Speaking of the Stats, they got moved down to the Flavor Text box.
    • The fact that its stats are located down there instead of a separate Stat Box is perhaps the most significant change between this prototype and a final card.  Even the cart art with its thicker border… at least it has a border!
    • Also whoever designed this had no concept of the metric system. It’s like they took Blastoise’s metric stats—1.6m, 85.5 Kg—dropped the quantifiers—1.6, 85.5—then rounded them up to some arbitrary value—2, 100—and called it good. “Hmmm… 1.6m, 85.5 Kg… that’s like, 2 ft and 100 pounds, right?”
  • The Flavor Text box itself is… well it’s something.
    • The flavor text has both the height of the Japanese version and the width of the English version. The flavor text itself is three full lines, and the Level value is shoved right in the corner. It ALSO doesn’t have Blastoise’s Pokédex number; though I think that might have been covered by its Collector Number (see below). Either way, I’m glad they made the Flavor Text box a much more efficient size in the end.
    • Its flavor text itself is just a translation of its original Japanese card’s Pokédex entry: “It crushes its foe under its heavy body to cause fainting. In a pinch, it will withdraw inside its shell.” (体が重たく、のしかかって相手を気絶させる。ピンチのときは、カラにかくれる。) This entry in turn was based on its original Japanese Red/Green entry. This flavor text also exemplifies how Wizards used to translate the Pokédex entries into English before realizing that… well, Nintendo already did it for them. Directly translating them caused for some interesting Flavor Text errors in the early Pokémon TCG releases.
  • Both the names of its Power and Attack are followed by a colon to separate it from its game text. Meanwhile in the final design, their names are separated from its game text by virtue of the names being larger and bolder.
  • Its copyright info is different, but it’s still one more than the Japanese version ever had.
  • Its collector number both has leading zeros (009 instead of simply 9), has the rarity tacked onto the end (instead of a symbol) and is… out of 165?
    • I have an idea about that below… and it also may explain why Blastoise’s Pokédex number is not included in its Flavor Text.

All this said, this prototype design still does at least cover core Pokémon TCG card design in the broad strokes… name, type, evolution info, HP, powers, attacks, weakness and retreat info, as well as its flavor text, illustrator and collector number are are all where they’re supposed to be, the attack itself is ordered properly—Energy, Game Text, Damage—so honestly, it’s a lot closer to the final design than not, and this is especially considering of how strangely different it is in general.

 


My Fan Fakes and Fan Theories

But perhaps best part about having this card lay out nearly all of the core design and style guidelines is… I can make fakes and blanks out of this! Yup, using my Neo Redux blanks as a base, I can very easily make a complete set of blanks in this format, complete with “Level” Evolution boxes poking into the border, larger Flavor Text box and set symbol located by the HP! Oh, and in both gold AND black borders. Take a look!

Of course I had to make a few guesses about some of the card elements, like what Basic Pokémon Pocket Monsters would look like (I mean, I used “Basic Pocket Monster”, but maybe I should stick with the standard “Basic Pokémon” for ruling compatibility?), where the resistance would go (I placed it to the right of “escape”, thus keeping “escape” in the middle, but maybe I should move “escape” over to the right where it normally is?)… but I think it’ll be a fun little project to do. … At least, once I’m finished with all the other blanks I need to make!

Anyways, there’s just one last mystery left about this card: why is it #9 out of 165? Normal Base Set Blastoise was #2/102, while the original Japanese CD Promo of Blastoise was #009, and only because that was its Pokédex number. OK so maybe that explains why its #009—as well as why its Pokédex number wasn’t in the Flavor Text box like it normally is—but what about the 165? Let’s think of a few ideas first:

  • So maybe it’s Base Set plus Jungle, right? Well, that would be 102 + 48 (ignoring how the English set made holo and nonholo versions of the rares)… which is 150 cards.
  • Base Set + Jungle + Fossil then? That’s 150 plus another 48 cards… lol nope
  • Aha! Well, a little birdy once told me that Wizards actually gained the rights to the “Vending Machine” set from day one, despite never actually releasing it. So maybe they were gonna mix it with Base Set then? Well, Vending had 108 cards, and 102 + 108 is…. oof, not 165.
    • I mean, I GUESS they could’ve just taken the best 63 cards from Vending and added it to Base Set, bringing it up to 165, but I highly doubt that.
  • Perhaps it’s simply 151 Pokémon, plus X number of trainers from Base Set, Jungle and Fossil, thus a total of 165 cards, right? Weeeellll… there’s 26 Trainer cards alone in Base Set. And then ignoring Energy cards (which were also counted as part of the 102 card size of Base Set), that’s 177 cards.

So honestly, I can’t think of any other combination of cards that bring it up to 165! Well…. except for one last idea: “POKÉGODS”.

 


Reign of the PokéGods

Well, not literal Pokégods, but the name some fans gave to all of the post-Mew Pokémon that have been slowly dropped into the anime here and there—like Togepi and Snubbull—but were not part of the main list of official 151 Pokémon, and especially before “Johto” entered into everyone’s vocabulary. After all, this was 1998, and Gold/Silver had yet to be officially released… however news about its future was already beginning to be spread across both schoolyards and video gaming news sites alike. Knowledge of officially new Pokémon was out there, so maybe Wizards wanted to include their numbers to the 151 to show that they’re paying attention?


Ah yes, everyone remembers Buru and Pikablu!

Personally this makes the most amount of sense to me… so in that case, that would mean that Blastoise isn’t card #9 of a 165 cards set, but Pokémon #9 out of 165 total Pokémon. But… were there 14 GS Pokémon known back then to bring the total up from 151 to 165? Well, let’s put our thinking caps on… First off, by the 1998 Japanese release of Pikachu’s Vacation and Pokémon The First Movie, there was definitely:

  1. Ho-Oh (as seen in the very first episode)
  2. Togepi
  3. Marill
  4. Snubbull
  5. Donphan

…well, that’s five already, so maybe we’ll include the three starters:

  1. Chikorita
  2. Cyndaquil
  3. Totodile

…and that’s eight so far. Hmm… maybe if we include Pokémon introduced by the second movie release Pokémon The Movie 2000 and Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure:

  1. Elekid
  2. Bellossom
  3. Ledyba
  4. Hoothoot
  5. Lugia
  6. Slowking

That’s 14 Pokémon right there! This could very easily account for the 165 value on the Blastoise card. The ONLY slight issue might be that many of these didn’t appear in Japan until 1999, but then again maybe Wizards was privy to this information during initial meetings with Nintendo back in 1998, as I’m sure Nintendo had all this information sorted out by then. For example, perhaps Wizards wanted to get an idea of Nintendo’s long-term plans for the franchise—afterall, why start work on a card game that clearly has no future?—and Nintendo likely told them “well, we’re working on a new game called ‘Pokémon Gold and Silver’, and these are just 14 of the new creatures which will be part of it… so I guess you can say that there are really 165 Pokémon at this point, just that only 151 will appear in the Red and Blue games being released”. They might have even been shown some Southern Islands product showing Showking, Marill, Togepi and Ladyba, which although wouldn’t release until 1999 as well, I’m sure they had plenty of behind-the-scenes material to show.

In any case, consider that 14 is the number we needed, and the number of G/S Pokémon revealed by this point in time is 14 as well. Coincidence??

 


What A MAJOR Deal!

PHEW!! What a HUUUUGE post today! Yep, well, these posts really do get my brain cells fired up, because of all the different ideas, elements, history and whatnot that are involved in trying to understand what I’m looking at. The fact that this prototype Blastoise card was revealed to the world is effectively the TCG equivalent of the Gigaleak that revealed all the Space World Prototypes to the world. OK, well, maybe not to THAT degree, but the concept is the same: it’s tapping into a hidden history of Pokémon which us mere mortals would’ve never otherwise known about. And now that we can finally see it, break it down and mine it for useful history, the fandom is scarcely the same afterwards. I mean, just look at what this one single card brought up? We touched on the history of Wizards of the Coast as well as the cloudy pre-G/S era of Pokémon, plus card design elements, lessons in efficient design, and even snuck in a few fan theories. Clearly this was a really big deal!

Anyways, hopefully more hidden bits of TCG history like this will be uncovered in the time to come… and when it does, you can be sure that I’ll be on top of it. … OK, well, three months after everyone else talks about it, of course. Good times? You betcha!


Wait, that sounds Dutch or German! Maybe.... Norwegian? Can't be Danish tho, it doesn't sound potato-y enough.
A Quick Diversion:

New Flipside Comic kickstarter! Check it out!

OK well, Brion doesn’t sound THAT silly in real life, but his webcomic Flipside is definitely the bee’s knees! And frankly it’s one of the longest running webcomics I’m aware of. Ex-PA! super star Jen Brazas (aka Savage Sparrow, aka NeoQueenJen, aka TRCassidy) has been helping out with Flipside as well—I mean, they’re married afterall, you would think she would help out her hubby!

If you’re into awesome comics about jester girls and swordswomen and deep emotional plotlines… definitely give Flipside a go!


The Actual News:

As an artist, I really enjoy looking relaxing pictures from time to time. I sometimes even have them as my desktop background! Here, let me share some of my favorite desktop backgrounds with you.

Ahhhhh… I just love the sweeping hills of the one right there… better than the hills used as the Windows XP … Ecks-Pee background! OH! And that beach view! Sooo relaxing looking, it almost feels like I’m there, feeling the cool sea breeze blowing across my face. And who doesn’t find that green-blue-yellow splotchy painting calming?? Yes… such beautiful pictures…

…but wait a second…

I dunno about you… but something about these look familiar. A little TOO familiar, if you get my drift. …!!! WAIT A FLIPPIN’ SECOND!


Card images sourced from pkmncards.com

OH MY GOODNESS, they’re the background artwork for many Pokémon TCG cards! You’ve just been bamboozled; April fools!!

Hahah, ok ok, jokes aside… yes, that’s what’s going on here. Turns out a recent Twitter post which was brought to my attention by CinnamonBiscuits (who also told me about the bootleg cards I talked about recently) had discovered the source of many of the backgrounds on the earliest cards. Then coincidentally, Alveinhero on the PA! Discord Server posted a link to a Flickr account with a TON of related background. Between those two sources, I decided to look into this further and share the conclusion of my investigations with you. Huzzah!

First off though, the Twitter post in question:

So these backgrounds come from a digital stock photo and artwork collection called Datacraft Sozaijiten, or sometimes simply Sozaijiten. The name “Sozaijiten” (素材辞典) clearly spells out its purpose, as it translates to “material dictionary”: specifically, it’s a Japanese-produced collection of stock pictures produced by Image navi corporation, broken up into over 245 various volumes of shared concepts released on CD-ROM format. For example, Volume 1 is “Stone Textures”, Volume 10 is “Flowers”, Volume 20 is “Wild Flowers and Cherry Blossoms”, and so forth. Furthermore, it seems as if new volumes are constantly being produced every now and then, as in 2008 there was only 207, but in 2013 it was up to 235. Given this it’s most likely that the original artists working on the Japanese release of Base Set back in 1996 only had access to the earliest Sozaijiten releases, as most of the backgrounds seem to pull from the first 30 or 40 volumes.

Now are you looking to use this artwork to spice up some of your OWN fake cards?? Well, hopefully you have a bunch of extra cash to spare, because these photo sets go for a pretty hefty price! True, you’re definitely going to get some quality pictures to work with—the photos on the disc are about 2950 × 2094 pixels at 350 dpi—but each CD of 190-200 photos go for about ¥8,424, or about US$76. OUCH! But hey, that’s only about ¥42 or USD$0.38 per picture, so it’s not THAT expensive! That’s actually a pretty good deal; where else can you get high quality photos that you can use in your Pokémon TCG artwork for cheaper??

Fortunately though, you don’t have to actually buy any of the CDs to at least preview all of the images in each Volume; in fact, you can simply visit the Sozaijiten website, click on any of the CD links, and you can see the images right there! But… oooh… actually, not quite. I mean, normally you can see a preview of each CD on the website. But unfortunately, the website currently seems to have a bunch of broken images, so you can’t exactly see any of them. There is, however, an easy way around this: all you need to do is click on the “PDF” link in the header of each volume page, and it’ll load all the preview pictures which were otherwise broken. Easy peasy, eh?

Better yet, you can simply edit the PDF’s URL in order to cycle through each preview PDF. For example, if the PDF for Volume 2 is sj2list.pdf, simply change the “2” in the filename to a “3”, hit “Enter”, and you’ll get to the PDF for Volume 3! Then change “3” to “10” and you get Volume 10. Even EASIER PEASIER! Here, I’ve linked to the first three PDF files, you can see the rest from there.

Anyways… now to be clear, not ALL Pokémon TCG cards used pictures from Datacraft Sozaijiten. By the looks of it, it was mostly images drawn by Ken Sugimori which otherwise had no background images… so clearly some of the designers pulled up a few Datacraft Sozaijiten CDs, grabbed a few appropriate images, threw a Photoshop filter on it, and called it a day. Which was a pretty simple and smart idea, otherwise the cards would look like this:

Yawn!

OK so… now what? Well, it wouldn’t be a Pokémon Aaah! post if I didn’t already have something else in mind… and so if you look to the left, you’ll see a new page in the Research & Theory section: TCG Backgrounds! That’s right, I’ve started work on trying to figure out which card background came from which Datacraft Sozaijiten Volume, as well as providing an example of that picture (albeit limited in size as to not overstep copyright law). The work is incomplete, but I aim to have just about every possible card and background sorted out for your information purposes only. Keep an eye out for updates!

But other than that, that’s all I got for you. Were you surprised to finally discover where these card backgrounds came from? Are you thinking of maybe making your own fake cards using other backgrounds from the Datacraft Sozaijiten collection for added authenticity? Feel free to let me know what you’re thinking, either in the comments below, or in the Fake Card Mania channel on the PA! Discord, or maybe send me a tweet? I’d love to hear what you think about all this!


Today's episode: 'Chapter 11 — Spaceballs the Tagline'
A Quick Diversion:

Sorry, no April Fools today! Maybe next year? And don’t try to look for it in today’s post, as it’s absolutely 100% real info… and was posted on March 31st too. Definitely posted yesterday, not today.


The Actual News:

Oh boy! Well, while I’ve been taking care of real life stuff and Marvin has been complaining about it, ElementsnStuff over at the PA! Discord has been filling in some gaps in the various languages of Pokémon, namely Lentalian and Sinnohese, as seen in their respective and upcoming Pokémon video games for Nintendo Switch, New Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Ahhh, life is good, don’t you think Marvin??

Oh… OK… well, while Marvin sulks in a corner there, I’ve got a few neat little tidbits to share with you. Enjoy!

 


 

Lentalian Font Download!

Beating me to the punch by just a bit, ElementsnStuff has made a font of the Lentalian alphabet for you to download. Sweet! That said it comes with just a couple caveats:

  • Since a couple of the letters are still technically undetermined, those letters are tentatively placed in the positions of letters F and W, as those seem to be the most likely letters they’re supposed to represent.
  • Also because the entire Lentalian alphabet has yet to be revealed, other letters are still unknown, namely G H J Q V X Z

Of course these minor issues will be hammered out upon the official release of New Pokémon Snap on April 30th. But if you’re still OK with using a sort of prototype Lentalian alphabet font to spell words that DON’T use the missing letters, then feel free to download ElementsnStuff’s Lentalian alphabet font here!

 


 

Sinnohese Language Research Updates

ElementsnStuff continues to surprise me with their updates on the Sinnohese Language… here’s a quick overview of their research thus far:

  • the last three characters on the city signs might not be “City” (siti, シティ) but is almost certainly instead to be tokai (トカイ), as this is the only translation of ‘city’ to match existing character matchups
    • this is based on the left-pictured sign, the town sign for Jubilife City, which could be interpreted as Kotobuki Tokai (コトブキトカイ) and therefore matching the characters up
  • another concern might be that the “MODERN” names for the town might be different in the “PAST” version. That is to say, the Sinnoh towns and cities we knew in DPP might have been called something else in the PLA-era; in this case, “modern” Snowpoint City in BDSP is Kissaki City (キッサキシティ), but it might actually be something completely else in PLA
    • ElementsnStuff thinks Snowpoint’s original “past” name might be Yukiden City, which in turn might mean Jubilife City was once known as Kotohogi instead of Kotobuki.
    • Alternatively, another possibility is that Snowpoint was once called Omitsunu City (オミツヌ トカイ), as there once was a giant king named Omitsunu who was the son of Susano-o (who in turn was the younger brother of Amaterasu) and also the basis of Regigigas. Seeing as Regigigas is a big-honkin’-deal in Snowpoint City, this might be a viable connection.
    • Another possibility could be that the original “past” name for Floaroma Town (see right) might be Inari Town—versus its “modern” name, Sonoo Town—based on a reading of its town sign combined with other potential Sinnohese readings, as well as the idea that the name “Inari” is a name of a Japanese Shinto god (or gods) which are responsible for rice, fertility and good harvests, of which Floaroma Town was eventually blessed by. That is to say, in the past it was a swamp-town named “Inari Town”, until it was blessed (maybe by Shaymin? or maybe retconned to be Landorus?) with fertile rice fields, thus turning it into Sonoo Town (Floaroma Town).
    • Finally, Twinleaf’s “past” name might be Shiyou Town, as shiyou is Japanese for the cotyledon, a stage of plant growth which is first to sprout and is easily recognized by its twin leaves… and seeing as both Twinleaf and Futuba are named after it.
    • These connections are admittedly on unstable ground… but then again, the original DPP games had an example of an NPC calling Sunyshore City “Sunshine City”. Furthermore, since Arceus is involved in the game about ancient Pokémon Legends, the idea that some cities are named after other ancient legends might hold a bit more water than not… so maybe the idea that these town names changed between PLA and BDSP has some degree of basis. At least it does help explain why certain Sinnohese characters don’t exactly match up. We’ll just have to wait and see!

Based on all this speculation, this is ElementsnStuff’s current character transcription guide. The fact that there is more parity between the Sinnohese characters and the Japanese syllabry—AS WELL AS those character sharing a similar design to their respective Katakana forms—makes me also believe that there is a viable connection here. You can also read up on further details concerning what ElementsnStuff had in mind when working out these details here (7.6mb .PFD file). So, knowing all this… well, you be the judge here:


Just as a reminder, the bottom picture shows possibilities in the design of the Sinnohese characters and a possible connection with their Katakana form, similar to what I did below:

But hey, who knows? Again, this might just end up being something like the Galarian language seen in Pokémon Sword/Shield, which we’ve long concluded was simply “consistent gibberish”. On the other hand, there might actually be a proper translation, just that we don’t have it, and that’s only because at this stage just about anything could be worked into limited text that we’ve got so far. And then on the other other hand… based on the worked out signs, the generic town signs do appear to say kidzuitaro (気づいたろ), which apparently translates to “Notice this, NOW”. That certainly would make for a fitting info sign!

Of course we COULD just “cheat” and straight-up contact ILCA—the company working on BDSP—if there is any actual meaning to the letters… but alas, no word from them quite yet. But the key point in all this is that there IS some degree of consistence between the signs, if only the “City” and “Town” parts of them. So, again, we’ll just have to see when the game drops before we can truly and finally figure this out!

 

 


 

The Kanto Konnection

With all this talk about old and new names, one other theory about Sinnohese is that it represents an older form of a Pokémon language we’ve already seen! In fact, just as much as ElementsnStuff has been surprising me with their hard work, I actually managed to surprise them with THIS little tidbit. And little would I realize that that would open up a new level of Pokémon Language research! But first, here’s the surprise:

Now just in case you skipped over the previous section, this is what the Sinnohese Language looks like, at least based on what we’ve been able to suss out between both Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl and Pokémon Legends: Arceus promotional videos:

But wait a second… why does it look a lot like the language seen in Pokémon Let’s Go! Pikachu/Eevee??

GA-GA-GA-GOOEY! They look almost alike, don’t they? I wonder if there is any connection between Sinnohese and—what I’ll now call—Kantoese?? Well right away my brain was churning to find some answers… but alas, there wasn’t much to find. But don’t go just yet… Hear me out first!

Before I get into any further tho, I do want to share this with you: why haven’t we done any work on the Kantoese language? Well, the answer is actually quite simple: there really isn’t any need to decipher it, because there is basically almost NOTHING to decipher. For example, ALL town signs look exactly alike:


LEFT: Viridian City — RIGHT: Pewter City… or maybe it’s Pallet Town?

It just wasn’t the town signs… other signs looked equally generic and their characters looked randomized and lacking any syntax, so there really wasn’t much of an incentive to try to decipher it any time earlier.

HOWEVER, this discovery connecting Pokémon Let’s Go with Pokémon Legends: Arceus changes a lot of things. We’ll definitely now be paying greater attention to which characters between Sinnohese and Kantoese look alike. If the two languages end up sharing a significant connection (instead of just one or two characters which just happen to look similar), then it might be a kind of subtle in-universe connection between an older and modern version of a language and how it evolves and changes over the years through cultural shifts and even language reforms. For example, both Japanese Katakana and Hiragana were developed from older Chinese characters, and then those character sets eventually dropped certain syllables like YI, YE and WU from their list, turning it into the two Japanese syllabry we know today. It might be the same thing that happened between the older Sinnohese and the newer Kantoese, so much so that perhaps Sinnohese could simply be “Old Kantoese”!


Origins of Katakana, aka “I’m too lazy to write the full kanji”

Unfortunately however, our story about Kantoese and Sinnohese ends here. Now there is clearly some degree of connection between Sinnohese and Kantoese… but with both BDSP and PLA still a ways away until release, and LGPE’s use of Kantoese is vague at best, there is simply not much we can go off of right now. I guess in the mean time COULD try to get a comprehensive list of Kantoese words, just to see if any appear in either BDSP and/or PLA later on down the road… but I think I’ve got a bit of time until that’s really needed.


Some interesting tidbits today!

OK so recently after a visit to Target, I discovered three things:

  1. Participating places permit Pokémon product purchases per person to precisely phree three… PERFECTOMUNDO!
  2. I saw that the Pokémon Cereal by General Mills doesn’t seem to be part of the Pokémon 25 promotion
  3. I finally figured out where the Oversized Pikachu card will appear in in the “First Partner Pack” promotion.

Of course if you just want the full details, you can just visit those pages themselves. If you want a quick rundown, however, keep on reading.

After a visit to the Cereal aisle at Target, I spotted my first box of “Pokémon”-brand cereal by General Mills. But oddly enough, it doesn’t seem to be part of the “Pokémon 25” promotion one bit… nothing on the box indicates any relation to the promotion, and it doesn’t include a pack of cards. Now I’m not saying that there isn’t a box of Pokémon Cereal SOMEWHERE out there with a pack of cards seen in the other General Mills cereals… it’s just I haven’t seen it.

Anyways, by the looks of it, there are three different types of boxes overall, one based on the three starter types: Fire, Grass and Water. You can see what those boxes look like below:

Concerning the appearance of Pikachu in the “First Partner Pack”, turns out that it is part of a seperate “First Partner Collector’s Binder”:

Without further ado, here is the oversized Base Set Pikachu card; for comparison, I’ve scanned in two other Base Set Pikachu cards from my collection:

Also included with the binder—aside from the oversized Base Pikachu card—are three packs of cards (I got packs from SwSh Vivid Voltage, SwSh Rebel Clash and XY Steam Siege) as well as this card with more information about the First Partner Pack series:

Now one interesting thing I discovered when I scanned in the Pikachu is that I actually got a clue as to the size of what ACTUAL cards are designed in… and it involves this little corner of Pikachu’s ear on that oversized card:

See the pixelation? That was my clue in determining the actual size that cards are designed in on a computer. But I’m not gonna spill the beans here… if you want to learn more about this, check out the First Partner Packs page for it and other info about the release.

Anyways, that’s it for me today! I’ve got plenty more updates under my belt… the next one will be an update to the “Sinnohese” research being done, but you’ll have to wait until the next update to read up on it. Huzzah! Good times.