If you’re into video game streamers—and who isn’t?—you should check out PA! old skooler Sylvie Wrath’s YouTube channel over at… well, YouTube. She’s been playing a lot of Metroid Dread and Bayonetta, so you should check it out for a lot of streaming goodness! (METROID DREAD SPOILER ALERT: It’s a Metroid game)
The Actual News:
Hey everyone! Sorry for not updating earlier… BDSP has kinda… well,… absorbed my time. Plus I’m still getting used to my new work/sleep schedule; like, in the past I usually would start working on an article around 9pm my time, but that was because I could go to bed any time I want. Now my bed time is at 11pm-ish, but I’m still catching myself starting my articles at 9pm or so. I gotta stop doing that! But don’t worry, I’ll be making it all up to you this week, as I’ve got a big BDSP review for everyone this weekend; it helps that I got a four-day weekend, so I’ll even try to get an article up on my usual time next week. Huzzah!
Anyways, today I want to take a little time to talk about some old Pokémon-related magazines from my collection, at least that which managed to survive after a devastating storage shed fire back in 2009 where I lost a bunch of my keepsakes and other papery goods. But wait, what’s so important about some old musty half-burnt magazines from twenty-ish years ago? A lot, actually! Even if the internet still existed back in the day, it was still in its infancy… print media still ruled the roost. Therefore, if there is any way to rediscover awesome info about Pokémon’s past, a past which the internet didn’t quite record properly or completely, magazines are the way to go!
And even if the internet did record it, how would we know what to look for without a magazine from the era to guide us as we dig through terabytes of backup data? So with these old magazines, we can see bits and pieces of Pokémon history, the things fans had to put up with from Nintendo and Game Freak, but also what we were willing to forgive them for. But by not studying the past, how can we ever understand what we should expect about our present… or future? I won’t get too much into the philosophical bits about Pokémon’s past—that’s being saved for my BDSP review—but I do want to cover a few neat things which have some useful consequences for other aspects of the site.
So who’s ready for a trip down memory lane on the information superhighway??
Beckett Pokémon Collector Reveals My Secrets
I’ll start off with one of my favorites: anyone remember Beckett Pokemon Collector? I used to pick up Beckett Magazine back when the used to be a price guide for baseball cards (which honestly was my very first entry into card collecting!)… so it was nice to see the Beckett name continue onto Pokémon. That said, this particular issue—dated September 2000—is super special to me… because I was in it!
I remember when the legendary Steven Diamond contacted me in order to interview me about my PokéTour winning deck. Check out my methodology for my design and a review of how well I did at the event:
With this deck I ALMOST managed to win the free trip to the West Coast Super Trainer Showdown in the Queen Mary (which is something I still need to report on!!)… but alas, it wasn’t good enough to get me far against the best-of-the-best-of-the-rest-in-the-West, and I basically bottom out at the 2000 WCSTS. But that’s OK, what matters is the fun I had along the way… plus all the free cards I got for winning. HUZZAH! BTW, I forget if the bit where I said I gave my opponent a “hearty handshake” was something I added in, but it does sound like something I’d say… y’know, trying to throw in a Blazing Saddles joke whenever I could (yep, even at 17… my Dad got my hooked on good movies early).
But enough about me… even tho it IS my website… let’s take a look at what everyone else was playing back then!
Yep, just as I remember: Haymakers, Wigglys, more Haymakers, and a Snorlax Stall deck. Aw yeah, those were the days.
But yeah, I loved reading Beckett Pokémon Collector, because of how much they really did care and work for the fans. Like, what kind of magazine today would do fan site reviews? Beckett did! (Well, probably the Pojo did too, but that awesome as well!)
Unfortunately none of these websites still exists today, but at least the Wayback Machine helps us rediscover these sites. And yet, we might not have known about these classic Pokémon websites from 2000 if it weren’t for Beckett reviewing it for us. I wonder what other info about Pokémon’s past we might dig up there? Why not find out for yourself! (I tried to choose Wayback Machine links for each site as close to September 2000 as possible, even if that website existed for long before or after then.)
- Raichu’s Castle – http://raichusscastle.hypermart.net/index2.htm
- Pokémon House – http://www.pokeus.com/
- Next Generation Pokémon – http://ngpoke.com/ (hey, I remember these guys!)
Although Beckett Pokémon Collector was not long for this world, it still had quite a respectable run! Did you have a favorite issue? Was there any deck ideas you read about that helped you win some tournaments? Or maybe your website got mentioned in an issue?? Oooh man, I bet that was SO HYPE for you back then!!
The Duelist Reports About Some Obscure Japanese Monster Game
But maybe September 2000 was just too recent for you. Fortunately this issue of The Duelist magazine from December 1998 might be right up your alley…
…as it has a very special press release in it, which may actually be one of the very first times Pokémon—or at least the TCG—is ever mentioned in an English-language magazine! Huh wha?!
What the? A popular Japanese monster franchise is set to come to the West? Hahaha, it’s just a kid’s game! It could never beat the likes of serious, mature card games like Legends of the Five Rings, the Star Wars CCG, Overpower and Doomtown! OK ok, I kid, I’m just being snarky… but I’m sure there were a LOT of people and players back then who TOTALLY under-estimated the popularity of this game. I mean sure, Pokémon only got a blurb here because The Duelist was Wizards’ own magazine and, well, they magazined to acquire the Pokémon TCG license. But this almost feels like it was done more out of obligation and less because “we’re about to make mad bank here and we gotta flex”.
But regardless of what the feeling may or may not be impled here… reading this article has a feeling of, how can I put it… history in the making? How can I put it… let’s try this: there’s this ho-hum boring picture of President Kennedy back in the 1963, meeting up with some teenagers working with American Legion and learning about government and civic duty. And that picture is really nothing special… y’know, it’s the President with just a bunch of kids who still have their whole life ahead of them, but until that life ahead of them pans out, they’re still just kids. It wasn’t until the 1990’s when the significance of that ho-hum boring picture of President Kennedy was realized: it was of President Bill Clinton! No, seriously; that chance meeting with Kennedy is what convinced Clinton into a life of public service… but in that very moment in time, no one is thinking about any of that, because it hasn’t happened yet. For now it’s just the President shaking the hand of some kid… but just knowing what’s to come for these two men changes that feeling, and that is of great fascination to me.
Now this press release for the Pokémon TCG is no where near the same level of importance as the picture of President Kennedy with soon-to-be President Clinton, but I still have the same feelings of “how little anyone involved in this press release realizes how much things for them will change” none-the-less, and the great fascination it invokes in me. They wouldn’t know it then, but EVERYTHING about Wizards of the Coast, Magic:TG, and what players are going through today has a lot to do with this serendipitous encounter with Nintendo and getting the Pokémon TCG license. It could have gone good, it might have went bad… but in no way would anyone would have guessed that it would become what is has. Heck, even Hasbro is name-dropped, but as far as Wizards was concerned back then, they were just another company on equal footing with KFC… but it would be Hasbro who would buy up Wizards just a few years later, and only to consolidate their own Pokémon licensing collection. Now had, say, Donruss, Topps, Upper Deck or Fleer got the Pokémon TCG license instead, it’d be THOSE companies that would be working under Hasbro now and Wizards would’ve remained independent. But either way, this future still lies ahead of Wizards, Hasbro, the Pokémon TCG, Magic:TG and all of its fans and employees… but for right now, this tiny little company from Washington managed to get their hands on a card game license from Nintendo, and I guess we’ll just have to see what happens!
Anyways, you’ll have to wait until my upcoming “Wizards and Pokémon History Tour” article for a more full story about all this… because it’s time to move on!
Oh wait wait, one sec… you just gotta check out this 1998 Troll and Toad advertisement… yes, the very same Troll and Toad that we all know and love! It’s got a lot of Magic singles at prices which… well, let’s just say if you had a time machine back to 1998, you’d be buying both Apple stock AND these cards.
Any Magic players out there, please hold back your tears as you look at the prices they’re charging for cards back then which are worth hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars today (don’t worry, I feel your pain too, I missed out on Apple stock too, but only because I was too young to buy any!).
Time Magazine Reports On The Recent Pokémania Addiction!
Anyways, that feeling of success which was mere “potential” back in 1998 had become a full-blow hype machine just one year later, as this November 22, 1999 Time Magazine article attests:
Of course, not everything is one the nose… that’s right: your favorite top Pokémon like Charizard, Pikachu and Mewtwo have been pushed to the side by the one, the only: Poliwhirl.
The Time Magazine article, “Beware of the PokéMANIA” by Howard Chua-Eon and Tim Larimer, does a great job of summarizing the Pokémon craze as it existed in this slice of time, at least from the perspective of the parents trying to make heads-and-ninetails out of their kid’s latest fad that has taken up room in their mind attic… and that’s the main reason why I bought this copy back then. Like, I remember picking this issue up at the Pacifica 7-11 with Jim back in the day, if only because by then I was already part-and-parcel with the Pokémon craze back in my Senior year of high school. Like, that month was literally when I finally was able to save up and buy my very first, very own Game Boy Color—in Nick15 yellow, of course—and a copy of Pokémon Yellow—also in Nick15 yellow. Plus the TCG had already been released and Fossil was just about released. PA! was already a massive hit, and the Japanese release of Pokémon Gold/Silver also helped feed the hype further on the playground (“did you know that there’s going to be ANOTHER Pokémon game being released?!”) It was a legitimate full-blown craze the likes of Transformers, He-Man, Ninja Turtles and POGs had never seen before.
You can read the full article below, at least as it appeared in Time Magazine itself. Fortunately the full article itself is also available for free on Time.com. This article alone is worth a breakdown and analysis… maybe I’ll cover that in a future post. But for now, enjoy the article for what it is.
Time—as in space-time, not Time Magazine—has a way of giving us a certain insight about things that we would’ve never had before. For example, I’m willing to bet a majority of you reading this were the very same kids who grew up with the original Pokémon craze—if not an itch in the mailman’s eye—so I really do wonder: how much your own personal experiences with the original craze meshes with your adult eyes reading this article and having 20-ish years of separation between then and now? Is it exactly as you remember it? Do you maybe even have kids of your own and now see things as a parent, and maybe have a new perspective on the way your own parents navigated these waters?
For me, it’s actually amazing how much of what was written back in 1999 is the same as it today (in 2021). It honestly really doesn’t seem all that much different than what’s going on today, other than the fact that it’s not a “new craze” anymore. Well, maybe if I covered this back in 2011 it’d be a whole other story, but today? BIG POKEMONEY is still the order of the day; Pokémon Sword/Shield is perhaps the best selling mainline Pokémon game since Pokémon Gold/Silver (SwSh’s 22.64 mil vs GSC’s 23.73), the Pokémon TCG seems to be trading places with Magic The Gathering as the #1 selling card game, and even BrilliantDiamond/ShiningPearl is doing extremely well for a remake game. If there has ever been a “second coming” for Pokémon, it’s been the last couple years! The only difference has been simply the fact that in 1999 it was the New Kid on the Block, but today it’s part of the Gaming Establishment.
As a side note, this whole issue of Time Magazine is just cover-to-cover “things are almost exactly the same, except for the little details”. Despite it covering issues in a pre-9/11, Clinton-era America, there are still a lot of articles which—if I had not already told you they were from 1999—you’d be excused for assuming it was in this week’s issue instead. Like about how expensive Ameircan prescription medication is (Matthew Cooper, “Screaming For Relief”) and how buying perscription medicine online is a good way to avoid all that (Chris Taylor, “How to Buy Prescriptions Online”), or the “Fashion Fusion” corner on page 31 covers… well, weeaboo apparal, albeit back before it was called “weeaboo”. Other articles discuss the value—and painfully under-utilization—of mental health services and rehabilitation (James Willwerth, “Working Their Way Back”), how mass school shootings can be avoided if the aggressors had access to proper mental health services (Nadya Labi, Todd Murphy, “Locking Up The Voices”), and how the white President of a Midwest School Board assures everyone they’re not a bigot—despite how their black students keep getting the short end of the stick yet again (Jack E. White, “Dividing Line – Fighting Words”).
And the cherry on the top of this “same crap, different day” sundae? The internet is very likely SPYING on you! This article by Karl Taro Greenfeld (with reporting by Adam Zagorin)—which you can read below—covers the growing threat of how our internet devices might be doing more than simply dialing-up our AOL for us, as well as a notice that “[the] industry has vowed to self-regulate”. 22 years later, and I’m still waiting for them to properly self-regulate themselves.
The point of bringing all this up isn’t to be all “oh man, look at what they had to deal with back then!” but rather to show how none of this is really new, and that we’ve always been dealing with this stuff in one form or another. Pokémon’s place in all this is just one more example of the semi-cyclical nature of our experiences… which makes all the complaints about Pokémon’s modern state all the more head-scratching to me. But, I’ll cover that discussion in my BDSP review later this week.
Oh, ok, there is ONE key difference to 1999 and 2021: on the back cover of this very issue about a popular children’s franchise is this Marlboro Lights cigarette advertisement. Many things 22-years later can still be the same, but sometimes it can be different (and for the better, phew!)
Extracting Top Percentage Data From TopDeck Magazine
Anyways, let’s get back to the Pokémons. With the release of the Pokemon TCG in 1999, gaming magazines couldn’t NOT cover the Pokemon mania… there was just too much money to be made here. For example, The Duelist magazine later changed to TopDeck in order to cover less Magic and more… well, not Magic (cough)Pokemon(cough). Honestly I think switching to TopDeck was the smarter move, at least in terms of properly pivoting to acknowledge the shifting winds of the gaming industry.
One of my favorite bits about TopDeck is that it had a lot of different extras, inserts, free packs, promos… oh, and an entire magazine as well! All of this is chock full of classic data which the internet simply couldn’t store. Incidentally, while all of my TopDeck promos are all in my special cards binder, it might have been better if I left them in their original bags… like, still-in-bag copies of TopDeck—both with Pokémon TCG promo AND a free pack of Fossil or Team Rocket—go for INSANE prices on eBay… I’m talking like US$300, US$400, even US$500! Drat!! …Oh well, fortunately UNSEALED copies of TopDeck go for a much more reasonable cost; in fact, I managed to get all fifteen issues (at least with their inserts still intact!) for about $40, so keep an eye out for a review about that in the near future.
But yeah, TopDeck had all kinds of really neat pull outs for Pokémon players. They could have just done the easy thing and did some simple, one-page promo sheet that simply said stuff like “go to your local card shop and join the Pokémon League” or “buy the next Pokémon TCG set: ‘Gym Heroes'”, and they would’ve still gotten tons of kids to do it… but they actually took the time and energy to write up and design some really great guides for new players! For example, take a look at this really neat insert covering the Pokemon League system from the Wizards-era:
Hmmm… I wonder how much of today’s TPCI-era League system resembles what Wizards did back then (aka they finally accepted that Wizards knew what they were doing back then)? Snark aside, other than the… ahem… “Create Your Own Pokémon” Activity page, a lot of heart and soul was put into this simple pull out, especially for something that kids might have simply just thrown away because “where’s Ash and Pikachu?”
EDIT: Aw crap, this one already exists in PDF form. D’oh! But at least on the plus side, I was able to extract the raw graphic data for the original Pokémon League pins that they gave out!
And maybe I snarked too quickly at the “Create Your Own Pokémon” blanks, because they actually reveal the thickened border also seen on the Blastoise Prototype as well!
It’s a shame the rest of TopDeck isn’t in PDF form like this, because it would make being able to extract useful data from them soooo much easier. Well, at least I still got a scanner, and my original copy of issue #10.
The insert for this issue was something a bit more unique: it covered the entire Gym Heroes release! My copy managed to survive the dreaded 2009 Shed Fire unscathed, allowing me to share with you some really super clean scans below. Not only are there various articles about what each new Gym Leader is all about as well as various tips and tricks for using some of the new cards, but it also includes an official card scan guide of the entire set! See kids, this is what we old timers had to do before the days of PkmnCards.com and the like! But then again, at least this magazine never has to be connected to wifi in order to view this data. Checkmate, Atheists!
But hold on… so what? After all, we do have sites like PkmnCards.com in order to see these cards. Other than the unique articles about the set, what’s so special here? Ok, fair enough… but this does have something unique that no other online source has: it depicts holo-only cards in a non-holo format! In other words, we can finally see the backgrounds of each holo card without that pesky holo-foil effect!
Let’s just cut to the chase right away:
HOLY CRACKERS! What a find!! This will actually be super helpful in trying to work out more card backgrounds to add to the TCG Card Background page.
This has actually been something well overdue for some time now… in fact, it was GC|Linkinboss over at the PA! Discord who brought all this to my attention while discussing about TCG Card Backgrounds. I think he had a copy of the Fossil set insert and noticed the holo cards were depicted in a non-holo format and suggested if maybe other set inserts did something similar. So after digging out my copy of TopDeck with the Gym Heroes insert, I confirmed his suspicions! And now that I managed to get all fifteen issues of TopDeck, maybe there are other set inserts which a similar situation? I guess we’ll have to wait and see (I mean, my Pokemon are psychic but I’m not)!
But we may not even need to go that far that quickly, at least not right away. There’s a lot more hidden in the pages of TopDeck. Take a look at this:
In at least this issue of TopDeck, there is the COMPLETE set list of every single Pokemon TCG cards ever released, along with picture frames of various card art just to spice/pad things up a bit. Aaah, such innocent times when the FULL collection of cards for the ENTIRE CARD GAME can be printed on just a couple of pages in a magazine.
But anyways, see anything interesting on that page? Here, I’ll give you a hint:
Clefairy is also depicted in a non-holo format! This is considering that Base Clefairy was holo-only!
In fact, Clefairy wasn’t the only one… as I poked through the rest of the pages, I only noticed two other holo-only rares: Base Mewtwo and Base Venusaur. All three cards are sorta zoomed in a bit, and Venusaur actually has some of its gold border creeping into the frame… but still, it’s three more than we had before!
So maybe the other issues of TopDeck have other holo-only scans? Now I really can’t wait for my copies to come in!!
Back To The Future, 2021 Edition
Alas, that’s where we have to end our little journey into Pokémon history. But it certainly won’t be the last! Again, print media might be dying today, but it was alive-and-kickin’ back in 1999! Therefore, magazines from back during this era are so awesome to read because of the unique window into the past it offers… one that has been recorded for all time in ways the internet forgot to. And to be honest, one can’t know how to deal with the present without a firm grasp on the past. I don’t mean to belittle the experience we’re having today… on the contrary, I feel like understanding what people dealt with in the past helps to gain a new perspective and even find some temporal comrades, fellow Pokémaniacs separated by the decades but certainly not by the common love of this franchise.
Anyways, that’s all I got for you today, but I hope you enjoyed the trip back in time!
BTW, sorry for this late post, but I’m planning on making up to you: BDSP was released this past weekend, so I’m hoping to get a review about it up on Thanksgiving….ish. Maybe Thankgiving night, right in time for you to do SOMETHING while you’re waiting in line out in the cold waiting for Best Buy to open up for your super awesome Black
Friday Thursday $100 60″ 4K-HDTV. I also still have my regular plans for a Monday update as usual. But yeah, there’s a little bit about Pokémon video games which I didn’t want to cover in this article because I felt it was more appropriate for the BDSP review. In fact, you might consider my upcoming BDSP review as a sort of sequel to this article, as it will cover a lot about Pokémon video game history and how it relates to the release and design of BDSP.
In the mean time, give your ol’ Uncle Nick15 a Huzzah, and throw in a couple of Good times as well!