You always remember your first, don’t you?
…first starter Pokémon. We’re talking about Pokémon here. I remember my first starter Pokémon; I was still in high school around 1998 and my family wasn’t the richest family around, so the latest video game system I owned as my Super Nintendo. So when everyone else was playing Pokémon Red & Blue on their fancy Game Boy Pockets, I had to emulate it. I ended up emulating Pokémon Red and chose a Bulbasaur, which I named Benny! I don’t remember why I called it “Benny”, but I’m up to “Benny the Fourth” in my Pokémon Shield game. Ah, good times…
Anyways, TPCI wants to celebrate this moment and memory with everyone during their “Pokémon 25” anniversary celebrations, and so they’re working on a release called “First Partner Pack”. Although each of the First Partner Packs will have a specific focus on the Starters in each Generation, their overall scope will be the same. These shared details include:
- Since each First Partner Pack focuses on each gen, there will be eight pack releases in total.
- Each pack will be released once per month, starting with the Galar (Gen 8) Starters in March and working its way backwards to the Kanto (Gen 1) Starters in October.
- Below is a list of each pack and their planned release dates.
- Each pack themselves will contain three oversized game cards and two standard 10-card boosters packs from the more recent sets.
- Fortunately all three oversized cards are made available in the same pack, so you won’t need to buy multiple packs in order to try to get all three (only to buy three and get nothing but Grookeys)
- As for the two booster packs, I’m not sure if they’re limited to packs from a specific set, or if they’re randomly added from any recent set. For example, my packs were from SwSh Vivid Voltage and… Sun & Moon(???)
- The oversized card is approximately 4x the size of a normal card (as in, twice the width and twice the height); you can see an example of the size below.
- Actually the cards are just about 4.41x the size of a normal card (as in, 2.1x wide and 2.1x high) as the oversized cards are 5.25″ × 7.35″ in FREEDOM UNITS (or 133.35 × 186.69 in boring but sensible millimeters); consider that normal cards are 2.5″ × 3.5″ (or 63.5 × 88.9 mm).
- Also, the cards themselves are sourced directly from their original printings, and are basically completely and 100% unedited. Oh, and they also have the “Pokémon 25” logo stamped in the lower-right corner of the Pokémon’s artwork. (There are SOME minor exceptions to this; see the “Minor changes” section below)
- Despite being bigger, the oversized cards seem a smidge more flimsier. And no, it’s not because it’s just bigger and therefore relatively thinner… it’s actually about 5% thinner than normal cards. For example, normal cards are intended to be 0.301 mm thick but these cards are about 0.282 mm thick. It makes them feel just a weeee bit more flimsy.
…that’s pretty much it. Three big cards, two booster packs. If you want to see the packs being opened, just watch this handy video:
Neat stuff, huh?
Generally the oversized cards are sourced directly from their original cards, with basically no edits made to them apart from addings the “Pokémon 25” logo on them. However for the Kanto and Hoenn starters, they have some minor differences. Take a look and see if you can see what my SPECHUL EYES saw; first, the Kanto starters:
And now the Hoenn starters:
See it? Yes? No? Maybe so? Here, I’ll just zoom in here:
Yep, for the Kanto starters, the Wizards’ copyright was removed, while the Hoenn starters had the Card-E portions removed! So these AREN’T the same cards as the ones I grew up with. I want my money back! (…well somebody better give me some money!) Joking aside, clearly there were good reasons for these changes, which I’ll cover below.
Kanto & Wizards of the Coast
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, but Wizards of the Coast has nothing to do with this game anymore. And since they were basically a company that was licensed to release the cards outside of Japan, their work was basically little more than a contract gig (or at least, that’s how Nintendo saw it). But ultimately, Wizards did their bit for King & Country and was duly compensated, so they’re out of the picture now. I think this was something even Wizards understood even back then, because they removed their own name from the cards as early as Neo Genesis, thus the Johto starters were unaffected.
LEFT: “Pokémon 25” Version — RIGHT: Original Neo Genesis Release Version
One side note about the Wizards-era designs, it is kinda interesting to see how document design programs render things differently over the years. I won’t get too much into the details, but my SPECHUL EYES saw noticed how the kerning and other spacings have little minor changes changed between the original 1999 release and the 2021 printing. Now I’m basically 100% positive that TPCI’s card designers used the original files that Wizards’ card designers created back in the day… like, when Wizards lost the license in 2003, I’m sure as part of the transfer process Wizards handed over literally all of their design files over to TPCI… and so all TPCI had to do was open up the original “Base Set – Bulbasaur.indd” file, remove “©1999 Wizards”, slap the “Pokémon 25” symbol on it, and that was that. But clearly since they were working with a 20+ year old file, a few things changed when updating it from Adobe InDesign v7.0 file to a Adobe InDesign CC 2021 file… such as the kerning.
Here’s just a quick example: the left image has the letters “d”, “l” and “p” aligned, while the right image has the background aligned… and you can see the difference in how the text was rendered between 1999 and 2021.
I should say that this is just a quaint observation, not some kind of SHOCKING REVELATION that TPCI is trying to pull one over on us or something. Instead, this is just a fun look behind the scenes of card design. Especially concerning the desire for “authenticity” when trying to design fake cards… since these kinds of minor changes are ALWAYS happening between even the same cards, you might as well just do what looks right and damn the minor differences. Frankly, no one is going to notice.
Hoenn & the e-Reader
The other major change in card designs were the removal of the “Card-E” portions on the Hoenn starters, almost as if the cards were designed using the card blanks seen just before the release of Diamond & Pearl in the TCG. Now the reasons for this is actually somewhat similar to the removal of ©1999 Wizards from the Kanto starters: the Dot Code bar was licensed from Olympus, and since that deal was done and over with, so it’s time to remove it! Because of which, they also removed both the Card-E ID number (such as G-14-# for Mudkip) as well as that strange 9-character code (like Mudkip’s 67Z-BNE-6MF code).
It’s kinda interesting that they went to that extent, instead of simply removing the Dot Code bar and the other ID numbers, but keeping the “Card-E” icon and the rounded corner design; afterall, that’s what the reverse-holo version of the card looks like:
Instead it looks like they created three new cards using the post-Card-E EX template, which also means that these particular oversized Hoenn cards technically never existed before! They are a completely new and unique design. Pretty neat, huh?
But that said, historically TPCI has done this sort of thing before, so while THOSE particular cards never had this treatment, it isn’t exactly new. For example, take a look at these:
Lookin’ a little familiar now? As a reminder, when the first Nintendo-produced TCG set—EX Ruby & Sapphire—was released, they all looked like the cards on the left (in the EX/Card-E style). Then later when they removed the Card-E functionality, cards looked like the cards on the right (in the post-Card-E EX style). But it’s not like they ever went back and re-released their earliest cards and redesigned them; afterall, every EX/Card-E-era card seen in the official Pokémon TCG Database—including Numel and Torchic—still show their EX/Card-E forms… as far as TPCI is concerned, they still are supposed to look like their EX/Card-E versions. And truthfully I totally never noticed these “updated” versions even existed to begin with; in fact I don’t even know how I got these cards to begin with!
However, after some deep investigation, I discovered that these cards were part of the 2004 EX Battle Stadium Theme Decks, specifically the Blaziken Deck… I guess I must’ve bought it at some point! By the looks of it, every card in that release were just reprints from earlier sets, but also slightly redesigned to use the post-Card-E EX card design. Torchic and Numel were part of that set, so that’s why I have them.
But this still makes me wonder, why not just keep the EX/Card-E versions? Did they think people would wonder why the bottom border was super thick? And if they wanted to use the post-Card-E EX design, why not use the versions they already had made (ie “EX Battle Stadium” Torchic)? I guess maybe for the “Pokémon 25” event, they wanted to both keep the cards looking a bit more consistant with thin borders (which I suppose is why they also didn’t choose any Johto starters from the Expedition/Aquapolis/Skyridge era), and maybe because they didn’t have any Treecko or Mudkips in the newer post-Card-E EX card style.
Well, it is what it is.
Those are some HUUUGE cards!
To get an idea of how HUUUGEE the oversized cards are, here’s an example scan of the Pikachu you get from the pack with a couple other Pikachu cards I found somewhere:
Hey man, look at that there Pikachu card… that thing is HUGE! (Hahaha, yeeep, that’s a big Pikachu card, Elvis!)
Now what’s kinda interesting about these oversized cards is that they give us a sort of window into the size that these cards are made in. Or at least, how they once were made in. Specifically, this Pikachu card, if you zoom in a bit, you can actually see some pixelation of the original digital files they used to make these cards:
Long story short, by counting the pixels, I was able to determine that they actually design cards at around 140 dpi.
- To get a bit technical, I originally scanned the card at 1200 dpi. I then grabbed a random portion of the picture and counted 33 × 28 printed pixels inside a 280 × 240 actual pixel box, which works out to be about 8.5714… actual pixels per printed pixel, or about a 11.6666…% scale. When you scale 1200 dpi by 11.6666…%, that ends up being 140 dpi.
Based on that information, I figured out that the working dimension was about 733 × 1033 pixels, give or take, or a picture about this big:
Pretty nifty info, huh? At least now I know the level of quality of card design that I really need to worry about when making my own fake cards, and therefore how big is simply “too big” for all practical purposes.
Pictures and Release Info
Now that the First Partner Packs have finally started being released, you can see all the cards and packs I’ve gotted so far, along with an comparison with a normal card (if I have it). As I get more cards, I’ll post more pictures.
On the other hand, you can see the official artwork for the packs below:
Finally, below is the list of the packs and which oversized cards will be in it, as well as when they’ll be released:
|8 — Galar||March 2021||ZG Grookey||ZR Scorbunny||ZW Sobble|
|7 — Alola||April 2021||ZG Rowlet||ZR Litten||ZW Popplio|
|6 — Kalos||May 2021||ZG Chespin||ZR Fennekin||ZW Froakie|
|5 — Unova||June 2021||ZG Snivy||ZR Tepig||ZW Oshawott|
|4 — Sinnoh||July 2021||ZG Turtwig||ZR Chimchar||ZW Piplup|
|3 — Hoenn||August 2021||ZG Treecko||ZR Torchic||ZW Mudkip|
|2 — Johto||September 2021||ZG Chikorita||ZR Cyndaquil||ZW Totodile|
|1 — Kanto||October 2021||ZG Bulbasaur||ZR Charmander||ZW Squirtle|
Although the Kanto pack says “3 oversized cards”, an oversized Base Set Pikachu has been advertised with the other Kanto starters (also sourced from Base Set), but that is included in a seperate “First Partner Collector’s Binder”:
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:
But hey, wanna see the cards? I got them all here… tho c’mon, it’s not as cool as seeing my own scans, right?:
Can’t wait to catch ’em all? I sure can’t! When it will be next month already??