It's great to see Pokémon Link return on the 3DS - considering it was never the most popular spin-off from the series, I'm glad they showed it some faith. Since it came out, I've been looking at some of the lesser-known Pokémon games. Here are my top 5 Pokémon spin-off you may not have played, or even heard of.
Pokémon Play It! (PC)
The Pokémon Trading Card Game was incredibly popular in the late '90s and early 2000s. It was a huge craze that got banned in many schools. But one school holiday I took a trip with my Mum (I was nine at the time) to the local Woolworths were they had a Pokémon event going on. There was a free raffle to take part in, one of the prizes being a Pokémon PC game called 'Pokémon Play It!'. Lucky for me, I won the game!
Pokémon Play It! Is tutorial software that teaches you how to play the Trading Card Game. Your in-game guide is Julie and you can choose from a 30 card fighting or water deck (although there were a couple more hidden decks available). There is also an Academy Entrance exam. Answering all the questions correctly will earn you a special certificate which you could take to local Pokémon TCG Leagues for points. You can also unlock desktop wallpapers based on TCG artwork. The game was available through various events such as in store promotions, TCG starter sets, and DVDs. A second version of Pokémon Play It was released which fixed a couple of in-game bugs.
If it wasn't for this game I probably wouldn't have learned to play the TCG properly for years. All my friends cared about was collecting and trading. So, thank you Julie, wherever you are. Now I just wish I knew where my copy of this game went...
Pokémon Tretta Lab (3DS)
Pokémon Tretta is an arcade machine that can be found in Pokémon Centers in Japan. You use the machines by collecting special plastic discs, all of which represent a Pokémon, as shown by the picture on the front. Last year, Pokémon Tretta Lab was released on Nintendo 3DS, which allows you to catalogue the Pokémon you have collected from the arcade game. You do this by inserting the small plastic disks in a plastic stand that attaches to the 3DS system. The application can be used to check the information and keep track of the Tretta Pokémon you have collected.
I think it's safe to say we'll never see this game released outside of Japan. To be fair, it's not really a game at all! Just companion software for the arcade machines.
Pokémon Trading Card Game (Game Boy/Game Boy Color)If Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow were not enough to satisfy your Pokémon needs, the Pokémon Trading Card Game... game... was also released on the Game Boy. You start by choosing a starter deck (Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle), and you progress through the game defeating 8 Club Masters (the equivalent of gym leaders) on a quest to win four rare Legendary Pokémon Cards from the Grand Masters (essentially the Elite four). The game has tutorials to teach you how to play and helps you to build your own decks. You can also challenge your friends with use of the Game Boy Link cable.
I really enjoyed this game. Again, back in the day of the Pokémon TCG craze there wasn't anyone I knew that played the game properly so this was one of the only ways I could learn. I think it's a shame the sequel to the Game Boy game 'Here Comes Team GR!' was never released outside of Japan.
There have been a lot of updates to the rules, not to mention thousands more cards, and it's constantly changing, so I feel it's very unlikely we will see another dedicated Pokémon TCG adventure game on a Nintendo format. I would love to see one, I'm just not sure how it would work.
Pokémon Card Game: How to Play DS (Nintendo DS)Pokémon Card Game: How to Play DS was released in Japan following the launch of the Black and White series of Pokémon cards. This software comes with a starter set of cards has tutorials that teach you how to play the game, acts as a digital rule book, and there are also several computer opponents to practice against.
It's really interesting to see how a Pokémon TCG game would play using a Nintendo DS. It seems to work really well for this type of game, with the top screen as your opponent and the touch screen free for you to make your moves with the stylus. It looks like pretty good way to learn the game virtually.
Recently, Pokémon TCG Online managed to fill that card-video game gap. Allowing you to learn the game, collect, and battle people from all over the world, the free to play PC game is updated regularly with new card sets and updated rules.
Pokémon Tetris (Pokémon Mini)Pokémon Tetris was released for the dedicated Pokémon game handheld, the Pokémon Mini. Pokémon Tetris is exactly what it says on the tin, Tetris with the inclusion of Pokémon! Getting multi-line combos helps you capture the Pokémon on screen, which then gets added to your Pokédex. The big twist with Pokémon Tetris is that there are some 5 block shapes instead of the usual 4. There are several different 1-player modes, even a VS. mode if you know someone else with the game. The game was only released in Japan and Europe.
Two of my favourite games, Tetris and Pokémon, together in one game. Sounds too good to be true but it happened. I didn't know it existed until about seven years ago. As a keen collector of Pokémon games, I spent a very long time on eBay tracking this one down. Thankfully one day a few years ago I found a listing for the game so I bought it. Problem is, I can't bring myself to take it out of the original plastic wrapper - as you can see above! It's pretty rare.
Have you played any of these games? What's your favourite Pokémon spin-off title? Which Pokémon games would you like to see return on Wii U or 3DS?