The Amazing Spider-man #68 Review

The Amazing Spider-man #68

Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Marcel Ferreira, Carlos Gomez and ZÈ Carlos

Released: 9/6/21
Published by: Marvel Comics

The latest instalment of Nick Spencer’s Spiderman run is a real treat for die-hard Spidey fans. The story is exciting and the artists (for the most part) provide excellent work to bring said story to life.

This is the second part of the “chameleon conspiracy” so I wouldn’t advise readers to begin catching up on Spider-man with this issue, but if you’re a regular then this issue is better than its predecessor by a long shot. Spencer continues a few of the plot threads from the previous issues like Betty Brant’s pregnancy and Teresa Parker’s run in with the chameleon and the finisher(?). The finisher being the man that was sent to assassinate Richard and Mary Parker, succeeded but died in the process, or so we thought. It makes for an intriguing mystery that I for one am seriously interested In solving.

 The artwork in this section done by Marcelo Ferreira is probably the weakest in the book, he also does a page or two of the peter/Betty plot line in which some very…. interesting facial expressions are depicted. The rest of the art for the Peter/Betty segment however, pencilled by Carlos Gómez looks great, particularly the hobgoblin splash page. And the reveal of (the real???) Ned Leeds was a surprise for sure!

The main chunk of the issue is a continuation of the clairvoyant plot that has been running for about 30 issues now which has taken centre stage in the past couple of issues, it follows Peter’s ESU partner, Jamie as he attempts to capture a device called the catalyst which will power another clairvoyant that villains Chance and the foreigner are blackmailing him to create. As the heist inside ESU begins in this issue, a welcome appearance from one of the most obscure spider-man villains is made. Slyde! Who made his first (and one of his only appearances) way back in AMS #272. The artwork in this portion, pencilled by ZÉ Carlos, is the best in the book, it looks youthful, fresh and electric. With plenty of poster worthy pin-ups. Of Spidey.

The issue wraps up with Spidey’s intervention in the heist being intercepted by Chance, foreigner and their pumpkin minions. After the main story, we get another tease for this summers upcoming Spidey event, sinister war. This issues back up portrays doc ock recruiting sandman with stellar as usual art by Mark Bagely. Building further anticipation for kindred final assault on our beloved hero. 

Verdict:

All in all, this issue is great, one of Spencer’s best issues since Ryan Ottley’s departure. Definitely a solid pick up with stellar art.

9/10

Review by Leo Brocklehurst 11.6.21

Pokemon Plushies: The Cutest, The Cuddliest and The Most Collectable

Pokemon Plushies: The Cutest, The Cuddliest and The Most Collectable

Plushies, soft toys, teddies, dolls. These cuddly toys are known by a variety of different names but everyone can agree that they’re cute, collectable and a perfect product for the Pokemon franchise to feature their characters in. With so many Pokemon in existence now it would probably be quite difficult to list every single Pokemon plushie that has been produced, so in this article I will be having a look at a selection of the most notable and adorable Pokemon plushie lines that have found their way into the collections of Pokefans throughout different periods of the franchise.

Bean-Filled Plush Toys:

One of the most extensive plush toy lines of the first three Pokemon generations was the Hasbro Bean-Filled Plush line that ran between 1999-2005. These toys proved to be extremely popular possibly due to not only the hype around the Pokemon franchise at the time but also the immense popularity of Ty’s Beanie Baby toys during the 90s, as the bean-filled Pokemon plushies were quite similar to Beanie Babies not just in the materials used in their production but also in size. As the Pokemon craze spread across the world, the Pokemon Bean-Filled Plush toys became sought after not just by Pokemon fans but also by Beanie Baby collectors.

This toy line released plushies for the first 3 generations of Pokemon, the Pokemon from each generation (Kanto, Johto and Hoenn) produced in plush form were:

Kanto Bean-Filled Plushies:

Pikachu, Meowth, Jigglypuff, Eevee, Squirtle, Charizard, Snorlax, Poliwhirl,

Psyduck, Bulbasaur, Butterfree, Mew, Mewtwo, Clefairy, Ivysaur, Gengar, Raichu

Koffing, Gyrados, Arbok, Onix, Staryu, Pidgeotto, Blastoise.

Johto Bean-Filled Plushies:

Togepi, Slowking, Snubbull, Marill, Hoothoot, Bellossom, Elekid, Gligar, Mareep, Totodile

Cyndaquil, Sentret, Quagsire, Hoppip, Lugia, Donphan, Heracross, Croconaw, Feraligatr, Chikorita, Bayleef, Quilava, Typhlosion, Sunflora, Blissey, Cleffa, Pichu.

Later in the Johto era some of the previously released plushies were given a second edition, these re-released plushies were:

Bellossom, Snubbull, Hoothoot, Marill.

Hoenn Bean-Filled Plushies:

Mudkip, Torchic, Treecko, Plusle, Minun, Corphish, Lotad, Spinda, Azurill

KFC Promotional Purchasable Plush Toys:

In 1998 Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants across the United States of America took part in a large promotion where a selection of free Pokemon toys (including card games, tattoos and water squirters, amongst other toys) were included in kid’s meals. As well as the kid’s meal toys, a small set of Pokemon plush toys were also available to purchase from the restaurants. The Pokemon included in the purchasable plush line were Vulpix, Dratini, Zubat and Seel.

Bandai Friends:

One of the longest running plush toy lines in the Pokemon franchise is the Bandai Friends toy line that ran from 1997 to 2008, The Bandai Friends line featured numerous different sets, some of which were in conjunction with various parts of the history of the Pokemon anime, such as the animated Pikachu shorts that were played before the second and third Pokemon movies, Pokemon 4ever, the Pokemon Advanced series, Destiny Deoxys, Lucario And The Mystery Of Mew and the Pokemon Diamond & Pearl series.

The Bandai Friends came packaged in individual boxes such as the one above and the early plushies notably feature Ken Sugimori’s original artwork on their packaging. They were notable for having a more hand-made look than other Pokemon plushies, being made of felt and fleece with plastic eyes, with each plush being 3-4 inches tall. 19 different sets of toys were released altogether, the characters released in each of the sets released between 1997 to 2008 were as follows:

Set 1 – 1997:

Pikachu, Mew, Charmander, Clefairy, Jigglypuff

Set 2 – 1997:

Pikachu, Raichu, Poliwhirl, Eevee, Squirtle

Set 3 – 1998:

Pikachu, Horsea, Vulpix, Bulbasaur, Chansey

Set 4 – 1998:

Caterpie, Gengar, Poliwag, Dratini, Psyduck

Set 5 – 1998:

Jolteon, Wigglytuff, Vileplume, Ivysaur, Togepi

Special Set (Re-Released Set 1) – 1998:

Pikachu, Mew, Charmander, Clefairy, Jigglypuff

Set 6 – 1999:

Wartortle, Oddish, Clefable, Snorlax, Meowth

Set 7 (First Johto/Generation II Set) – 1999:

Ledyba, Bellossom, Elekid, Marill, Hoothoot

Set 8 – 1999:

Quagsire, Cyndaquil, Chikorita, Snubbull, Sentret

Set 9 – 2000:

Smeargle, Blissey, Mareep, Hoppip, Totodile

Set 10 – 2000:

Wooper, Ditto, Cleffa, Igglybuff,

Set 11 – 2000:

Pikachu, Wobbuffet, Noctowl, Blissey, Mareep, Togetic, Totodile

Set 12 – 2001:

Smeargle, Hoppip, Teddiursa, Espeon, Azumarill, Bulbasaur

Set 13 (Inspired by Legendary Pokemon from the first 4 movies and the first and only set to feature a human character, Ash Ketchum) – 2001:

Ash Ketchum, Mew, Lugia, Entei, Celebi

Advanced Generation Set 1 (First Hoenn/Generation III Set) – 2004:

Pikachu, Treecko, Torchic, Mudkip

Advanced Generation Set 2 – 2004:

Bulbasaur, Charmander, Squirtle, Mew

Advanced Generation Set 3 (First Appearance of a Generation IV Pokemon, Munchlax) – 2004:

Skitty, Plusle, Minun, Munchlax

Advanced Generation Set 4 (Inspired by Lucario And The Mystery Of Mew) – 2005:

Pikachu, Mime Jr, Lucario, Mew

Diamond & Pearl Set 1 (First Entirely Sinnoh/Generation IV Set) – 2007:

Turtwig, Chimchar, Piplup, Darkrai, Pachirisu

Diamond & Pearl Set 2 – 2008:

Pikachu, Buneary, Piplup, Shaymin (Land Forme), Shaymin (Sky Forme)

Play by Play Plushies:

In the early 2000’s Spanish toy company Play by Play produced and distributed a series of Pokemon plush toys. The Play by Play plushies were noticeably larger than the majority of other Pokemon soft toys at the time and were primarily sold as prizes to be won at fairs, theme parks and arcades.

These plushies are also quite infamous for not always being the most accurate depictions of the particular Pokemon character they are meant to represent, however rather than receiving derision from the fan base because of this, many collectors have found their somewhat unusual appearance to be quite endearing and a number of the Play by Play plushies have become fan favourites, in particular the very popular Pikachu model (also known as Chubbychu, Fat Pikachu and Chunkychu) that emphasised certain aspects of Pikachu’s original design, which was much more robust than the Pikachu design commonly seen on Pokemon products today.

A variety of different Pokemon featured in the original anime were produced as plush toys by Play by Play, although perhaps due to the nature in which they were sold at amusement parks as opposed to a traditional retail setting, there is very little photo evidence for some of the rarer Play by Play plushies. The full list (that is known) of Pokemon character plushies created and sold by Play by Play is as thus:

Play by Play Original Series:

Pikachu, Meowth, Jigglypuff, Psyduck, Eevee, Togepi, Bulbasaur, Charmander, Charizard, Squirtle, Wartortle, Blastoise, Sandshrew, Raichu, Pidgeotto, Butterfree, Clefairy, Zubat, Poliwhirl, Gengar, Machop, Geodude, Horsea, Goldeen, Chansey, Hitmonchan, Snorlax, Magmar, Mew, Mewtwo

Play by Play Master Quest Series:

Pikachu, Pichu, Ash Ketchum, Lugia, Celebi

Pokedolls:

Pokedolls have come in many different iterations and are noticeably different in appearance to many other Pokemon plushies, being presented in a Chibi (Chibi being a japanese term for characters drawn in an over-exaggerated small/cute fashion, with short limbs and large heads) style not used in other licensed Pokemon toys. They are also notable for being inspired by the in-game item, the Pokedoll, which made its first appearance in the Generation I character Copycat/Mimic Girl’s house in Saffron City and has since appeared numerous times in the main series games and also as a Trainer card in the Pokemon Trading Card Game. The first iteration of Pokedolls were released under the name PlushPlush and were initially only available to purchase through Japanese Pokemon Center retail outlets before being rebranded as Pokedolls in 2002.

Since then however, many Pokedolls (though not all as some remain exclusive to the Japanese market) have become available to purchase in other stores across the world, such as the Nintendo World Store in New York (which was formerly the Pokemon Centre New York), pop-up Pokemon Centre kiosks that have appeared in various shopping malls across the USA and in the pop-up Pokemon Centre London which temporarily opened in the UK in 2019. Pokedolls released in the UK were marketed under the name Pokemon Mini Plush and were generally relatively small in size, though the size of Pokedolls can be quite variable overall, with standard models being around 6 inches alongside many variations, such as the Mini Pokedolls, Oversized Pokedolls and DX (Deluxe) Pokedolls.

Electronic Pokemon Plush Toys:

Over the course of the Pokemon franchise there have been a wide range of electronic Pokemon plushies released by several different companies. The features of each of these can vary from model to model though the majority of them feature some type of sound and/or light effects. One of the most popular electronic plush lines during the first three Pokemon Generations was the range produced and released by Hasbro from 1999 to 2004. The initial line of plush toys was quite concise consisting of just 3 characters, with electronic plushies of Pikachu, Mew and Togepi being released in November 1999. They were extremely popular (particularly the Pikachu electronic plush) and sales of these cute interactive toys helped the Pokemon franchise as a whole (alongside the games, cards and other Pokemon toys) top the TRA Top Ten list of the biggest selling toys for Christmas 1999.

Hasbro sought to repeat their success with the release of two new electronic plushies in 2001, Marill and Pichu. They also re-released their most successful electronic plush, the electronic Pikachu in 2004, with some changes made to Pikachu’s design and packaging to fit the new Pokemon: Advanced anime series and merchandise line, however due to some decline in the profitability of Pokemon merchandise during this period of the franchise this re-released electronic Pikachu did not enjoy the same sales success as its predecessor.

Alongside the 1999 Hasbro electronic plushies, Tiger Electronics (a subsidiary of Hasbro) also produced smaller plush toys of Pikachu and Togepi that were attached to keychains and made a variety of sounds (Tiger Electronics also produced a number of non-plush electronic Pokemon keyring toys). As well as this, in 2000 they also released an 11 inch electronic Psyduck plush which would make sounds and shake when activated, a toy which occasionally functioned a little too well and would sometimes scare the children it belonged to by setting off unannounced (though perhaps due to this unpredictability the Tiger Electronics Psyduck toy could be considered to be the most in keeping with the Pokemon anime’s portrayal of Psyduck).

From 2007 to 2011 Jakks Pacific released a number of different electronic plushies featuring Pokemon from the Generation IV and V games (Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, Black, White, Black Version 2 and White Version 2). One of the most notable lines from this period was the Diamond & Pearl Electronic Plush set which featured the second stage evolutions of the starter Pokemon from the Diamond & Pearl games, Croagunk, Monferno and Prinplup. Considering second stage evolutions tend to be rather overlooked when it comes to merchandising it was a first for the franchise to have all three second stage starter evolutions sold not only as a plush set, but one that could be interacted with via a variety of sound features.

In 2016 Tomy released a new interactive electronic Pikachu plushie under the name My Friend Pikachu. Some of its features were similar to the Hasbro electronic Pikachu that had been a hit 17 years earlier, with the toy speaking Pikachu’s signature “Pika Pika!” catchphrase and having light up cheeks, however My Friend Pikachu’s design was noticeably different to the vintage Hasbro model as the head was much larger and round but the body was significantly slimmer, mirroring the design changes Pikachu had undergone since the release of the original electronic plush. My Friend Pikachu also had the new (and admittedly, very cute) feature of being able to wiggle its ears which when combined with its light up cheeks and vocal output made for quite an expressive and engaging toy. Although this new version of the electronic Pikachu plush still didn’t make quite as big of an impact as the old Hasbro electronic plush had during the height of the Pokemania craze, it was one of the signifying products that marked the resurgence of the Pokemon franchise in the mainstream media, as with 2016’s Pokemon Go being a huge global success once again stores began stocking more and more Pokemon merchandise in order to keep up with the new-found demand, a resurgence which has continued following the success of Pokemon: Detective Pikachu, new main series games for the Nintendo Switch and renewed interest in the Pokemon Trading Card Game.

The Build-A-Bear Workshop Pokemon Collection:

Continuing with the modern resurgence in Pokemon’s overall popularity, one of the most loved and collectible Pokemon plushie collections in recent years has been the Build-A-Bear Workshop Pokemon Collection. Beginning in December 2015, the collection includes a variety of different Pokemon characters that can be dressed in a range of different Pokemon-themed clothing. Each Pokemon Build-A-Bear toy also comes with their own Build-A-Bear branded Pokemon TCG card.

Like other Build-A-Bear toys, the Pokemon Build-A-Bear plushies bought in-store are stuffed  by Build-A-Bear staff and also have a voice box included which makes sounds in relation to the specific Pokemon. A number of different Pokemon characters have been included in the Build-A-Bear collection and new Pokemon continue to be added, however some of the older Build-A-Bear Pokemon plushies have now been retired and are only available to purchase on the collectors market. Some of the rarer Build-A-Bear Pokemon plushies are becoming incredibly sought after, with retired Pokemon such as Bulbasaur going for up to $300 when sold as a complete set with clothes and trading card. The Pokemon that have been included in the Build-A-Bear Workshop Pokemon Collection so far are:

2015/2016:

Pikachu, Eevee, Charmander

2017/2018:

Squirtle, Meowth, Vulpix. Bulbasaur, Jigglypuff, Alolan Vulpix, Piplup

2019/2020:

Psyduck, Snubull, Snorlax, Pichu, Flareon, Jolteon, Vaporeon

2021:

Dragonite, Mew

So Are Pokemon Plushies Still Cute, Cuddly and Collectable?

Yes, yes and yes. If there was ever a franchise that was perfectly suitable to have its characters made into plush form, Pokemon has to be it. The older and rarer plushies are not only fun for collectors to find, they also bring back lots of memories for many and the new plushies succeed in not only encouraging newer and younger Pokemon fans to start collecting, but also in providing lots of fun and friendship along the way, which is what every good soft toy, Pokemon or not, should do. As I mentioned earlier, this article only covers a fraction of both the vintage and newer Pokemon plushies available, the plushie market is one of the most expansive parts of the world of Pokemon merchandise and there is plenty of fun to be had in tracking down your favourite characters, so if you’re thinking about starting your own collection, there’s no better time than now!

Written by Emily Carney, 2021

Sources:

Pokemon Plush Toys – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Category:Plush_toys

Hasbro Beanie Plushies – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Bean-filled_plush_figures

Hasbro Beanie Plushies Rarity Info – http://pokemonthrowback.weebly.com/hasbro-beanies.html

Purchasable KFC Pokemon Plush Toys – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/1998_KFC_promotional_Pok%C3%A9mon_toys_(purchasable)

Non-Plush KFC Kid’s Meal Pokemon Toys – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/1998_KFC_promotional_Pok%C3%A9mon_toys_(Kids%27_Meal)

Nintendo Press Release On KFC Toys – https://web.archive.org/web/19990218090909/http://www.nintendo.com/corp/press/kfc.html

List of Pokemon Friends Releases – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Bandai_Friends#Pok.C3.A9mon_Friends_2_.281997.29

Pokemon Friends – Pokemon Collectors Wiki – https://pkmncollectors.fandom.com/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Friends

Play by Play Website – https://playbyplaytoys.es/en/

HamsterBomb – Large Pokemon Plush Collection! Show and Tell – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-9tT0oSMA8

Play by Play Plushies – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Play_by_Play

Pokedolls – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9_Doll_(plush)

Mewisme700 – The Top Five Most Sought-After and Rare Pokemon Center Pokedoll Plush! – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izNXVVn2s_k

PlushPlush and Pokedolls – http://eeveetrainer.weebly.com/pokedolls.html

Flammable Lizard – Pokemon Collector’s Conundrum: Episode 1 – Pokedolls – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSgk3pssxC0

TRA Top Ten List For Christmas 1999 – https://www.toyretailersassociation.co.uk/top-ten-xmas-1999

Hasbro Plush Figures – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Hasbro_plush_figures#Electronic_plush_figures

Build-A-Bear Workshop Pokemon Collection – https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Build-A-Bear_Workshop_collection

Pokemon Build-A-Bear Homepage – https://www.buildabear.co.uk/collections/shop-by-character/pokemon

Ambie Bambie – Pokemon Build-A-Bear Review – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7jNVijzaEw

The Swamp Thing #3 Review

The Swamp Thing #3

Written by: Ram V
Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar

This issue, we’re first greeted by an eye-catching cover which feels almost as if it could be a distant relative of the old absinthe green fairy posters.  Although it reveals the appearance of both Ivy and Poison Ivy before the story does, it does a great job of making you want to pick up and read on.

As we do so, there is some really inventive sequential art depicting Levi’s CT scan and initial transformation as he and Jennifer try to understand what he is going through when he becomes The Swamp Thing.  As Jennifer is pulled along for the ride into ‘The Green’, some of the secrets and mysteries of this elemental place are revealed to us, along with some of its well known denizens.  It’s a thrilling experience as we travel along with them, encountering incredible things and facing new questions.

Again, the creative team have given us a wonderful title page and this time out, there is a very clever title to boot.  ‘My Green Amaranthine’ refers very neatly to the nature of The Swamp Thing while also describing his appearance (amaranth being an immortal flower or a herb/weed with colourful leaves and spikes of flowers – I had to look it up).

This careful and clever use of words is one of the things that sets Ram V apart as a writer; others being chiefly his command of dialogue and pacing.  Here, he encapsulates a very alien experience, full of strangeness and awe, and somehow makes it relatable for us as readers.

As Levi and Jennifer journey through The Green (an important realm in Swamp Thing lore), the creators of this comic do a wonderful job of ensuring each and every step is compelling, mystifying, unsettling, exciting; sometimes all at once.  The art is phenomenal throughout, never failing to give us a true sense of what lies in this strange place.  There’s a lot to take in during this issue and the skilled lettering of Aditya Bidikar ensures that we enjoy the process, marking each character with their own unique style.

By the time we reach the end, we’re left breathless and yet wanting more, as larger events are hinted at…

Verdict

My Green Amaranthine is yet another excellent issue in this new run for Swamp Thing.  It has something for old and new readers alike and the quality imbued by its creators fills every page and makes for a hugely enjoyable read.  Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson (co-creators of Swamp Thing) would be proud.

Review by Andy Flood, 24/6/21

The Swamp Thing #2 Review

The Swamp Thing #2

Written by: Ram V
Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar



‘Becoming, Part 2’ arrives with a cover showing us Levi Kamei, mid-transformation, full of cosmic horror and faced with his dark desert counterpart. It’s a dramatic image which sets the tone for what awaits us within.

We rejoin Levi in the aftermath of his first jarring encounter with the Pale Wanderer.
Counter to the oft-used secret identity, he shares his seemingly insane experiences with his friend, Jennifer. He is then drawn into a horrifying sequence of ‘lessons’ back out in the Sonoran Desert; the Pale Wanderer his unlikely and unwelcome mentor. This
happens over the course of yet another spectacular title spread, the first issue having
treated us to a similarly impressive title page.

Through the course of this issue, we learn more of Levi’s past, see that he is being
surveilled, and revisit the Arizona sheriff as he tries to process his unbelievable encounter. All of this precedes an epic showdown between Swamp Thing and the Wanderer, who might well prove to be two sides of an ancient coin. We’re given further mysteries to unravel and even a brief cameo from a very well known DC hero.

If it’s not already clear, the creative team have done a wonderful job on this issue. Ram V’s writing is again, superb. Supported ably by the quality lettering of Aditya Bidikar, Ram V’s grasp of plotting and character development shine through, giving us countless memorable moments drenched in atmosphere and enigma.

The visual identity of this title is already so strong, with the team of Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer ensuring that every page is a treat. While each scene has its own distinct feel, there is no doubt that they exist as part of a cohesive whole.

Verdict

The Swamp Thing #2 shows us a creative team in synch and using their talents to great effect. It’s the sort of comic that rewards return visits; revealing fine details or hints that the reader might have missed the first time. It’s clear that the pebble cast into the pond by events in these early issues will generate some pretty big ripples. Bring on issue 3!
(Recommended for ages 13+)


Review by Andy Flood, 24/6/21

Star Wars #14 Review

STAR WARS #14

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Ramon Rosanas

Released: 16/06/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Since the start of the War of the Bounty Hunters event (a massive 34-part epic that stretches across multiple Star Wars titles) the one main character that we haven’t seen much of is the one that would seem to be the most natural lead for this arc. That’s not to say that what has come out so far hasn’t been superb, but a certain roguish, double-crossing smuggler has been conspicuous by his absence for the last couple of issues. Star Wars #14 changes all that as Lando Calrissian finally enters the fray and cuts just as dashing and devilish a figure as always.

As this run takes place after The Empire Strikes Back, Lando has been the perfect replacement for Han Solo in the regular team, filling his shoes as the wildcard element of the Rebellion – not entirely dedicated to the cause, sceptical of the Force and Luke’s Jedi path and potentially ready to turn tail and run at any moment if there’s something in it for him. In fact, Soule has taken this one step further, with Calrissian a few issues deep into (seemingly) a plot to betray Luke, Leia and co. once again. Even with the knowledge of Lando’s part in later films, this has proven an intriguing for the creatives to pull at, not least because Charles Soule’s writing and Ramon Rosanas’ art still make it impossible to dislike Calrissian, bringing all the natural charm of Billy Dee Williams himself to the page.

Lando is at the heart of this issue for more reasons than just his dodgy machinations, though. He is still desperately searching for a way to help a newly mute and seemingly semi-brain dead Lobot recover his humanity. This scenario led to one of the most nail-bitingly tense moments of the run so far a handful of issues back and it looks set to continue to create some complex character moments, allowing Soule to show that Lando does in fact care about someone other than himself…possibly.

VERDICT

Leia’s continued quest to find Han against all odds, Lando’s intrigues in the bowels of the Millennium Falcon, a beautifully drawn and laid out chase sequence and a bumpy landing all work together wonderfully to put our heroes on a collision course with the other players in what is turning out to be an incredibly entertaining event so far.

Review by Nathan Harrison, 22/06/2021

The Changing Face Of The Pokedex

The Changing Face Of The Pokedex

“Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” as the famous tagline goes! For the past 25 years one little device has been aiding trainers in their quests to become Pokemon masters, both in the games, the anime and even in real life with the Pokedex toys that arrived during the wave of Pokemania that took the world by storm in the late 90’s. In this article I will be exploring the various Pokedex toys that have been used and enjoyed by Pokemon fans over the years and how these devices have changed and adapted alongside the franchise.

Pokedex:

The first Pokedex toy was developed in 1998 and released in 1999 by Tiger Electronics and Hasbro. This Pokedex was a compendium of the first 150 Pokemon found in the Kanto Region (not including Pokemon #151, Mew), featuring information similar to that included in the Pokedex used by the protagonist in the Pokemon Gameboy games and by Ash/Satoshi in the Pokemon anime. This information included each individual Pokemon’s height, weight, type (i.e rock, electric etc), strength (a statistic exclusive to this particular Pokedex device which was of no correlation to the statistics used in the games, as this stat only ranges from one to ten), attack (a list of four attacks that can be learnt by the Pokemon), an attack animation (a two-frame animation in which the black and white sprite of the Pokemon displayed on the Pokedex uses one of its attacks) and a bio entry taken from the Red and Blue games.

As well as being an index of the Generation I Pokemon, the first Pokedex also included a clock system and calculator. It also had Pages, Sort and Favourite functions, which consisted of a basic search feature, as well password protection that could be set by the user and the ability to log which Pokemon the user had captured.

The original Pokedex was heavily marketed and widely available from a variety of retailers upon its release. It was ranked #9 on the BATR (British Association of Toy Retailers) Top Ten list for Christmas 2000.

THINKChip Ash’s Talking Pokedex:

The THINKChip Pokedex device was released by Hasbro in 2000. This peripheral was designed to connect with the THINKChip action figures that Hasbro also released under the umbrella title of the THINKChip Interactive System, as well as to display the collectable cards that were included with the figures. The chips in these figures enabled sound effects and other features. Hasbro released the compatible action figures between 2000 to 2001, the list of Pokemon featured as THINKChip figures consisted of:

Bulbasaur

Charmader

Wartortle

Pikachu

Jigglypuff

Ivysaur

Charmeleon

Wigglytuff

Graveler

Charizard

Blastoise

Raichu

Golem

Totodile

Prototype figures of Entei, Venasaur, Heracross and Sneasel were also created and were initially planned to be officially released in October 2001, however these plans were later scrapped. As well as the figures and Talking Pokedex, two battle stadium sets and an Ash Ketchum figure were also released under the THINKChip line.

Deluxe Pokedex:

Tiger Electronics returned to the Pokedex in 2001 with the release of Deluxe Pokedex. This device was a redesign of the original Pokedex inspired by the Pokedex used in the Johto region in the Gold, Silver and Crystal Gameboy Colour Games and featured unique gold colouring, being the only Pokedex toy until the release of 2011’s Electronic/Unova Pokedex to deviate from the original red colour scheme.

The Deluxe Pokedex was essentially an improved version of the original Pokedex released 3 years earlier and had many similar functions, however this new model included the 100 new Generation II Pokemon from the Johto region as well as more advanced features including the ability to set reminders for events, a to-do list and a communicator function that allowed the user to record phone numbers, email addresses and web addresses.

Pokedex Advanced:

The third re-design of the Pokedex was released by Hasbro in 2003, with a drastically different look to the previous Pokedexes as the Pokedex Advanced was made to replicate the device used in the Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald Gameboy Advance games and by Ash/Satoshi in the Pokemon: Advanced anime series (the Pokedex wasn’t the only change for Ash in the anime however, as the Advanced series saw him receive his first new outfit, leave behind his older Pokemon in favour of catching new ones in the Hoenn region, and was also the first series of the anime that saw Ash travelling without his previous companion Misty).

The Pokedex Advanced was much more camera-like in appearance and had a noticeably more minimalist interface than the two Pokedexes that came before it. The functions within the device were very similar to previous devices, however although the sprites of the Pokemon displayed throughout the Pokedex Advanced were still shown on a relatively small black and white LCD screen, the sprites were noticeably more detailed than those on the original and Johto Pokedexes.

Cyber Pokedex:

The Cyber Pokedex, released in 2004, was the first and only Pokedex produced by Bandai. This Pokedex was very similar in appearance to the Pokedex Advance that had come out the year before as it was still replicating the appearance of the Hoenn Pokedex. The features on the Cyber Pokedex were at first glance seemingly even more minimal than the Pokedex Advance, but it actually had some very innovative functions that aligned with features used in other areas of the Pokemon franchise. One of these functions was known as Camera Mode, which allowed the user to “catch” Pokemon by exploring different environmental location graphics displayed on the Cyber Pokedex’s screen and snapping photos of the Pokemon situated in the location, in a fashion not too dissimilar from some elements (albeit heavily simplified) from 1999’s Pokemon Snap and 2016’s Pokemon Go.

The Cyber Pokedex was also the first Pokedex toy that allowed users to connect with others using the Cyber Pokedex’s compatibility with the Cyber Pokeball device. Users could battle and trade their Pokemon using both devices, which marks one of the first instances of Pokemon’s battle and trading gaming mechanics being implemented on devices that weren’t traditional games consoles. A number of different Cyber Pokeballs were released, such as the Ultraball, the Superball (which came in a variety of colours) and a more traditionally designed Pokeball.

Talking Pokedex Game:

In 2005 Hasbro released the Talking Pokedex Game. As can be seen on the packaging, this device was released during the celebration of Pokemon’s 10th Anniversary. Although it’s design shared some similarities with the Hoenn Pokedex (particularly the minimalistic interface and lack of keypad, although it did include a Gameboy-esque D pad), the Talking Pokedex was inspired by the revamped Kanto Pokedex used by the player in the Generation I remakes, Fire Red and Leaf Green.

Like the Pokedex toys prior, the Talking Pokedex’s graphics were displayed on a small LCD screen and didn’t differ greatly from the graphic style or quality of the previous model. When initiating the device, users were given the option to choose whether the device should be voiced by Ash or May (who would replace Misty as Ash’s female travelling companion in the Pokemon: Advanced series), which was similar to the gender specification option introduced to the main series Pokemon games in 2000’s Pokemon Crystal. Upon selection, the user would be greeted with a graphic of either Ash or May, depending on their choice, then would be able to browse the various functions within the Pokedex. Perhaps due to some influence from the playable and interactive aspects of the Cyber Pokedex, the Talking Pokedex was much more gameplay-orientated than the information/PDA-based Pokedexes that had been released during the first few years following the toy’s conception. The Talking Pokedex included a Scan Mode, which operated in a relatively similar fashion to the Camera Mode used in the Cyber Pokedex, though as well as finding Pokemon, the user would also receive points for successfully locating them. Rather confusingly, the option within the device titled “Game Mode”  was actually where the index containing graphics and information on the various species of Pokemon could be found. This index included similar information to other Pokedex toys, such as each Pokemon’s weight, height and typing, with a notable difference being that the Talking Pokedex would tell these facts to the user out loud (using the selected character voice) rather than just having the information available on screen, in a style similar to the Pokedex used by Ash in the anime, which would relay information to him when a new Pokemon to capture or battle was encountered.

Also, rather than having all the information on each Pokemon readily available as it was in previous models, graphics and information on each Pokemon could only be accessed when the Pokemon had been caught in Scan Mode. This again shows another similarity the Talking Pokedex had to the main series games at this point, as in the games a graphic of each Pokemon’s sprite would only be included on the player’s Pokedex once the Pokemon had been encountered (either in the wild or during a trainer battle) and the corresponding information on the Pokemon would only be added after the player had successfully captured it. The Talking Pokedex also had some quiz-like elements to its gameplay functions in the Pokemon Games section, including question rounds such as “Who’s That Pokemon?” (which was potentially inspired by the “Who’s That Pokemon?” segment that appeared before and after commercial breaks during the anime, in which viewers tried to guess the identity of a Pokemon based on it’s silhouette), “What Evolution Level?” (where users would guess the numbered level at which a specific Pokemon would evolve) and “Who Has The Advantage?” (which tested the user’s knowledge of Pokemon type advantages when in battle).

Deluxe Talking Pokedex:

The Deluxe Talking Pokedex marked Jakks Pacific taking over the production and sale of all Pokedex toys from 2007 to 2014. This device was essentially an improved version of Hasbro’s 2005 model, with the designs being almost identical at first glance.

The Deluxe Talking Pokedex’s improved features included a better and more expansive quality of sound, with a variety of different effects and jingles being played during use, along with a light-up feature that activated when the user switched on the device and would react to the user going through the index of different Pokemon. This incarnation of the Pokedex retconned the unlockable information mechanic of the Talking Pokedex and instead followed the Pokedex toys that were released prior to 2005 and made all Pokemon graphics and information readily available from the get go. The Deluxe Talking Pokedex did retain the narration feature brought about by its predecessor however and included spoken narration featuring general information for each individual Pokemon, however rather than use human characters from the anime as narrators, a robotic voice similar to that of the Pokedex used by Ash in the anime filled this role. The Scan Mode from the previous Talking Pokedex was replaced by a Search Mode although the functions were very similar, as were those found in Game Mode which was retained from the older model.

Sinnoh Pokedex/Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Talking Pokedex:

Jakks Pacific released their second Pokedex toy later in 2007, the Sinnoh Pokedex (also known as the Pokemon Diamond and Pearl Talking Pokedex). This was the first Pokedex toy modelled on the device used in the Generation IV Pokemon games (which had now moved from the Gameboy Advance to the Nintendo DS). This change of generation and console in the main series Pokemon games was reflected in the Sinnoh Pokedex’s design which included 2 LCD screens, a first for the Pokedex toys and aesthetically reflective of the Nintendo DS’s dual screen functionality.

This Pokedex seemed to be a blend of both the compendium-type features of the first few Pokedex toys whilst still promoting the interactive gameplay elements of more recent devices. The indexing mechanics were back to being at the forefront of the Pokedex’s features, Pokemon could be searched for and information about them could be discovered by using search specifications similar to those featured in the older Pokedexes, such as searching by height, weight and type amongst others.

However the developers were keen to make sure the interactivity that had made the Generation III Pokedexes stand out was still implemented into the device and so as well as the information and search functions, the Sinnoh Pokedex also included 6 mini games and a brand new feature known as “Maze Mode”. Some of the games from previous Pokedexes remained, such as “Who’s That Pokemon?” and “Who Would Win?” (which was essentially a re-titled version of “Who Has The Advantage?” from 2005’s Talking Pokedex), however it also included some new mini games such as Pokemon Memory and Pokeball Shuffle, card games which were rather reminiscent of some of the mini games that could be played in the various Game Corner locations found in the main series Pokemon games. There were some technical glitches with the “Who Would Win?” mini game however, as when comparing Pokemon the device did not take into account dual typing (for example, if a Pokemon was a Normal/Flying type, it may only consider them to be a Normal type) which made some of the outcomes of this mini game incorrect. “Maze Mode” would see the user attempting to escape the Sea Temple maze, which was taken from the ninth Pokemon movie, Pokemon Ranger and the Temple of The Sea, released in 2006. Maze Mode also included an appearance from Jessie and James from Team Rocket, which marks the first inclusion of the characters from Team Rocket in a Pokedex Toy.

National Pokedex:

A follow up to the previous Sinnoh Pokedex was released by Jakks Pacific in 2009, under the name National Pokedex (though it is also known to some as the Sinnoh National Pokedex). This new device retained the dual screens first featured in the 2007 model and added another feature that also channeled the Nintendo DS by incorporating touch screen capabilities into its design.

As well as the dual screens, the National Pokedex was also decorated with graphics of various Pokemon including Giratina, who was the mascot for the third title from Generation IV, Pokemon Platinum, which was released in 2008. Many of the other features included in the National Pokedex didn’t deviate too far away from those included in the Sinnoh Pokedex, with the traditional index of information on the various species of Pokemon alongside a selection of mini games. Graphical sprites of each Pokemon could also be viewed under the Gallery function.

Electronic/Unova Pokedex:

The Electronic Pokedex (also known as the Unova Pokedex) was released by Jakks Pacific in 2011. This Pokedex was inspired by the Pokedex used in the Generation V games, Pokemon Black and White, which was further illustrated in its design with the game mascots Reshiram and Zekrom featured.

Unusually for a Pokedex toy inspired by a new Pokemon region, the Electronic/Unova Pokedex only contained information on 45 of the newly introduced Pokemon from Generation V, despite there being 156 new Pokemon in total that were included in the Black and White games. Rather than having a Nintendo DS-like appearance similar to the two previous Pokedex models, the user would slide open the Electronic/Unova Pokedex in order to access its functions. Again as well as the index/information mechanics, the device also included similar minigames to those featured in other Pokedex toys, such as Who’s That Pokemon? and Who Has The Battle Advantage?, although this time round these features were listed as “Challenges” rather than simply mini games. The challenges did have some unlockable features however, as if the player could score at least 3 out of 5 in each challenge (the challenges lasted for 5 rounds each), they would unlock a different pose for Pokemon sprites that could be viewed within the Gallery feature, which had also been retained from the National Pokedex.

The Electronic/Unova Pokedex was the first Pokedex toy model since 2001’s Deluxe Pokedex to not adhere to the usual majority-red colour scheme that the other devices followed, as although the outer casing did obviously have a red Pokeball emblazoned on it, the rest of the colour scheme matched the monochromatic colour palette that was featured in much of Pokemon Black and White’s merchandise and marketing. This deviation from Pokemon’s usual bright and cheery look (not just with this particular Pokedex model but with this period in the franchise’s history in general) was the source of much debate between Pokemon fans, as some greatly missed the aesthetic of the older designs.

Pokemon X & Y Pokemon Trainer’s Kalos Region Pokedex/Zukan XY:

The Generation VI Pokedex, the Pokemon X & Y Pokemon Trainer’s Kalos Region Pokedex (also known as the Pokemon Zukan XY, Pokemon Zukan being the Japanese term for the Pokedex), was released in 2014 and was the first Pokedex toy created by Tomy. Despite being heavily involved in producing and releasing Pokemon merchandise (particularly action figures) since the late 1990’s, up until this point Tomy had not worked on any projects involving the Pokedex. The Kalos Region Pokedex was based on the device used in the Pokemon X and Y games (which were the first Pokemon games to be released on the Nintendo 3DS) and the X and Y anime.

The Kalos Region Pokedex kept the black and red colour scheme that was established with the Unova Pokedex, however it did return to some of the aesthetics of the older Pokedexes by making the red parts of its design much more prominent. Whereas other models of Pokedex toy had varied in style from the original PDA/Calculator-type devices up to the more recent games console-esque devices, the Kalos Region Pokedex reflected the trends in mid 2010’s technology in its tablet-like appearance. The device could be operated using both the buttons on the inside of the device or via the touch screen. The Kalos Region Pokedex is notable for being the first Pokedex toy with full-colour graphics, and indeed the appearance and detail given to the Pokemon and characters featured within the Pokedex was drastically improved. This Pokedex was also the first Pokedex toy to feature a map of its specific region and in the Adventure Mode, this map of the Kalos region was split into 3 different parts (as the Pokedex in the X and Y games also was): the central Kalos region, the mountain Kalos region and the coastal Kalos region. The user could select different environments within these regions and then explore them using a trainer sprite similar to those of the protagonist in the various main series games, finding different Pokemon along the way. The user would have to answer questions on each Pokemon encountered in order to obtain them and add them to their Pokedex, in a sort of blend of the Scan Mode and quiz-like features that were included in previous models of the toy. More areas of the game could be unlocked as the user progressed and further information on each Pokemon could be viewed within the Pokedex upon capturing them.

With the improvements in graphical capability and the overall premise of the device made to be more of an interactive journey, The Kalos Region Pokedex was much more of a condensed version of the content of the main series Pokemon games than any of the previous Pokemon toy devices had been. This device was also the first to feature information mega evolution, a game mechanic introduced in Pokemon X and Y which temporarily changed the appearance of Pokemon with the ability to mega evolve and gave them upgraded statistics and battle capabilities. The Maze mode feature from the Sinnoh Pokedex was also brought back alongside the new features incorporating mega evolution, in a mini game where users would explore a maze searching for mega stones, which were used to mega evolve specific Pokemon. This feature could also be used alongside another Tomy-manufactured device that was compatible with the Kalos Region Pokedex, the Pokemon Mega Ring.

Using the Mega Ring device alongside the Kalos Region Pokedex allowed users to gather mega stones more quickly and complete the Mega Evolution Dex, a mode which was unlockable whilst playing the Adventure Mode (another dex, the Evolution Dex, which was based around information relating to basic Pokemon evolution lines was also unlockable in this mode). Users could also interact with other Kalos Region Pokedex users via the Pokemon Centre mode, by exchanging Trainer Cards and quiz letters for various Pokemon in order to help other users complete their Pokedex. There were also extra quiz functions within the device where Professor Oak would ask the user various questions relating to different types of Pokemon, successfully answering these questions would eventually lead to the user earning quiz badges, which could be viewed alongside other user-specific information through the Trainer Card feature, which was similar in appearance and function to the Trainer Cards given to the protagonists in the main series games (again reinforcing the Kalos Region’s Pokedex similarities to the games). The appearance of the trainer sprite used when operating the features of the Pokedex could also be changed at the user’s discretion, mirroring another feature of the X and Y games as these were the first games in the Pokemon franchise to allow players to customize the appearance of their trainer character. The user could also customize the appearance of the Pokedex screen itself, with a variety of different wallpapers.

The Kalos Region Pokedex also featured yet another first in terms of Pokedex toy functionality with the inclusion of a working camera, photos from which could be decorated with a variety of Pokemon-themed frames (more of which would become unlockable throughout the device’s various games) and saved to either the Pokedex’s internal storage or to an SD card.

Pokemon Zukan Z / New Hoenn Pokedex:

In 2015, a second Generation VI Pokedex toy called the Pokemon Zukan Z (also known as the New Hoenn Pokedex) was released by Takara-Tomy. Tomy had actually merged with fellow Japanese toy manufacturers Takara back in 2006, though the name “Takara-Tomy” (as opposed to the usual “Tomy” brand) had been primarily reserved for Japanese products, which befit the Pokemon Zukan Z as it was the first Pokedex toy to not have its text or content translated into any other languages outside of Japanese.

The Pokemon Zukan Z was released following the success of Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire on the Nintendo 3DS, remakes of the original Ruby and Sapphire that had been released in the November of the previous year. The device was drastically different in appearance to any other Pokedex toy so far, with its shape resembling that of the original Gameboy Advance, which fans speculated may have been in homage to the platform on which Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire were originally released. However, although the appearance of the Pokemon Zukan Z was based around the Pokedex used by the protagonist whilst exploring the Hoenn Region in Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, much of the device’s internal content (particularly in Adventure Mode) was still based in the Kalos Region from Pokemon X and Y.

The Pokemon Zukan Z contained the usual index of Pokemon in numerical order and their various details and statistics, and although non-Japanese-literate users may not have been able to understand the exact content of the index system, they were still able to navigate functions within the device and view images of various Pokemon through the use of universal icons (such as an image of a magnifying glass indicating where to find the search function) and categories such as different Pokemon types (i.e grass, fire etc) being colour coordinated. 

In terms of gameplay features the Pokemon Zukan Z retained the Adventure Mode from the Kalos Region Pokedex with the interface based around the map of the region where the user could select which area they wanted to explore being almost identical to that of the previous model. However, the quiz functions in adventure mode had been changed from being used to capture Pokemon to instead being used as the basis for battles with non-playable character trainers. The user would encounter these trainers during the Adventure Mode and would have to correctly answer at least half of the questions given before being allowed to progress. The content of the questions was similar to that found in the quiz functions of previous Pokedex toys, with the user being asked to name, identify and answer trivia on various Pokemon. Much like in the Kalos Region Pokedex, progressing through the Adventure Mode also gave the user the opportunity to collect badges and their achievements would be saved in the device’s internal storage. The Pokemon Zukan Z also had a separate Pokedex index for legendary Pokemon, where their images and data could be viewed and the Evolution/Mega Evolution Pokedexes first introduced in the previous Pokedex were also accessible.

Characters from the Pokemon X and Y anime were also featured within the device, as Ash/Satoshi would appear and introduce the user to new Pokemon species and forms (i.e Ash Greninja) that would appear in the 6th Generation. The Pokemon Zukan Z was also compatible with the Pokemon Mega Bangle (also known as the Mega Bracelet) a device similar to the Pokemon Mega Ring that synced with the Kalos Region Pokedex. The user could wirelessly connect the Pokemon Zukan Z to the Mega Bangle, then attach a Mega Stone accessory to find different Mega-Evolved Pokemon.

Pokemon Ash’s Rotom Dex:

In 2016, Takara-Tomy released their first Pokedex toy model for Generation VII, the Pokemon Ash’s Rotom Dex . The whole design and aesthetic of this new device was completely different from previous Pokedex toys, as the Pokemon Ash’s Rotom Dex was inspired by the device used in the Pokemon Sun/Moon/Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon games and by Ash in the Pokemon Sun and Moon anime. Within the franchise the Rotom Pokedex was the first Pokedex device established to be sentient instead of just simply being a piece of technology, as according to cannon the Rotom Pokedex was a Pokedex that had been possessed by a Rotom, a species of electric/ghost type Pokemon first introduced in Generation IV.

The Ash’s Rotom Dex contained narrative features which would interact with the user, though as the device was based off a Pokedex inhabited by a Pokemon as opposed to just being a tool to learn about various aspects of Pokemon, the narration had more personality and was a lot more directly interactive on a 1 to 1 base than previous Pokedex voiceovers had been. The gameplay side of Ash’s Rotom Dex’s functionality brought back Maze Mode, however this time the user would navigate through the maze and capture different Pokemon by using the motion sensor built within the device to tilt from left to right and vice versa. The device was also much smaller in size than previous Pokedex toys (particularly the notably bulky Zukan Z) which made carrying the device and using features such as the motion sensitivity/tilt function easily accessible.

Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX:

Takara-Tomy released a follow-up device to Ash’s Rotom Dex the following year in 2017, with the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX (the “DX” standing for deluxe). The Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX featured a touch screen as seen in other previous Pokedex models, with the screen being made larger than that of the 2016 model, presumably as this would work better with the included stylus. This device was the first Pokedex toy to have no buttons or keyboard interface, with all of the device’s operations being controlled solely from the touch screen.

As well as having a larger screen, the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX also had larger speakers to improve the sound quality of the device’s narrative/interactive features. In keeping with the themes from the Pokemon games and anime of the Rotom Dex being inhabited by a Rotom Pokemon, the screen would also serve to show the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX changing expressions.

The device’s main menu consisted of 4 options: Pokedex, Field Work, Pokemon School (inspired by the school attended by Ash and his friends in the Pokemon Sun and Moon anime) and Settings. As with the Zukan Z and Ash’s Rotom Dex, the text and narration within the device was in Japanese, but non-Japanese speaking users could still navigate the majority of its features via illustrated icons. The Pokemon in the Pokedex were listed in the same numerical order in which they were found in the Rotom Dex in the Sun and Moon games and anime, so if a non-Japanese speaking user was familiar with the order in which these Pokemon were listed they would still be able to find the Pokemon they were looking for without being fluent in the on-screen text.

In a feature almost identical to that used in the Zukan Z device, Pokemon typings were again colour coordinated (notably in similar colours used for various Pokemon types and energy cards in the Pokemon Trading Card game, though whether this was intentional or not is unknown) which would also help users navigate this information. The quiz functions within the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX also featured Alolan forms of Pokemon, these were variations of existing Pokemon introduced in Generation VII with appearance, type and attack differences exclusive to Pokemon of these particular species found in the Alola Region.

The Field Work mode was essentially a revamped version of the Adventure Mode found in previous models, with the user being given the option of exploring various environments such as the jungle, the beach and caves, amongst others. The Field Work mode also encompassed the motion sensor feature first established in the Ash’s Rotom Dex model, intertwining it with a photography objective to capture various Pokemon by taking photos of them, which was the first time that this mechanic had been used in a Pokedex toy since 2004’s Cyber Pokedex (excluding the camera in the Kalos Region Pokedex as that was an actual functional camera and not part of the device’s exploration mode gameplay).

The Pokemon School Mode was a separate collection of mini games, where the user would be greeted by Ash and Pikachu and select from a variety of games that were similar in content to those found on previous Pokedex toys, such as matching an image of a Pokemon to the correct name, upon completion of the tasks within each mini game the user would have the opportunity to catch more Pokemon to add to their collection, totals of which would be totted up and displayed on a chalkboard at the end. The mini games also made use of the new stylus feature by including a game where users could learn to spell out various Pokemon names by tracing the Hiragana or Katakana for each name out on the screen using the stylus.

This spelling game along with a mathematics-based game where the user had to select the missing number to complete a simple sum showed much more emphasis towards the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX being used as an educational tool than just a toy, though this was not the first time games in the Pokemon franchise had educational benefits, as many Pokemon titles throughout the years had included a variety of challenges designed to improve numerical, memory, logic and literacy skills. The original Pokemon Red and Blue (or Red and Green as they originally were released in Japan) games have been praised numerous times in later years by fans who claim that the games text-based nature helped them develop their own reading and vocabulary skills as children.

Some of the mini games included in the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX draw some parallels to other games from the Nintendo DS/3DS era, particularly the cooking mini game which at first glance could be mistaken for Cooking Mama, and some of the educational games are similar to aspects of Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training (albeit heavily simplified), though the DS’s stylus-led gameplay had proven to be incredibly popular so it would not be too surprising if Takara-Tomy wanted to capitalise on this, especially in relation to Pokemon’s main series games(from which the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX itself had been derived) at the time being played on the 3DS.

This relationship with the DS was even more relevant in the fact that the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX could actually connect with the 3DS and Pokemon Sun/Moon. Compatibility with other devices had been a recurring theme in the past few Pokedex models but this was the first time a Pokedex toy had been compatible with a fully-fledged Nintendo console and main series Pokemon game. Using the Pokedex in the Sun or Moon game, the user could send signals from the 3DS to the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX by scanning a QR code found when locating a Pokemon in the Sun/Moon Pokedex. This would then register the Pokemon to the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX and give the user information on the Pokemon in question. Using this feature would help the user to complete the Pokedex index within the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX and upon completion the device would acknowledge this by greeting the user with a congratulatory message from all the main characters from the Pokemon Sun and Moon anime.

This notation of achievement draws some similarities to the completion of the Pokedex in the main series games, in which the player is presented with a diploma by the Game Freak lead developer. Somewhat ironically, the only main series Pokemon games in which this reward cannot be received are Pokemon Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, which was perhaps implemented to encourage players to purchase and sync up the Rotom Zukan/Pokedex DX with their copy of the 7th Generation games in order to receive this equivalent to the diploma upon completing the Pokedex, however this has not been confirmed.

Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone:

In 2020, Takara-Tomy released another Japanese-language Pokedex device called the Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone. This device was the first Pokedex toy inspired by the Generation VIII Pokemon games, Pokemon Sword and Shield, which had been released on the Nintendo Switch Console in November 2019. The Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone is notable as being the first Pokedex device so far to be modelled on a smartphone, though not the first device in the main series games to have a telephone function, as this was first implemented in-game in Generation 2’s Pokemon Gold and Silver and taken even further in 2001 with Pokemon Crystal through the game’s compatibility with real-world mobile phones (in Japan only) using the Mobile Gameboy Adapter, however this feature proved to be quite unsuccessful and short-lived as the Mobile System GB service was shut down a year later in 2002.

Like the Rotom dex, in the games and anime the Rotom phone is again possessed by the Pokemon Rotom. Rotom is featured on the design of the Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone with its face encompassing the casing of the device and providing narrated information to the user, in a similar style to the two previous Rotom-centric Pokedex models. The device again features touch-screen technology and can be personalised to the user via a choice of different avatars. Characters from the Pokemon Journeys anime communicate with the user through a text function and aspects from the anime that were featured in the previous Rotom Dex toy such as the Pokemon School are also featured in the device.

As well as being motion sensitive, the Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone also makes use of GPS technology and is the first Pokedex toy to do so. This navigation function (displayed to the user via a map on the device’s screen) encourages the user to walk around with the Rotom Phone in order to make full use of its functionality, in a similar fashion to the mechanics of Pokemon Go, which was the first step into mobile gaming for the Pokemon Franchise and has been enormously successful since its release in 2016.

The Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone also features apps that are commonplace in real smartphones, such as a camera and email, however these features are only usable within the device’s gameplay and the Pokemon Zukan Rotom Phone is not able to connect to the internet. As well as these interactive elements the device also includes plenty of information on different species of Pokemon and possibly the most clear and detailed graphics feature in a Pokedex toy to date. Information on the new Dynamax and Gigantamax features introduced in the Pokemon Sword and Shield (where a pokemon can change its size and form through the distortion of space) can also be unlocked by the use of a secret code. The communicative aspects of the device are also used when learning new information about Pokemon as characters from the anime will contact the user through the text feature with various facts and new discoveries about the Pokemon world.

What’s Next For The Pokedex?

Considering how far advancements in technology have come in general terms since the release of the first Pokedex toy in 1998, the possibilities for how replicas of the Pokedex may look and operate in the future are seemingly endless. With smartphones and tablets being so commonplace in many people’s daily lives now (including children) I personally would expect that any future Pokedex toy models will continue to mirror the features of these devices. Perhaps compatibility with other aspects of the franchise could also play a role, as the encouragement of exploration in Pokemon Go would be a fun and innovative way to complete a Pokedex and parts of this type of gameplay have been featured in more recent Pokedex toys. The Pokemon Trading Card game has also received a dramatic increase of attention over the past few years and is now playable online/on mobile devices, so maybe a device that allows users to scan their TGC collections to help complete their Pokedex could be on the cards (pun slightly intended)?

Regardless of how these toys shape up in the future however, the various Pokedexes released throughout different periods of Pokemon’s history have provided many fans with the opportunity to experience a key part of being a Pokemon Trainer and to enjoy all the learning, exploration and most importantly in my opinion, the imagination that comes with it. I personally think this not only encapsulates the Pokedex itself but is a huge part of what makes Pokemon the beloved franchise that it is today and I sincerely hope that Pokemon fans continue to try and “Catch ‘Em All!” for many more years to come.

Written by Emily Carney, 2021

Sources:

Pokemon Pokedex: https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pok%C3%A9dex

Pokedex Toys:

https://pokemon.fandom.com/wiki/Pok%C3%A9dex_Toys

Deluxe Pokedex Instruction Manual:

http://pdfstream.manualsonline.com/4/4c36f02f-af0e-40ab-83f2-4cb8c16e67ca.pdf

BATR Top Ten For 2000:

https://www.toyretailersassociation.co.uk/top-ten-xmas-2000

The Nerd Lair – Pokemon Pokedex From 1999:

THINKChip Interactive System:

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/THINKChip_Interactive_System#Electronic_Ash.27s_Talking_Pok.C3.A9dex

Deluxe Pokedex:

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Deluxe_Pok%C3%A9dex

KRX50 – Pokemon Advanced Review:

Cyber Pokedex:

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Cyber_Pok%C3%A9dex

Paul Foxhound – Pokemon Electronic Toy Bandai Hoenn Region Review:

Cyber Poke Ball:

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Cyber_Pok%C3%A9_Ball

KRX50 – Talking Pokedex Game Review:

KRX50 – Talking Deluxe Pokedex Review:

KRX50 – Sinnoh Pokedex Review:

SunanGod – Review Pokedex Sinnoh V2 By Jakks Pacific:

Electronic Pokedex (Unova):

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Electronic_Pok%C3%A9dex_(Unova)

TheCookiinCompany – Pokemon Unova Region Pokedex Toy Review:

KRX50 – Pokemon Zukan XY (Kalos Pokedex) Review:

EveryGameEver! – Every Pokedex So Far! 11 Short Toy Reviews In 1!:

KRX50 – Pokemon Zukan Z (New Hoenn Pokedex) Review:

KRX50 – Rotom Zukan (Rotom Pokedex) Review (Pokemon Sun & Moon):

KRX50 – Rotom Zukan (Pokedex) DX Review (Pokemon Sun & Moon):

Rotom Pokedex:

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Rotom_Pok%C3%A9dex

Rotom (Pokemon):

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Rotom_(Pok%C3%A9mon)

Takara Tomy Reveals Interactive Rotom Phone, Launches 18 July In Japan:

Takara Tomy Reveals Interactive Rotom Phone, Launches July 18 In Japan

Takara Tomy – Pocket Monsters – Pokemon Zukan – Rotom Phone:

https://www.pocketmonsters.net/main/news/4246

Rotom Phone:

https://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Rotom_Phone

The Swamp Thing #1 Review

The Swamp Thing #1

Written by: Ram V
Art: Mike Perkins
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: Aditya Bidikar

From out of the beyond, a new run of ‘The Swamp Thing’ looms!  Our first cover is a striking one, depicting some of the terrible torment that Levi Kamei experiences during his transformation into the titular being.  This is a great first cover and hints at some of the fever dream yet to come.

‘Becoming, Part 1’: the story opens on a gruesome crime scene in the Sonoran Desert, shrouded in dark folklore.  We then hop aboard a flight from India to join our protagonist, who is clearly not having a good time.  Levi Kamei is significant not only for being the new ‘Guardian of the Green’/Swamp Thing but also as DC Comics’ first Indian lead.  He is instantly relatable and promises to be an interesting character to follow.

As we cut from Levi’s return to New York back to the grisly scene in the desert, we meet a twisted, horrific figure of legend: The Pale Wanderer.  As the sheriff faces this nightmare unfolding, Levi wrestles both with his past and the uncertainty of what he is becoming.  The closing scenes show a pivotal encounter and give exciting hints of what is yet to come.

Ram V has written something very special here, with dialogue that informs character and propels the story forwards.  Each story beat is expertly handled, from the deputy recounting the myth of the Pale Wanderer through to the dramatic exchanges of the closing pages.  He conveys the emotion and atmosphere of each moment perfectly, drawing us into the dusty world of the desert just as easily as the fragmented recollections of Levi.  The effect of Ram V’s words is amplified by some excellent lettering by Aditya Bidikar, who gives us subtle reading cues along with easily identifiable ‘voices’ through the use of clear type and varied bubbles.  The speech of the Pale Wanderer, for example, is as black as the crude he drinks.

We are immersed even further by the wonderful art from Mike Perkins who, along with exemplary colour work from Mike Spicer, uses a broad range of comic techniques to engage our imaginations.  Soon we are transported beyond the page and into a dark and mystifying world.  Although the images are at times gruesome, they are never gratuitous and always serve the scene.  Shifts in tone, palette and style help guide us through a jam-packed first issue through to its thrilling conclusion.

Verdict

This premier issue of ‘The Swamp Thing’ is outstanding.  It instantly hooks the reader and doesn’t let go.  The combination of masterful writing and art feel a lot like the early days of Vertigo comics (a line DC used to tell darker, ‘mature’ themed stories) while also being entirely fresh and modern.  The cast of characters is great and the plot threads entangling them are intriguing.  Read Swamp Thing today.  It’s going to be a seriously good ride.

(Recommended for ages 13+)

Review by Andy Flood, 23/6/21

Star Wars: War OF The Bounty Hunters #1 Review

STAR WARS: WAR OF THE BOUNTY HUNTERS #1
Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Luke Ross

Released: 02/06/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

‘You know who I am. Boba Fett. You know what that name means.’

-Boba Fett, War of the Bounty Hunters #1

Let’s face it – everyone’s favourite thing about Star Wars is the bounty hunters. Or rather one bounty hunter in particular. And anyone who tells you otherwise is, quite frankly, lying through their teeth.

It is unsurprising then that, now the focus of Marvel’s Star Wars line has shifted to the often-unexplored gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, the House of Ideas and Lucasfilm have decided to squeeze in all the crime syndicates, smugglers and bounty hunters they possibly can. More specifically, this event, which spreads itself across a limited series, several one shots and multiple issues of the four Star Wars ongoing series, reveals what happened to Han Solo between his being loaded onto Slave 1 in Cloud City and his arrival at Jabba’s palace. That’s a big gap to fill in our knowledge and if this first issue is anything to go by, the slow reveal of events over the next few months is going to be exhilarating.

The underworld of the Star Wars universe is on display in all its glory here, ably brought to life through Luke Ross’ bold artwork and distinctively gritty yet pastelly colours by Neeraj Menon. It says a lot about Charles Soule’s writing that his Boba Fett still absolutely shines and stands out, as iconic as ever amongst all the quality and skill on show. As Fett hunts down those who have wronged him, Soule takes us to dingy dive cantinas, glowing star ship interiors, Tatooine and a Hutt war barge. Soule’s ability to hop from location to location whilst also telling a cohesive and exciting story with plenty of surprises (and, oh boy, is there a surprise at the end of this one!) and solid, incisive character moments is nothing short of sheer brilliance.

VERDICT

This is true Star Wars adventure from start to finish and the next issue looks set to explore more new ground whilst ramping up the excitement. Whether this sort of quality can be maintained across the 34-part duration of this event remains to be seen, but the start has been very promising indeed. The infamous bounty hunter’s reputation precedes him as he goes about his business, leading to some top level badassery from this fan favourite character, which will raise a smile in any who have managed to forget the utter joy that Star Wars brings at its best moments.

Review By Nathan Harrison

Batman #109 Review

Batman #109

Writer: James Tynion IV

Art: Jorge Jimenez and Ricardo Lopez Ortiz

Released: 01/06/21

Published by DC Comics

It’s been quite a few years since I picked up a Batman comic from my local comic book store. In many respects issue 109, from writer James Tynion, was probably not the best place to begin my re-entry into the world of the Dark Knight. It doesn’t help that this is the fourth part of a larger story, but I am introduced to at least three fairly major characters and, quite frankly, I’ve no clue who they are. A quick internet search filled me in on what I needed to know however, so even without the rest of the story that precedes this issue, there is no need to be kept in the dark.

The events that take place within Batman #109 created more than enough intrigue for this thirty-year Batman fan that it is a testament to Tynion’s writing that I was interested enough to even do said internet search. The Ghost-Maker character, created as a twisted mirror image to Batman himself it seems, certainly has a lot of potential to go either way as hero or villain.

The artwork in the primary story, part four of “The Cowardly Lot”, is fantastic. At one point, on page 16, artist Jorge Jimenez invokes the spirit of the late, great, Norm Breyfogle, which is always a plus in my book.

The artwork for the secondary story, chapter three of “Ghost-Maker”, while perfectly fine, didn’t really excite me in the same way and I felt it was a bit too cartoony for a Batman comic. It would be much more suited to something like Scott Pilgrim in my personal opinion. Even so, the writing by Tynion rises above it enough to make me want to go a little deeper into his work.

Verdict –

Fantastic artwork from Jorge Jimenez really compliments the intriguing character development, from writer James Tynion, igniting a desire to seek out more of both men’s previous work.

Review by Bryan Lomax, 13/06/21

Star Wars #13 Review

Written by: Charles Soule
Art: Ramon Rosanas

Released: 12/05/21
Publisher: Marvel Comics

After a string of great quality issues concentrating mainly on the wider cast (both old and new) of Marvel’s main line Star Wars comic, Charles Soule brings the focus squarely back on Luke Skywalker for this, one of the first issues of the epic, 34 part (yes, 34 parts – count them!) crossover event, War of the Bounty Hunters.

In having Luke, Chewie, C-3PO and R2-D2 follow a lead on the whereabouts of the recently carbonite-encased Han Solo (and, of course, his captor Boba Fett), Soule explores the shifty, seedy underbelly of the Star Wars universe for the first time in his run and he handles it brilliantly, whilst also giving us further insight into Luke’s growth as a Jedi. This has been well earnt since some of the very first panels of #1, which saw Luke a broken man following the events of Episode V, and Soule is deftly bridging the gap between the naïve and inexperienced young man in the earlier parts of the original trilogy, and the powerful, fully-fledged Jedi who strides into Jabba’s palace in Episode VI.

While all this means Soule has a big job on his hands, he does it skilfully, and has fun doing so – the issue is action-packed thanks to a frenetic showdown with gangsters on the smuggler moon of Nar Shaddaa and comic relief comes in the form of some classic C-3PO wittering.

Spanish artist Ramon Rosanas has been drawing this book for a good few issues now and handles the action sequences confidently, bringing a real sense of movement and chaos to each panel. His style is much more classic comic than the more cinematic approach taken by some of the artists that have graced the pages of the Star Wars since 2015 – his C-3PO and R2-D2 especially look as though they’ve been ripped straight out of the pages of the original Marvel years – and this works perfectly for this somewhat madcap caper.  

VERDICT

While this is not technically the first issue in the War of the Bounty Hunters event (that honour goes to the one-shot War of the Bounty Hunters Alpha), Star Wars #13 is an ideal jumping on point, not just for the crossover, but for Soule’s run on the main line title – all key plot points from the previous issues are quickly recapped and the story here feels standalone, like an episode lifted from the life of Luke Skywalker, whilst also acting as a tantalising set up of what is to come. Anybody who has been sleeping on this book since it relaunched should take the opportunity to pick this issue up while it’s still on the shelves.

Review by Nathan Harrison, 12/06/2021