Check out “Bidoof’s Big Stand” here in full and be sure to let us know what you think of our furry friend’s new adventure!
As excitement builds towards the upcoming release of Pokemon Legends: Arceus, last week Pokemon fans across the globe were treated to a hilarious and heartwarming new animated short featuring fan-favourite Bidoof!
Well known in the world of Pokemania for his rather derpy (yet adorable) appearance alongside being very useful in-game when it comes to learning HMs, Bidoof has become cemented as one of Pokemon’s most beloved critters, partially thanks to his additional popularity when it comes to meme culture. In his latest adventure, “Bidoof’s Big Stand”, we find a rather unfortunate Bidoof down on his luck after being cast out from it’s group of fellow Bidoof due to his clumsiness. After a close call with a villainous Stratraptor, our Bidoof buddy is rescued by a kindly Pokemon trainer, who takes Bidoof under his wing and together they become a battle-ready force to be reckoned with!
“Bidoof’s Big Stand” follows the other recent animated shorts “Hisuian Voltorb Is Berry Excited” and “Hisuian Voltorb Is Berry Sorry” and I must say I would absolutely love to see The Pokemon Company produce more of these stand-alone animated projects, as I personally think they show a great deal of heart, humour and originality that the animation aspect of the Pokemon franchise is currently very much in need of. When the first handful of Pokemon movies were theatrically released they were packed with fun adventures, silly (and often fourth-wall breaking) humour and iconic animation, but after over 20 films and 1,000 episodes of the anime series I think changing up the formula (and perhaps focusing more on the Pokemon themselves as protagonists) in a similar vein to these recent animated shorts could be very successful in introducing the animated world of Pokemon to a whole new audience.
Check out “Bidoof’s Big Stand” here in full and be sure to let us know what you think of our furry friend’s new adventure! –
Currently set for release in March this year, Pokemon Battle Academy 2022 is a brand new version of last year’s enormously successful Battle Academy set…
If you’re new to the world of the Pokemon Trading Card Game and you’re looking for a fun and easy way to learn how to play, or you’re a collector who wants to get in on the fun and use your cards to put a deck together and have some exciting battles, then look no further!
Currently set for release in March this year, Pokemon Battle Academy 2022 is a brand new version of last year’s enormously successful Battle Academy set, which brought the Pokemon TCG into a board game setting, perfect for teaching players of all ages the basics of the game. While last year’s Battle Academy set gave players ready-built decks based around Pikachu, Charizard and Mewtwo, the 2022 version gives players the opportunity to learn to play the game with new decks based around the fiery Cinderace and the ever-popular Eevee (and of course Pikachu is still right at the centre of it all with his own deck also featuring in this updated set).
As well as three complete sixty card decks, Battle Academy also comes with tutorial guides/rule books for each deck, a good sturdy game board with all the gameplay areas clearly marked out and plenty of damage counters so you can make sure your opponent knows when an attack lands!
The Pikachu and Cinderace rulebooks contains the basic rules to the game whereas the Eevee rulebook contains more advanced rules and tips/tricks, so once you’ve learned the basics you can build upon your skills and start getting on board with more complex strategies, which makes the set a great choice for both adult and younger players. Once you’ve got the rules to the game down you’ll be able to start putting together a deck featuring your favourites from your own card collection, and with the TCG community being such an active and exciting part of the Pokemon fandom (both online and in-person), it’s definitely worth giving the game a shot and seeing if you’ve got what it takes to become a Pokemon Master!
Coming next month, it’s the new Brilliant Stars Pokemon TCG Expansion pack!
Coming next month, it’s the new Brilliant Stars Pokemon TCG Expansion pack! Currently slated for a February 25th release, the set is based around the newly introduced VSTAR cards, which allow the player to evolve their Pokemon V cards in order to access higher HP, more powerful attacks and a brand new mechanic called VSTAR Power. VSTAR Power may consist of a strong new attack or ability, but the player may only use one VSTAR Power in the duration of the game.
As well as the new VSTAR Power attacks and abilities, Brilliant Stars also heavily features the Alpha Pokemon Arceus, which is undoubtedly due to its presence in the new Nintendo Switch game, Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Arceus will receive both a V and VSTAR card in the Brilliant Stars set (in both half art and full art formats), as will Charizard (again in half art and full art formats), Shaymin and Whimsicott. These four Pokemon also feature on the Brilliant Stars booster pack artwork, however the VSTAR cards won’t be limited just to this select group, as both Leafeon and Glaceon are set to receive special VSTAR collection boxes.
While much of the card list for Brilliant Stars is still being kept under wraps, from looking at the card list for its Japanese counterpart, Star Birth, we can see the likes of Pokemon such as Raichu, Lapras, Lucario, Floatzel, Luxray and numerous others may be making an appearance. Moltres has been confirmed to be featured in Brilliant Stars and although it doesn’t seem to be receiving a VSTAR or V card, it’s still looking pretty fired up!
It is quite strange to think that Brilliant Stars is the NINTH Pokemon Sword & Shield Expansion Pack (where has the time gone!?) but with over 170 new cards on the way it seems that Pokemon TCG players and collectors alike are going to have their hands full for a long time yet!
Being a rookie Pokemon Snap player with a retrospective view has also given me the notion that it was really quite ahead of its time in several ways, particularly when involving the art of photography in a setting within the Pokemon world. I’m sure nobody involved in the project at the time could have predicted that 17 years later 2016’s Pokemon Go would have millions of people collecting and taking photographs of Pokemon in different locations all over the world!
While the Nintendo 64 classic Pokemon Snap holds a special place in the hearts of many Pokemon fans, I never actually played the game until very recently, when I was very kindly surprised with a copy (complete with box/inlays/manual, to say I was rather chuffed would be an understatement).
The April 2021 release of New Pokemon Snap for the Nintendo Switch has introduced the premise of the game to a whole new generation of fans, but as a Pokemon collector with a particular interest in vintage merchandise I have been itching to play the original 1999 game for quite some time. I bought my first ever N64 console last year and since then I’ve had a lot of fun playing Pokemon Stadium and several other non-Pokemon-related classics, but now that I’ve finally turned my attention to Pokemon Snap I thought it might be fun to document playing the game for the first time and see how it holds up over 20 years after its release!
On first impressions I was very enamoured with the overall aesthetic of the game, as although the 3D graphics have obviously dated due to the game being released over two decades ago, the bright colours and wide variety of character designs that helped make the original roster of Pokemon so instantly recognisable are out in full force. The locations within the game aren’t overly detailed but do an excellent job in setting the scene and seeming like places that various species of Pokemon would live in accordance with their individual elemental types (i.e, fire types such as Charmander living near a volcano, whilst water-dwelling Pokemon such as Psyduck and Slowpoke’s habitats are located in a river setting).
I found that seeing how naturally the creatures we’ve known from the other games and anime fit into the environments in Pokemon Snap exemplified just how good the original Pokemon designs were in the sense of making them feel like real animals that could be found in forests, along streams and in other real-life locations. The variety of different animations that each creature can display when photographing them also helps set each character apart as individuals with their own little quirks and personalities, whether they’re happy, angry, sleepy, hungry or (as I found to be the case with a few of my own personal favourites, Vulpix, Growlithe and Bulbasaur) just plain adorable!
I know that since the first generation of Pokemon were introduced to us all those years ago some fans have stated that they find some of the original 151’s designs to be quite dull and boring compared to those of newer Pokemon, but personally I do prefer the simpler character designs of the Kanto Pokemon and as I was trawling through the various settings in Pokemon Snap for the first time I did feel like a wildlife photographer trying to get the best shot of the creatures in action. As Satoshi Tajiri’s inspiration for the original Pokemon games was his childhood love of catching bugs, I think it is a particularly nice touch that Pokemon Snap’s overall premise explores what is essentially another aspect of zoology (that being the photography of animals in their natural habitat).
Being a rookie Pokemon Snap player with a retrospective view has also given me the notion that it was really quite ahead of its time in several ways, particularly when involving the art of photography in a setting within the Pokemon world. I’m sure nobody involved with the project at the time could have predicted that 17 years later 2016’s Pokemon Go would have millions of people collecting and taking photographs of Pokemon in different locations all over the world!
In terms of mechanics, the game’s controls are very straightforward and although some players may have appreciated more options in regards to taking photos of the Pokemon, I think these easy controls are to the benefit of Pokemon Snap’s overall appeal as I enjoyed how relaxed it feels. As I progressed through the game, more options were unlocked in terms of different courses and items to provoke/entice different reactions from wild Pokemon and though the items in question were rather basic, given the limitations of the time I think they served their purpose well enough. Although it would have been a pleasure to see more Pokemon in the game than the 63 that are included, I think the chosen Pokemon do provide enough variety to keep the game interesting initially, but I can’t deny that it would have been fantastic to see a majestic Ninetales in the Volcano level or perhaps an angry Blastoise facing off with Gyarados in the Valley.
Of course, in some games having a wide variety of customisable options and overall higher stakes suits the story thematically and is key in keeping the player engrossed, but with this first playthrough of Pokemon Snap it was honestly just nice to go through each level and get excited whenever I spotted one of my favourite Pokemon for the first time, as it really did an excellent job of bringing back the excitement and intrigue I remember myself and my school friends feeling when the first wave of Pokemania hit UK shores in the late 1990’s.
So, despite being over two decades late to the party, I can safely say I thoroughly enjoyed playing Pokemon Snap. In a way I think was probably a blessing in disguise that I didn’t own the game as a child, as I’m pretty sure I would have gotten rather obsessed with it and would have either ended up permanently glued to the N64 trying to get the perfect snap of each Pokemon, or perhaps taken to the chasing local cats/dogs/pigeons around whilst trying to photograph them in a similar fashion (without the apple/pester ball throwing that is, though maybe they’d enjoy the flute playing, who knows). If there are any Pokemon fans like myself who are yet to give the original Pokemon Snap a whirl, I would certainly recommend it. Or, if you played the game when you were younger and haven’t picked it up in a while, why not dust off your cartridge and get snapping? Cute Pokemon, lots of fun and a good dose of nostalgia await!
What’s cute, yellow and since 1996 has become a household name? Why, it’s the one and only Pikachu of course!
What’s cute, yellow and since 1996 has become a household name? Why, it’s the one and only Pikachu of course! Considering how synonymous Pikachu has become with the Pokemon franchise it’s strange to think that our little mousey friend wasn’t originally going to be Pokemon’s mascot, with that particular role originally set to go to Clefairy. This decision however, was changed as it was thought a mascot that would be perceived as gender-neutral in its design would be more equal in appeal to both boys and girls than Clefairy, the pink aesthetic of whom it was considered may be more popular with a female demographic. After taking center stage as Ash/Satoshi’s companion in the Pokemon anime, Pikachu would also become the star of Pokemon Yellow, a revamped version of the original Pokemon Gameboy games which took influence from numerous aspects of the popular anime series.
In the past two and a half decades Pikachu has continued to grace both the big and small screen in a variety of different Pokemon-related media. Along with an abundance of Pokemon video games, there have been Pikachu-branded planes, cars and more toys and pieces of collectable Pikachu merchandise than you can shake a Pokeball at. In this blog we will be exploring Pikachu’s impact on the success of Pokemon as a brand by taking a look at a few interesting pieces of vintage Pikachu merchandise from the golden age of Pokemania.
Tiger 35mm Pikachu Camera:
Despite being released on the cusp of the Millennium, here is a quintessentially 90’s piece of Pokemon merchandise if ever there was one. The 1999 Tiger 35mm Pikachu Camera featured a very cute Pikachu/Pokeball design with Diglett also making an appearance as the camera’s shutter button (I suppose out of all the Gen I Pokemon Diglett probably is the most applicable to be used as a button, as I can’t imagine the likes of Cloyster or Starmie would have made for very comfortable use of the camera). Fully functional, the Pikachu Camera came complete with a battery-operated flash and also had the added feature of being able to add a Pokemon-themed vignette frame around photos.
Similar in design to the original “Fat Pikachu” plushies (as featured in my previous blog on vintage Pokemon plushies), the 20″ Pikachu Backpack was a very popular way of carrying your books and P.E kit to school for many kids in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. With a simple, cute and cuddly design, the Pikachu backpack was also released in a smaller 14″ version and as a 10″ gameboy carry case.
Pikachu Bubble Bath:
Produced by Grosvenor Consumer Products Ltd, the Pikachu Bubble Bath was a large plastic Pikachu figure with a bottle of child-friendly Bubble Bath fitted inside, which could be accessed via the bottom of the figure. Grosvenor have created a variety of bubble bath figures over the years, including worldwide franchises such as Disney, The Simpsons and Doctor Who, so it was only fitting that a phenomenon as big as Pokemon (and with a mascot as cute as Pikachu) should also join their ranks. Upon the western release of the Pokemon 2000 movie, a second Pokemon Bubble Bath figure was released featuring the film’s star legendary Pokemon, Lugia, alongside Pikachu.
Pokemon Yellow/Special Pikachu Edition Gameboy Colour, Pikachu & Pichu Gameboy Colour and Pokemon/Pikachu Nintendo 64:
First beginning with the Special Pikachu Edition Gameboy Colour, Nintendo have released a variety of Pokemon-themed consoles over the years including many editions of the Gameboy Advance/SP/Nintendo DS/3DS, a trend that continues today with the recent Pikachu-themed Nintendo Switch accompanying Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu. The Special Pikachu Edition Gameboy Colour was packaged alongside Pokemon Yellow, which (as mentioned earlier) was an updated version of the original Pokemon games, where the player received a Pikachu as their starter Pokemon which would follow them during their adventures throughout Kanto, in a similar fashion to Ash’s Pikachu in the anime. The console itself featured bright Pikachu-yellow casing, with graphics of Pikachu and fellow fan favourites from the anime Jigglypuff and Togepi greeting the player alongside the screen.
In 2001, following the release of the second generation of Pokemon games, another Pikachu-themed Gameboy colour was made available. This console was produced in two different colours, yellow (the same bright yellow casing that was used on the previous Pikachu gameboy) and gold, with the border of the screen featuring Pikachu and his newly-introduced pre-evolution Pichu, one of the new baby Pokemon that made their debut in Pokemon Gold and Silver.
Prior to the release of the second Pikachu-themed Gameboy however, Nintendo’s first Pokemon-themed home console found its way into the hands of gamers upon the release of the Pikachu Nintendo 64 in 2000. Featuring a large plastic Pikachu on top of the console and a Pokeball as the power switch, a variety of different versions of the console were made available in various territories across the globe. The standard version featured solely the console and a Pokemon-branded controller, whereas Toys R Us shoppers in the USA were treated to an exclusive version packaged with a pocket watch and the game Hey You, Pikachu!
Over in Australia, an edition known as the Pokemaniac Nintendo 64 was packaged with a VHS copy of Pokemon – I Choose You!, the first volume in the initial series of Pokemon anime VHS releases. Japan received an exclusive orange version of the console, which has since become much sought after amongst collectors.
Tiger Pikachu Radio Control Car:
In 2000 Tiger produced a Pikachu-themed radio control car, which was likely influenced (though this remains to be officially confirmed) by the Pika-Bug cars, a small fleet of Volkswagen Beetles with Pikachu-style aesthetics which had been used to promote Pokemon across the United States of America from 1998 up until the mid 2000’s.
The Pikachu Radio Control Car was operated via a Pokeball-shaped remote which connected with the car through the use of radio frequency. The remote allowed the driver to change direction as they pleased by using the two joysticks that were found upon opening the Pokeball remote.
Pokemon Pikachu/Pocket Pikachu:
Originally released in 1998, the Pokemon Pikachu (also known under the name Pocket Pikachu in Japan) was a Tamagotchi-style digital pet that functioned as a pedometer. Instead of requiring users to feed/clean the Pikachu as many other digital pets of the same era did, the user’s relationship with their Pikachu grew stronger by increasing their number of steps when wearing the Pokemon Pikachu. Every twenty steps would be converted into a digital currency within the device known as Watts, which could then be used to buy presents for Pikachu and thus improving the users standing with their new digital friend.
The first version of the device featured yellow casing similar to that used on the Special Pikachu Edition Gameboy Colour, with black and white display graphics that would show Pikachu’s interactions with the user. Different animations would become accessible upon gaining specific amounts of Watts, depicting Pikachu eating, showering and watching TV amongst a number of other activities. If the user did not interact with Pikachu for a prolonged period of time, the Pikachu within the device would get angry with the player upon the Pokemon Pikachu eventually being turned on, even running away if the player’s absence went on for too long (Pikachu going AWOL wasn’t permanent however, as he could be called back by shaking the device).
A new version of the device, the Pokemon Pikachu 2 GS, was released alongside the second generation of Pokemon Games, however this time around the player didn’t have to take care of Pikachu and the watts gained through use of the pedometer could be exchanged for items in-game.
Hasbro Electronic Pokemon Pikachu:
Last but certainly not least, my last addition to this blog list is Hasbro’s 1998 Electronic Pokemon Pikachu. Although there have been a variety of electronic Pikachu-themed toys released by a variety of different manufacturers since Pokemania first hit the world, this one is particularly special to me as (along with the electric Charmander toy from the same range) it was the first piece of Pokemon merchandise I ever got. With light-up cheeks and Pikachu-voice sound effects, this toy is also quite notable in aesthetic terms for featuring Pikachu with a semi-white face and a much shorter and rounder body than would be seen in later toys, both aspects of Pikachu’s early design which were dropped as the franchise became more widespread and the overall appearance of individual Pokemon became more consistent with how they appeared in the anime series as opposed to their designs in Ken Sugimori’s original artwork.
More Pikachu Merchandise?
Of course, as stated earlier this blog only features a miniscule example of the amount of Pikachu merchandise that is in existence, as after over 25 years of success the Pokemon franchise has put their mascot’s face on an impossibly large amount of products, each as cute as the last (though the recent and rather terrifying Pikachu-centipede style plushie might be a slight exception…). As new incarnations of video games, toys, trading cards and anime continue to introduce new fans to Pokemon, our little electric mouse friend has become a pop culture juggernaut, instantly recognisable to people of all ages. As the world of Pokemon has continued to keep up with changes in trends and technology, Pikachu has stayed in his rightful place at the centre of the franchise and I hope he continues to for many more years to come.
Article by Emily Carney
Sources/Further Reading and Viewing:
The Toy Report – A Brief History Of Pokemon Toys:
The Phoblographer – This Pokemon Camera Will Make Your Inner 90’s Kid Swoon:
In the late 1990s the Pokemon franchise was taking the world by storm, a storm which grew even bigger upon the release of Pokemon: The First Movie and the subsequent Pokemon movies that followed…
In the late 1990s the Pokemon franchise was taking the world by storm, a storm which grew even bigger upon the release of Pokemon: The First Movie and the subsequent Pokemon movies that followed. Currently there are a staggering 23 animated Pokemon movies and 1 live action movie (Pokemon: Detective Pikachu) in existence, but for this article I will be taking a look back at the first 3 Pokemon movies and some of the merchandise/promotions that surrounded them. As a UK-based Pokemon collector a lot of the promotions I will be discussing here will be either UK-based, or were released in the UK alongside other parts of the world, however I do hope to include lesser known merchandise and information that will hopefully allow everyone reading to take a little trip down memory lane with Ash, Pikachu and the rest of the gang!
Pokemon The First Movie and Pokemon 2000 Burger King Toys:
The Pokemon franchise has teamed up with a multitude of different food and drinks brands/outlets over the years, particularly in the early days of promoting their movies. Burger King included an array of Pokemon merchandise with their kid’s meals when promoting the first and second movies, including beanie toys, light-up figures and action power cards amongst others.
These campaigns weren’t without controversy however, as during the promotional campaign for the first movie two infant children died due to getting part of the plastic Pokeball (in which the promotional items were encased) caught over their mouths and noses which led to them suffocating. This resulted in the toys being recalled and has since led to similar Pokeball toys (such as the ones that were included in Hasbro’s 1999 and 2000 action figure lines) having air holes implemented into the design of the toys.
Despite these issues, the Burger King toys remain popular on the Pokemon collectors market, as do other promotional items associated with the campaigns, such as the cardboard Burger King crowns and kid’s meal boxes from the Pokemon 2000 promotions which included branding featuring Ash, Pikachu and Lugia.
Pokemon Movie Soundtracks and Promotional Singles:
The first 3 Pokemon movies all received releases of their respective soundtracks onto CD (and audio cassette, in the case of the first and second movie). The scores to the movies were also separately released, however mainstream marketing tended to lean more towards promoting the soundtrack CDs, which featured contemporary pop artists and songs rather than the thematic instrumentals from the films’ scores.
The soundtrack for Pokemon: The First Movie was released in November 1999 by Atlantic Records and the tracklisting for the record serves as a sort of snapshot of late 90’s bubblegum pop, featuring artists such as *NSYNC, Britney Spears and Aaron Carter. Pokemon 2000’s soundtrack was similarly centred around songs from contemporary pop artists, featuring the likes of Westlife and Dream Street, however it did also include Pokemon-themed songs written by artists for the movie, such as Weird Al Yankovic’s “Polkamon”.
Pokemon 3’s soundtrack continued this theme with the majority of the soundtrack being orientated around the characters within the franchise, which is unsurprising considering many of the songs included could be found on other Pokemon soundtrack media, such as the Totally Pokemon CD. In the UK however, Pokemon 3 was promoted in the contemporary music realm with the single “Gotta Catch ‘Em All”, released by the band 5.0 Grind featuring Pokemon Allstars.
The single was available to purchase from UK music retailers upon its release, and a promotional CD-ROM sampler was also included with the Daily Express newspaper. 5.0 Grind performed the single on Nickelodeon UK (despite the fact Pokemon wasn’t aired on Nickelodeon at that time) and the single reached number #57 in the charts. The artwork for the copies of the single released into UK music stores featured Pikachu alongside Mewtwo, despite Mewtwo having nothing to do with the third Pokemon movie. This inclusion could be due to hearsay that Mewtwo was going to appear in Pokemon 3, which later proved to be misconstrued as Mewtwo actually re-appeared in Mewtwo Returns, a straight to VHS/DVD feature-length special which was also released in 2001.
In a similar vein to the contemporary songs associated with the previous movies, “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” is very much of its era, encapsulating the rap-metal/skate rock trends of the early 00’s (albeit watered down for a younger audience and occasionally featuring Ash Ketchum giving shout-outs to his various Pokemon). Personally, as cheesy as the track is I do find it to be quite catchy and I must give kudos to the band for the conviction they showed during their Nickelodeon performance, as I imagine it must be quite hard to simultaneously rock out in front of a crowd of small children and keep a straight face, particularly in the section of the song when a sample of Jigglypuff singing its lullaby plays over the top of the track.
Retail and Newspaper Promotions:
As well as the free Daily Express “Gotta Catch ‘Em All” CD-ROM, a number of other newspaper and retail outlets also ran Pokemon movie promotions during both the cinematic and VHS/DVD releases of the films. The Daily Mail gave away a free promotional VHS tape that gave fans a sneak peek at Pokemon: The First Movie and included other details about the franchise, such as interviews with staff from 4Kids Entertainment which provided a view into how the original Japanese version of the movie was adapted for western audiences.
Woolworths and Warner Brothers stores in the UK also ran Pokemon movie promos during the release cycle of the first movie, offering exclusive promo cards and money off vouchers upon the VHS release of the film. Pokemon promotions from this period also found their way onto snack foods, with Odeon Cinemas in the UK running a competition featured on their popcorn boxes in which fans could win a Nintendo 64 console and a copy of Pokemon Stadium.
Well I couldn’t really write a blog about the promotion of the early Pokemon Movies and not include the cards which were given to ticket holders and packaged with home media releases of the movies could I? Probably the most well known of these cards are the 4 Wizards Of The Coast Black Star promo cards which were available alongside the first movie’s cinematic release, featuring Mewtwo, Pikachu (still sporting his Ken Sugimori-illustrated roundness, which I personally feel is how Pikachu should look and would very much like to see the return of Chubbychu), Dragonite and rather randomly, Electabuzz. Following the extreme renewal of interest in vintage Pokemon TCG cards in recent years, the value of these cards continues to grow (particularly as a complete set) so if you have any in your collection be sure to take good care of them!
A new version of the Mewtwo card was also included alongside VHS copies of the first movie upon its home media release. Promotional TCG cards were also available during the theatrical release of Pokemon 2000/The Power Of One, with Moltres, Zapdos and Articuno being featured. An Ancient Mew card based on the one owned by the film’s antagonist, Lawrence III, was also released, however it was only available along with the purchase of a movie ticket during the first week of the film’s release, as after this fans would only be able to receive a card featuring one of the legendary birds. In a similar fashion to the second Mewtwo card that was released with VHS copies of the first movie, a new Pikachu card was included alongside home media copies of Pokemon 2000.
Later in the course of the early Pokemon movies, in 2001 a promo card featuring Entei was available for ticket holders upon the release of Pokemon 3: Spell Of The Unown, with another promo card featuring one of the Unown being included with VHS and DVD releases of the movie.
As well as the Wizards Of The Coast-produced TCG cards, Topps Trading Cards also produced a line of trading cards featuring images of scenes from Pokemon: The First Movie, Pikachu’s Vacation and Pokemon 2000. As well as the regular Topps movie cards, rare silver foil and rainbow foil versions of cards were also randomly inserted into some packs, mirroring the ever-popular shiny hunting that helped make the TCG cards so popular.
Some of the Topps cards from the Pikachu’s Vacation animated short are notable for having some errors when it came to the names of new Pokemon, with Snubull being incorrectly named “Buru” (which may have been a mis-translation of Snubull’s Japanese name, Bulu) and Marill being named as “Pikablu”, which is perhaps an indirect reference to the rumours of a new version of Pikachu named “Pikablu” that cropped up when Marill’s design was first seen by fans. These errors were probably due to the fact that the Gold and Silver games had not yet been released in the west and that the english-language names of several new Pokemon were still being revised, as the Topps cards themselves were put into production before the western versions of Pikachu’s Vacation and the First Movie had been completed and non-Japanese audiences were yet to be familiarised with the 100 new Pokemon that would be introduced in the Johto region-based games and anime.
Other Pokemon Movie Toys:
As well as the Burger King toys, numerous other Pokemon movie toys were released. Hasbro released several different packs of Pokemon figures showcasing characters that were featured in the first 2 Pokemon movies. These packs were similar to the battle figures that were also released by Hasbro, featuring the same card battle discs that came with each character.
Hasbro also released an electronic Lugia toy following the release of Pokemon 2000, which made sounds based off the ones Lugia makes in the movie. This was quite a large toy and it was possible to fit the Ash Ketchum figure from Hasbro’s 2000 Deluxe Trainer figure line on Lugia’s back and recreate scenes from the film.
As the Pokemon world featured a vast array of characters and locations, it was an ideal choice to be transformed into Polly Pocket-esque playsets, which were popular within a variety of franchises in the 1990s. Several playsets inspired by the Indigo League and Orange Islands anime series were released by Tomy under the Pokemon House brand (known in Japan as Pokemon Mate) and when it came to the early Pokemon movies they didn’t hesitate to create playsets for them either. Pokemon 2000 had the most of these playsets produced, with the Fire, Lightning and Ice Islands from the film all receiving individual playsets along with the shrine at Shamouti Island which included Lugia keeping a watchful eye over the shrine.
Pokemon 3 seems to have had much less merchandise produced for it in comparison to the first two Pokemon movies, which is a shame as I personally consider the animation and story in this film to be fantastic and I think it deserves far more recognition than it currently receives. A Pokemon House playset inspired by the third movie was produced, however it is incredibly rare to come across. The playset was a deluxe model, featuring the Hale family home in the crystallised Greenfield which Ash and Co. had to rescue Ash’s mother from in the movie.
Books and Comics:
As is common with many movies from franchises aimed at children, the Pokemon films were also adapted into novels. Mewtwo Strikes Back: Pokemon The First Movie was written by Tracey West (who also adapted the Indigo League, Orange Islands and Johto Journeys anime series into children’s books) and published in 2000 following the western release of the movie. The book proved to be a favourite at Scholastic book fairs, which is where I purchased a copy from myself as a child when a book fair was held at my primary school. As I recall, a lot of other kids also bought the book and I’m sure our teacher was thrilled when we all handed in our weekly book reports exclaiming that Ash’s “death” during Mew and Mewtwo’s stand-off was the world of fiction’s biggest tragedy since Of Mice and Men’s Lennie last told George about “tending the rabbits”…
The animated shorts that played before the cinematic releases and VHS copies of the first 3 Pokemon movies (Pikachu’s Vacation, Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure and Pikachu And Pichu) were also adapted into Tracey West-penned novels as were Pokemon 2000 Pokemon 3, however much like in other areas of merchandising, the novelisation of the third movie was (and still is) seldom seen in comparison to its two predecessors. The First Movie was also released as a five-part comic series by Viz Media in 2000. This comic was a re-release of a 1998 graphic novel version of the movie which had been originally published by Japanese media publishers Shogakukan Inc as a singular title. The first four issues of the comic collected the story from the main film, while the fifth issue presented the story from Pikachu’s Vacation.
Much like the first movie, the comic adaptation of Pokemon 2000 had originally been released in Japan as a singular graphic novel and was presented to western audiences in five monthly comic releases, with the initial four comics containing the second movie story and the fifth comic showcasing the story from the Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure short. The Pikachu’s Vacation and Pikachu’s Rescue Adventure comics were later collected into the All That Pikachu! graphic novel, which was released by Viz Media in 2006.
Unfortunately Pokemon 3 did not receive a graphic novel or comic book release, which I think is quite a shame as I personally find it to be the most visually enticing of the early Pokemon movies and feel that it would look excellent in a panel by panel format. In recent years the comic book adaptations from the movies (particularly the first movie) have become favourites for fans to get signed by the voice actors from the Pokemon anime and signed collections of these comics can be found quite readily, which could make for a very cool addition to any collector’s arsenal of Pokemon movie merchandise (provided you have a spare £150-£300 available).
As a Pokemon fan and collector, one of my favourite things about the early movies and all the merchandise surrounding them was how they perfectly encapsulated the buzz that accompanied the release of each film, as there was nothing more exciting as a Pokemon-loving kid in the late 90’s/early 00’s than discovering the latest legendary Pokemon and new places that came along with each movie. Personally I think it would be amazing if a new animated Pokemon movie were to receive as wide a cinematic release as the early films did, or perhaps if one of the first three movies were remastered and re-released into the cinemas (maybe even in conjunction with an upcoming event or milestone, 30th anniversary I’m looking at you) as I would love for Pokemon fans old and new to have the opportunity to relive the magic of Pokemania at the movies all over again.
Written by Emily Carney
Sources and Further Reading:
Pokemon The First Movie: Free Daily Mail Promotional Video –
Hypebeast – Pokemon The First Movie Promo Toys + Cards –
Here we’ll be taking a look at a handful of the earlier Pokemon trainer action figures that were released during the first three generations of Pokemon, along with a few tips on restoring older action figures and keeping them in tip top condition.
Article by Emily Carney
As well as the mountain of action figures based on our favourite creatures from the world of Pokemon, over the years there have also been numerous toys inspired by the human characters from the franchise. Here we’ll be taking a look at a handful of the earlier Pokemon trainer action figures that were released during the first three generations of Pokemon, along with a few tips on restoring older action figures and keeping them in tip top condition.
Tomy 5” Trainer Figures
One of the most popular runs of Pokemon trainer figures was this range which was manufactured and released by Tomy in 1998. Featuring key characters from the first series of the Pokemon anime (Ash, Brock and Misty along with Jessie and James from Team Rocket), these figures bore a striking resemblance to their anime counterparts and proved to be very popular among fans. Initially just Ash, Misty, Jessie and James were released with no sign of a Brock action figure, possibly due to his temporary absence early on in the anime and subsequently being replaced with Tracey Sketchit, as the creators of the Pokemon anime were worried about Brock being perceived negatively as an asian stereotype upon the anime’s release in the west. This however, proved to not be the case and Brock was immensely popular with western Pokemon fans, which led to his reinstatement as a main series character following the culmination of the Orange Islands series.
The Ash and Misty figures were initially released with Pikachu and Starmie respectively, however during the second release of figures Ash was packaged with Squirtle (who oddly, featured its original dark blue colouring as seen in Ken Sugimori’s illustrations in the Pokemon Red/Green/Blue/Yellow game manual as opposed to the light blue redesign given to Squirtle in the anime) and Misty was packaged with Jigglypuff. Team Rocket also featured different Pokemon in the second release, as Jessie had originally been packaged with Ekans and James with Koffing, but in the second release Jessie was packaged with Meowth and James, rather oddly considering it was Jessie’s Pokemon and not his, was packaged with Arbok. Eventually Brock did receive his own figure and was partnered with his Vulpix, along with the plastic Pokeball and small card disc displaying the featured Pokemon that was included with all the other western-released Tomy trainer figures.
Interestingly, Japanese releases of these figures did not feature additional Pokemon figures or other parts other than a base to stand the figures on for display and the trainer figures were released in sets of two, with Ash and Misty (or as they are known in Japan, Satoshi and Kasumi), were released together, along with Jessie and James (Musashi and Kojiro) and Brock and Nurse Joy (Tekashi and Joy) being paired up. Fans of the anime can probably note that Brock would have been ecstatic with his box partner.
There has been a great deal of interest in this range of figures over the past few years, especially if still boxed and in good condition. The value of them continues to increase dramatically (I recently spotted an unopened Ash and Squirtle Tomy figure set on ebay for £500!), so if you are interested in collecting these figures I would definitely recommend trying to hunt down a bargain sooner than later as they do make great additions to any collection both boxed and unboxed, plus if you are lucky enough to get a box figure signed by the specific character’s original voice actor you could be looking at adding a serious investment piece to your collection.
Hasbro Deluxe Trainer Figures
Whilst technically being a continuation of the Tomy 5” Trainer Line (despite Hasbro taking over the production license), the Deluxe Trainer Figures released in 2000 introduced new features to the Trainer figure series.
Following his return to anime for the Johto Journeys series, Brock’s figure was released at the same time as Ash and Misty, with each of them being packaged with their own plastic backpack which could be attached and detached and a Pokeball similar to those included with the earlier Tomy trainer figure line (however the two halves of these Pokeballs were attached on a hinge, a slight change to the two separate pieces which made up the Tomy-released Pokeballs). Each figure was also paired up with one of the specific trainer’s Pokemon from the anime, with Ash being partnered with Pikachu, Brock being partnered with Zubat and Misty being partnered with Horsea
Unlike the previous Tomy range, the Hasbro line did not include Jessie and James, although they did include the additional feature of being articulated, which made them much more poseable and fun to reenact battles with. In a similar fashion to the Tomy figures, the Hasbro Deluxe Figures are becoming more and more sought after (though the prices haven’t quite reached the heights of the Tomy line yet), I recently managed to find the full trio together at a bargain price (not boxed or with their Pokemon/Pokeballs but they did included their backpacks) and they look excellent on display, so I would very much recommend keeping an eye out for the Deluxe Figures if you’re looking to add some early-series anime collectibles to your collection.
Tomy CGTSJ 3” (Approx) Figures
As well as the larger trainer figures, in 1998 Tomy also released a range of smaller human character figures. This range was the first to include characters such as Officer Jenny, Professor Oak and Gary Oak and featured the characters sculpted in various poses on a small grey stand. This line of figures was notable for possibly having the least amount of quality control when it came to the moulds used and the paintwork, as some of the character’s limbs ended to be rather oversized and had some unusual additions (note Officer Jenny’s rather long left arm and Brock inexplicably holding what appears to be a chicken drumstick in the photo above).
The Tomy CGTSJ figures are still readily available to purchase from a number of vintage Pokemon retailers online, however certain characters (particularly Professor Oak and Officer Jenny) are becoming increasingly rare.
In 2001 Hasbro returned to creating Pokemon trainer figures with the THINKChip Ash figure, which was released in two different sets: one featuring the Ash figure and Cyndaquil, and another featuring Ash, Pikachu, Wartortle and Jigglypuff, the later being released as part of the Pokemon Trainer’s Choice range which bridged the gap between Pokemon Generation II and III.
Using the THINKChip Ash’s Talking Pokedex (which I covered in my previous blog, The Changing Face Of The Pokedex), the Ash figure and the Pokemon included in the sets were able to interact with the Pokedex using the THINKChip cards for each Pokemon that also came with each set. The THINKChip Ash figure was noticeably larger than other human character Pokemon toys and is currently the largest official trainer action figure to be released, measuring approximately 11.5 inches. The design of the figure is also noticeably similar to the Deluxe Trainer Ash figure that Hasbro released in 2000, albeit without the detachable backpack.
In terms of collectibility, the THINKChip Ash figures are scarcely seen outside of the USA and are becoming increasingly hard to find boxed and unopened, particularly the earlier Cyndaquil set. Loose THINKChip Ash figures without any additional Pokemon figures or THINKChip card accessories can occasionally be found in bundles of Pokemon toys or on their own online, however prices and conditions of the figures available can vary greatly.
In terms of collectibility, the THINKChip Ash figures are scarcely seen outside of the USA and are becoming increasingly hard to find boxed and unopened, particularly the earlier Cyndaquil set. Loose THINKChip Ash figures without any additional Pokemon figures or THINKChip card accessories can occasionally be found in bundles of Pokemon toys or on their own online, however prices and conditions of the figures available can vary greatly.
Medicom Ash with Pikachu Set
The Ash With Pikachu set was released in 2006 by Medicom and was unusual for a Pokemon trainer figure in that it was a much more doll-like toy than others previously released, measuring 8 inches in height, being fully articulated and including fabric clothes and accessories as well as interchangeable hands.
Even in terms of packaging it was far different to other Pokemon toys, with its box being closer to those used by brands such as Sideshow as it featured a velcro-sealable card door with a comic-style illustrations of Ash and Pikachu on the exterior and interior of the box, along with a clear plastic window in which the Ash and Pikachu figures (plus all their accessories) could be viewed.
The Ash With Pikachu set was released in 2006 by Medicom and was unusual for a Pokemon trainer figure in that it was a much more doll-like toy than others previously released, measuring 8 inches in height, being fully articulated and including fabric clothes and accessories as well as interchangeable hands. Even in terms of packaging it was far different to other Pokemon toys, with its box being closer to those used by brands such as Sideshow as it featured a velcro-sealable card door with a comic-style illustrations of Ash and Pikachu on the exterior and interior of the box, along with a clear plastic window in which the Ash and Pikachu figures (plus all their accessories) could be viewed.
The Medicom Ash figure shows off Ash’s new outfit from the Hoenn-based Pokemon: Advanced series, which saw him swap his traditional outfit for a new hooded shirt, new jeans, black gloves, blue trainers and a brand new hat. This was the first time in the anime that Ash would permanently change his outfit, however in the following years he has had numerous different clothing and design changes.
In terms of rarity the Medicom Ash With Pikachu figure set is rather scarce, with the figure being limited to a release of just 1500. They are also rarely seen for sale outside of Japan and are extremely expensive, with the few sets currently available online being priced as high as £550.
Tomy Pokemon Mate Mini Figures
Back to Tomy, one of the most prolific Pokemon trainer/human character lines has to be the Tomy Pokemon Mate Mini Figure range which first began in 1997. As part of the Pokemon Mate Collection (which was released to the western market under the name “Pokemon House” and also included stationary, model kits and playsets, amongst other Pokemon products) the mini figures featured a variety of characters, including Ash, Misty, Brock, Tracey, Jessie, James, Professor Oak, Officer Jenny, Nurse Joy and Gary Oak. Additional Pokemon anime-themed products were also released alongside the mini figures, such as Team Rocket’s Meowth-shaped hot air balloon and Magikarp submarine.
The figures were designed in a “Chibi”-esque style and despite their small stature, emulated the anime characters they were based on very well. These figures were distributed to some stores in the west during the late 1990’s, including some here in the UK, however the numbers that were distributed over here were far less than those of other Pokemon toys. Some of the early Ash and Misty figures can be found at relatively affordable prices ( I recently saw an Ash + Misty mini figure bundle on eBay for £30, which when compared with some of the prices of other figures in this blog, seems like pocket money), however some of the lesser-seen characters such as Professor Oak, Officer Jenny and particularly Nurse Joy are becoming extremely rare, so if you are interested in collecting this line (and I must admit, they are very cute) I would certainly recommend snapping up any you come across sooner rather than later.
Pokemon Figure Restoration Tips:
If you have Pokemon toys (or any action figures really) that are looking a little worse for wear, don’t worry! With a little work you can get them looking nice and fresh, so here’s a few hints and tips on sprucing up your Pokemon figures. I recently started getting into customising and restoring various toys and one of my first restoration projects was this vintage James from Team Rocket Tomy figure –
Before I started re-painting I lightly sanded the entire figure with a light grade sandpaper, for the harder to reach nooks and crannies i wrapped the sandpaper around the end of a thin paint brush as this allowed me to get to the harder to reach areas and sand them, which ensured that the paint could be applied evenly. I then used Crawford and Black acrylic paints to re-paint his hair and clothing and Citadel model paints to re-paint his face. I used a selection of still frames from the original Indigo league anime as a reference to ensure that the colours were mixed accordingly to how the character appeared in the anime. Some of the areas with heavier blemishes (such as his hair and hands) required a few extra coats to cover up completely but all in all the paint job was relatively simple. After the paint had dried I used a matte spray varnish to seal everything and give the figure a nice clean finish as seen below –
I found the process of restoring this figure to be immensely satisfying and would definitely recommend any fellow figure collectors who feel like getting creative to have a go at giving their older toys a new lease of life. If you are considering restoring your figures, ensure you have a good clear space to work in where you won’t have to worry about making too much of a mess and if it is your first time painting action figures, perhaps try practicing on a few cheaper toys before repainting anything that is more valuable. In terms of getting the right colours, always use a good reference image and focus on mixing colours to get the correct tone, rather than trying to find the closest match to a specific colour when buying paints as this is a generally more reliable way of getting your figures to look as close as possible to character designs your are trying to replicate. Like any hobby though the most important part of figure restoration is to enjoy it and have fun, so don’t get too frustrated if your figures don’t look perfect immediately. Practice makes perfect at the end of the day so just hang in there and before you know it you’ll have a whole array of great looking figures!
I have since enjoyed several other titles in the main series of Pokemon games, although none of them have quite topped Pokemon Crystal…
My First Pokemon Game: Pokemon Crystal – A Retrospective
Article by Emily Carney
The year is 2001. The month is November. Pokemon Gold and Silver had been released earlier that year here in the UK back in April and had been instant hits, providing Pokemon fans across the country with a brand new region to explore and a plethora of new Pokemon to catch. But I personally was yet to embark on a Pokemon journey of my own, as despite being a huge Pokemon fan since 1999 (the year I started primary school) and being obsessed with the anime, films, toys and trading cards, I had yet to actually experience from a first-hand perspective the medium which had kick-started the whole franchise back in 1996, the Pokemon video games. However all that was to change that winter, when I ecstatically received a yellow Pikachu & Pichu Gameboy colour and a copy of Pokemon Crystal.
Despite having played briefly on Gameboys owned by family members and friends, my only proper experience of video games at this point was the first Sony Playstation, which I have great memories of and still enjoy playing games such as Crash Bandicoot, Tomb Raider and Tekken to this day. Upon receiving the Gameboy and Pokemon Crystal however, I was extremely happy that I could now take my game anywhere with me, and could finally join in on trading and battling Pokemon with my friends.
One of the most vivid memories I have before actually playing the game was looking through the Pokemon Crystal booklet that came with the game and seeing how beautiful Ken Sugimori’s watercolor illustrations were (though unfortunately it appears to be very hard to find any pictures of the inner instruction manual pages). Even today Sugimori’s Pokemon artwork are some of my favorite pieces of art ever and I would love to see the franchise return to this style at some point, even just as a homage as I think the charm of these illustrations far surpasses the digital artwork that is commonplace in most forms of official Pokemon-related media today.
Pokemon Crystal is notable for being the first Pokemon game to give the player a choice between playing as a boy or a girl and as being both a first-time Pokemon player and a 7 year-old girl at the time, I was happy about this, although while I was growing up Pokemon as a franchise always seemed to be enjoyed equally by both boys and girls regardless of the gender of the protagonist we were watching or playing as, so while I was pleased to have the choice to play as a girl I do think even if I hadn’t had this choice I would have still had a great time playing the game.
The design of the female protagonist (known as Kris, although as with all main series Pokemon games the player is able to input their own name) is excellent in my opinion and is one of my favourite trainer designs in the series, as it strikes just the right balance between the classic 90’s aesthetic of the early games and anime alongside the sporty, adventurous look that would be applied to other protagonists in future Pokemon games.
Beginning to play the game itself was a fantastic experience. As this was late 2001/early 2002, here in the UK we had just become acquainted with the second generation of Pokemon and although Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal have had some criticism from fans who find the inclusion of new Pokemon to be rather lacking until the later stages of the games, as a first-time player I was just excited to be able to catch any of the Pokemon I’d hurried home from school to see in the anime. My first starter Pokemon was a Totodile I nicknamed “Snappy” and he stayed with me throughout the majority of my journey, evolving from Totodile to Croconaw and finally to Feraligatr, though I did eventually trade him (which I must admit I still feel quite guilty about) for a friend’s Venusaur, a Venasaur which for some reason was rather confusingly nicknamed “Zapdos”. Snappy, if you’re out there on a game cartridge at the bottom of someone’s drawer or cupboard somewhere, please know I still think about you and thank you for being my first Pokemon.
Maybe it’s a combination of a great game and a child’s imagination but I still vividly remember travelling through the different areas of the Johto region for the first time as if they were real-life locations that I’d travelled to. I think part of this is down to the wonderful soundtrack of the second generation games, which vary from the whimsical to the atmospheric and everything in between.
I still listen to the tunes from the soundtrack often today (particularly the themes from Ecruteak City and Cianwood City, which I would definitely consider to be my favorites) and it really is a testament to the talent of composer Junichi Masuda that he could capture the personalities of these individual locations and take listeners back to these places years later with these melodies.
Many players have praised the Pokemon main series games in recent years for its emphasis on literacy and reading being key to fully enjoying the games, and this is something I would very much agree with. Though the story wasn’t as complex as that of future Pokemon games, I still found it to be engaging and was very enthused to defeat Team Rocket and beat the Elite Four. One of my favorite aspects of the game however (and indeed one of my favorite aspects of the Pokemon franchise in general) was how much it encouraged playing with others, whether that involved battles and trades via the Gameboy Link Cable or working together to try and get past a particularly difficult part of the game.
At my primary school we had a period during the last half an hour of school on a Friday afternoon called “Golden Time”, where we were allowed to bring in toys and games or do fun activities and this was when my friends and myself would bring in our Gameboys and play the Pokemon games together or trade our Pokemon cards. I remember those Friday afternoons very fondly, I particularly recall being both baffled and enthralled when a friend showed me how to do the Generation II cloning glitch (which involved placing a Pokemon in a box in the PC and then changing box/turning off the console at the right moment while the data was saving in order to duplicate the Pokemon placed in the box, but as there is the possibility of this glitch corrupting save data I probably wouldn’t recommend it nowadays), though instead of using the glitch for something useful like duplicating Masterballs I instead just made copy upon copy of my favourite Pokemon, and ended up with about 6 charizards and 12 Umbreons, amongst others.
Another of my favourite aspects of the second generation games is the ability to travel to Kanto after defeating the Elite Four and take on the gym leaders from the original Red/Blue/Green/Yellow games.
Although some players have criticized the post game content for not being as engaging as the initial journey, I genuinely felt like I’d stumbled across some amazing secret when I first realized I could go to Pallet Town and all the other Kanto locations, as this was my first time experiencing this part of the Pokemon world in-game and I personally thought that being given the opportunity to explore Lavender Town, Viridian Forest, Mt Moon and all the areas I’d seen in the Indigo League anime was quite a treat. After exploring Kanto, the culmination of the journey in battling Red at Mt Silver was an excellent way to draw the game to a close and I must admit it took a lot of perseverance (and several of my cloned Charizards) to beat him, but I felt immensely accomplished after doing so.
Overall, I really don’t think I could have asked for a better introduction to the in-game Pokemon world, and I have since enjoyed several other titles in the main series of Pokemon games, although none of them have quite topped Pokemon Crystal for me. Unfortunately I did lose my original copy (though did manage to recover my old Pikachu/Pichu edition Gameboy last year, which I was ecstatic about) but I would very much like to acquire another copy at some point in the future (although this may end up being quite an investment as boxed complete copies of the game are currently going for around £200 to £400, with some being priced even higher) and experience the fun and adventure of Pokemon Crystal all over again.
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
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:
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.
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:
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:
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:
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.