Thursday, 30 November 2006

Pokemon Trading Figure Game: Next Quest Review

Ok, so today I’ll be taking a look at the brand spanking new Pokemon miniatures game, or to give it its full name; Pokemon Trading Figure Game: Next Quest. I shall be concentrating on the Flamethrower starter set (which consists off 4 miniatures, Red trainer, Charizard, Treecko and Meowth), but another more water based set is available.
I have been a fan off the whole Pokemon “hoopla” since day one, well I say day one, living in Britain generally means our day one comes about seven years after everyone else’s, but rest assured in terms off us old Brits, I was there at the start. Got Red on day one, Blue for X-Mas and all manner of games after that, so when a rep showed me these at the Toy-Fair in London in January I was pretty excited. Excited and impressed, which is probably more important? So after many months, and a long conversation with my boss telling her that “yes we do indeed need to sell these things”, they finally turned up at the shops backdoor. I’m pleased to say that I still love them….

Packaging ***
Our friendly neighbourhood pocket monsters come in the ever more popular clam shell pack which means all the appropriate boxes are ticked. They are clearly visible from all angles, look damn good on a shelf and are all safe and secure (you wouldn’t want to upset Charizard by damaging his wings now would you?) My favourite aspect of the pack though is how the mini-figs themselves are held down; each on them is clipped in to a small plastic tray, which in turn is held into the main packaging. This is a really cool little feature, as it lets you see one off the main features of the figures; they spin. So what I hear all cry, well trust me it looks cool and this will be pretty important later on.
As I said there are two starter sets available, the only thing that really differentiates them both in terms off packaging is a sticker that runs along the front base off the pack, proudly telling you which set you have bought, and a neat little picture of the main monster included. The back is pretty similar on both sets, giving you a little info about the game as a whole, what you get inside and what else you can spend your hard earned money on. Despite what sounds like a lot off similarities in the design, because all the monsters included are all so different, both sets manage to really stand out from each other when on display.

Sculpting; Treecko, Meowth, Red **1/2, Charizard ***
Now on to the most important part of this whole thing; the miniatures themselves.
And I’m pleased to say it’s generally pretty darn good.
Trainer Red (it’s blatantly Ash Ketchum), is the one human character you get in the set, and he is also the least interesting. But that is pretty inevitable when you see what else you get in the pack. In reverse order of greatness the monsters you get Treecko, Meowth and Charizard.

Treecko is sculpted climbing down a rocky outcrop type thing, and its perfectly nice, but its just not that interesting. I know that’s not the most detailed critique, but for me that’s where it ends, it good not great and certainly not the most exciting thing ever.

Things pick up a little with Meowth. Team Rockets favourite henchman (HenchCat?) is portrayed bounding toward you in all his playful cat like glee, and this comes out wonderfully in the sculpt. These guys are essentially based on the cartoon versions of the characters, and the transition from 2D to 3D is always a tricky one to capture, so it’s mightily impressive how faithful they remain to their source material, this is never more obvious than when looking at Charizard.
Charizard is posed leaning out off a mound? of swirling flame, and is my favourite of the set, might off mentioned that before, but I just wanted to make sure you knew this because he looks awesome. So overall, the sculpts are pretty darn good, this however could be a major stumbling block for the line, but more on that in the Value section.

Paint: Treecko, Meowth, Red **1/2, Charizard ***
These guys shouldn’t be the hardest things in the world to paint; essentially they are made up of large blocks off the same colour, without a huge amount of shading. This obviously stems from the design of the characters and the somewhat LOUD colour scheme that was chosen, oh the joys off kids’ cartoons!!
Meowth is the simplest off the lot. Only his eyes, mouth, hands feet and the tip off his tail require any work, and what you get is pretty neat and tidy.

Next up is Treecko, and just like Meowth, not a lot off detail work has to go into him, but what is done is as good as you could expect, all the lines are neat and colours match the character perfectly (or at least to my eyes anyway). He does gain a small advantage over Meowth when you take a look at the rock formation he is perched on, although rather simply done, there is a nice level off shading used on it, when a simple brown could have been thrown on, that extra step (when you consider how simple they could have kept the paintjob) is a very nice thing indeed.

The quality takes another step up when we get to Red/Ash. Here we actually get a level of small detail work, and for the most part what’s there is very good. The shading on the trousers is especially nice; however there are a few spots off spray paint on his jacket. But ignoring that gripe, it’s really well done.
As seems to be tradition we end on Charizard, and again I have saved the best to last.

Charizard himself is quite like the other monsters, not many different colours, and large blocks of those that are there, so why is he so good? Easy, those oh so lovely flames! Our “friendly” fire-dragon is surrounded by a ton of them and the way they graduate between the different colours and shades is very impressive indeed. Flame is always one off those things that can be a struggle to pull over well, so it’s good to see that even in this “cartoony” representation, care has been taken to make it look genuinely good.

Action Feature **
This next section is pretty pointless unless you actually intend to play the game. You see, the figures are attached to small plastic bases, and when on these the can be spun like some small tornado off monster based rage…? This is used to decided the winners in battle, so if your not playing, don’t read the previous paragraph…..oh too late, sorry!

Accessories ***
As well as the figs, in the pack you get spinny bases for each character, a two sided playmate, collector’s sheet, trainer cards and rule book. So basically every thing need for one player to get started in the game.

The Game/Fun Factor **1/2
The basic idea of the game is to try and get one of you pocket monsters to the other side off the board, and your opponents goal space. You can only move each monster so far, and should you bump in to an opponent the two off you fight. This is where the game turns into what is essentially a version of paper rock scissors with added dizziness. Each player spins their monsters and the colour that is being pointed at determines who wins the fight. Blue beats everything, purple beats white, if two whites are spun the most powerful attack wins, and should you miss, well everyone just laughs at you for the rest off the day.
It’s a really simple game, obviously aimed at kids, but I think it works well for the market it’s aimed at.

Value **
This is probably going to be the only really negative section off the review, and its all the fault off the praise I have been giving the stuff so far, confused? Well let me explain. As I said, I like the sculpts and paint and everything a whole lot, it really looks good. But because off this quality that has gone into the line, the price has to be knocked up. With a starter weighing in at £15 and the boosters £9, that’s a few quid too much for what they are trying to sell. Its meant to be a line the kids can easily collect, and at that price point I don’t see that happening.
As far as I know America hasn’t had the joy of the Pokemon TFG yet, so I can only hope that when they do, production goes up so that economies of scale (see I did occasionally concentrate at school) kick in and the price can drop a little.

Overall ***
I like this line a lot, and were it not for the high price point I would probably end up with loads off these guys littering my flat, but until there is a reduction I cant see this being the success it deserves to be.

Great Review by Matt Thomas

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