Video game versions of collectible card games have always been an attractive option for casual players who don’t really want to pony up fat stacks of cash for fat stacks of potentially-worthless cardboard. Back when Charizards were fetching Suikoden II money, you could just pick up a copy of this Game Boy Color version and have a slew of ‘em at your fingertips. That is, if you had friends with the game as well, or were content beating up the AI opponents over and over again. Now, a decade and change after this version’s release, chances are you’re not going to find too many people with a copy ready to duel… which is fine, because the game stands sound enough on its own. Without getting too deep into explaining the mechanics of the game, the important part to mention is that the user interface puts within a few menu selections all the data you need to play the game, even despite the compressed screen of the Game Boy Color.

Heck, there’s even room for eye-catching status and attack animations, though the card art is reduced to monochrome to make palette space for both active Pokemon. You can easily check your hand and bench, get the full text of any card in play, retreat your active Pokemon, and utilize any Pokemon Powers on your path to, all together now, BE THE VERY BEST LIKE NO ONE EVER WAS. With cardboard. There are eight gyms – erm, clubs – each featuring a spate of popcorn trainers – I mean, card battlers – as well as a Gym Leader – gah. Club Master – who yields a badge – dammit, medal – when defeated.

Instead of battling cards in the wild (which makes even less sense than the rest of the game), defeated trainers instead fork over a couple booster packs, allowing you to either customize your starter deck, or build a new one completely from scratch. You’ve got four slots for decks, which can either be your own creations or pre-designed decks available from Professor Mason’s lab (providing you have the cards in your supply). And while only the base set and first two expansions are available, there’s still plenty of options to choose from. There are even Game Boy-exclusive cards that often call upon a random element that’d be difficult to replicate on a physical table. (outside of having a pile of dice on hand).

It’s kind of reminiscent of the original Magic: the Gathering PC game’s Astral cards. On top of that, you can trade cards quickly using the Game Boy Color’s infrared port… if you’re not just playing this on a GBA, alone. If you’re a fan of the TCG today… well, you’re probably going to look at these old cards and cringe at the slowness. (Not of the video game, but of the state of the card game at that moment in time.) But if you’re up for a bit of nostalgia, or you long for a time when your opponent didn’t usually start with a 180HP Darkrai-EX, track down a copy.

It’ll help you kill time until the TCG Online finally gets out of beta.