Pokémon Cards Are Still Full of Inspiration
Ever wonder how new Pokémon cards are created? It all happens at the offices of Creatures, Inc.,the developer that is responsible for Pokémon spin-off games like Pokémon Stadium and Detective Pikachu. On top of games, they are also responsible for a huge part of the Pokémon Trading Card Game (TCG), which has been expanding for over 20 years.
Creatures Inc.’s Tokyo, Japan office is home to directors like Atsushi Nagashima and illustrators like Mitsuhiro Aritatha, who together are responsible for conceiving and drawing the cards. Arita alone has drawn over 500 Pokémon cards, including the infamous holographic Charizard.
Nagashima claims that the most important part of creating a new card is variety, but the first step of the process is deciding on which Pokémon to use as the foundation.
“Near the beginning of a new series [based on the latest video games], we really try to take care to stay true to the video games that we’re basing the card series on–for example, the Pokemon that were featured heavily in that video game or had a big role in the story, we’ll make sure they’re kind of at the center of the set we’re making,” Nagashima said. “But once we’re kind of mid-way through the series, we start focusing more on play environment overall…and decide which Pokemon to put in based on that.”
In terms of challenges, maintaining the spirit of the original characters while also putting a unique spin on them is a big one, as well as integrating video game mechanics into the TCG.
“In the trading card game, you have your basic [Pokemon],” Nagashima said. “You evolve it to Stage 1 and [then Stage 2], so there are two steps to get to your final evolution in general. If we added another step on top of that, you just wouldn’t have enough room in your 60-card deck to really make that feasible.”
“So we took the approach of only having Mega Evolutions for cards that were already really strong–so there was already an EX card and then that would evolve to the Mega-EX,” he continued. “We tried to reduce the number of steps in that way.”
Aritatha talked about the challenges that artists faced in the Red and Green days, when they only had a limited amount of official artwork and in-game sprites to work off of. But using his talent, he created some of the most iconic cards from the original series, including the original fat Pikachu design and the holographic Charizard..
“Specifically this Charizard and that Pikachu are some of the most memorable cards for I think a lot of people who played the game originally, and I always thought that I’d probably never be able to draw cards that people would like better than those two,” he said.
The Pokémon TCG is still going strong, and Aritatha’s new favorite design can be seen on the Mewtwo-GX card.