The cards from the Pokemon Trading Card Game have become quite the hot commodity over the past several months thanks to online influencers making content surrounding rare cards. Cards from original Pokemon TCG boxes from 1999 are some of the biggest pulls that content creators get, often containing cards worth thousands upon thousands of dollars.
Some of those original cards also have some of the most iconic art in the series, as many were illustrated by long-time series artist Ken Sugimori. However, one artist and animator on Twitter has discovered some of the original assets for many of the background images used for those old Pokemon TCG cards, creating a video comparing the cards and their original background assets.
The video comes by way of an animator, artist, and video game texture archiver Fanamel, who has recreated and edited plenty of Nintendo texture and model assets in the past. Fanamel says that the original background images come from a series of images called Datacraft Sazaijiten and can be found right now from the series' website. To prove their point, Fanamel takes several cards from original Pokemon Card packs, including Ponyta, Wartortle, Professor Oak, and Pikachu, and layers the original background images over those cards. Then, by reducing the opacity of the original background image, the proof that these are the original assets becomes undeniable.
It's incredibly interesting to see a bit of the behind the scenes process of how some of the earliest Pokemon Trading Cards were put together. Many Pokemon fans know the iconic style of Ken Sugimori's early Pokemon art, which nearly all of the original cards utilize, but it's fascinating to learn that many of the backgrounds used are not original. According to Fanamel's research into these background images "even the ones that look handpainted" are simply found on the Datacraft Sozaijiten catalogue. Though admittedly, it does make sense that not every Pokemon card would have completely original background art, especially in the earliest days of production.
Of course, it's important to mention that many of these background images did receive a bit of tweaking before print, even if it was just a subtle blur or distortion effect. Compared to recent Pokemon TCG expansions, the background art is notably simpler. However, that also adds a certain charm to the original cards, as it wouldn't be a stretch to say that some of the more recent Pokemon TCG cards look a bit busy. This is probably another big reason why many fans consider these cards special, aside from their monetary value.
For those who may be outside the world of Pokemon Trading Cards, the game recently had an explosion in popularity thanks to online content creators on Twitch and YouTube. In fact, the Pokemon TCG Twitch Category rose by 3000% in recent months thanks to content creators opening rare boxes and packs. Thanks to Fanamel's video, many of those fans and content creators get some cool insight into how these older Pokemon TCG cards were designed.
Though admittedly, it does make sense that not every Pokemon card would have completely original background art, especially in the earliest days of production.
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