Pokemon 151 Is One Inch From Perfection

Pokemon 151 Is One Inch From Perfection

Pokemon 151 is a wonderful send-up to the OG Pokemon, but it doesn’t celebrate the fan-favorites as much as you’d expect it to.

It’s Pokemon 151 launch day. Do you hear that? Someone is ringing a bell that only Millennials can hear. It’s funny to think about how powerful Pokemon nostalgia is while the IP is simultaneously still at the top of its game, publishing chart-topping video games and breaking sales records with new TCG sets all the time. Pokemon 151 – which exclusively features Pokemon and trainers from the Kanto region – isn’t even the first throw back set the TCG has done. 2021’s Celebrations was a rewind through the TCG’s history, while 2016’s XY Evolutions was packed with reprints of base set cards. 151 is a nod to the aging fans that made Pokemon that massive success it is today, and it’s been embraced by the community with open arms.

As a 30-something life-long Pokemon fan, opening 151 has been a true delight. The Pokemon that defined my generation are all here, lovingly represented with modern mechanics and fresh art. I’m often critical of Pokemon TCG expansions for not committing to a theme, but that’s not a problem here. One of my favorite modern sets, Champion’s Path, was built around the concept of collecting gym badges across Galar to become the Pokemon Champion. 151 has a similar framing device: we’re young Pallet Town trainers discovering the world of Pokemon for the first time. Who wouldn’t want a chance to relive that adventure?

As a collector who only dabbles in the competitive scene, I’m excited to have a new opportunity to complete a set that feels cohesive and meaningful. Every card I pull, be it common or triple-secret rare, gets put in my binder in number order. Each pack I open is a journey to a new route or town in Kanto where I hope to discover fresh Pokemon and add them to my collection. This is the first set that’s made me feel like I gotta catch ‘em all in a long time.

151 is a special collection, meaning you won’t find booster boxes or individual packs being sold – only ETBs, various collection boxes, and a six-pack booster bundle that replaces the traditional Build and Battle Box. There are fewer cards than a typical expansion, but there are still a ton. Beyond the 151 Pokemon, there are 14 trainer cards, 16 illustration rares, 16 full arts, seven special illustration rares, and three gold, or hyper rare cards.

pokemon 151 poster collection

Ever since the Scarlet & Violet base set introduced additional rare slots, chase cards have been easier to find, and cards on the secondary market have become a lot more reasonably priced. Even if you aren’t going for the full set of 207, completing the 151 collection shouldn’t be too difficult or expensive. Only ten of the Pokemon are EX cards, and only around 20 of them are rare. This set isn’t designed to entice you to dump thousands of dollars into it, which will hopefully keep prices low and availability high. I appreciate The Pokemon Company resisting the urge to turn this expansion into another Evolving Skies or Hidden Fates that people are desperate to get their hands on, but I still think it could stand to be a little more sensational than it is.

The chase cards are surprisingly modest, given the pedigree of the Pokemon involved. It’s cool that oddballs like Caterpie, Omanyte, and Tangela get to share some of the spotlight, but the real crowd pleasers are largely left by the wayside for some reason. You’ve got plenty of alternate art and specialty cards for the three starters and the evolution line, but there’s nothing special here for Gyrados, Dragonite, or the Eeveelutions. Zapdos gets an EX card, a full art, a special illustration rare, and a promo card, but the other legendary birds get nothing. The only cool Mewtwo is a promo card in the Ultra-Premium Collection, and even Pikachu doesn’t have much star power here. I know these Pokemon have all been featured plenty, but this is the 151 celebration set, so why back seat them now?

There’s some frustrating downgrades from the Japanese version too, which isn’t uncommon across Pokemon’s history. The coolest card in the set is probably the special illustration rare Mew, which looks like the sun is rising when you tilt it, but that one has also been turned into a promo card for the $120 Ultra-Premium Collection. We’re not getting the cards with the special master ball reverse holo pattern in this expansion either, which would have been the coolest chase cards of all.

Mew-Mewtwo-Promos-151-Ultra-Premium-Collection-Cards-2

I used to criticize expansion in the Sword & Shield era for getting too big and featuring way too many secret rare cards, so it feels strange to complain that Pokemon 151 doesn’t have enough chase cards. I think The Pokemon Company is reacting to the bizarre and unexpected explosion around the TCG hobby during the pandemic that brought a lot of negative influences into the market (Logan Paul has a lot to answer for), but it might be overcorrecting here.

It’s a great expansion in concept, but the execution doesn’t blow me away like I expected it to. It’s a difficult balance to strike, and while I’m enjoying 151 today, I don’t know if it will have the same collector appeal as other special collection sets like Celebrations or Hidden Fates, simply because the chases just aren’t that chaseable. It’s a full art Gyrados and a couple of legendary birds away from perfection, but it’s still a set I’m excited to open. I haven’t had this much fun opening packs since Crown Zenith, and I hope the rest of Scarlet & Violet can use some of 151’s momentum moving forward.

Next: Can We All Promise To Be Normal About Pokemon 151?

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