Pokemon Cards in the Third Dimension

May 22, 2018

3-D movies seem to have fallen out of favor lately. There are fewer home 3-D releases hitting the market and fewer theatrical releases in IMAX 3-D, but I think there’s something undeniably cool about seeing the characters in a summer blockbuster lunge at you while you sit in your theater seat.

The drop off in 3-D movie popularity isn’t unprecedented. The public has been falling in and out of love with 3-D movies over the last 70 years. But whether you love them or hate them, 3-D movies have had an impressive impact on popular culture, affecting everything from children’s toys to the subject of today’s article, trading card games. Cards, like movies, are generally for the viewer’s two-dimensional viewing pleasure, but game publishers have long experimented with simulating 3-D images and animations through the use of lenticular printing.

One of the first examples of lenticular printing in a TCG comes from Precedence’s Tomb Raider CCG. The game was based on the popular video game franchise of the same name, and featured artwork taken from the PlayStation One classics. In the game’s inaugural set, Precedence included a promotional box topper in every sealed booster box. Most of the time, the box topper was the Lara Croft, Explorer, character upgrade, but one in every four boxes instead included a lenticular motion box topper of Lara blowing a kiss. The card wasn’t actually usable in the game, but it has a set number and is considered a promotional card by collectors.

A more recent example is the Redakai TCG. Redakai was a short-lived trading card game that suffered due to its perceived lack of strategic depth. But while many found Redakai lacking in the game play department, it received a number of accolades for its unique presentation. Every single card in the game was printed using lenticular printing technology. The cards were also stackable, meaning that when you played an attack on an opponent’s character or monster, the stacked lenticular cards appeared to simulate an attack animation.

Zytron (monster) and Acid Rain (attack) from Redakai’s inaugural set. Acid Rain is stacked on Zytron in the picture.

Pokemon card publishers have also dabbled with lenticular printing. Those that lived through the initial outbreak of Pokemon fever in the late 1990s probably remember Artbox’s Pokemon Action Flipz, a series of lenticular trading cards that showed Pokemon evolving into their next evolutionary forms.   

Pikachu/Raichu Action Flipz

These cards were very popular when they released in 1999, but as they have no relation to the Pokemon TCG, they are of little interest to most collectors today. But Action Flipz would not be the last Pokemon cards to feature lenticular printing technology. Years later, the Pokemon TCG would produce several cards that made use of this printing technique.

The first of these cards, Space Fissure’s Deoxys, was a Japanese exclusive card released in July 2004 as a tie-in to the film Space Fissure’s Deoxys (known as “Destiny Deoxys” in the West). The card was released as part of a special half-deck, referred to in the West as the Movie Commemoration VS Pack: Space Fissure’s Deoxys. In the film, the Pokemon Deoxys changes between normal, attack and defense forms. Similarly, the Space Fissure’s Deoxys card makes use of lenticular motion to shift between forms as the card is tilted.  

Movie Commemoration VS Pack: Space Fissure’s Deoxys packaging. Image courtesy of Bulbapedia

In the West, our lenticular motion cards have been limited to jumbo promotional cards released during the Black and White era of the TCG. These included [Trainer’s] Snivy, [Trainer’s] Tepig, [Trainer’s] Oshawott and Zoroark. Each of these Jumbo cards was packaged as part of a commercially available gift box at retail stores. Interestingly, these cards were not printed using lenticular printing in Japan, making their use of lenticular motion a Western exclusive feature of the cards.  

[Trainer’s] Snivy, Tepig, Oshawott, and Zoroark lenticular Jumbo cards

What are your thoughts on lenticular printing in Pokemon or other TCGs? Do you think PCI should bring lenticular cards back into the TCG? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thecardpletionist has been collecting Pokemon TCG cards since the game’s English release in 1999. You can read more from the author at http://thecardpletionist.blogspot.com/ and follow him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/thecardpletionist/