Deep within the bowels of New York City lies a place rooted in mystery, infamy, and an overload of cuteness. Here, monsters run rampant, and their masters do their best to contain them. What is this magical yet seemingly frightening location? The Pokémon Center, the US headquarters for Nintendo’s insanely popular series of video games and multimedia. There’s only three Pokémon Center locations on the entire planet, and the NYC location is only one in the US (the other two are located in Japan).
|Enter at your own risk.|
Before we get into the specifics of the Center and its wonders, let’s discuss Pokémon itself first. The popularity of Pokémon transcends many boundaries. When the original games exploded onto US shores many years back, most people saw it as yet another kids’ fad that would fade away in time. This has obviously not been the case, as the cartoon has been renewed for yet another season, and the games still sell in the millions. It’s not just kids that buy these games, either; any RPG fan worth their salt knows the value of the Pokémon series, even if it’s not their particular cup of tea. There may not be swords and sorcery, but the Pokémon games have an extremely strong RPG core that easily rivals anything else on the market. The spinoff games naturally aren’t nearly as good, but c’mon…the top sellers in the Pokémon world are and always have been the RPGs with the multicolored names. Red! Blue! Yellow! Gold! Silver! Crystal! Ruby! Sapphire! Fuschia! Alright, so I made that last one up…
|Some angry guy plays Pokémon Leaf Green while another trainer looks on.|
I’m sure many of my longtime readers are wondering why someone who writes a column entitled "The Angry Gamer" could possibly enjoy something so "cute and cuddly." Well, here’s a brief history lesson. I bought Pokémon Blue (for the original Game Boy) back in 1999, after I’d been hearing nothing but good things about it since its release in 1997. I was also working at a summer camp at the time, so having a game to amuse the kids with came in very handy. Anyways, I played the hell outta that game; sure, it was marketed to kids (especially with the cartoon and trading card game to back it up), but it was quite a solid RPG in its own right. One or two of my friends also picked it up, so we were able to link up for battling and trading. Eventually, I got bored with the game, after finding just about everything (or so I thought). I sold it (bad idea), and kinda ignored the series as a whole slew of new titles came out. I got back into it a little bit when I picked up Pokémon Pinball a few years ago, but I cleaned that out and sold it too. Again, bad idea! Thankfully, in recent times, I’ve jumped right back into the franchise. I’ve really missed it, but now I’m right back to where I was, and enjoying every second of it! Hey, if an angry guy like myself can love Pokémon, then anyone can. And if you visit the Pokémon Center, you’ll have a newfound appreciation of the franchise as a whole…I guarantee it. So now I’ll quit babbling, and get right into the details of the place!
Located on the corner of Rockefeller Plaza, the Center is a Mecca for Pokémon fans of all ages. Not only can you test out games, buy DVDs and apparel, and chat with other trainers, but the Center is home to exclusive merchandise you literally cannot buy anywhere else. We’re talking shirts, action figures, plushes, posters, figurines, watches, games, and even food. And it doesn’t stop there; the Center also hosts events many times a year, where you can acquire special items and Pokémon that you can’t get anywhere else, either! You’d expect such a place to be overrun with screaming kids, right? Wrong. Every time I’ve been there, I’ve seen a healthy mix of fans, be it kids, parents, older fans…you name it. So…care for a tour?
|"You can’t catch me."|
Right when you enter the place, there’s a large Pikachu statue there to greet you. It doesn’t move or talk, but I see that as a good thing, because Pikachu can drive me nuts! Other statues are found throughout the Center, like Venusaur and Charizard. If you look up, there’s numerous flying Pokémon floating about, like Koffing and Butterfree. It’s essentially a giant mobile, with the elusive Pokémon just out of reach; they don’t want dorky trainers like myself grabbing the things. If they ever made lifesize Pokémon statues like that available for sale, people would snap them up in a heartbeat. Who wouldn’t want a Koffing in their office, complete with realistic smog action? Something like that would come in very handy for keeping out annoying coworkers.
Some people may be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of cuteness from the giant images and representations of the various Pokémon in there. But I’ve noticed that the Center has a profound effect on all who enter; I’ve literally seen people who hate Pokémon get dragged in, and come out with an appreciation of the franchise. What other retail location can pull that off?
The Center is split into two floors, both of which have cashiers for your purchasing convenience, along with a plethora of sales trainers to show you where all the coolest stuff resides. The lower floor is where you’ll find most of your action figures, t-shirts, and special items (like limited edition plushes). This is also where you’ll find the figurine wall…a staggering display of hundreds of tiny figurines of your favorite Pokémon:
|So many figurines…so little space on my desk.|
They haven’t even made figurines out of all of the various Pokémon yet! There’s well over 350 different types, after all. Regardless, you’re bound to find some cool plastic avatars of at least some of your favorites. They make great desk ornaments…take it from a guy who’s got a slew of them watching him while he works on his computer (I hope they’re not plotting my downfall). Surrounding the figurine wall are shelves upon shelves of action figures, boxsets, DVDs, and racks of t-shirts. I only wish they had more shirts in XL and XXL! Tall guys need clothing, too…
The upper floor is home to two of the most popular features of the store: the Gotta Catch’ Em All Machine, and the Pokémon Trading Card Game area. We’ll begin with the ominous Machine, as seen below:
|Resistance is futile. So says Pikachu!|
You can just walk up to the Machine and play various Pokémon games on its many plasma screens. When I was there, they had the newest titles, Leaf Green and Fire Red, alongside the amazing Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire. But that’s not the real allure of the Machine…not even close. The Machine’s true purpose draws gamers from all over the globe. What could possibly make people buy plane tickets and fly to NYC, just to approach a mere machine? It’s very simple: the Machine has ports where you can plug in your various Pokémon game cartridges. During special events, you can download exclusive content onto your game; it could be items, Pokémon with abilities they couldn’t normally acquire, or the best of all…Pokémon you can’t get by any other means! Talk about one hell of a draw. This is only the beginning, as the Center is working on implementing a wireless system, to be used in conjunction with the GBA Wireless Adapter (conveniently included for free with Fire Red and Leaf Green). Once that’s done, it’ll be amazing beyond belief, as trainers won’t have to wait in line to plug in their carts; they can just connect wirelessly from wherever they’re standing!
Next up, we’ve got the gaming tables. These are set up specifically for playing the Pokémon Trading Card Game, once the bane of schoolyards nationwide:
|It ain’t exactly Texas Hold ‘Em. And check out the Totodile washcloth in the foreground!|
At any given time, you’re bound to find a few pairs of trainers staring intently at their cards, wondering how to crush the opposition. Either that, or they’re busy trading with each other, then crushing the opposition. Hey, they know their priorities! At unused spots at the tables, you’ll usually see trainers busily playing the various Pokémon video games on their Game Boy Advance systems.
What else is on the upper floor? Plenty! If you’re a fan of cute ‘n’ cuddly plushes, then you’ll love it up there. Yeah, I admit I’ve got some of them. Shut up! C’mon, everybody loves plushes. While I was in there, I saw a burly biker guy and his wife checking the things out! And not for their kids, either.
You’ll find many different shapes and sizes of plushes at the Center, perfect for trainers of all ages. There’s the ever-popular talking variety, plus smaller plushes that are perfect for throwing at your friends’ heads when they’re not paying attention. The Gengar plush is particulary suited for this task, as it’s roughly spherical. If you’re looking for a great gift idea, they even have boxsets with seven or more plushes contained within…very handy!
There’s still plenty more to do at the Center. There’s a game room, where you can try out Pokémon titles and other Nintendo software. Naturally, you can buy all of that stuff at the Center, too. Every Pokémon game is available there, as well as the hardware necessary to play it. You can even get special edition hardware unavailable anywhere else, like really cool Game Boy Advance SP systems with Pokémon emblazoned on the lids (the Venusaur and Charizard models were just released). Speaking of video games…I don’t care who you are, but you must buy a Pokémon Mini system. Yes, this is a shameless plug, but hear me out. It’s essentially a Game Boy, but much smaller (only a few inches tall!), and it’s got its own proprietary software. It also features built-in rumble and an infrared port for multiplayer games. There’s four games available for the system (one of which, Pokémon Party, is packed in with the system), and each game is made up of multiple games itself; even more bang for your buck! The best part? The Mini’s only ten bucks. Ten bucks. C’mon, you’ve got no excuse not to pick one up! My suggestion? Shell out thirty bucks for the ultimate Pokémon Mini pack; you get the system, a keychain, a soft case, and all four games. That’s an incredible deal, by anyone’s standards!
Something else I’ve got to mention: the Center’s got the most amazing sales personnel on the planet. These people know what they’re doing…scary, ain’t it? You don’t often get that in video game shops! They’re really there to help you out.
All things considered, there’s plenty to do at the Pokémon Center. Mere words can only begin to describe the sights within. Seriously! Whether you’re a veteran trainer, a casual fan, or someone completely new to the franchise, any visit to the Center is sure to prove worthwhile. Specials, exclusives, events, friendly sales staff…what more do you need? I leave you with more miscellaneous pictures, followed up by a schedule of upcoming events you don’t want to miss! So what are you waiting for?
|Master Pokémon trainer Joe McNinja demonstrates his extreme distaste for Igglybuff. "My fighting Pokémon team will destroy all opponents!"|
|Pick a card, any card.|
|"Eat me! Eat me! Eat me!"|
|Don’t be lazy like Pikachu…go to an event!|
Deoxys has landed at Pokémon Center NY on a meteor from outer space!
Bring your Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green game cartridge to receive the Aurora ticket to catch Deoxys!
Don’t miss this special chance to catch the mysterious Pokémon Deoxys at Pokémon Center NY on October 23, 24, 30, & 31st.
Join Pokémon Center NY as we celebrate Deoxys’ visit!
Saturday, October 23rd from 12pm-4pm – Compete in the largest wireless tournament ever held at the Pokémon Center NY!
- Bring in your Game Boy Advance SP and either a Pokémon Fire Red or Pokémon Leaf Green game to compete.
- Qualifying rounds run from 12pm-2pm.
Sunday, October 24 – Trading Card Game Tournament
Sign up between 10am-11am at the Pokémon Center NY!
- Tournament runs from 11am-4pm
- $5 entry fee required
- You must bring your own Trading Card Game deck to play
- Tournament uses modified rules. For full details visit Pokemon-tcg.com.
Saturday, October 30th from 11am-3pm – Dress up as your favorite Pokémon and come down to the Pokémon Center NY for a Halloween Bash
- Enter the costume contest in your age group at the top of every hour.
- Dance to music and play games with Pokémon characters.
- Get a balloon character or your face painted
- Join in the Pokémon Mini master battle!
Sunday, October 31st, 2004
- Last day at Pokémon Center NY to get an Aurora ticket to catch Deoxys this year!
(Special thanks go out to the lovely Cassandra, the world’s coolest manager, for all of her help while I ran around the Center taking pictures; and to Rachel, the world’s coolest events coordinator, for providing a ton of information and additional graphics for this article!)