Yesterday we drove out to the King of Prussia Mall (just west of Philly) for the Pokemon Journey Across America mall tour! For the non-fans out there, the mall tour is a regular goodwill event, where Nintendo gives out free poke-junk and solicits people to compete for slots in a national Pokemon video game tournament. This tour also celebrates Pokemon's 10th Anniversary.
This year, the key event is the free download of certain types of Pokemon into your cartridges, Celebi being the super-rare one. You can also select any two from a list of twenty, the "Top 20" chosen from an online poll.
We didn't know what to expect, in terms of attendance. Turns out, it was a freaking zoo. But it's cool to see hard, irrefutable evidence that the "fad" is far from over. Pokemon still rocks.
The above picture is the end of the Celebi line when we got there. In the dead center of the photo, you can just make out some flatscreens showing a Pokemon video. That is more or less the head of the line. Once you get there, you hand over your GBA and games to some semi-surly temp staff, who plug you into some great amazing Celebi server (actually just another GBA) and magically force the creature into your game. I received a level 70 Celebi for my Sapphire and my LeafGreen! Whoo!
It's really not that big a deal, except that there's no other way to get a Celebi, unless you have a cheater box. In fact, the Pokemon website makes a stink that you can't receive any of these downloads if your cartridge has been "altered" in some way by such devices. I would have liked to see that tested... because I saw a ton of kids there, and I highly doubt they all had un-cheated Pokemon games. No way.
So bit of a wait there, maybe 40 minutes? I forget. But this wasn't even the long line. The Top 20 line actually twisted outside of the mall. I'm italicizing that so you get how awful that is. That one had to be a 90 minute wait, so we passed. Besides the Top 20 list includes mostly pokemon that you can find in the games anyway (like Pikachu, for crying out loud), which makes me wonder who voted. Kids who don't even own the game?
Meeting Munchlax was a high point for Clark. As soon as he saw the costumed characters, he started pointing and getting all excited. Notice that I tried my damnedest to NOT go super-geek and wear one of my Nintendo-themed t-shirts. (Had I remembered I had it, I probably would have worn my Camp Hyrule 2005 Champion t-shirt. Cabin 9 forever!)
I'm a sucker for big props. Here's Ruby/Sapphire starters Mudkip, Torchic and Treeko. The best part is the Pikachu-brand stanchioning. "Stay the hell back kids! Pika pika!"
You know, I am all for cosplay. Which right away puts me in a noble minority. But this was not cool at all. I was coincidentally lining up a shot of the mess at the epicenter of all the lines, which a big fat dude dressed up like Jessie ambled into the picture. Jessie. The female member of Team Rocket.
I award big points for chutzpah. But I must take away points for showing up alone, gross, and in drag. I've seen some scary stuff at Origins, but this takes the cake and hits it with a semi.
When you're into cosplay, it's not just about getting a costume. You have to have some awareness of your body type or you risk looking like a big fat idiot. Just because you have the passion doesn't mean you should start sewing together the spandex.
Had this guy put together a Snorlax costume, he would have been the belle of the ball. Instead, he just had parents shying their kids away from him for the day. Keep your neuroses private, man. At home, be Jessie. Own Jessie. Do the chant. In public? Try not to look like a sex offender.
But on to stuff your eyeballs might actually want to see: me, Clark and Pikachu. I've already decided this will be Clark's first memory.
Not only were the lines to get FREE stuff atrocious... there was also a painful wait to BUY stuff. I don't know if this is the usual decision, but the Official Merchandise was stashed in a single 3'x6' kiosk, with an hour wait circling it like a funnel cloud. Couldn't we have tagged another kiosk somewhere for this? Were we not expecting the massive turnout?
I will say this: everybody we saw who waited and bought stuff... bought a ton of said stuff. At least $60 worth. If you wait long enough, you must have to buy more to compensate. We skipped this line as well. Everything at the kiosk looked like junk I've seen at the online store anyway.
Here's the Top 20 download station, the enormo-line we avoided. No doubt the reason why this line was so offensively long was because you have kids up there going through extreme mental torment trying to decide which two pokemon they want. Entei and Zapdos? No... Alakazam and Espeon? No... Absol and Tyranitar? What a freaking nightmare.
The only other thing we did (aside from grabbing a free goodie bag with a Pikachu promo card) is get official Trainer Certificates for me and Clark. The certificates state that you are an official Trainer, as of your tenth birthday. Which is accurate... in the world of Pokemon, kids are allowed to elect to become Trainers when they turn ten. And roam the continent unchaperoned. So Clark's certificate gives him that right in the year 2015, while mine says I've been legit since 1984.
This sign shows four pokemon that are so astonishingly powerful, that you couldn't use them in the tournament. I was not entered in the tourney, but I believe it was set up so that you would plug your GBA (with your chosen team of hand-trained combatants) into a GameCube for a one-on-one match with your opponent. I would have liked to watch some of that, but it was such a disaster area that it was no fun to try to hover around ground zero. I don't know if other stops on the tour were better organized, but the King of Prussia mall really isn't well suited for this kind of thing. Not enough central space; it's too hallway-centric.
A grand time, all in all. Especially when you looked around and saw GBAs and DSs every five feet. I should have busted out the Lite and went looking for random games to join.
Getting the Celebi download sparked my interest in playing Pokemon again, but that will be a future entry!