Astral Radiance Injects New Life Into the Pokémon TCG’s Storytelling

Professor Laventon adds a welcome personality refresh to the Pokémon TCG’s Pokédex entries, reminding us that flavor text also tells a story.

People may not immediately associate the Pokémon Trading Card Game with storytelling, but the game has always used narrative elements to pull players into the Pokémon world. Card artwork has developed from small panes showing things like a Charmander accidentally setting grass on fire with its tail to the 20th Anniversary Generations expansion’s memorable cross-card story of the Charmander evolutionary line, which showed a young boy grow older and closer to his partner Pokémon as they played, studied, and traveled together.

Players can also learn about Pokémon from reading the Pokédex entries on cards. These scientific notes provide various facts and legends, such as when a Ponyta’s fiery mane develops or how certain Pokémon have helped humans along their own developmental path. The latest TCG set, Astral Radiance, makes a major, if subtle, change to the way these entries are presented, and it’s something the TCG should continue in the future with original entries. The TCG has potential to tell a cohesive story within each set, and the recorded observations of Professor Laventon show a good way to do so by adding a distinct narrator.

Professor Laventon is the Galaxy Team’s top Pokémon researcher in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which Astral Radiance is based on. In Legends, players travel through Hisui to learn more about Pokémon and develop the region’s first Pokédex. Players report the data they discover to Professor Laventon, who then compiles the entries that make up the Pokédex itself. What sets the Hisui region Pokédex apart from others is the way it retains the first person “I” Professor Laventon uses for his observations. The Hisui Pokédex is more accurately described as Laventon’s personal journal containing the results of his scientific journey.

For example, Psyduck’s entry tells how the Pokémon experiences headaches, with Laventon saying “I am exploring ways to ease the pain.” Other Pokédex entries would state whether such a treatment has been found, but this invests the player in a story: Professor Laventon is trying to discover treatments for Psyduck that are suffering from headaches. It’s simple enough, but it gives players characters they can care about in Laventon and Psyduck, while also showing some of Professor Laventon’s personality, specifically his sympathy for the Psyduck.

Another entry shows a more whimsical side to the professor. “I’ve conferred upon this shell the name ‘scalchop,'” he writes, in reference to the shell on Oshawott’s stomach that he notes is also a weapon. This not only teaches facts about Oshawott (which are then used in Dewott’s description), but it also provides a dash of humor and insight into why Pokémon are described the way they are.

Pokédex entries can offer a fascinating wealth of information, especially when comparing different entries for the same Pokémon. Other times, these can be inconsistent or simply repeated ad nauseam across different video games and TCG sets. Including Hisuian Pokédex entries in Astral Radiance is understood on a thematic level since the set is based on Legends, but the direct transfer reveals a surprising possibility for the TCG’s individual sets to contain more written connectivity and relevance.

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