After spending many days of my childhood wanting to be the very best that no one ever was and dreaming of someday becoming a Pokemon Master, it finally happened. Over the weekend I had the life-changing opportunity to visit the Pokemon EXPO Gym at Expo City in Osaka on its opening weekend. Getting to Expo City from Tokushima required 3 trains, 2 buses, and 1 monorail, but the journey was more than worth it. When I arrived, I was greeted by a giant inflatable Pikachu on top of the building and friendly and smiling staff greeting people at the door. As I walked inside, hundreds of Pokemon plush dolls and whole entire shelves of exclusive merchandise were gallantly displayed for purchase. There was also a cafe selling Pikachu popcorn, smoothies, soup, and drinks. I bought a drink called “Zoroark’s Illusion” that tasted like a banana smoothies (but maybe it was an illusion). After leaving the cafe area, I made my way through the crowd to get pictures and buy copious amounts of souvenirs.
After shopping to my heart’s content and picking up a Pikachu EXPO keychain and new pink 3DS case, I made my way to the entrance of the gym to purchase my ticket. Though some of the attraction names were translated (possibly foreshadowing future English support/localization) , the whole entire price catalog was in Japanese. I was the only non-Japanese person there but the staff was super friendly to me and told me I was very skilled at Japanese (much to my chagrin). Though the main gaming attractions were only marked as 400-600 yen, a membership “PokePera” QR card sold for 2000 yen was required to play them. Though it was slightly false advertising, nothing was going to stop me from playing. I loaded up 1200 yen on my card and then proceeded onward on my quest to be a master.
While inside the game center area, I played a total of 3 games: Charizard’s Battle Colosseum, Gardevoir’s Control Score, and Lucario’s Mach Punch Pokemon Boxing. All of them were extremely interactive and entertaining. In Charizard’s Battle Colosseum, I battled with another trainer’s Charizard using while the Pokemon talked to me in amazing HD. In Gardevoir’s Control Score, I used a stylus on a touch screen to capture Pokemon displayed on mini monitors. The catch was that I had to only go after certain types (such as the Eevee evolutions) or else time would be depleted. I could touch different zones on the map to warp there and search for them. Lucario’s Mach Punch Pokemon Boxing was like playing DDR but with your fists. Basically you follow Lucario’s movements as he encourages you to become strong and together you take on Mega Aggron together. Listening to the Pokemon talk to you was surreal and very funny.
My overall review: This experience is definitely worth it if you’re a huge Pokemon fan and like arcade games that involve physical activity. The games were a but pricey, but all of them used cutting edge technology with HD graphics, touch screen and motion controls, and cameras. The building was incredibly well-designed and even had custom Pokemon toilets! Having Japanese language ability is definitely a plus, as all of the instructions for the game are written fully in Japanese and the staff doesn’t speak much English. I had a blast here and it reminded me of the day when I first picked up Pokemon Blue and fell in love with it. I am definitely bringing my friends here when they visit in the future!