Now that Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars, the latest Pokémon Trading Card Game expansion, has arrived, we want to take a closer look. After all, Pokémon TCG cards have such beautiful and varied artwork that they merit further examination. Below are a few of the cards in the new expansion that stood out to us. Maybe you’ll see one of your favorites or discover a new hidden masterpiece.
Art by Oswaldo KATO
Oswaldo KATO illustrated two Pokémon in the Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars expansion: Torterra and Bidoof. Although these two Pokémon are quite different, the artist’s style gives the two cards a unified look. Both Pokémon dominate their card artwork. Forced perspective gives us the impression that the massive Torterra is looming over us, and Bidoof is happily chilling out in the foreground of its card. Smaller characters in the background (other Torterra on that card and Barry, plus a pair of Starly on Bidoof’s) serve to increase the sense of scale. Both pieces also use stroke lines to provide texture and shading, lending a distinctive style to both cards. Curiously, that style is not seen on Oswaldo KATO’s Collapsed Stadium Trainer card. Even so, the expressive use of shadows conveys the vastness of this crumbling structure.
Charging Your Energy
A surefire way to add excitement to a battle is to show one of the competitors channeling their energy into an extra-powerful attack. It builds anticipation, highlights the strength of the move, and—let’s face it—it just looks cool. Take this Lucario card, for example. The streaks of energy from the massive Aura Sphere it is holding glow with such force that the ground itself is being torn apart! Morpeko V is hangry and all charged up as it’s getting ready to attack. This little Pokémon is dashing into battle with electricity crackling on its cheeks. You can truly feel the power ready to burst forth. When it comes to power, though, Arceus V appears tough to beat. This Mythical Pokémon is rearing up while a massive glowing sphere forms high above its head. Is this its Trinity Charge attack? Personally, we wouldn’t stick around to find out.
Don’t Stare at the Camera!
You need to be careful when the subject of a photo or illustration stares out at the viewer. When done well, a fourth wall break like that can add personality, but when done incorrectly, it can make the subject appear downright unnerving. Karrablast seems to be aware of that whole “unnerving” thing and is leaning into it. The frowning Pokémon’s glare feels defiant. As though it’s saying, “This is my tree. You just move right along.” Pachirisu, on the other hand, couldn’t be happier to see us. Look at those wide eyes and that cheery grin! Have you ever seen a Pokémon with a more welcoming expression? Toss us a berry, Pachirisu. We’ll hang out with you for a while! We don’t feel quite as welcomed by Tornadus’ intense stare. Intimidated is more like it. The Legendary Pokémon’s stern look and flexing of muscles doesn’t necessarily feel confrontational, but they’re clearly a display of strength. This Pokémon doesn’t seem like it will back down from a battle.
Lookin’ Mighty Sketchy
One of the best things about a new Pokémon TCG expansion is checking out different artists’ interpretations of their subject matter. It’s especially fun to see some of the unconventional takes on familiar Pokémon designs. Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars features a few very interesting cards that have a wilder, almost psychedelic look to them. Check out Magmar here—the bright, bold colors and deceptively crude backgrounds give the scene a surreal feel. The same can be said for Vibrava. The artist’s use of rainbow colors as swirls in the sky and splattered on the rocks in the foreground bring an otherworldly aesthetic to this card. Mewtwo and Sawk have a rough, sketched design. The sharp angles and extreme poses energize these cards. Farfetch’d also has that sketched feel, but with exaggerated, distorted backgrounds and its playful pose, the action depicted here seems more lighthearted than battle-hardy.
I’m a Loner
Whether it’s battling, trading, or just a Pokémon and its Trainer hanging out, the world of Pokémon thrives on social interaction. However, sometimes a Pokémon wants to be by itself. That feeling is depicted quite well by Snorunt as it travels through this snowy forest. The tiny footprints fading off into the distance add to the sense of isolation. Dusclops and Nosepass may not be wandering like Snorunt, but they’re no less solitary. What thoughts are going through their heads in these lonely places? It seems obvious what Beartic is thinking as it stands alone on an icy precipice, its teeth bared as a cold wind rips past: that it is powerful, and even if no one else is around, it’s going to shout it into the void. We should all have that confidence!
As you can see, Sword & Shield—Brilliant Stars is loaded with lots of incredible illustrations. Those detailed above are just a sampling of the over 170 cards included in the expansion. Don’t forget to take a moment to examine your cards when you’re flipping through them—you might just discover a new favorite work of art.