It’s only the third week in January, and 2015 is already lousy with Pokémon news! In the most recent Nintendo Direct — in addition to things like confirmation of the upcoming North American New Nintendo 3DS XL release — we were treated to the reveal of Pokémon Shuffle, a free-to-play downloadable match-three puzzler that will be available next month. Trainers capture wild Pokémon as they work their way through themed levels, and each stage played costs one of five Heart tokens. When these Hearts are exhausted, players must wait for them to replenish in order to continue, though play can be extended using earned items (or the dreaded in-game purchase via the Nintendo eShop).
Also revealed was the long-awaited arrival of rare Psychic- and Ghost-type Pokémon Hoopa. The Mythical Hoopa, now officially categorized as a Mischief Pokémon, can’t be found during normal gameplay, so expect it to make its way into your copy of Omega Ruby or Alpha Sapphire by way of a special distribution at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Lastly, in anticipation of next month’s release of the Pokémon TCG expansion XY–Primal Clash, I was able to get my hands on the new Pokémon TCG: Collector Chest. For diehard TCG fans it boasts three foil preview cards (starters Treecko, Torchic and Mudkip), a special Pokémon coin, a 30-card mini storage album and five Pokémon TCG boosters — our best pulls were the Manectric EX and Mystery Energy cards from previous expansion Phantom Forces. It also includes a pair of sticker sheets, a notepad and four pencils perfect for any Pokémon fan. Best of all, the entire things comes in a gorgeous Pokémon-themed lunchbox featuring Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre. Available for around $25, this one is an easy recommendation. Hey, it even helped my kids get motivated for school after that lengthy winter break!