Pokemon Center NY
Note: On May 14, 2005, Pokemon Center NY was closed down and replaced with the Nintendo World Store. I have kept this article up for historic purposes.
Nintendo of America opened the New York branch of the Pokemon Center rather quietly on November 16th, 2001. The few people who knew what a "Pokemon Center" was were happy--a whole store with nothing but Pokemon merchandise! There are only two other stores like it in the world--the Pokemon Center in Tokyo, Japan and the one in Osaka, Japan, so getting one in the United States really is a special event. The store wasn't hyped much probably due to a combination of the franchise's dropping popularity and the fact that the city was still mourning the tragedy that had occurred two months before.
Pokemon Center New York, in New York's Rockefeller Center (10 Rockefeller Plaza on 48th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues), is a one-of-a-kind, interactive retail destination. With 10,000 sqare feet of retail and interactive floor space (13,000 sqare total), the Pokemon Center is for kids, and kids at heart. The multi-level Pokemon Center creates a wondrous environment that transports visitors into a Pokemon fantasy for all who enter. Based on the worldwide Pokemon character phenomenon. The Center features both new and exclusive merchandise as well as entertaining attractions to keep you coming back.
Even before you go through the entrance, you can't but help notice the window showcases. The Animatronic display of actual-size Pokemon, on the W. 48th St. side of the building, includes a Diglett popping in and out of its hole, a Scizor with moving claws, and a wobbling Wobbuffet. The rest of the window display consists of plushes of varying sizes. Remember the Big Lapras and the Big Snorlax dolls from Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal? Though their real-life counterparts aren't that big, they certainly will not go unnoticed in your house - or on your credit card bill.
Large plastic Pokemon models are abundant; ten of them hover over the first floor, as part of the Pokemon Conveyor Belt on the ceiling. More models adorn the building columns on both floors, and the six starter Pokemon are displayed behind both cashier desks. There is also an Animatronic Pokeball in the ceiling on the second floor.
A projection screen on the first floor shows sequences of moving Pokemon, but that is almost invisible compared to the giant TV screen, which is what you notice first as you walk up the stairs. The TV screen shows clips from the first three movie shorts, Mewtwo Returns, and the 1st and 2nd English openings. Pokemon music is blasted through the speakers for visitors to listen to.
The employees are decked out in eye-catching gold baseball jerseys that have black pinstripes and "Pokemon" splashed across the front. Not surprisingly, their overall interest level in Pokemon is positive, ranging from mild to "I've got a L100 team for each day of the lunar cycle." There are enough employees on hand to accommodate the crowds during weekday afternoons and weekends.
MERCHANDISE (1st FLOOR)
Most of the merchandise here that can be classified as toys can also be found at Toys "Backwards-R" Us in lesser quantities. This category includes the Think Chip toys and the various action figures, poseable figures, and figurines. The exceptions are the 2-inch Pokemon figurines from Tomy that hang on the racks adjacent to the Ultra Pokedex; it is doubtful that any toy store would have the 251 different figurines that are for sale here. So if you have a few hundred dollars, you can come in and "catch 'em all" in one fell swoop.
The remaining merchandise includes items that are decorated with Pokemon. Many of these things - pencil packs, T-shirts, socks, backpacks, sunglasses, chocolates, shampoo, mugs, night-lights, towels, and pillows - probably cannot be seen in any other store. The Magical Clock and the Pokemon Over New York City statue are also displayed here; these two collectibles are exclusive to the Pokemon Center.
As far as gaming systems are concerned, it is no surprise that the Game Cube can be purchased here. There is also the Pokemon Mini, another item exclusive to the Pokemon Center. Billed as "quite possibly the world's smallest cartridge-based game console", the Pokemon Mini resembles the Pikachu 2 in size but presumably exceeds it in functionality. It is pushed quite aggressively.
MERCHANDISE (2nd FLOOR)
Hey, there's another floor! Not as many toys up here as on the first floor: Think Chip Battle Stadiums, more kinds of figures, jigsaw puzzles, and ink stamps. The decorated goods displayed here include bookmarks, stickers, school supplies, and party supplies. You can accessorize your room with a Pokemon cardboard stand-up, and you can accessorize your outfit with Pokemon sunglasses, amulets, and even gym badges.
Just as on the first floor, the Game Cube and Pokemon Mini are showcased here. Related items on display include the the Pokemon Center exclusive version of the GameBoy Advance and its accessories, Game Boy games and game guides, and accessories for the Pokemon Mini. There is also an assortment of board games with a Pokemon theme: Monopoly, Sorry!, etc.
Not counting game guides, the Pokemon publications are concentrated in the area near the Pokemon Trainer Gym. The episode adaptations, translated graphic novels and mangas, origami books, and the collection of the short-lived comic strip series are on the wall shelves, across the aisle from the toddler books.
Along that same wall, past the party supplies, are the music and video sections. Not only can you find all of the American CD's - yes, even the Pokemon Live! Original Cast Album - you can also buy music books and Spanish versions of the American CD's. Now you, too, can impress your friends by playing "Double Trouble" on the piano and singing along in Spanish. The video section contains all of the English episodes and movies that have come out on videocassette, and a significant amount on DVD as well. Some of the episode collections are also available in Spanish.
The two most prominent product displays here are those for the Trading Card Game and the stuffed toys. The TCG display, which is adjacent to the TCG display and playing tables, has an expansive array of the newer booster packs, decks, and guides. TCG cards are also located behind the cashiers on both floors, and TCG accessories are available on the second floor. Next to the TCG display are three walls of Pokemon beanies and plushes, some of which are also shown in the window displays on both floors. There is considerable diversity in the Pokemon available, and many of the stuffed toys here are exclusive to the Pokemon Center.
There is more to the Pokemon Center than shopping for exclusive merchandise and taking in the eye candy. The Ultra Pokedex, Pokemon Trainer Gym, TCG display and playing area, and Pokemon Distributing Machine all contribute to the unique flavor of the place.
Nestled in a corner on the first floor, the fire engine-red Ultra Pokedex does indeed resemble a life-size Pokedex. You can look up a wealth of information on any particular Pokemon: how it looks in the anime/Game Boy/N64, its stats, video clip of some Stadium 2 action, TCG data, and so forth. Not coincidentally, it is right next to the display of the 251 different 2-inch Tomy figurines.
As you ascend the stairs to the second floor, to the left is the Pokemon Trainer Gym. It is a game room consisting of two N64 consoles - the Special Pikachu Edition, naturally - and four Game Cubes. In keeping with the name of the room, the ceiling is ringed by plastic models of the Pokemon League gym badges. Stadium 2, Super Smash Brothers Melee, and Luigi's Mansion are among the games you can play there. If you intend to test your skills in here, it's best to come before they institute the 5-minute time limit for the after-school and weekend crowds.
You can also stick it to your friend in the TCG playing area, which consists of three tables that have specially marked surfaces for the cards. The playing area is fenced by glass displays of individual cards. Having never played the TCG, I cannot vouch for the scarcity of the showcased cards, but they do look nice.
Last but definitely not least, there is the Pokemon Distributing Machine, which is right across the elevator and under the Animatronic Pokeball on the second floor. If there is an open slot in your Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal party, you stick your game cartridge in one of the four stations and the machine gives you a rare Pokemon, usually in an egg. There is a periodic theme to the Pokemon being given out. For example, the theme for the first two weeks of March was the swarming GS Pokemon with a special move that cannot be bred, like Remoraid with Amnesia, Snubbull with Lovely Kiss, Dunsparce with Horn Drill, etc. Past themes include shiny Pokemon, the legendary birds from Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow, and Celebi. It is possible, though at presumably miniscule odds, to get a Pokemon that does not follow the current theme.
The themes and their duration are determined by Nintendo, who sends someone to reprogram the machine on Fridays when needed. Nintendo also programmed the machine to give out one Pokemon per cartridge per week. So if you want multiple Pokemon, or if you want one from previous themes, you'll have to try your luck with whoever is hanging around the machine and see if they want to trade.
The store may set up other interactive events to coincide with crowds and promotions. For example, when I went there Sunday (March 10), there was a table on the first floor for customers to duel an employee on their respective Pokemon Minis.
Since the Pokemon Center is a relatively new store, they have focused on pushing the more recent stuff. With time, it is possible that they will stock some of the older merchandise, such as the Hasbro stuffed toys and the older TCG cards, as they get around to it. Some other kinds of older merchandise, however, probably will never appear in the store unless there is an overwhelming demand for it.
Another issue revolves around the Pokemon Distributing Machine. Nintendo's policies about giving away Pokemon can be frustrating enough, but it is more so if you do not know the current theme. You can try calling to find out what Pokemon they are giving away, but ideally this information would be available on their website. Perhaps this will come about when the website people and the people running the Pokemon Center are totally coordinated. To visit the official Pokemon Center web site, click here.
Nevertheless, the Pokemon Center has a ton of merchandise and interactive activities to keep you coming back for months to come. And the fact is, as one of only three in existence so far, the Pokemon Center has a lot of stuff that is rarely, if ever, seen anywhere else. If you are looking for whimsical and unique Pokemon merchandise, chances are you will find it here. So if you're in the New York area be sure to check it out!
This article is written by Raichu 526 and is used with permission.