The 1999 Tropical Mega Battle (TMB) was the first instance of what would now be considered a world championship for the TCG. It was open to elementary school players (ages 6-12). The finals were held in Hawaii (August 24-27) at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It was primarily a public relations (PR) event organized by Creatures Inc. Only children from America and Japan were invited to the 1999 event.
Unlike later years, the 1999 international TMB event was also the location of the Japanese juniors division national finals. Future finals tournaments would all occur in Japan for subsequent years. Older players competed in the Secret Super Battle (SSB) , aged elementary school third grade to high school second grade (11th grade). This event was held in a secret location in Tokyo, Japan on August 22, 1999 and was not open to international players.
Japanese Qualifiers (Challenge Road 1999 Summer)
Japanese players qualified for the Japanese national finals by competing in Challenge Road 1999 Summer regional tournaments. The 1st place winners from each regional tournament were invited to compete in Hawaii to claim the “Best in Japan” title. Second and third place winners were not invited to the Hawaii event.
The No.1 trainer card has specific text on it that says:
The Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament’s champion is recognized here, and this honor is praised.
This proves that the person who possesses this card participated in the Tropical Mega Battle Best in Japan Deciding Match.No.1 Trainer (TMB)
The No.2 and No.3 Trainers don’t have the second sentence that invite the recipient to the event.
The Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament’s runner-up winner is recognized here, and this honor is praised.No.2 Trainer (TMB)
The Pokémon Card Game Official Tournament’s third place winner is recognized here, and this honor is praised.No.3 Trainer (TMB)
The first place players would also get to play in the International Tropical Mega Battle (also known as the US-Japan Exchange Battle) with the American players the next day at the same venue.
In the USA, the top 12 ranking players in the proper age range of 6-12 in the DCI point system (the American ranking system) received an invite to the Tropical Mega Battle.
1999 International Tropical Mega Battle Event
The 1999 Tropical Mega Battle (TMB) was held at the Hilton Hawai’ian Village in Hawai’i. Up on the second floor of the Tapa Tower was where the tournament was held. There were two adjacent rooms set up for the event: a Japanese room, and an American room. Players were allowed to move between the rooms to socialize with each other when events weren’t running.
Attending the event were the following notable people:
- Andrew Finch – Then Wizards of the Coast DCI Tournament Manager, and now Senior Director of Pokemon Play Programs at The Pokemon Company International
- Ron Foster – The translator for Pokemon TCG
- Imakuni? – Famous Japanese Musician, and featured on multiple joke TCG cards and in the Pokemon TCG Gameboy game.
- Peter Adkison – CEO of Wizards of the Coast
- Tsunekazu Ishihara – Founder of Creatures Inc, President of Media Factory, and creator of the Pokemon Trading Card Game.
- Kouichi Ooyama – Game Designer for the Pokemon TCG. He appeared at the event in costume as the character he played in the Pokemon TCG Gameboy game.
- Kagemaru Himeno- Illustrator for numerous early Pokemon TCG set cards
Day 1 – Japanese Best in Japan Finals and International TMB kickoff
Andrew Finch gave a starting speech to competitors in the American room. The Japanese room had a similar announcer. The Japanese room also had air conditioning, commentators, and background music. For some reason the American room did not have these.
In the Japanese room in front of the commentator, 9 Japanese tournament winners competed for the National Championship. These were the 1st place winners from the Japanese Challenge Road Summer events. This event was run in a round-robin style, with the person with the most wins after 5 rounds going onto the finals. The other Japanese and American competitors simply played casual games during this time, or watched the main games.
The Japanese players were allowed to use cards up to the Fossil expansion, as well as some promo cards. 2 out of the 9 Japanese players played Charizard decks, which combined Charizard with Voltorb and Electrode to quickly power up Fire Spin. The majority of the rest of the players ran Haymaker decks featuring Electabuzz, Hitmonchan, Fossil Magmar, and Scyther. The Japanese players also ran trainers like Gust of Wind, PlusPower, and Pokemon Trader. However, they also ran Tropical Wind, which they had obtained in the Challenge Road Events leading up to the TMB. This card was not available to the American competitors.
The American players ran similar Haymaker decks, but some also played Blastoise Raindance decks and Wigglytuff decks. Since Fossil had not yet been released in America, the American players were only able to use Base Set and Jungle expansion cards, meaning that the Japanese players had a distinct advantage in a larger cardpool.
Imakuni was present at the event, and dressed as his character in the Gameboy game. Competitors were able to play against Imakuni to obtain badges. These badges were identical to his badge icon on Imakuni’s Doduo. The deck he played was identical to the strange “Confusion Deck” his character played in the Pokemon TCG Gameboy game.
Both American and Japanese players would play to determine a top 3 and final champion for each country. The champions of each country would eventually play each other on the following day’s US-Japan Exchange Battle.
The winner of the Japanese finals was an 8-year-old, while the winner of the American finals was an 11-year-old 3rd grader, Takuya Yoneda. Second and third place were both 6th graders.
The Japanese national winners were presented with 1st to 3rd place medals. These featured an Exeggutor design, and were similar to the ones presented to the seniors division Secret Super Battle winners.
During the event, all players were given a paper passport with room for 8 stamps. Playing against another person would award a stamp. Filling in all 8 would award a phone card with art of one of the 3 Legendary Birds, and a promotional Pikachu card, which had previously been printed in the CoroCoro Magazine.
It was also at this event that Andrew Finch showed off 11 Base Set Raichu cards that had been mistakenly printed with the Prerelease stamp.
Day 2 – US-Japan Exchange Battle
The day’s ceremony started with some words from Adkinson and Ishihara, with translators for each speaker. Afterwards, a representative for the Hawaiian governor came by to give their thanks to all participants of the event. Adkinson and Ishihara gave the representative a gift basket with one of each of the 7 American theme decks, 3 of each of the 2 currently released American boosters packs, and 2 of each of the 6 currently released Japanese booster packs.
After the opening ceremonies, the tournament began with similar activities to the previous day. All participants received a special bilingual Exeggutor card. This card would be later reprinted as a magazine promo. The reprinted version is almost identical, except it has a glossy surface instead of a matte one. The matte one is therefore exceedingly more rare than its glossy version, as it was only given to TMB participants.
There is one small difference other than the card texture, which is the graphic of Dr. Ooyama. Thanks to the keen eye of thepokecoder, we can see that Ooyama’s tie extends slightly further on the TMB version when compared to the glossy Trainer’s Magazine Vol.3 one.
At the end of the tournament, there was a “Grudge Match” featuring the American National Champion and the Japanese National Champion. The match was swiftly decided with the Japanese player’s victory.
First-hand report: 1999 International Tropical Mega Battle
Other Event Photos
Many of these are courtesy of Justin Johnson, who participated in the event.
The 1999 tournament circuit in Japan and International Tropical Mega Battle set gears in motion for future World Championships. The Tropical Mega Battle would occur again in 2000, 2001, and 2002 before making way for what are now the Pokemon World Championships.
- Trainers Magazine Vol. 1
- Trainers Magazine Vol. 2