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Pokémon TCG Shining Fates Special Set: Complete Review

This has been quite the journey. Bleeding Cool has just wrapped its 40+ part series cataloging the rare cards of Pokémon TCG: Shining Fates, beginning with the incredible and highly coveted Shiny Vault cards which display Shiny Pokémon; continuing with the V, VMAX, and Full Art Trainers of the standard part of the expansion; and finishing with the set's Amazing Rare cards, which feature Legendary and Mythical Pokémon over a rainbow splash of textured foil. It's a beautiful, nuanced set that begs comparison to Pokémon TCG's iconic Hidden Fates set, but it also sets itself apart in many ways. Let's take a look back at everything Shining Fates in this full set review.

Shining Fates cards. Credit: Pokémon TCG
Shining Fates cards. Credit: Pokémon TCG

The Cards

Shining Fates was destined to be a special set of the Pokémon TCG due to it being the second-ever collection with a Shiny Vault subset. The subset, as with Hidden Fates which introduced the Vault, is larger than the standard set. These cards can be pulled in the Reverse Holo slot, which makes the pack openings incredibly dynamic. Adding to that, this time around we have Amazing Rares which can also show up in the Reverse Holo slot.

The cards themselves are terrific, including some of what I'd consider some of the most exciting pulls in recent Pokémon TCG history. The Shiny Charizard VMAX is going for hundreds of dollars, which we all knew it would, but beyond the value, it's simply a beautiful card. The Shiny Vault Full Art style has somewhat changed in Shining Fates, with the V and VMAXes looking more textured, more silvery. The Charizard is the most desired pull, but cards like the Shiny Ditto VMAX stand out to me as unique, beautiful, and memorable as well.

The cards of the standard set are nice, though the one flaw here is that many of the Pokémon Vs within the set are direct reprints from other recent sets. The VMAXes are new, which is nice, but it would've made the standard, non-Shiny Vault part of Shining Fates a more exciting experience to open if cards like Crobat V and Morpeko V weren't also able to be pulled in packs of other Pokémon TCG expansions.

What does stand out to me, though, is the quality of the artwork of the common and uncommon cards. Cards like the two Morpekos hanging out with his buddies and the Snom on a bench transcend just showing a Pokémon on a card, but do what the best cards do: tell a story.

Pokémon TCG Battle: Shining Fates vs. Hidden Fates

It's only natural to compare these two sets. They have the same structure, in that they are special ("holiday") sets with a small standard set and a Shiny Vault. There are major differences, though, and while I've seen some collectors and influencers in the hobby criticize Shining Fates for these differences, I think it's a strength of the set.

The major difference here is that Hidden Fates' Shiny Vault has a major focus on Kanto, while Shining Fates shifts its focus to Galar. This isn't true for every single card, but the difference in focus is obvious. Hidden Fates honors the past while Shining Fates looks to build the future. This makes some of the cards less valuable, which is a point of contention for some, but this review is written from the perspective of a collector. I don't want to invest in Pokémon. I am invested in Pokémon, as a hobby. The current bubble of extreme hype is a wave, and it will come to its apex. It's brilliant for the TCG to use this time to spotlight newer species because the base — the true collectors who will remain in the hobby after the bubble pops — don't just care about Kanto.

Now, when comparing the sets, Hidden Fates and Shining Fates have many shared strengths as well as aspects that make them unique in positive and negative ways. Shining Fates has a better set-up for the Full Art trainers. Hidden Fates had those in the Shiny Vault, which Shining Fates places them in the standard set which makes them easier to obtain and also spices up pack openings. Hidden Fates has the benefit of being the first Shiny Vault, which set up Shining Fates to be unique rather nicely, which Shining Fates mostly does well. There are, though, a few weird inclusions in the Vault such as the repeat of the Rowlet line and Oranguru, both of which already have Shinies in Hidden FatesShining Fates has a more focused, smaller collection of Full Art Pokémon, which as a completionist, I appreciate.

While Hidden Fates was the first and is a modern classic, Shining Fates is amazing because it tries something different while working in the model that Hidden Fates set.

Final Rating

9/10 – An incredible set that will be memorable for years to come. While comparisons to Hidden Fates must be made, Shining Fates works as its own set with its only flaw being the inclusion of a few reprints and a handful of repeats in the Shiny Vault. As a collection of cards and products, it's a set that will be looked back on fondly and will, in many ways, define the first half of Pokémon's 25th year in business.

Explore our full spotlight on Pokémon TCG: Shining Fates here.

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Theo DwyerAbout Theo Dwyer

Theo Dwyer writes about comics, film, and games.
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