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Pokemon Stadium (Nintendo 64) artwork

Pokemon Stadium (Nintendo 64) review

"If you ever were able to recite all of the original 151 Pokémon from memory, this game is for you. If you ever got into an argument over whether Scyther or Pinsir is the better Bug Pokémon, this is the game for you. If the first Pokémon movie made you cry, this is the game for you. However, if you're still learning the ins and outs of Pokémon, try something else."

Pokémon Stadium is a hard game to review nowadays. If this was 2000, this would be much easier, since most people still owned a copy of Pokémon Red, Blue, or Yellow back then. Luckily, I still own a copy of Blue, but those Game Boy cartridges only last 10-15 years before the save function dies, and the English versions were released in 1998, so do the math. Even if you do have a copy of Red/Blue/Yellow, it could stop working at any time. Stadium is basically an expansion pack/console port to the first generation Pokémon games. You can still play the game if you don't own them, but if you do own them, the game becomes easier and more accessible.

The first thing you'll notice when you enter the city in Pokémon Stadium is the Stadium (surprise, surprise). When you go into the Stadium, you'll see four different tournaments to choose from: the Pika Cup, a single tournament where the Pokémon will be at level 15-20; the Petit Cup, a single tournament where the Pokémon will be at level 25-30; the Poké Cup, four tournaments of increasing difficulty with Pokémon at level 50-55; and the Prime Cup, four tournaments with no level restrictions (meaning that if you're not packing level 100s, you'll be hopelessly outclassed by Pokémon D-listers). The other big arena in the city is the Gym Leader Castle. All eight of the original gym leaders will be there, along with three underlings for each gym leader that you'll have to beat in order to get to the leaders. Once you beat the last gym leader, you'll be able to take on the Elite Four, and finally the champion.

Other big areas in this unnamed city include the Game Boy Tower, which can be used to play any copy of Red/Blue/Yellow plugged into an N64 Transfer Pak. This will upgrade (or "evolve", if you will) to the Doduo and Dodrio Game Boy Tower once you complete enough tournaments in the Stadium or the GLC. (The Doduo Tower will let you play the game at double speed, and the Dodrio at triple speed.) There's also the Kids' Club, where you can compete in little mini-games. Most of them are just button-mash-athons, but I did like the game where you play as a Lickitung, trying to eat as much expensive sushi as possible, while trying to stave off excruciating heartburn. (No, I wasn't high when I wrote that sentence, thanks for asking.) The Victory Palace will present any Pokémon who were on a team who defeated the Elite Five (including the Champ) or the highest level of any tournament. And Free Battle, Event Battle, and Battle Now will let you battle against your friends under various rules.

The one other place of note is the Pokémon Lab. You can only access this area with a Transfer Pak and a Red/Blue/Yellow game, but if you do, this place acts a bit like an external PC storage, where you can store Pokémon and items. But, it also comes equipped with a 3D Pokédex, a place where you could trade Pokémon, if you have two Transfer Paks, and a place where you could pick up a Prize Pokémon that you got for beating the Gym Leader castle (either a starter, a Hitmon, a fossil, or an Eevee). There's even a way to trade Pokémon with one Transfer Pak. Just deposit a Pokémon in the PC from one game, save, turn off the game, put the other Pokémon game in the Transfer Pak, go back to the PC, and say hello to your new Pokémon. I'm not sure if it will evolve Pokémon that do so through trades, though. This will require more research.

When you enter a tournament, you can either choose six of your own Pokémon from Red/Blue/Yellow, six rental Pokémon that the game provides you, or some combination of the two. You WILL want to bring your own Pokémon, because the rental Pokémon are complete rubbish. The game tried to neutralize the power creep by giving Generation 1 juggernauts like Alakazam, Gengar, and Dragonite horrible moves, while giving their unevolved forms the really good moves. The only problem is if you're in the Prime Cup, raising a full six-party team to level 100 is incredibly hard, especially since the Champion's Pokémon in Red/Blue/Yellow are in the high-50s to mid-60s. So, it's way easier to just find the decent Pokémon with good moves, and just see how far you can make it with a Dewgong with Surf and Aurora Beam.

Anyway, once you choose your six Pokémon, and the tournament starts, you'll get to see the opponent's six Pokémon. Then, you choose three Pokémon to take on three of his Pokémon. Once you go through all the trainers, you'll either win the cup in Stadium mode or advance to the next gym in the Gym Leader Castle. To help you along your way, you'll get an extra try every time you beat a trainer in the Stadium without losing a single Pokémon. (This doesn’t happen in the Gym Leader Castle.) That way you don't cruise past the first seven battles, only for your opponent to get a few lucky critical hits, or for you to get a few unlucky misses, blow the final match, and be forced to start over. That's a good way to end up with an oddly-shaped controller stuck in your TV.

When Stadium was released, one of the big points of appeal was the fact that not only could you actually see your Pokémon battle in 3D, but you could see the Pokémon YOU raised battle in 3D. It just added a sense of accomplishment that the Arcanine, who just Fire Blasted some poor Victreebel, was your Arcanine. There were 3D Pokémon games before this, and there were even some fighting scenes in Pokémon Snap. But, in Stadium, you get to control the fight like you would in a handheld main series game.

Most of the music in this game is simple remixes from Red/Blue/Yellow, and the game does a pretty good job of turning Game Boy songs, that pretty much were required to be simple, into larger, more complex songs. My favorite one is the final battle against the Champion. It puts you in just the right mood to use a Zapdos's spiky wings to smack his Exeggutor in all three of its faces.

The game's difficulty is something else worth mentioning. One of the big problems with the main series Pokémon games, and most single-player RPGs in general, is the bad A.I. from the single-player campaign. This game, on the other hand, actually has A.I. capable of tying its own shoelaces. They're difficult, but it's that special kind of difficult that just makes me want to grit my teeth, grip my controller a little tighter, and try to finish one more level before I go to bed.

The amount of content in this game is pretty impressive, too. Between the ten tournaments in the Stadium, the eight gym leaders, the Elite Four + Champion, and a surprisingly tough 6-on-1 battle against Mewtwo, you'll be at this game for a long time. And what is your prize for going through all of these battles, and taking down the most powerful Pokémon of the time? Round 2! That's right! You'll have to go through everything again, with ramped-up difficulty, making playing with rentals officially impossible. And there's no real end goal after unlocking Round 2, and no real reason to keep on playing for that long, unless you love the game that much.

The biggest issue is the aforementioned fact that if you don't have a pre-made team from Red/Blue/Yellow (which most people don't anymore), the game basically folds its arms, and closes off a large portion of the game, including most of Round 2. The mini-games are pretty lame, and consist of just "press button repeatedly to win" and "don't press button repeatedly to not win". Now that the attacks can be fully acted out, the Pokémon take their sweet time executing every move, and if it's a move like Wrap that keeps you from attacking during your turn, you'll unexpectedly enter the TV hood ornament business using old video game controllers. And, of course, unless you just love the concept of watching 3D Pokémon battles (May I suggest Pokémon: Battle Revolution, XD: Gale of Darkness, Colosseum, or even Stadium 2?), there's no incentive to play the game all the way to completion.

This is a game for the hardcore Poké-fans out there. If you ever were able to recite all of the original 151 Pokémon from memory, this game is for you. If you ever got into an argument over whether Scyther or Pinsir is the better Bug Pokémon, this is the game for you. If the first Pokémon movie made you cry, this is the game for you. However, if you're still learning the ins and outs of Pokémon, try something else.


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Community review by nickyv917 (February 23, 2012)

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zippdementia posted February 25, 2012:

I remember playing my copy of Pokemon Red as often as I could through the Pokemon tower, because it made the game in full colour. It was awesome. I didn't know the tower could evolve, though.

And yeah, the Lickitung Game was probably the best of the mini-games.

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