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Pokemon Nintendo 64 Review. Stadium Rules.

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Pokemon Stadium Screen Shot and Cover

As a man who was born in the mid nineties, I grew up in a world that was in the grip of Pokemon fever. Everywhere people were playing Pokemon video games, watching the cartoon or swapping a trading card in the hopes that the mighty Charizard would fall into their hands. I would come home from school each day and sit around for hours on my Game Boy. Time was spent catching Pokemon and battling any trainer who would dare stand in my way. Nintendo had literally created a monster (well a lot of them) and people, including me, were loving it. Pokemon Stadium Nintendo 64 was my calling.

From Game Boy to N64

Nintendo had been dominating the handheld market with their Game Boy. Yet they had still to develop a Pokemon game for their home console, the Nintendo 64. In 1999 they made the jump. Pokemon Stadium was a strategy game which focused on battles rather than the open-world RPG feel of the original games. The game would sell 3.97 million copies internationally and go on to become one of the console’s best selling titles. How could kids not love seeing their favourite Pokemon rendered in 3D and full colour on their TV sets?

But was the game ever really any good?  I’ve recently dug out my old copy and have been trying to relive the magic of my childhood. Truthfully? It feels like there is a little bit of magic missing from Stadium that made the original titles so immersive and good. 

Pokemon Stadium Gameplay

Don’t get me wrong, it really is a treat seeing Nintendo’s first attempt at showing us how our favourite Pokemon would move and how their attacks might work in an animated world. For a nineties game they really did a beautiful job with the rendering. In a way I feel like a lot of them look quite cutesy. 

The game itself can be however be quite repetitive; with no story or world to explore it almost feels a bit bland. The game is focused on the Pokemon battling system (if you aren’t familiar with it, you’ve been living under a rock). It’s quite straightforward – the player and the opponent uses a turn-based sequence of attacks to knock out the other’s Pokemon. The game is polished and plays well. The audio isn’t the best; More time should’ve been put into producing higher quality sound. The announcer during the battles has a limited number of lines and he can be very repetitive and rather annoying.

Pokemon Stadium Sandshrew

Pokemon Stadium Objectives

In the game there are four stadium cups to win. The players aim to beat each others opponents in a series of 3v3 battles. It includes gym leader castles, a play mode where players challenge the Kanto Gym leaders from the original games as well as the Elite Four. It also includes nine mini-games, one of which involves (weirdly) a Lickitung eating as much sushi as possible. Aside from the mini-games, I felt that after my sixth battle I was pretty bored. Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow battles had been broken up by exploring a lovingly-crafted world. When following a narrative, you aren’t doing the same thing over and over. I believe this was sorely missed on Pokemon Stadium Nintendo 64.

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Nintendo and Innovation

However, fear not. This was me playing without my original Pokemon cartridges to hand. Nintendo are never anything less than innovative and bundled a transfer pack add on with the game. With the Transfer Pak connected, the player can actually battle with their Pokemon team from the Gameboy cartridges.  I went to grab my old copy of Yellow and the transfer and tried again. And boy, was it better.  It was breathtaking seeing my Gengar up on the screen, actually battling it out in that glorious nineties render. The ability to play your own copy of Pokemon Yellow on the television set was amazing. 

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One of the things I admire about Nintendo is their ability to be unique and think outside the box. The Nintendo Switch does so much more than a standard PS4 or Xbox type console; you can take it from the docking station and carry it with you as a handheld, connect the JoyCons onto the screen, or disconnect them and use them as two separate controllers. Not to mention the motion sensor ability for some games. I believe Nintendo’s unique way of looking at gaming has always been refreshing. The way they incorporated the transfer pak into stadium is no exception. I can only imagine how all the other kids felt, being able to play their portable games on a big screen. You could even win Pokemon as prizes on stadium and transfer them onto your Game Boy game.

Conclusion

After spending a couple of hours working my way through the game, I came away from it in a surprisingly nostalgic mood. Playing on Stadium had really awoken my love for my old Pokemon games. More than anything I just wanted to sit down and play on my old Game Boy, wandering the land and trying to catch them all. 

So what do I think overall? As a stand-alone game, Pokemon Stadium Nintendo 64 can be fun at times but is a bit simple and repetitive. But as an add-on for your already-existing Game Boy games, it’s the perfect way to get your inner-child squealing with excitement. A great way of expanding on the original titles in the franchise.

Verdict: Start on the Game Boy games, fill them up then transfer to stadium!

By Charlie Robins, Updownleftrightastart’s resident N64 fanatic.

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