Any gamer my age will recollect with much fondness the Pokémon craze of the late 90s.
What started as an innocent-enough JRPG for Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld exploded into a worldwide phenomenon and masterfully-executed scheme by Nintendo to take absolutely all of your money. There were spinoffs, cartoon series’, trading card games, comic books, action figures, and more. Anything you can imagine, Nintendo stamped a Pokémon logo on it shipped it to store shelves where legions of Poké-crazed juveniles gladly surrendered every cent of their allowances.
I was most definitely one of them.
Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow were some of the most successful video games in history. The game had an incredibly attractive premise: Collect as many monsters as you can and battle them against anybody that was brave enough to test you. Aspiring Pokémon masters like myself spent hours spelunking caves and foraging forests, raising our monsters’ powers to incredible levels so that we could one day be the very best, like no one ever was. Everything about the game — its interesting locales, colorful characters, and mysterious secrets — captured the imagination of just about every kid who had a Game Boy.
In 2000, our Pokémon finally made their way to our television screens in the form of Pokémon Stadium for the Nintendo 64. And the battle interface was pretty much identical to that of its handheld predecessors, so there really wasn’t much of a learning curve for experienced trainers.
The main selling point of Pokémon Stadium was its Game Boy connectivity features, thanks to an included peripheral called the Transfer Pak that plugged into the back of the Nintendo 64’s controller. In what would be the first of many attempts at console/handheld interaction by Nintendo, it allowed players to upload their very own Pokémon from their Game Boys to play on the big screen. Now, instead of having to buy a cable to connect Game Boys and battle friends on a tiny monochrome screen, you could have them simply bring their game cartridges, upload their squads, and head into battle, all in extraordinary 3D with stereo sound.
All in all, Pokémon Stadium was an incredibly fun multiplayer experience well worth small amount of money you can acquire a copy for. Who could ever forget the look on their opponent’s face as a single Fire Blast took out their strongest Pokémon? That was the beauty of Pokémon Stadium.
I remember one particularly violent situation in which I flung my controller across the room in rage, which landed directly on the screen of my friend’s Game Boy, completely shattering it. Sorry, Joe. That’s the price you pay for Poké-greatness.
Pokémon Stadium was definitely meant as an accessory to the Game Boy games. Thus, Stadium was best enjoyed as a companion to the pocket adventure. While battling in Stadium would not do anything in the way of leveling up your party (a missed opportunity if you ask me), it was a highly enjoyable endeavor to take to the gargantuan arenas of the Nintendo 64 cartridge for some truly epic battles.
However, the most fun I derived from Stadium was a mode that was probably not much more than an afterthought by the developers. There are nine Mario Party-style minigames that are easy enough for just about anyone to pick up and enjoy, and that makes for some truly hilarious experiences. It’s not uncommon to see this pop into my N64 during parties. Whether you’re hypnotizing each other’s Hypnos or jumping hurdles with Rattata, the end results are always comical. Just add a few friends and a case of beer!
This cart can be picked up for pretty cheap, so it’s a must-own for any retro collector, especially fans of the Nintendo 64. If nothing else, it’s a tangible artifact of a wonderful period of pop culture history that I think we all wish we could relive. I would highly recommended picking up the Transfer Pak and a copy one of one of the original RPGs if you really want the full experience, but the minigames are most definitely worth the price of admission alone.
There was a time in all our lives when we all dreamed of venturing out from own personal Pallet Towns and exploring the world, collecting every charming monster we encountered along the way. Pokémon Stadium was at the top of almost every kid’s Christmas list back in 2000, and you’d be surprised at how fun it still is today.
So go forth, young Pokémon trainer, and be the best there ever was.