Title :Pokemon Stadium
Platforms :Nintendo 64
Publisher :Nintendo of America
ESRB Rating :Everyone
Game Rating :10.0
Review by :Richard Rae

The Pokemon phenomenon has certainly taken America by storm as intensely as it did Japan, and another reason why it's so successful has just hit our shores. Nintendo's new release of Pokemon Stadium for the N64 lets you have unbelievably impressive Pokemon battles in full color, perfectly proportioned 3-D renderings with all 151 Pokemon (including Mew), and it's as addictive as any sporting event game. 

You don't need to even own Game Boy versions of Pokemon to enjoy this game on the N64, but where it truly shines is in its ability to let you download your own trained Pokemon into the game from your Red, Blue, or Yellow Pokemon GB cartridges. This is accomplished via the included N64 Transfer Pack that snaps into in the controller's connector slot. This amazing feature also lets you access unprecedented management tools that let you control every aspect of your Game Boy cartridge's Pokemon inventory and items and lets you play your Pokemon games right on a simulated Game Boy on your TV. If you have access to extra N64 Transfer Packs, each player can access their own cartridges and saved Pokemon, and you can even make Pokemon trades through the N64 connections. 

The game is itself wonderfully structured, and it accommodates up to 4 players. You can have a quick "free" battle with six of the most popular Pokemon preselected for you against a computer player with six other Pokemon, enter the "Stadium" mode, have an Event battle against a human opponent, tinker with the Options, or enter Gallery mode. The latter lets you snap "pictures" of your own or "Rental" Pokemon, which you can use to make sticker sheets via Pokemon Snap stations at retail outlets. 

In the Stadium, you compete in a series of different arenas against rival trainers for Pokemon League championship trophies, using either your own downloaded Pokemon or in-game "rentals." There are 4 circuits in the US version, the "Poke Cup," "Prime Cup," "Pika Cup," and "Petit Cup." which are run by the official US Pokemon League rules. Depending on the situation, sometimes you won't be allowed to use certain Pokemon (whether yours or rental), especially those that don't meet level criteria. 

In a battle, you make your selection of 6 basic Pokemon from either your available stock or from the massive Rental inventory, but can only choose 3 of them for each Trainer battle you compete in as you ascend the bracket. You'll see what Pokemon the opponent has in his line-up and you must make choices that will stand up against whichever three he or she selects. The battles are conducted in turns- you can retreat, attack, or switch Pokemon, and choose one of up to four attacks available using the four C buttons on the right side of your controller. 

One of the most appealing things about Pokemon Stadium is that battles are conducted as if you're watching an actual sporting event. The camera's always moving and focusing on the active Pokemon as it executes its attacks, and you always get to see the outcome. During the contest, there's also running spoken play-by-play commentary by an announcer who almost makes you cheer yourself when your Pokemon is victorious. 

Pokemon are of proper proportion to each other and have amazing animation. They posture, bait each other, make faces, and when they're defeated, they stagger and collapse spectacularly (sometimes humorously, too). All the different attacks are beautifully animated and have special effects that have to be seen to be believed. 

Graphics here show off the best features of the N64 and artwork and rendering is superb, especially of the different arena settings. Sound is wonderful, and the musical scores are almost orchestral in quality. 

In addition to the fun of League battles at the Stadium, "Pokemon Stadium" is jam-packed with 6 other amazingly deep areas to visit and enjoy. These include a "Free Battle" area for non-league Trainer battles and practice, the "Gym Leader Castle" where you take on the 8 Gym leaders to win badges, the "Pokemon Lab" where Pokemon and item management are performed, the "GB Tower," where you can play your Pokemon games (only) on a virtual Game Boy on screen, a "Hall of Fame," and the "Kids Club," which features nine outrageously fun mini-games that are themselves almost worth the price of the cartridge. 

All-in-all, Pokemon Stadium is a truly great gaming value, and is one of the few games that more than lives up to the hype. It's full of fun, amazingly flexible and powerful, and if any game justifies the existence of the N64, it's this one.

This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 20-Mar-00