I was seven when I first picked up “Pokémon Stadium.” I had all 150 of the original Pokémon cards (Mew doesn’t count, and I’ll fight you to the death on that point), I’d beaten Yellow, Red and Blue, captured the elemental bird trio, raised a Gyarados from the ever-useless Magikarp, faced off against Missingno and subsequently lost my entire Blue save — but nothing could have prepared me for how awesome “Pokémon Stadium” was going to be.

There’s something special about blasting an opposing Meowth into next Tuesday, something that collecting cards, wandering through tall grass on a Gameboy and watching the entire series and every movie can’t mimic. For a generation whose canon includes “Mean Girls” and “Spongebob Squarepants,” the thrill of actually getting to be a Pokémon trainer and fighting in full 3-D instead of on a teeny-tiny handheld screen was second to none.

Not only did “Pokémon Stadium” give my generation an opportunity to stop living vicariously through Ash and the crew, it also broke the fourth wall in a huge way — through the integration of the Transfer Pak, your own Pokémon from your handheld copy of Red, Blue or Yellow came to life and started tearing shit up right in front of you. This became a huge bonus, both for the players and for the company. Nintendo got people who were already supposedly drowning in Pokémon-related material to buy more Pokémon merchandise, and people who were looking for a new fix found it. This multi-platform synchronicity is something we see mimicked even today with all three of the major consoles.

I feel like “Pokémon Stadium” and its success can be attributed less to the fact that it was a well-designed game with good graphics, familiar music, a cast the players would be familiar with and good marketing, and more to the fact that pretty much anyone who would have chosen to play it wanted to be a Pokémon trainer. “Pokémon Stadium” let them be. It let kids — who were so immersed in the lore and the drama, who knew every word to the original intro theme and to Team Rocket’s spiel, who knew what Pokémon type countered another better than their multiplication tables — to ACTUALLY BE A POKÉMON TRAINER. And you know what? That’s fucking awesome.

—Julian Aidan


What’s not to love about watching with pride as your hard-trained Charizard is magically transformed from a small pixelated Gameboy image to a lifelike 3-D replica? For the first time ever, I’d get a chance to see what it looked like from the front instead of the same crappy view of its orange wings. In all honesty, there really wasn’t anything to hate about looking on as my Charizard, who I so thoughtfully named Smoky, flew majestically around on my TV screen.

Rather, my problem with “Pokémon Stadium” comes from its subpar, repetitive style of gameplay that brought nothing new to the table. Sure, for the first few days there was absolutely nothing cooler than watching your own pet Charizard burn shit up on a big screen TV. But after it becomes painfully obvious that fire blast lets you one-shot nearly any other Pokémon, a certain calm sets in. And as that calm gradually transforms into boredom and eventual disinterest, you begin to figure out that really, the only good thing about this game is the stupid Transfer Pak that lets you see your beloved Pokémon come to life.

Just like the Gameboy versions, the only real objective in “Pokémon Stadium” is spamming abilities until it becomes clear which one is the most effective. At least on the Gameboy there was always an opportunity to explore different towns and capture exotic new Pokémon. The intermittent battles that pit players against NPCs (non-playable characters) were repetitive but bearable given the “Gotta catch ‘em all” objective, the real heart and soul of the games. Sadly, there’s no such distraction in “Pokémon Stadium,” which features a never-ending circuit of NPCs to take down in battle.

The mini-games, if you can really call them games, are essentially a boring exercise in determining if players can mash a button enough times under a time constraint — hardly what one would call fun. But of course, how can we forget about the Gallery, where players take pictures of their Pokémon, which can then be saved in a viewable album? Never in my life have I seen a more pointless game feature. Why in the hell would anyone want to take video game snapshots of Pokémon that just stand still to begin with. Even as a 9-year-old, I found it utterly perplexing.

There’s no denying that the creators of “Pokémon Stadium” had a moment of brilliance when they decided to expose players to 3-D depictions of Pokémon. But at the end of the day, there’s no getting around the fact that the game gets too boring too quickly.

—Akshay Seth

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