On the last edition of “Games That Time Forgot”, I talked about Pokemon Stadium on the N64. You’re free to read it if you want, but in short, I thought the game was okay, it played an important part in the series, but that didn’t stop it from getting boring really quickly, and that there was no reason to go back to it, despite loving it as a kid. And to be completely honest here, I wasn’t totally surprised that would happen, which is why I was hesitant to highlight it. So why look at it, I here you ask? Well because 1) just because I had expectations going into a game, doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible said game could surprise or disappoint me, 2) my goal is to look into games that people don’t really talk about here, and 3) because then I would have an excuse to look into its sequel, Pokemon Stadium 2.
Yes, today, I am looking at the third Pokemon Stadium…...Pokemon Stadium 2, the last game in the Pokemon Stadium series (Colosseum and XD are in their own series), and also one of the last games on the Nintendo 64 before the release of the Gamecube. Though it didn’t do as well sales wise as the last game, it was still generally well received and is quite beloved by a lot of people, with it being considered the better game. But the level of adoration this game has is only among the people who actually played it, which in my experience is not that many people. Which is a shame, because while it’s far from a perfect game (I’ll get to that in a bit), it’s easily one of my personal favorite games on the N64, and in my opinion one of the better Pokemon spinoffs out there. But can that really be enough to see it through? I thought the same thing when the I played the last game, and I know how that went.
So let’s get on our bikes, start our journey anew, and get our best teams ready. It’s time to look at Pokemon Stadium 2.
Pokemon Stadium 2, or Pokemon Stadium Gold & Silver as it is known in Japan (though they were originally going to call it Pokemon Stadium 3), was released on December 14th , 2000 in Japan, March 26th, 2001 and October 10th 2001. The game was made because the last game, Pokemon Stadium 2 in Japan (the original Pokemon Stadium everywhere else) did really well, as anything with the name Pokemon on it is wont to do, so they decided to make a sequel. And besides, what else were people going to play on their N64s while they wait for the GameCube to come out, Dr. Mario 64? Actually, that game is pretty damn good. I may talk about that someday, but I digress.
Unlike the last game where there was some sort of big development history behind the game, Pokemon Stadium 2 doesn’t really have anything like that. It uses the same engine as last time, adds the Pokemon introduced in Gen 2, bringing the number of 3D Pokemon to 252, and even uses the Expansion Pak, though it isn’t required. Unlike the last game, which was co-developed by HAL Laboratory and Nintendo EAD, which is something I completely forgot to mention the last time, this one was developed solely by Nintendo EAD, which I imagine was because HAL was most likely working on other things at the time. Another thing that I forgot to mention is that Factor 5 worked on the game as well, specifically the sound department and their technology to enable voices, which is how they were able to get so many clear Pokemon cries and the announcer.
Of course, the biggest problem that Pokemon Stadium 2 is that the game couldn’t be marketed as the first game to see Pokemon battle in 3D, because that was what the last game was all about. So what do you do this time, and for a game that’s mostly at the end of the console’s life cycle? Well, you double down and make the game bigger than the last one. Let’s see how that worked out.
Like the last game, Pokemon Stadium 2 is going under the impression that when you boot this game up, you have already become a Pokemon Master and have beaten not just Pokemon Red, Blue, or Yellow, but also the newer games like Pokemon Gold & Silver (Crystal is also officially endorsed, but that game hadn’t come out in the States when this one had yet). And if that doesn’t apply to you, then the amount of fun you can have is extremely limited. But if you are one of those people who dedicated a bunch of time into these games and are hopping into this, well you’re going to have a much better time.
I’m not really going to go over the gameplay in Pokemon Stadium 2 because its the same thing as last time, so instead I’ll go over what’s new in this game. In Stadium, the Poke and Prime Cups are back from the last game (though the Prime Cup is now one cup), but now there are two brand new cups: the Little Cup and the Challenge Cup. The Little Cup is designed to for Pokemon that are unevolved at level 5, aka Pokemon that have hatched from eggs, which were introduced in Gen II and encourages breeding if you want the best teams, something that I was never serious about, though I do love the idea behind it, and it fits a lot better than the Petite Cup in the last game. But for my money, the best new cup was the Challenge Cup, in which the objective there is to take on four cups with a team of six generated Pokemon; yes you read that right. In the Challenge Cup, you don’t use your own Pokemon, but ones that the game chooses for, complete with unique moves and held items. While it can get a little annoying to be stuck with a not so great team that didn’t gel well (give me a Psychic type dammnit!), this mode was genuinely exhilarating, with no real clue on what you would get and how far you could go, and actively encouraged you to some regards get out of your comfort zone. I kind of wished that Game Freak would bring that back in some way in a future game.
Gym Leader Castle has also seen a bit of an improvement too, because everything is a bit more streamlined and makes sense, specifically when it comes to the Trainers you fight. While you battle the Johto Gym Leaders, you battle Trainers that fit with the theme of the Gym, so for example in the Violet Gym, you battle a Bird Trainer and then Falkner, while in the Mahogany Gym you fight a Snowboarder and a Skier besides Pryce. The trade-off is that you fight less battles in each Gym, but compared to the last game where they just threw all the Trainers into Gyms just because (why the hell is the Psychic in Blaine’s Gym?), there’s a better flow to the battles, and keeps things from getting stale, helped in large part by the Gyms actually having unique designs (Falkner’s is outside, Morty’s gives off a ghostly theme, etc.). There’s even a part after defeating the Gym Leader Jasmine (who is one of the most annoying Trainers in the game by the way), you face off against Team Rocket, mirroring what happens in the main games. Oh, and just like the Gen II games, you can also battle the Kanto Gym Leaders after beating Johto, including battling Red; and yes he is really hard.
And that’s not even including the new side stuff or little details they threw in, like giving Trainers names and actually have them talk during battle (not voiced sadly, but its still cool). The minigames are a lot more fun this time and have some depth to them, and even let you use your own Pokemon in certain games. There’s even a new area called Earl’s Pokemon Academy, where you learn the rules of Pokemon, take quizzes on what you know, and even take part in battles that teach you certain concepts of the games, like using items or new moves like Attract. All of this combined with nicer graphics and much better sounding music make Pokemon Stadium 2 a much better game than the last one…...but the problems that were in the last game are still here in this one. Granted, there is more to do in this one, which makes it a little bit harder to get bored, but Pokemon Stadium 2 is still a limited game that only appeals to a certain set of fans, specifically people who have not only played the Pokemon games on Game Boy, but have mastered them and want to try their teams out against others, which again is very small and limited number of people, even with a series as huge as Pokemon. Much like the last game, I feel like this would have benefited from some form of online play, but since this was the N64, that was pretty hard to come by; especially for a game that was released toward the N64’s lifecycle.
So in terms of sales, Pokemon Stadium 2 did really well overall, selling 2.54 million copies in its lifetime. A rather impressive number when you consider the game launched so late in the system’s life, though it still sold less than the last game, which sold 5.46 million and is the sixth best selling N64 ever. Reviews were a little bit better, but as IGN’s Chris Carle said in his review, “for someone who hasn’t played Pokemon at all, this will seem like a huge waste of time. And it is. Unless you have something to use the Transfer Pak with, this game has zero appeal, because you have no emotional attachment to it.”
As for the impact, it really didn’t have one. Unlike the last two games which helped shape the competitive scene, Pokemon Stadium 2 didn’t have that since it was kind of old news in the competitive scene by the time the game came out. There was a stage in Super Smash Bros. Melee named after the game, but that’s about it really. As for why it’s forgotten, that’s a bit of a trickier question to answer. You see, it can’t really be the old “it released toward the end of a console’s lifecycle!” excuse, because Paper Mario was the also one of the last games released for the N64 (literally the last game released by Nintendo in some regions), and yet that game not only spawned sequels and a new series, but a rabid dedicated fanbase that will constantly remind you that the series was better when it was like the first game and Thousand Year Door, and everything after that is as fun as a piece of used toilet paper. So then why is Pokemon Stadium 2 so often left behind?
Honestly, I feel like it has more to do with the Pokemon series kind of losing some steam in the early 2000s. I know that seems weird to say, since Pokemon is still around and making a lot of money, but in terms of it’s hype, its nothing compared to the Poke-mania of the 90s. This was a time where Pokemon was everywhere at the time, from billboards and merchandise, to even the mainstream press talking about it, with it even showing up on the cover of Time magazine; hell, it was even parodied by South Park back in the day! In other words, Pokemon was a big deal, but as the 2000s started rolling around, the hype train started to die down significantly; to bring this point to a personal level, the number of my classmates who loved Pokemon in the beginning were in the hundreds, to the point that they had to ban it from school. Before long however, that number started dropping, first into the dozens, then the few, and finally it was me and like one other kid, and he ended up moving. I mean think about this: the best selling games in the series as of February of this year are Pokemon Sword & Shield at 20.35 million, which while is an impressive number becomes even less so when you consider that A) the last games to reach that number were ironically the Gen II games, which released more than 20 years ago, and B) is still drops in the water compared to other games on the Switch like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Again, the games are still around, and are still making Nintendo, Game Freak, and the Pokemon Company a lot of money. But just compared to the over saturation of the franchise in the beginning compared to now, and yeah I can see why games like Pokemon Stadium 2 are often forgotten about. Because the people who were there when the last game came out simply weren’t there when this game came out; obviously that isn’t the game’s fault, and it happens with a franchise like this, but it does play an important role in why Pokemon Stadium 2 suffered a bit, and no amount of pretty graphics and learning about Pokemon is going to change that.
So in terms of whether or not you should play Pokemon Stadium 2 today, I would say no for pretty much the same reasons as the last game. In terms of whether it deserves better…….I mean, yeah a little bit.
Pokemon Stadium 2 is a game that suffers from some of the same problems as the last game, but it also does enough to fix some of those problems and become a better game overall. While I do think the concept itself is limiting, if it had the chance to thrive and even got a proper sequel or remake, I could see it being really popular and beloved. And while the chances of that happening are incredibly slim, since again seeing Pokemon battling in 3D has lost some its luster, I wouldn’t be opposed to a new release from Game Freak in some form, maybe as like some DLC or something.
So yeah, Pokemon Stadium 2. Not the best game out there, but a genuinely good sequel that I wouldn’t mind seeing come back in some form.