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Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Pokémon Stadium on Nintendo Switch Online is a Reminder on Generation 1's Problems

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - The sequel is WAY better.

After waiting for over half a year, Pokémon Stadium, originally released on the Nintendo 64, is now available for Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pass subscribers. That includes KoopaTV's staff. What is Pokémon Stadium?

Nintendo Switch Online app Pokémon Stadium 3D platformer battles
That whole first line is wrong.
You don't witness the battles, you actively participate in them. (An important distinction given other Pokémon “games” like Hey You, Pikachu!.)
Pokémon Stadium is not a 3D platformer.
...There isn't a guarantee the battles are thrilling. Some are, though.
By the way, note the purple-coloured Low Kick on Primeape. That is Pokémon Stadium's claim that Low Kick is an illegal move on Primeape.
(Many of the game's Rental Pokémon apparently have these illegal moves.)

Pokémon Stadium is a battle simulator using Generation 1 mechanics, though some mechanics are modified compared to what is present on a Pokémon Yellow cartridge. (For example, Focus Energy doesn't glitch out.) There are also nine minigames, but they range from unplayable to alright. They won't hold your interest for long. If you do want me to go into much more detail about the minigames, let me know and I will dedicate an article to each of their game design elements and I'll rank them relative to one another.

As for Pokémon Stadium on Nintendo Switch Online, its most notable thing is that you are bound to using Rental Pokémon due to there being no way to transfer Pokémon from one of the Generation 1 Game Boy titles to Pokémon Stadium, which is supposed to be one of the selling points. Back in the day, using the Transfer Pak to have those 8-bit sprite Pokémon that you trained in your Pokémon Blue be a 3D model battling on your big screen was a big deal. You can then use those Pokémon to battle in a variety of formats.

Anticipating a scenario where people might buy Pokémon Stadium without Red, Blue, or Yellow. The game has Rental Pokémon that lets you choose from the available Pokémon legal in whatever format you're playing. Rental Pokémon aren't as good as the Pokémon you'd raise, and in many instances, have pretty messed up stats and movesets. They do try to strike a balance, however. For example, everyone knows Psychic is the best type in the generation, with nothing resisting Psychic-type attacks besides other Psychic types. Psychic types are only weak to the bad moves Twineedle (Beedrill), Pin Missile (Jolteon), and Leech Life, too. So Alakazam is naturally the best rental to use, right? Well... you might want to look at Kadabra or even Abra. Take a look at these calculations for Rental Abra, Kadabra, and Alakazam's Psychic attacks in the Gym Leader Castle.

[Gym Leader Castle 163 Special stat] Alakazam Confusion vs. Tauros: 39-46 (21.5 - 25.4%) -- 0% chance to 4HKO
[Gym Leader Castle 148 Special stat] Kadabra Psybeam vs. Tauros: 45-54 (24.8 - 29.8%) -- 100% chance to 4HKO
[Gym Leader Castle 133 Special stat] Abra Psychic vs. Tauros: 57-67 (31.4 - 37%) -- 78% chance to 3HKO

The fully evolved Rental Pokémon tend to have worse or impractical movesets compared to their younger counterparts, so it turns out that despite Alakazam having higher stats than Abra, Abra will still do much more damage than Alakazam because of Psychic's base power versus the much weaker Confusion's. However, while Abra has more power, Alakazam is much more bulky and has a higher Speed stat than Abra, so maybe it balances out? That's up to your decisions and preferences and how you evaluate trade-offs. OR you could just pick every Psychic type on your team and still do pretty well. Meanwhile, some Pokémon are so impractical (Rental Venusaur's direct-damage attacks are Solarbeam and Take Down, while Rental Ivysaur has the coveted and consistent Razor Leaf.) that you won't ever want to pick them. However, there is an incentive to try to win the game's cups with every Pokémon, since there is a Hall of Fame.

Pokémon Stadium Lapras Hall of Fame Victory Palace
Congratulations, Lapras! You won the most recent Splatfest!

In trying to win anything, you'll quickly realise how broken and utterly strange a lot of Generation 1's battle mechanics are. For example, the Special stat. Before Generation 2 came around, Special Attack and Special Defense were one stat, Special. Compare this to Attack and Defense, two different stats. What is the reason for this game design choice? In any other respect, Special Attack is just Attack but with different types. As a result, something like a Special Attack drop from the move Psychic will weaken your opponent's attacking prowess and defensive prowess simultaneously. It's totally messed up.

Pokémon Stadium Freeze frozen solid Gyarados status condition ice block
If you were wondering how I won the Pika Cup with Lapras, it's because Ice Beam got a Freeze.
In Generation 1, Freeze lasts FOREVER. Which got the announcer to ask if there was nothing that the Lass could do.

The worst thing is that Dragon Rage is considered legal in the Pika Cup, but with rentals, only your opponent gets to have Dragon Rage. It does a set 40 damage, which is a 2HKO or even a 1HKO on every single Pokémon you have available with Rentals, with the sole exception of Chansey. However, Rental Chansey cannot defeat a Dragonair by herself. What are you supposed to do?

The score is a bit evened by the fact that the Nintendo Switch Online emulator lets you create reusable (permanent) save states. Bad RNG roll? Use the save state and go back. ...That's also how I won the Pika Cup. On turn 1, my Raichu missed Thunder against a Slowbro, and Slowbro used Psychic and dropped my Special. Then I reset and tried again. That time, Thunder hit and OHKO'd Slowbro. That's another thing about Rentals. Sometimes they get way less reliable moves than their lesser-evolved counterparts. (Pikachu gets Thunderbolt... but also gets one-hit KO'd by a Dragon Rage.) Anyway, cheating does take away some of the risk involved with the RNG, which could mean the optimal thing is to pick the stronger but less accurate option and go back in time if it doesn't work out. Whether or not doing that gives you shame is a personal decision.

Anyway, Pokémon Stadium 2 gives you way more things to do than Pokémon Stadium, so I'm still going to be waiting for that. Specifically, Pokémon Stadium has several game modes inaccessible on Nintendo Switch Online, mainly the Gallery, the Pokémon Lab, and the GB Tower, because those all require a Game Boy cartridge and Transfer Pak.

At least Pokémon Stadium still has great music and a fun play-by-play caster.

Pokémon Stadium Squirtle Withdraw defense increased stat modifier raised
That's it from me. I'm going back to my shell now.

Ludwig might write that minigame tier list (the Kids Club) even if no one asks for it, but he'd prefer if at least one person requests it. He believes that Generation 1 is the worst generation, which is apparently an unpopular opinion. People who disagree with him like the idea of Generation 1 but don't appear to actually go and play it, because playing it just exposes a broken and nonsensical gameplay experience. He wonders how GAME FREAK ever made those balance choices way back in the day, like looking at the Psychic type and thinking that's okay. He's conceptually fine with Rental Pokémon, especially because team-building in an actual Generation 1 game is a very unfriendly experience, what with the existence of several one-use-per-save-file Technical Machines and the lack of training opportunities.

Here is that Kids Club minigame tier list!


  1. When I started up the game, it immediately called attention to the lack of transfer packs. Before I even hit the TITLE SCREEN I was like "yeah, don't really want anything to do with this game."

    Or it might have been directly after the title screen, I don't remember precisely.

    1. Seeing the four N64 controllers and that none of them have Transfer Paks and you gotta press A every time you turn the game on is a bummer, yeah.


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