Gotta learn it all; it might be the toughest Pokémon battle there is

Pokémon Stadium 2 (2001)

Alright, before we go any further, I want you to answer one thing: are you any good at Pokémon battles? Obviously if you say ‘no’, then you can get off this page immediately. That’ll be the end of it, I will not pursue you, I will not point and laugh at you. If you say you have a bit of battling ability, then I’ll have to cast a suspicious eye over you. Can you back that up? Did you make your fair share of other children cry, in playground Link Cable battles? Are you Mewtwo, or Mewpoo? Machoke, or Majoke? Hitmonchan, or Hitmonsham? You get the idea.

It’s one thing waltzing through the easier-and-easier mainline Pokémon series with overpowered cheat Pokémon, but the business of competitive battling is quite another thing. I can give you all the help you need to build a top level Pokémon team, but once you’ve shortlisted the boys, girls and Lugias you need, then you’re into the arena of diminishing returns. You’ll need every single stat point possible, every move has to be kosher. And above all else, you’re going to need to get acquainted with selective breeding, eugenics really.

This means putting your Charizard in there with an overworked sex-god Ditto, in the hopes that they sire a Charmander who’ll one day, after much training and hard work, grow up to become a fine Stallionzard. Only one Egg out of 700 might be viable though, and if you’re looking for Shinies, which are really only for the ultimate chav cognoscenti team, then you can multiply those odds by a few thousand more.

Any Egg that doesn’t make that cut shall at least be incubated, but then immediately ground up into a fine paste, unfit for purpose. No cute little Baby Pokémon shall be spared the fearsome meatgrinder, of the same type that you sometimes see in dreadful warehouses that slaughter thousands of chickens in an instant. OK, I know the game says you’re “releasing” these Pokémon back to the wild, but come on. You don’t see hundreds of baby Abras running about the Routes, do you?

Even if your test subject has the stats and “predisposition” to one day become an Ivan Drago Mon, that’s still not enough. You see, these days Pokémon have Abilities, which swing the tide of battle greatly. They also have Natures, which usually boost one stat at the expense of another. You better believe there are Hidden Abilities and all sorts of hidden values as well, none of which is ever revealed to you. 

Listen, truth be told, I’m a scrub as well. I’m getting too old for this shit. Even if I had 9000 hours spare, I wouldn’t know the first thing about battling these days. I have become complacent, you see, no longer feared on the playground. I sleptwalk through the latest set of Pokémon games, I still wasn’t really sure what was happening. I was winning the battles, but I didn’t know why. Something about a Mega Gyarados, or a Gigantamaxed Meowth that towered over the stadium.

It was too much for me to remember, making me officially old. The truth is, my knowledge of competitive Pokémon battling only goes as far as two Generations, barely, and these days both of those are usually written off by anyone with an ounce of sense anyway; Generation I for being severely unbalanced, full of glitches and featuring only about 3 viable Pokémon (not to mention rows after rows of ugly, ugly sprites) and Generation II for being a stallfest, that is a snoozefest, where whoever stays awake or keeps skin on their A-button finger the longest wins.

Not the ideal scenario for another Pokémon battle-sim game for Nintendo 64 then, but the Pokémania was in full throttle in 2000 and 2001, so what did you expect but another Pokémon Stadium game? The title of the game isn’t particularly distinguished, just adding a 2 to the end, although the cartridge itself is a bit of bling with one half of the plastic shell a glistening gold and the other a shimmering silver. Well, not shimmering or glistening exactly, as I found out to my cost after melting the cartridge and trying to turn it in to see how much cash I could get – not much demand for plastic gold or silver, as it goes.

Before I did that though, I loaded up my old Gen 2 games via the Transfer Pak and had a quick blast through them, dying to reacquaint myself with my old team. That was a swing and a miss, mind you, there was nothing there – the battery in the Gen II cartridges only gives you a few years before it gives up the ghost – though at least the Transfer Pak seemed to be less susceptible to bumps and whacks. It was hyper-sensitive when I was playing the first Pokémon Stadium, I even lost a save-file to it. But could the N64 cartridge itself really influence that?

I don’t know, but without my top notch team to call upon, some of them time-travelled in from Gen I and all of them bred like Soviet Olympic athletes from the 1970s, it would have to be the Rental Pokémon against the many Cups and difficulties in Pokémon Stadium 2. It’s not long before you’re up against Aryan Mons with perfect stats, of course, so when you’re rolling up to a battle like this with a village idiot Dunsparce, you can forget about it.

Even though your team is getting obliterated, at least they’ll look good – yes it’s Nintendo 64 graphics, but all 251 represented Pokémon look good here, each with their own move animations and they even have an almost realistic cry. You won’t even catch that in Pokémon games to this day.

As you’d expect, there’s some nice remixed music from the Game Boy games, and most important of all, we’ve got a brand new set of surprisingly addictive minigames. It’s basically just the first Pokémon Stadium game with extra bells and whistles, let’s face it. But there’s even a school mode there to teach noobs like you and me the basics of Curslax and Skarmbliss@Leftovers. Know what I mean?

You don’t? Well that’s fine, because I don’t either, so by all means coop up with me and we can be know-nothing losers together. Pokémon Stadium 2 does what it set out to do and it’s a good game, possibly an underrated game on the terminally ill N64 console at that time. It’s just possibly a bit redundant, a bit too late in the day for it all. I’m aware that competitive Pokémon battling is still a big thing these days, but who fancies doing it on a Nintendo 64?

Looking back, I’d say Pokémon Stadium 2’s release window was about the time of the death-rattles for Pokémon as a real fad, as in skangers on the school playground playing Link Cable battles sort of a fad. Great fun for those involved, highly embarrassing for those who weren’t. But we all loved a game of football at lunchtime in school as well. It didn’t mean we were ever gonna be a competitive baller though, did it?

29 July 2022

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