Pokémon Stadium

Today’s post is part of Pokémon Creator’s Catch – a collaboration created by NekoJonez featuring a collection of other bloggers wanting to share their love of everything Pokémon, a series which is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Pokémon Red & Green in Japan. Go ahead and click the link to be directed back to the main lobby to check out the other blogger trainer’s posts. Gotta read ’em all!

The late 1990’s saw the birth of a new pop culture phenomenon – Pokémon, first, in Japan and shortly after the entire world would be in the midst of Pokémania. For the extent of its popularity however, Pokémon was an exclusively handheld game and many fans dreamt of the chance to see their favorite Pokémon on a tv screen. Players would have to wait until the release of the Nintendo Switch for a new mainline Pokémon game to arrive on a console, there were a few spin offs in the series that would provide as closely to the full experience as possible beginning with the Nintendo 64…

Pokémon Stadium was the first game released on a console, which allowed players to battle their favorite Pokémon in a full three dimensions. The original incarnation of the game was released in 1998 as Pocket Monsters’ Stadium in Japan and had started out its development as a planned release for the Nintendo 64DD peripheral, but was eventually moved over to cartridge format and released on the N64. This makes the Pokémon Stadium that we came to know on this side of the Pacific, technically Pokémon Stadium 2, similarly to how the numbering of Final Fantasy games depended on which region the game was played in.

Pokémon Stadium was first released on April 30, 1999 in Japan, along with a later release in North America February 29, 2000 and in Europe on April 7. 

Unlike the mainline entries or many of the spin off releases, Pokémon Stadium does not have a main story mode. The main game modes are Stadium Mode and Gym Leader Castle. The former features four different Cups – Pika, Petit, Poké, and Prime in which you battle your way through a round of opponents and in the latter, trainers take part in battles with Gym Leaders in the same way you would make your way through a Pokémon Gym on the Game Boy. Both Stadium and Gym Leader Modes allow you to create teams of rental Pokémon, whose move sets can be viewed before choosing, or you can assemble your own squad of Pokémon from your Game Boy cartridge via the Transfer Pak, which was included in the game box. You can also use the Transfer Pak to play Pokémon Red, Blue, or Yellow on your tv screen by accessing the Pokémon Tower(where I spent a considerable amount of time).

Along with the game modes allowing players to battle against computer-controlled trainers, you can also play a number of Pokémon mini-games from the Kid’s Club area of the map. Some of the mini-games included in Pokémon Stadium were “Run, Rattata, Run!” in which several Rattata would run along a treadmill, leaping over a number of obstacles to reach the finish line first, or “Rock Harden” which pits four Kakuna or Metapods against each other with the object of the game being to avoid taking damage from falling rocks by using the Harden move just prior to being hit. My favorite of the mini-games would still have to be “Sushi-Go-Round” – four Lickitungs competing to eat the most sushi as it circles the bar. Many hours were ultimately spent playing the assortment of mini-games in Pokémon Stadium…

My favorite Stadium mini-game – Sushi-Go-Round

In an era full of memorable gaming moments, I can still remember the excitement of getting the chance to see Pokémon battles on my bedroom tv. As much as I loved playing Pokémon Red on my Game Boy Color, the limited range of colors and pixelated graphics weren’t always the easiest to see on the small screen(ask anyone who relied on one of those small peripheral lights to see the screen when sitting directly under the sun or a ceiling light wasn’t an option) and the notion of 3D characters and battle animation in color sounded nothing less than amazing. As with many, many other games at the time, my first glimpses of Stadium were from the seemingly endless coverage of anything Pokémon-related in Nintendo Power magazine. I remember eagerly anticipating the game’s release and being able to see the game for myself(hopefully soon) as I endlessly scoured issues of Nintendo Power, eagerly awaiting the game’s release and being able to play for myself.

Pokémon Stadium was released at the end of February and was about a month or so later that my brother and I got the game. I remember coming home from a school trip late one Saturday night and it wasn’t until I woke up the next morning that I noticed a copy of the game lying in my brother’s room. I eagerly popped the gray cartridge into my N64 and proceeded to spend the rest of the day sitting playing through the different challenges and cups in Stadium Mode and battling my way towards the Elite Four in the Gym Leader Castle, along with spending a considerable amount of time playing through the different mini-games and viewing the Pokédex in Oak’s Lab. I recall getting in a bit of trouble at school the next day when I showed up and had completed hardly any of my homework from over the weekend. I could say that I regret ignoring my schoolwork to play Pokémon, but…that’d be a lie.

I still have many fond memories of playing Pokémon Stadium. Did the game add anything revolutionary to the Pokémon universe? The fact you could insert your Game Boy cartridge into the Transfer Pak and import your own teams of Pokémon to use in Stadium Mode or Gym Leader Castle, along with being able to play Red/Blue/Yellow on the living room tv from the Game Boy Tower area of the game were pretty innovative at the time(the ability to play Game Boy games on a tv screen had only been possible prior to this by using the Super Game Boy peripheral for the SNES).

Stadium was also a viable means for trainers to fill out their Pokédex as you were able to acquire rarer Pokémon like Kabuto, Omanyte, Hitmonlee, Hitmonchan or Eevee as a reward for beating the Elite Four in the Gym Leader Castle. There was also starters like Bulbasaur, Squirtle, or Charmander that you could receive as prizes. I remember the excitement of finding out I could get an Omanyte through the gym leader battles; I had taken the Dome Fossil over the Helix Fossil and got Kabuto instead of Omanyte in Pokémon Red.

Pokémon Stadium acts as an amusement park for battling, viewing, and training your favorite Kanto Region Pokémon, along with a set of mini-games to keep entertained with. Just being able to see favorites like Charizard, Gyarados, or Snorlax battle on a tv screen in color and 3D was impressive enough on its own…

Controller Repair Day

The past few weeks I’ve spent a fair amount of time going through my game collection, particularly those on cartridges. I have recently amassed a few dozen more games, most of which being Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, with a few N64 and Gamecube ones mixed in. For whatever the reason, I actually find the process of sorting, taking apart the cartridge cases, cleaning the connector pins and then reassembling oddly relaxing…I’m not sure why. I usually refer to this as “taking inventory” of my game collection. I’d like to say I have a more….complex system of management than simply writing down a list of games, grouped together by console, but…I don’t. I mentioned in last week’s blog post that I’d been toying with the idea of a spreadsheet or something similar to keep everything organized and could even keep tabs on what I’ve started playing, completed, or have yet to attempt, so that is perhaps something I’ll actually go through with in the next month or so.

One of my most recent….tasks(?) was a joystick replacement for one of my old Nintendo 64 controllers. If you’ve ever played any game on the N64, you’ll most likely know what I’m talking about when I state the analog joystick – as groundbreaking and intuitive as it may have seemed at the time, always felt a little stiff. They now feel more like an outdated piece of gaming history when compared to the smoother action and movement of modern joysticks. The thumbstick for my old gray controller had begun to get a little worn out and there was a slight catch in the ball joint of the joystick, which at best would merely click when pressing upward, or would become unresponsive altogether when playing a game(luckily, I still have my trusty atomic purple controller). I had ordered a replacement joystick from Amazon which was essentially a GameCube thumbstick in an N64 housing to allow easy replacement.

Making replacements and general maintenance for Nintendo 64 controllers is still relatively easy compared to something more complex like a Dualshock 4 controller or the DS Lite I’ve been tinkering with…
The replacement stick seems sturdy enough and has a lot smoother action than the original N64 analog sticks.

Rather than the original ball-joint setup, the replacement joystick is connected to the plastic ball within the housing somewhat similar to an old track-ball mouse. I was a little apprehensive when taking apart the controller and seeing a ribbon soldered to the circuit board coming from the joystick, but quickly realized this was simply the Z Button underneath. The process of replacing the joystick was pretty straightforward – detach the connector pin and swap thumbsticks. I spent a little extra time making sure I had securely connected the pin to the circuit board before sandwiching the controller back together.

The finished project. It even works afterwards!

When reassembling the controller, I noticed the replacement thumbstick fits a little more snug within the controller shell, leaving a slight bit of extra space between the two halves – maybe a couple milimeters. Holding the controller for a few moments, I was unable to tell the difference between the doctored controller and an another.

I was able to test out the new joystick in the controller shortly afterwards by playing some Mario Kart 64 and it feels much, much better. I had kind of forgotten just how stiff, and at times, restrictive the lateral movement could feel as I switched between different controllers to get a feel for the new thumbstick. The only other difference I was able to notice between the two sticks was the newer one is just noticeably shorter, but I think I prefer a lower-profile thumbstick that sits somewhere between the original one and the very short control sticks on handhelds like a PSP or 3DS. The improved controller feels a lot smoother and definitely feels more like the GameCube….you just have the infamous three-pronged shape of the N64 controller along with it. After seeing the improvement from swapping out the old, stiff thumbstick, I definitely want to buy a couple more and make the same replacement in my other two remaining N64 controllers.

I realize this week’s post turned out to be one part product review and one part “what I’ve been up to lately”, but I want to get in the habit of just writing and not having to force a post into a specific format. A shorter post this week also gives me that much more time to spend working on my contribution to NekoJonez’s upcoming Pokémon collaboration taking place on Feb. 27. Looking forward to talking about some Pokémon games!

The Amazon listing of the replacement joystick I used in case anyone is interested…

Thanks for reading!