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Pokemon Stadium Switch Review: Still One Of The Very Best

  • Gives Pokémon new life through great battle animations
  • Game structure is great for both casual and hardcore players
  • Takes advantage of Nintendo Switch Online's emulation features for a smoother experience
  • Feels incomplete due to the lack of Transfer Pak support on Switch
  • Misses the opportunity for online matchmaking

A Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription was used by ZaaZ for this review. ""Pokémon Stadium" is available now on Nintendo Switch Online.

"Pokémon Stadium" was originally released for Nintendo 64 in 1999. It was the first time that an entire generation of Pokémon was playable on a home console. The game translated its stellar cast from simple 2D sprites to fully realized 3D models with scale and animations to make them feel alive. It allowed fans to orchestrate their own battles and toy around with team compositions easily while also laying the bedrock that allowed "Pokémon Stadium 2" to be one of the best titles released for the console

Now, "Pokémon Stadium" has been added to the collection of emulated Nintendo 64 games available to Nintendo Switch players with an active Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription. The emulation is a direct translation of the game, meaning that it has had no graphical tuning or new features directly implemented in the game, although it does benefit from the features of the Switch's Nintendo 64 emulation app itself, such as online play. 

But with how much the series has evolved in the years since 1999, how does "Pokémon Stadium" hold up? Luckily, it is still well worth checking out for fans of the series and newcomers alike.

I wanna be the very best

The Nintendo Switch's emulated version of "Pokémon Stadium" is largely identical to the original, but it still holds up with ease. "Stadium" strips away the series' RPG framework to instead challenge players to build custom teams to tackle tournaments comprised of AI duels with the first generation of Pokémon. Players can challenge themselves with difficult tournaments, fill time by playing through randomly assigned quick battles, dabble in minigames, or play with and against friends. 

What "Stadium" lacks in RPG mechanics it makes up for with its stellar presentation. Even decades later, it is one of the most real feeling "Pokémon" titles ever released. Every Pokémon has unique sounds to make during duels, their own idle and attack animations that are brimming with character, and an announcer that excitedly comments on everything that happens. Even with the game's older graphics, its world and the creatures that inhabit it manage to feel more fully realized and believable than the poor performance of the recent "Scarlet" and "Violet."

"Stadium" is also helped by its gameplay standing the test of time. "Pokémon" gameplay has seen changes over its numerous generations of releases, but the core that was present in the very first generation of games is as fun as ever. Battles are strategic and simple, with players having the time they need to plan while still feeling kinetic. To put it bluntly, it feels just as great to play now as it did in 1999.

Its not very effective...

While the Switch emulation of "Pokémon Stadium" does benefit from the introduction of online play, this newest version of the game does have some notable issues. These primarily stem from the Switch's lack of the Nintendo 64's Transfer Pak accessory. In the game's original incarnation, the Transfer Pak would allow players to import their favorite Pokémon from the first generation of games into "Stadium" to build teams out of and could unlock special event battles. These options still appear in the game's menus despite being unavailable, and the inability to transfer Pokémon to the game leaves players having to build teams with rented level 50 Pokémon. This limits the scope of what content players can actually complete in the newest version of "Stadium" while also removing one of its most charming and exciting features for series fans. 

The emulated version of "Stadium" introduces online play with friends, but it does feel like a missed opportunity to add real matchmaking to the game. Other older titles made available through Nintendo Online haven't had this feature either so its absence doesn't come as a surprise. However, it would have been great to be able to jump into random matches against other players that aren't on one's friend's list. 

It's evolving!

On top of preserving a classic "Pokémon" title on newer hardware, the Nintendo Switch Online emulation of "Stadium" allows it to take advantage of the system's various features. This includes handy additions like being able to create and return to save states, the ability to rewind after making a mistake, and online functionality to play with friends no matter how far away they are. 

While these features don't seem like much, they help bring "Stadium" to a more modern place without infringing on what made fans fall in love with the original decades ago. Save states and rewinding in particular go a long way toward helping make the game more accessible to newcomers to the series or younger players. They can make mistakes and learn from them even in the game's most challenging duels. 

Online multiplayer is also a particular standout for the new additions. Like all of the emulated titles available through Nintendo Switch Online, players have to join one another through the emulation app rather than the game itself, which can take some getting used to. Regardless, it still manages to open "Stadium" up and does so with no hindrance to performance whatsoever. 

"Pokémon Stadium" on Nintendo Switch offers a fantastic experience for fans of the classic franchise. The game's nostalgic graphics and gameplay bring the beloved Pokemon creatures to life in a way that is both thrilling and immersive. Overall, "Pokémon Stadium" is a must-have for any Pokémon enthusiast looking for an exciting and engaging gaming experience on their Nintendo Switch.