Nintendo of America is bringing the latest video game entry in its Nintendo 64 Pokemon franchise, Pokemon Stadium 3, to the U.S. as Pokemon Stadium Gold/Silver. Based on the wildly popular Game Boy titles, Stadium Gold/Silver brings fans of the original more options, minigames, and, of course, many more Pokemon. With the Game Boy Transfer pack shipped with Pokemon Stadium, you can upload your favorite roster of fighting Pokemon and pit them against the computer trainers, your friends, and each other in varying modes of competition.
Pokemon Stadium Gold/Silver offers three areas to explore and many different play modes. Foremost is a tournament mode, where your handpicked Pokemon challenges rival trainers for the Pokemon Cup. You can also explore a Pokemon city of sorts, where you can access your Game Boy Pokemon, attend class, visit the Pokemon laboratory, and challenge friends to battles or minigames.
There are 250 Pokemon on this extended roster, with Pokemon of varying levels - up to 100 - competing in different tournaments. In addition to the legendary dogs, the dark and steel-type Pokemon, and the babies, Stadium Gold/Silver features male and female versions of each Pokemon, with discernible trait differences between them. If you've never played any of the Game Boy titles, you'll still have a full roster of rental Pokemon available, so you won't miss out on the action.
The battles are nearly identical to those in Pokemon Stadium. Pokemon can fight, retreat, or surrender, and there are four different methods of attack available. Different attacks are aligned with different traits - such as fire, steel, and psychic - that dole out increasing or decreasing amounts of punishment based on the opposing Pokemon's type. Much of the strategy involved in battles is in knowing the strengths and weaknesses of different Pokemon types and in making the proper matchup, similar to an extended version of paper-rock-scissors. Each attack can be used a limited number of times, so prolonged battles or use of a single powerful Pokemon will quickly exhaust your resources. In this case, the switch command is used to bring in a reserve Pokemon to finish up the job. Tactical errors can sometimes be corrected with timely use of the switch, but, more often than not, the CPU or human opponent will make you pay dearly for it. Single-hit kills are quite frequent, and making a single mistake will often cost you a match. The matches are very simple, menu driven, and after a short while quite boring. Stadium Gold/Silver, like its predecessor, loses much of the charm associated with the story elements of the Game Boy titles, in favor of constant RPG combat.
Once you've had enough of the battles, Stadium Gold/Silver offers a number of other diversions. You can play Psyduck's Quiz Show, which tests your Pokemon knowledge, or you can compete in the requisite four-player minigame contests. Fans of the original Mario Party type minigames will enjoy the 12 new challenges and the creative use of their respective Pokemon's traits. There are games based on such classics as Mr. Mime Warlords and Eevee's take on Musical Chairs. One of the most interesting games pits Scythers and Pinsirs in an ancient, feudal Japanese-style competition, where the object is to chop a falling striped wooden log, by slicing it closer to the mark than your competitors without going over the mark or missing it entirely. While other party games are better executed, Stadium Gold/Silver is a pleasant change of pace from other party games that take themselves too seriously or are riddled with flaws; the use of the Pokemon characters lends quite a bit of flavor to some of its otherwise uninspired minigames.
If you would rather bone up on your Pokemon knowledge, you can attend class at Pokemon University, pore over the tomes of knowledge in the library, and take graded tests on this information. While younger players may benefit from the research and reading involved, the amount of information provided is rather extensive, and casual players will find this a bore to say the least.
Pokemon Stadium Gold/Silver is graphically very impressive. Characters are large and colorful, their attack animations are attractive if a bit boring, and, as a package, makes Pokemon look great in full 3D. The new Pokemon types and attack forms are represented well, steel-type Pokemon attacks being noticeable by a Terminator T1000 metal effect, for example. The interface is simple and attractive, and guidance onscreen is given by friendly anime characters familiar to fans of the series. The game's weakest point might just be in the sound department, with the glaring oversight of Pokemon voices, which are replaced with generic chirps, dings, and, more often than not, silence. The music accompanying battles is unremarkable, as is the soundtrack in general.
Younger players will definitely be pleased with the cute new characters, 3D battles, and minigames. Older fans of the Pokemon franchise may enjoy the many different things you can do in Stadium Gold/Silver, as Nintendo has done well with packing a lot of value onto this cartridge. While it does offer up-to-date enhancements to all the elements that made Stadium popular, it continues to lack originality or story.