The premise of the Pokémon Stadium games hasn't changed with the new sequel. Anyone who's ever played the original knows exactly what to expect with Pokémon Stadium 2. The main idea is still to take Pokémon trained on the Game Boy versions (which now include the most recent Gold and Silver ones) and transfer them over to the Nintendo 64 via the Transfer Pak so that they can battle in a much grander and more vivid three-dimensional arena. Players who don't have Pokémon to migrate over are allowed to enter limited rental ones into the different competitions that the game offers.

So if the main concept hasn't really changed, why is my rating for the sequel significantly higher than the original's? Here's the rundown:

The first reason is the additional and improved features. Both Stadium games offered multiplayer party-games as a break from all the monotonous battles, but I found the ones in Stadium 2 to be much more memorable and fun. As for new features, Stadium 2 includes encyclopedic databases and quizzes that enlighten the finer details of Pokémon in a classroom setting. Also new to the series is a bedroom that can be decorated with special found items and a virtual friend that a player can exchange 'mystery gifts' with daily. All of this may not add up to a cohesive and satisfying gaming experience, but as part-activity center and part-Pokémon theme park, Stadium 2 has more to do than its predecessor.

The second reason I rated Stadium 2 higher was that the Pokémon organizer's features proved much more useful on this go around. With over five different versions of Pokémon currently on the market and another one just released, some sort of a conduit between all the versions is almost a necessity. Stadium 2 makes transfers of Pokémon from one color version to another, trades with other trainers, box movement, and long-term storage of Pokémon much easier to manage.

The last reason for my change of heart towards the Stadium series is due to my own personal expectations of the title. When I first played Stadium 1, I was totally surprised at how much the game was tied into the Red and Blue Game Boy titles. I was expecting something more of a stand-alone title and wasnt prepared to have to train all kinds of different Pokémon at various levels to enter into the various tournaments. Not surprisingly, my performance in the game was sub par and I had a terrible experience.

So when the Gold and Silver Game Boy titles were released, in the back of my mind I always knew that I would end up playing the next entry in the Stadium series. As such, when I played through the Gold/Silver version, I made sure to collect more diverse groups of Pokémon and to keep ones trained at various levels rather than just maxing each and every one out. So when Stadium 2 was finally released, not only was I better prepared this time around, I was actually excited. It was almost as if I wanted revenge against the computer who had previously whooped my ass.

Is it fair to base my rating on something as subjective as my prior expectation? Probably not, but the reality is that expectations play a huge factor when evaluating anything. This may not be the most scientific method of review, but then again, this isn't rocket science either. I tried to convey my experience with the game as accurately as possible and I plainly documented what transpired. Also keep in mind that my expectations was only one of three reasons why I liked Stadium 2 more than the original. Stadium 2 isn't exactly what I would classify as an amazing and thoroughly satisfying videogame experience, but for what it is, it is more successful than its predecessor and should keep diehard fans happy and the franchise cash cow flowing. Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui
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