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A trainer can trade with any person, him or herself or with trainers in the games. All a trainer needs to trade is two compatible game cartridges, two of the system it is on (Game Boys/Game Boy Colors for Generations I and II, Game Boy Advances for Generation III and DSes for Generation IV), a link cable for connecting the two systems (or a GBA Wireless Adapter for trades between FireRed, LeafGreen, and Emerald) and at least one Pokémon. In Generation IV, Pokémon can also be traded via the Global Trade Station in Jubilife City, though this requires at least two Pokémon, just in case the player is to offer their only one and thus be left with none in their party.
Generations I and II are the only generations capable of trading with each other, requiring use of the Time Capsule in generation II, and placing certain restrictions on the conditions of the trade. Generations I and II are incompatible with III and IV, while Pokémon are permanently transferred rather than traded between III and IV.
All trading occurs with a special animation, where the player says goodbye to their Pokémon before putting it in their ball and sending it to the other player, and then receiving the Pokémon from the other player and greeting it. In Generations I and II, this is done one at a time, but in generations III and IV, both players send and receive Pokémon at the same time, which is accompanied by a closeup of the two Pokémon as the pass by each other.
Trading also gives Pokémon an advantage in growth. A traded Pokémon gains 1.5x the experience after a Pokémon battle, which allows a traded Pokémon to level up faster. Pokémon traded from outside of one's own country will gain 2x the experience.
Attaching items to Pokémon to be traded is allowed, so others can receive items that they need. Mail in particular is designed specifically to be attached to Pokémon in order to send messages when trading. Certain items, when held by the correct Pokémon, will trigger an evolution when traded to another player.
Pokémon which evolve when traded
Many of these Pokémon also require an item to be held by them at the time of trading for their evolution to take place.
From Generation I
From Generation II
- Poliwhirl → Politoed (if King's Rock is held)
- Slowpoke → Slowking (if King's Rock is held)
- Onix → Steelix (if Metal Coat is held)
- Seadra → Kingdra (if Dragon Scale is held)
- Scyther → Scizor (if Metal Coat is held)
- Porygon → Porygon2 (if Up-Grade is held)
From Generation III
From Generation IV
- Rhydon → Rhyperior (if Protector is held)
- Electabuzz → Electivire (if Electirizer is held)
- Magmar → Magmortar (if Magmarizer is held)
- Porygon2 → Porygon-Z (if Dubious Disc is held)
- Dusclops → Dusknoir (if Reaper Cloth is held)
Trades in the Anime
Despite it being one of the key aspects of the games, trading is unusually rare in the anime. Only a few trades have taken place, and only two of them thus far have been truly significant. Fans have often speculated about the reason for this. Rather than simply exchanging Pokémon, most trades are carried out by placing Poké Balls into a specialized trading machine, with a monitor that displays silhouettes of the two Pokémon as they pass each other.
- In Battle Aboard the St. Anne, Ash traded his Butterfree for a Gentleman's Raticate. He wasn't happy with the trade, however, so he traded it back by the end of the episode.
- In Tricks of the Trade, Jessie unintentionally traded her Lickitung for Benny's Wobbuffet.
- In Here's Lookin' at You, Elekid, James is forced by Jessie to trade his Victreebel for the Magikarp Salesman's Weepinbell (which later evolved into another Victreebel, and would end up being kicked away by Jessie anyway).
- In Throwing the Track Switch, Ash traded his Aipom for Dawn's Buizel.