PokéBase - Pokémon Q&A
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I need to know if I should pay attention to what Pokemon my Lotad/Lombre battle.

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The EV system was completely overhauled in Generation III (Ruby/Sapphire). Prior to that, battling a Pokemon would give you Effort Values equal to its stats. - The Pokemon Database EV Section

So yeah, they existed, and work just like they do in the present games.

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