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Pokémon Snap

by Neal Ronaghan - March 8, 2011, 7:11 am PST
Total comments: 4

Pokémon and photography go together like peanut butter and jelly.

If you've never played Pokémon Snap, which came out on Nintendo 64 in 1999, you wouldn't be crazy for thinking it's a stupid idea. On paper, taking pictures of Pokémon doesn't sound exciting. However, Nintendo and HAL Laboratory managed to make Pokémon Snap one of the best spin-off titles in the series, capturing the joy and exploration of photography with classic Pokémon tropes.

In the title, you step in the shoes of Todd Snap (yes, that is his name) and pilot the Zero-One, a buggy that can go on pre-determined paths at a constant speed. Professor Oak assigns you with the task of taking pictures of Pokémon on a mysterious island. You have to go through seven different courses and take good pictures of different critters by taking advantage of different scenarios and events in each stage. For example, in one level, a Charmeleon dances around a lava pit and you have to knock him into the fiery hole so he will evolve into a Charizard. In another stage, you have to use the Poké Flute to wake up a sleeping Snorlax.

Check out that Charizard!

The game has a trial-and-error puzzle element to it, as you have to learn how to use different tools, which you earn as you progress through the game, such as apples, pesters balls, and the aforementioned flute. It fully captures a sense of environmental exploration as you have to figure out the best way to set up different Pokémon for a picture, or find a way to get the Pokémon out in the wild for a photograph.

If there's one complaint I have with Pokémon Snap, it is that it is too short. The six main courses are filled with secrets, but there are still only six of them, and the secret final course is just a venue to photograph Mew. Still, there are so many things to admire about this game that its brevity isn't a big deal, especially since you can get it for 1,000 Wii Points ($10) on Virtual Console.

Pikachu and Diglett just straight trippin'

It is a damn shame that we haven't seen a sequel to Pokémon Snap on Wii. The pointer controls would be flat-out wonderful with this game. Until that happens, I'll just continue making use of the ability to upload pictures to my Wii Message Board in the Virtual Console version.

Images

Talkback

RazorkidMarch 08, 2011

Such an underrated game! I too wanted it to come to the Wii due to pointer control. But now I would prefer if they made a 3DS sequel instead.

It would work well with a DS/3DS touch screen, as well. This is one of those classic games that sounds idiotic at first blush, but it makes total sense and becomes addictive when you actually play it.

If they did 3DS, they could make it an AR game, where you have to find Pokemon in real-life environments, bringing it closer to a realized Pokemon catching experience.

Ian SaneMarch 08, 2011

The problem with this game is that it's too short.  My brother, the Pokenut, got everything out of it in a weekend rental.  Back in the days of the N64 when every game cost at least $10 more than the average Playstation game and releases were so thin that months could go by with nothing worth a damn being released, a game of this length just didn't fly.  You wasn't fun to wait months and months for something to play and when something finally came along you saw 100% of it in only a few days.  It actually would work far better in today's context where a short title can be released as a downloadable title for a lower price.

Though what would really help this out is if they added a random element to it.  Instead of being on track, you can move around freely and explore.  Instead of specific set pieces, the different Pokemon have their own AI and just wander around the area doing their thing.  You then have to sneak up on them to take photos without scaring them away, like a real nature photographer would.  With that kind of design the game could have considerable replay value.

It's funny the suggestion of a Wii version because of the pointer.  Pokemon Snap is more or less a non-violent on-rails shooter.  So of course it's perfect for the Wii. ;)  But I would think such a design would be a waste.  There is so much more that can be done with this concept.

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