Pokemon Snap
  • Genre:
    • Shoot 'Em Up
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo 64
  • Developer:
    • HAL
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 03/21/1999
    • US 06/30/1999
    • UK 09/15/2000
Score: 75%

This review was published on 03/30/2016.

Pokemon Snap is a video game published by Nintendo and developed by HAL Laboratory and Pax Softnica for the Nintendo 64. It was originally released in Japan on March 21, 1999, North America on June 30, 1999, and Europe on September 15, 2000. The game is a spinoff from the Pokemon series, which are normally role-playing games that revolve around the concept of capturing and battling creatures named Pokemon. This is one of the first Pokemon games released on a home console, and also one of the first Pokemon games to be rendered in real 3-D. Initially, Pokemon Snap began development as a Nintendo 64DD game; the 64DD was a magnetic disk drive peripheral for the N64. Due to the 64DD's poor sales, development of Pokemon Snap was shifted to the core system, where it eventually got released. During the game's heyday, Nintendo did a promotion that allowed people to take their Pokemon Snap cartridges to certain Blockbusters in the United States and Lawson stores in Japan to have either stickers or pictures printed. As for the game itself, it's original, but a bit too short and repetitive.

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Professor Oak, a researcher who has dedicated his life to studying the creatures known as Pokemon, is currently situated in an unusual island. This island is referred to as Pokemon Island, because it's inhabited by Pokemon that live mostly undisturbed by humans. The island contains a number of different climates, which allows it to support a large variety of Pokemon life. In order to further his research, Oak wishes to take photographs of the Pokemon in their natural habitats. For this special job, Oak calls for the assistance of a photographer specializing in Pokemon named Todd Snap. Oh, snap! Todd may be odd, but he sure likes cod. Oak gives Todd the ZERO-ONE, a versatile vehicle he invented to make exploration of the island much easier. As Todd, you'll be traveling across the island and taking candid pictures of its wild Pokemon, all in the name of science. Instead of capturing Pokemon in Poke Balls, you'll be capturing them on film. It'll be a snap!

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Controlling the ZERO-ONE is simple, in that you don't really control it. The vehicle automatically moves towards the current stage's goal gate on its own, so you have no direct control over its movement. This method of control, or lack thereof, is reminiscent of the Star Fox games. Basically, you're on rails, sometimes literally. It's similar to being on a Disneyland ride. While in the vehicle, you've got a first-person perspective, and you can look around using the analog stick. If you hold down the Z button and press A, you'll take a picture. It's like a first-person shooter, except you've got a camera instead of a gun. A little ways into the game, you gain the ability to throw apples and "Pester Balls" at the Pokemon. Apples lure Pokemon to a desired location and Pester Balls will annoy them, both of which may lead to better pictures. Considering you don't have to worry about movement, the controls in Pokemon Snap are easy to get the hang of.

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It's not enough to merely take pictures of Pokemon; you have to make sure the shots are actually good. Only sixty pictures can be taken in a single play through of a stage, and using up all the film prematurely ends the stage, so each one needs to count. After completing a stage, you select the best pictures to send to Oak for his evaluation. Each picture is rated based on certain factors, like how close the pictured Pokemon is, how well framed it is, its pose, and if there are multiples of the same Pokemon in one photo. Bonus points are awarded for snapping shots of Pokemon while they're doing something special, like catching a Pikachu on top of a surf board. Depending on how good your submitted pictures are, you'll get different scores. In addition to photographing a wide variety of Pokemon, getting good scores is also sometimes essential to making progress in the game. You may need to replay the same stage several times before you get enough points to move on. This can be frustrating, but it's pretty much the main objective of the game, and the only real source of challenge.

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There are a few different stages available for you to play in Pokemon Snap. Each stage has its own distinct theme, like a beach, tunnel, volcano, river, and valley. Since you can't usually control your movement or progress through a stage, the focus is entirely on the Pokemon. Every stage has different Pokemon to see, giving you more opportunities to complete your Pokemon photo gallery. The Pokemon will generally be minding their own business, sometimes engaging in comical activities with each other, like a Pikachu riding atop an Electrode that then explodes. Unfortunately, only 63 of the first 151 Pokemon are in this game, and that's more than a little disappointing. While each stage is indeed linear and on rails, some contain alternate paths you can take if you do special things. For instance, hitting an Electrode with an apple in the tunnel stage will cause it to explode, unlocking a secret exit that opens up a path to another stage. The game play is a bit minimalistic, but the stages are fun to experience at least once.

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Playing a new stage for the first time is an exciting event, but there's not much of that excitement to go around, because there are only seven. The game tries to make up for this shortcoming by forcing you to redo stages countless times. Because you don't start with all the items right off the bat, you'll have to revisit some stages later on in order to get everything. Further, as mentioned previously, you may have to retry stages if you don't get enough points the first time around. It's also not always clear what you'll need to do in order to make progress, as sometimes you'll have to locate secret exits instead of acquiring points. Oak will occasionally drop hints on which stages contain hidden paths, but you still have to find them yourself. As a result of all this cheap padding, the game can feel quite repetitive. Remove the padding, and Pokemon Snap doesn't have much else going for it. More actual stages could have alleviated this problem.

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Not many games are quite like Pokemon Snap. It's certainly a unique experience, but uniqueness doesn't always equate to goodness. While original, this still wasn't the full 3-D Pokemon RPG people wanted. You don't even get to see all of the original 151 Pokemon here, making this even more of a letdown. The game play is also somewhat shallow, as all you're really doing is pointing the camera at stuff and snapping pictures. Being able to throw apples and Pester Balls later on does add a bit more depth, but not enough. Then there's the padding that comes in the form of revisiting old stages for arbitrary reasons. Pokemon Snap is still a decent game with a creative concept, but that decentness doesn't extend too far. If there were more stages and more Pokemon to snap, then the game could have gone from being merely okay to pretty good.

Word Count: 1,218

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