Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 07/18/08

Pokemon are even being harassed by the paparazzi now!

Back during the days of the Nintendo 64, the Pokemon craze was really getting hot. The classic Game Boy titles had created plenty of new Nintendo and RPG fans and the TV show had the attention of every kid in American every single Saturday morning so they could watch the adventures of Ash and his Pokemon friends. Nintendo knew they had created something extraordinary, a fad that had quite literally won the attention of the world. So, what better way to make some quick bucks than plug the characters into a shallow game about taking pictures?

While this may have been the intentions of Nintendo, Pokemon Snap actually ends up being a pretty entertaining game that, while it is ultimately a very shallow experience, it is still worth your time, especially if you are a fan of Pokemon.

Pokemon Snap is an on-rails game that is about taking pictures of little creatures that everyone has come to love. Since it is on-rails, the view is in first-person and your camera is in the form of a reticule on screen. When you want to take a picture, all you have to do is hold down the Z button and then hit A. When a Pokemon is in the center of the photo, the reticule will turn red, and the C buttons can be used for some quick turning if you need it.

Various items are at your disposal in order to make the Pokemon do different things or to give you the opportunity to snap pictures of Pokemon that previously couldn’t be seen. These items are earned by reaching a point goal in the game with your photos, but they aren’t hard to earn and are easy to use. You’ll earn an unlimited supply of apples that you can throw at Pokemon to lure them closer to you or to piss them off and you also get a ball that spews a purple mist that will make a Pokemon come out of hiding. Fans of the RPG games will be glad to learn that the flute from those games makes an appearance as an item in Pokemon Snap as well with similar uses.

Your photos are given points based on a few things. The Pokemon’s pose, how big the Pokemon looks in the picture, and if there are other Pokemon in the picture are just some of the things that your photos are judged on. This means that if you want to earn the highest scores possible, you’ll really have to think strategically when you are going through the stages.

At the end of each stage you are given the opportunity to choose which pictures you want to present to Professor Oak and which pictures you want to keep in your gallery to view whenever you feel the need. You can only choose one photo of a certain Pokemon to show to Professor Oak. If have a photo of a new Pokemon it will tell you and if you have already presented a picture of a certain Pokemon to Professor Oak, the pictures will be compared and if the new picture is better, it is automatically chosen over the previous picture, but if it is worse, you have a choice of which picture you’d like to keep.

There are only seven stages in Pokemon Snap, which is a huge disappointment, and the way you progress through the game is kind of weird. Sometimes you’ll have to find a secret path and other times the game will just let you go to the next level simply by completing the stage before it. For example, you might have to make a Pokemon step on a button in order to reveal the way to the next level.

You can interact with the Pokemon in other ways than just taking pictures of them and you can influence their actions. For example, by hitting some Pokemon with an item you will tick them off and cause them to use their powers, which may activate something in the level. There are even times when you can trick Pokemon into attacking each other or cause a Pokemon to evolve by various means.

All three of the legendary birds appear in Pokemon Snap, but they are hidden in eggs that you have to figure out how to destroy. However, they aren’t the only weird things you can take pictures of as there are also weird landmarks hidden throughout the stages that resemble Pokemon. Only by finding all of these landmarks and taking pictures of them are you allowed to go to the final stage.

The previous sentence should have warned you that you will be revisiting stages you’ve already completed multiple times. Thankfully, you’ll never feel really all that bored because you will discover some new things about the levels each time you go through them and new items you gain will definitely open up more possibilities for you. Still, it’s unfortunate that more levels weren’t included in the game.

Professor Oak wants some pictures of Pokemon so he can learn about them more. He decides this huge island with plenty of odd geographical differences every couple of miles will suit well for some picture taking. He enlists the help of a fellow named Todd to take these pictures in a specially designed vehicle. That’s seriously about it for the story which really could have had a lot more to it than it does.

Even though the textures are a little bit bad to look at, Pokemon Snap has gorgeous graphics. Environments are varied and they all have their own atmosphere, their own feel. There are no glitches at all that I could find, but there was some minor pop-up every now and then. Seeing the Pokemon rendered in full 3D and roaming around is breathtaking and quite honestly the dream of any huge fan of Pokemon. Snap is also able to fit quite a lot of Pokemon on the screen at one time which is always a good sign that some attention was played to the graphics.

Here’s where Pokemon Snap kinda goes down hill a little. The audio is ridiculously bad as the music is annoying and unmemorable, which is disappointing since the music found in the traditional handheld RPGs are the greatest video game musical scores this side of Super Mario Bros. Pokemon sound effects get the job done, but Professor Oak sounds like creepy, like a combination of a Middle-Easterner and a pedophile. You can only hear “Wonderful!” and “You were close!” so many times in a weird accent until you just want to throw your Nintendo 64 across the room.

Another thing about Pokemon Snap that holds it back from earning a higher score is that it is incredulously short and there isn’t much replayability. Completing the game in its entirety can take about half an hour to an hour, which is really pathetic. There isn’t really anything to unlock either so after you complete the game, there really isn’t much left to do. So, you’re probably wondering how I gave a game that can be completed in less than an hour an average score. Well, the thing is, you’ll keep going through those same seven levels over and over about a million times before you get bored of it because you’ll want to see all of the secrets and learn all of the tricks. You’ll want to manipulate the Pokemon in new ways and find out how to take the best pictures. This is what saves Pokemon Snap from being a terrible game and makes it an average title that does have some fun to be had.

Fans of Pokemon will probably swallow this game whole, but other gamers may not like it. Honestly, due to its bad audio, lack of a story, and technically no replayability, I’m surprised I like the game as much as I do. The thing is, Pokemon Snap’s simple gameplay and short length work together to provide an experience that’s worth going over again and again. Sure, the audio quality could be better but it’s still awe-inspiring to see the Pokemon roam around in 3D, no longer confined to the small screen of the Game Boy. While there isn’t much to really unlock, it’s still loads of fun to spend hours going through the stages repeatedly, discovering all of its hidden treasures. Pokemon Snap is a fun and simple title that while it may not be the next revolutionary step in gaming, but it is still a fun experience that should definitely be checked out by any crazy Pokemon fan or any gamer in general despite its flaws.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

Product Release: Pokemon Snap (US, 06/30/99)

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