Review by Jerrynsteph4eva

Reviewed: 05/08/12

Gotta catch 'em all...on film! (Well, 63 of them anyway)

Pokemon Snap, believe it or not, did not start life as a Pokemon spin off. Instead, it started off as a basic Nintendo project that featured the main protagonist taking pictures without a clear, set direction. Fortunately, Pokemon mania swept the nation and the team was given a new direction for their gameplay. Soon, Pokemon Snap was unveiled to the world and the first Pokemon spin off game was born.

My friends and I, already swept up in the mass Pokemon hysteria that was infecting the world in the late 90s, first saw pictures of Pokemon Snap in Nintendo Power and we drooled over the sightings of our favorite Pokemon in 3D. When the game came out, my friends and I eagerly played through it and beat it very quickly, pointing out new 3D Pokemon we found and how awesome it was, which was amplified by the nature of the gameplay. We even could bring in Pokemon Snap to our local Blockbuster and use a special station there to print out physical copies of our favorite pictures! However, in the confusion of seeing all our favorites in a new, 64 bit dimension, we seemed to ignore the gameplay and after Pokemon Stadium was released, Snap seemed to us just a simple preview for the newest 3D title. Soon after, most everyone I knew forgot about this interesting side game.

Skip forward to the Wii, where Nintendo rereleased Pokemon Snap for its Virtual Console service. Remembering the fun times I had playing this game with friends (and the added feature of saving snapshots to the Wii board to send to friends), I decided to purchase the game and see how it held up. While playing the game certainly brought back many memories, the main question is “How does the game hold up?” Read on.

Pokemon Snap is a game made by Hal Labs (yes, the creators of Smash Bros and Kirby) that has you playing as Todd Snap, a famous photographer hired by Professor Oak to help him with his research. Having discovered Pokemon Island, a place filled with nothing but Pokemon, he wants you to go in and photograph the Pokemon there for him, rather than hiring a trainer who would be tempted to catch them. Armed with your trusty camera, Oak sends you out in his Zero-One vehicle to capture photographs of all the Pokemon on Pokemon Island.

The gameplay itself is pretty addicting and is pretty much a rail shooter. Rather than explore a virtual 3D world looking for the Pokemon, you ride in Zero One, which putters along the course until you reach the end. Along the way, Pokemon will surround you, usually doing something noteworthy (such as Pikachu playing with Magnemite) and you can take pictures of them, though many will be unavailable at the start. Using your camera (which has a limited amount of film), you take pictures of the surrounding Pokemon until you reach the end of the course. Once finished, you can then choose which pictures you’d like to keep for yourself in your gallery (which Wii users can save and send to their friends) and which ones you’d like to show to Professor Oak (of which you can only keep one per Pokemon).

After selecting which shots you’d like to show Oak, he will then grade them based on how close you are to the Pokemon (though if the Pokemon goes outside the edges you’ll nullify the shot), how centered your shot is, how many Pokemon are in the shot and the particular pose of the Pokemon. Any new pictures he approves will then be added to a Pokedex-like photo album called the “Pokemon Report”. If you choose a picture of a Pokemon you’ve already catalogued in the Pokemon Report, the pictures will be compared and the better one will be kept (unless you choose to replace it with the worse one).

After you’ve reached a certain total score, you can unlock new items and courses (though some courses are unlocked through exploration). The new items can be used to draw out Pokemon that were unavailable before (such as Magikarp, which requires throwing an apple into water), trigger evolutions of Pokemon around (such as knocking Charmeleon into a lava pit), get them to react in a certain way (such as Electrode exploding) or simply get Pokemon to come closer for a better scoring picture. You’ll be replaying the courses many times in an attempt to photograph each Pokemon, get better scores and find hidden exits to unlock new courses (which each have new Pokemon to photograph).

One of the main reasons this game was so great in the 90s was the 3D Pokemon appearances and they’re still cool to this day, but the graphics are certainly showing their age. However, for the time they were made, the graphics are pretty good and the courses are varied enough that it doesn’t feel like the same levels over and over. Fans of the TV show will also enjoy hearing the voices of their favorite actors and actresses throughout the game as it no longer uses the chip sounds as Pokemon cries.

The game also offers up a bit of replayability, as you’ll have to replay many of the levels to complete your Pokemon Report and when you’re finished you can always delete your save and restart (or simply replay all the levels and see if you can beat your high scores).

While the gameplay may be fun and unique, there are many downfalls to this game. The biggest problem that you’ll notice almost immediately is the length. With only seven different courses, this game can be beaten in its entirety in an afternoon, even an hour or two if you know what you’re doing. While the game has good replayability, that is extremely pathetic, even for fans of the series and is almost a killing blow for non-Pokemon fans.

Another feature that fans will point out is the lack of Pokemon in the game with only 63 of the 151 (at the time) appearing in the game (with six appearing only as “Signs”). That’s less than half! Had they not been in such a rush to release the game, there’s no doubt that all 151 could have made it into the game in some way and it’s disappointing to think about how much better the game could have been had they spent a little more time working on it. While the ones you do see will make you yearn for more, you’ll have to get Pokemon Stadium to view all 151 in 3D.

All in all, Pokemon Snap features unique gameplay that’s fun while it lasts, but should have stayed in development for a few more months so they could have added new courses and the rest of the Pokemon to the game. With its short length, this game feels almost like a demo or a test for the 3D animators to prepare for Stadium and it’s hard to recommend this title for the amount of money Nintendo wants for it (even the $10 on the Virtual Console). While it’s certainly worth playing through, it will only keep you entertained for a few hours (and a few more when you come across the game later in life) and for that it’s only worth renting.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Pokemon Snap (US, 12/10/07)

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