Review by Malorkus

Reviewed: 06/02/17

Snap judgment.

Pokemon Snap is a first-person shooter where you shoot Pokemon. Think about it. People will joke that they want a Pokemon shooting game, but the fact is that one has existed since 1999. It’s just in a much less violent fashion than you may expect. The Pokemon craze had officially hit fever pitch outside Japan, but the games were still restricted to portables. Fans who owned a Nintendo 64 were chomping at the bit to see their favorite creatures in 3D. Pokemon Snap would be the first opportunity for this, being a photography adventure for players to see how these Pokemon would behave in the wild. On an innovation level, the game is a very creative concept, as to this day, photography simulators have never really taken off. Unfortunately, it’s also one that was blatantly rushed to meet the high demand for a home console Pokemon title. The result is a half-finished game that could have been amazing with another year in the oven, and instead, is like pulling your food out of the oven still raw.

Professor Oak has entrusted your curly-haired character to take photos of all the Pokemon that reside on the island in question. There are six “courses” that you will visit in your vehicle, which is on rails, as you attempt to snap the best photo of every Pokemon. Photos will be scored based on how close the Pokemon is to your photo, as well as how centered it is, proving this is a truly bizarre universe where the rule of thirds does not exist. Since you cannot leave your vehicle, you will need to wait for each Pokemon to make its closest approach, and you will eventually earn the ability to toss apples to draw them closer to you. Since you are constantly moving and have many different scenarios to both witness and create (such as angering a Pokemon by beaning their noggins), you can expect to trek through each course many repeated times. You can slow down your vehicle but never come to a complete halt, and the game uses this trick to extend its own longevity, especially with such a paltry number of courses.

Indeed, Pokemon Snap is a ridiculously short game, even when counting full completion and the countless times you will need to replay each course. There were 151 Pokemon at the time of this game’s release. So then why are there only around 60 Pokemon in the game? The fact that you can only see well less than half the existing Pokemon reeks of a game that was rushed out to meet the peak hype of sales, which is a damn shame. More importantly, the fact that you have so few creatures to scope out only exacerbates how quickly this little adventure if over, and remember that this game cost $50 back in the day. Granted, to find a few of these Pokemon, you need to employ some clever tactics, like knocking them into a pool to evolve. But even neat tricks like this become predictable quickly, as you learn to do the same things repeatedly to find that one evolution you are missing.

This brings me to Pokemon Snap’s next issue - repetition. Since each stage is on rails and you can never come to a full stop to perfectly capture moments or poses you need, you will be seeing the exact same scenarios over and over again as you replay courses. That Electrode exploding in that Electabuzz’s face is amusing the first time, but not so much the tenth time. The times when Pokemon Snap presents a unique way to find creatures to you, like having a Diglett follow an apple trail to merge into a Dugtrio, happen far too infrequently. The photo scoring system has its issues too. You can only select one photo of each Pokemon for Oak to grade, discarding your others before receiving said grade. Since Oak’s grading system can be weird to predict, the photo that you personally think is best may not actually be the best of your batch, making your selection somewhat of a game of chance.

Pokemon Snap frustrates me for multiple reasons, the biggest being that it is a marvelous concept for a game, and is the skeleton of a truly innovative and creative title. And that’s the problem - it’s a skeleton, and practically a tech demo at points. The game suffers from an extreme lack of content, which it even largely masks by making you replay the same courses dozens of times to draw out its already paltry length. Featuring just over a third of the original critters, Pokemon Snap ignores the franchise’s hot “Gotta catch ‘em all!” slogan at the time in favor of “Gotta rush this out to milk the most money!” as if the series was going to be a quick flash in the fad pan. (Spoiler: It was not.) It is repetitive and predictable, yet could have been great if revisited on a later system, which never transpired. As is, Pokemon Snap remains wasted potential that served to capitalize on consumer cash while the next RPG was still brewing. Its uniqueness gives it some cult status, but it’s a mere snapshot of what could have been.

Rating:   2.5 - Playable

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

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