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Pokemon Snap (Nintendo 64) artwork

Pokemon Snap (Nintendo 64) review

"I watched the TV series, I got the games, I collected the cards, I played with the toys, I read the books, and I went to see the movies. (The first movie is still one of the only movies that ever made me cry, and DON'T PRETEND LIKE YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.) And even though I missed out on Hey You, Pikachu (oh dear?), I was able to get the other non-RPG N64 Pokémon game, Pokémon Snap."

As a young, impressionable 8-year old back in '99, and also a recently converted Pokémon fan, I wanted everything that had anything to do with Pokémon (much to my parents’ dismay). I watched the TV series, I got the games, I collected the cards, I played with the toys, I read the books, and I went to see the movies. (The first movie is still one of the only movies that ever made me cry, and DON'T PRETEND LIKE YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT.) And even though I missed out on Hey You, Pikachu (oh dear?), I was able to get the other non-RPG N64 Pokémon game, Pokémon Snap. And while there wasn't a whole lot to the game, what was there, was crazily addictive.

You play as Todd, a young, aspiring photographer, who actually appeared in the anime for a little while, but nobody really remembered him. (Was Tracy not available?) He's been employed by Professor Oak to take pictures of all of the Pokémon on Pokémon Island. Oak sends you on this suicide; I mean epic quest with a machine called the Zero-One, a vehicle that moves along a track that leads to a portal back to Oak's Lab. This sort of begs the question: If Oak is the one who's critiquing your pictures, he must have some photography experience, so instead of building these long, elaborate courses, why didn't he just take the pictures himself?

The gameplay is that of a fairly simple rail shooter, only instead of a gun, you have a camera, and instead of things becoming dead, they smile, pose, call their friends over, and make funny faces. Simply press the Z button to look through the camera, the control stick to look around and find a Pokémon, and the A button to take your picture. But, that's not all there is to it. A lot of factors go into your picture's score. For example, a Pokémon that's facing you will score way more points than one that isn't. If the Pokémon is doing something interesting, like eating fruit, interacting with another Pokémon, or showing off, it will be worth more than if it's just standing there, looking at you like an idiot.

But, the Zero-One isn't permanently stuck to the rails. In a few missions, the Zero-One can turn into a raft and float in water, and at other times it can fly, so you can go through caves and clouds. But, even with all of these capabilities, the game designers saw fit to only put 7 levels in the game, one of which has only one Pokémon in the entire level. The last time I played this game, I went through every level, took a picture of every Pokémon, found all the Easter eggs, and finished all the post-game content in less than 3 hours. And seeing as how I've gone back and played the game multiple times, the concept hasn't outstayed its welcome. So, a few more hours of playtime wouldn't have been a bad decision, especially since not even half of the Generation 1 Pokémon were used in this game. I'm not saying they needed every Pokémon, but seriously. None of the Eeveelutions (although they did have Eevee)? None of the Nidos? No Onix? No Aerodactyl or Kabutops? No Gengar? No Tentacruel? Neither of Pokémon’s original mascots, Clefairy or Poliwhirl? HAL dropped the ball on that one.

But, the Pokémon that are in the game do get some very entertaining moments, like when Pikachu is riding on top of an Articuno, or when you throw an apple in front of two hungry Magmars and they use Flamethrower on each other over it. But, don't think this is just some no challenge game designed for mentally-deficient four year olds. In order to "catch 'em all", you're going to actually have to think a little bit. For example, in one of the later levels, you'll find a Mankey early on. Taking a picture of it won't result in a ton of points, however, if throw a certain item near it, it will set into motion a chain of events that will eventually lead to one of the most exciting moments in the game. And there's something like this in every level, so the game really encourages exploration and trying new things.

One of the things I really liked about the game was going back to early levels with all of your new toys, and finding all the Pokemon you weren't able to find before. For example, in the first level, there a big mound that if you just take a picture of it, it will just say "?". But, if you come back later, with some extra accessories, which are given to you by the good professor whenever you reach certain objectives, you can get a picture of it for massive points.

If I have to compare this game to another one (and this may sound crazy), it might be Portal. Both titles are short games that get straight to the point. Both are built on a single, simple idea. Both have a final boss against the single thing that’s been driving you since the opening cutscene. (OK, so a lot of games are like that, it’s still a similarity.) And finally, both games are just plain fun that will leave you wanting more once the credits start to roll. (Also, the credits screen for both games is pretty cool.) Pokémon Snap is available on the Wii Virtual Console, so if you want a fun, little game that will take up a couple of hours of your time, give it a look.

Before I go, I just realized that both of my reviews so far have been HAL Laboratories games. Next time, Super Smash Bros. Melee! Or maybe not.

nickyv917's avatar
Community review by nickyv917 (January 28, 2012)

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honestgamer posted January 29, 2012:

It's surprising how many people seem to have played and loved this game. There are quite a few reviews for it on the site now, and overall I'd say the impression is a positive one. I remember when the game first came out, I thought to myself that it looked quite stupid. That rash judgment seems to have caused me to miss out on an experience that I might have loved. I'm not sure that trying it out now would go well for me. It seems like the sort of game that wouldn't age well.
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nickyv917 posted January 29, 2012:

Yea, a lot of this game's love has to do with nostalgia. That's why people have been asking for Pokemon Snap 2 for the 3DS.
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yamishuryou posted January 29, 2012:

And because Pokemon Snap is a badass game.
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zippdementia posted January 29, 2012:

It's actually still quite fun, Jason, on its own merits. The concept was very solid and the levels are quite dynamic. The only place that it's significantly aged are the graphics, but even that's not too bad because it's a pokemon game and, well, you just don't expect that much. The music is awesome, too.

If you can find a copy, I'd highly recommend picking it up.
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zippdementia posted January 29, 2012:

Or rather, just download it on the Wii console. Just read that, sorry!

Not a bad review, Nicky! My only point of contention with the review is that I wish you'd hinted more at the Gyrados segment and not fully given it away. Not only does that spoil it for people who never played the game, but it's more powerful when you tell someone "try doing this in this level and see what happens!" then it is when you spoil the surprise.

But otherwise, I enjoyed taking your little trip to the past.
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nickyv917 posted January 29, 2012:

Thanks for the advice zipp, I just figured that since the game is as old as it is, and in a series as big as Pokemon, most people knew about it. Quick edit in progress.
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zippdementia posted January 30, 2012:

I don't mean to keep being critical... tell me to stop if at any time you get tired of it. I don't think you've really changed the nature of that revealing line, though, only lessened its power. I wasn't talking about necesarily taking out the steps to reveal Gyrados, just more the reveal itself. Something like... well, here, let's see...

"There's one example fairly late in the game where you ride past a Makey who seems to be innocently bouncing around on the shore. Firstimers in the level may think he's just there to get some pics of. Throw an apple at him, play the flute and get him to dance, try all the usual tricks and you may get some nice pictures, true, but the real purpose of the Mankey is a little more involved.

I won't spoil the fun and reveal all the steps necessary to unlock this secret, but I'll tell you it may involve the magikarp you can draw up from the river's surface with a few pester balls. When all is said and done, the trick spans more than half of the stage with little steps to take here and there. The prize for successful completion of the steps is an impressive display of one of the series' largest Pokémons. Every stage has some little secret like this as well as less involving ones.

As you get more and more special equipment from Dr. Oak, you'll find yourself revisiting stages you thought you were done with to see if something new in your inventory will reveal some cool new Pokémon or get an old Pokémon to use a new power. And rarely will the game disappoint."
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nickyv917 posted January 30, 2012:

It's OK (it's the only way I'll get better). I'll see if I can change it around a little bit more.

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