The year is 1999…Pokemon Red and Blue had just released…The world was getting swept up in Poke-mainia…So what did Nintendo think to do to drive up further interest? Create a photography game.
…Yup. In this day and age, it sounds ridiculous – Think of if a modern franchise such as Yokai Watch, Overwatch or LEGO Dimensions created a standalone photography game? It would be slammed by critics, dismissed, and called nothing but a cash cow…But how did Pokemon Snap get away with it? Let alone gear up thousands of fans to rally together to demand a sequel? Well, intrigued readers, let’s find out!
Pokemon Snap, originally released for the N64 was a very…Bizarre game, poised at a very bizarre time in Nintendo’s life where they were focusing a lot on experimentation; the game is as it sounds – An on-rails shooter where players have to take photographs of a meagre 63 Pokemon from the original 151, where players can earn points according to the ‘quality’ of their photographs. Sounds…Underwhelming to today’s expectations.
However, as fans are quick to point out to nay-sayers, the charm of the game doesn’t lie in the quantity of Pokemon, but rather in the environments, animations and events you can explore and trigger; Pokemon Snap, being an on-rails shooter, has seven levels, Beach, Tunnel, Volcano, River, Cave, Valley, and the special course “Rainbow Cloud”, which housed only Mew. Each photograph taken of a Pokemon earns you points, which are used to unlock new levels and items to use, such as a “Pester Ball” which annoys Pokemon, to food to attract local Pokemon – Admittedly, Pokemon Snap starts off on a rather meagre note, having only your trusty camera by your side to take photographs…It’s not as exciting as you may think. Upon unlocking the Pester Ball, however, things start to get a bit more complex…
See, the Pester Ball, as the name suggests, annoys Pokemon in unique ways, with all 63 included Pokemon having unique animations for food, being annoyed, etc; there’s a lot to experiment with in your brief 3-10 second encounters with these monsters – One good example would be throwing an apple to attract local Meowth and Pidgey, only to have the Pidgey attack the Meowth territorially over the food; small moments like this add charm and character to the game, whilst boosting up your earned points like crazy, and keeps you on your toes as to what exactly the best photograph scenarios are.
Back onto my point about the environments, for a nearly 20-year old game, this little title does somewhat hold up to today, at least better than a lot of other games released at this time – Environments are varied, with flora, boulders, machinery and crystals scattered around the various levels to break up some of the repetitive nature of the rail tracks.
So why are fans so eager for a sequel? Would this sort of game work in the modern day? Well…Personally I believe that it would work especially well, given Nintendo’s latest releases with the Wii U and upcoming Nintendo Switch, the two consoles would work perfectly in pushing out a perfect sequel to Pokemon Snap – Think about it for a minute; being able to use your Wii U / Switch gamepad as the actual camera, with gyroscope functionality on both devices, you could even take the game with you and explore different regions, such as Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, Kalos and Alola, each with different zones and Pokemon. Obviously not every single Pokemon would make it into the game, however it would be a considerable amount, considering the limited 63 in the original.
Personally, I loved Pokemon Snap, and still have my boxed copy of the game to this day to heart, and play it from time to time – The game, if I’m honest, hasn’t aged up to the modern day, however the core ideals, mechanics and detail could definitely work within the expanded reaches of the modern world – I mean, just look at Pokemon Go! I would love to see Nintendo revamp this small spin-off, and re-ignite the creative photographers in all of us.