Welcome, one and all, to the April edition of In Desperate Need of Love, the posting that showers praise on the overlooked gems of the video game world. Today, I am doing something that I rarely do: being slightly hypocritical. You see, when Pokémon GO came out, I was less than impressed. Aside from not wanting to go walking outside to play Pokémon, I had (and still do have) real issues with the way the game works. For one, both the battle and levelling up systems are a far cry from the main series games. Oh, and then there’s the lack of an overarching plot. Nope, Pokémon GO is not for me, simply because it just doesn’t feel like a proper Pokémon game. So, with that in mind, this article will focus on the joy that is the 1999 N64 classic, Pokémon Snap.
“But … that’s not a proper Pokémon game either,” I hear you say (or rather, I hear the rational part of my brain say). Well, no, it’s not. If you never experienced this game, it was essentially on on-rails shooter where, rather than trying to kill or disable enemies, you were tasked with snapping photos of Pokémon for Professor Oak to use as an accompaniment to his research. That’s right, the game basically saw you moving your camera lens around the screen and trying to take the best shots that you could of the Pokémon inhabiting each level.
So, no battles, no levelling up your beasties, and no major plot. Why then do I feel that this game needs a little more love, while I openly scorn Pokémon GO for lacking the same things? While I will admit that part of it is nostalgia, there is a bit more at play here. First and foremost, Pokémon GO always felt like it was trying to be similar to the main series to me. Pokémon Snap makes no bones about being a simple spin-off of little consequence. That gives it a +1 in my eyes because it’s not even close to pretending to be something that it’s not. There’s also a lot more going on in the game than many will likely remember, and it’s those things that I want to focus on here.
When the game starts, you are armed with nothing more than a simple camera and a willingness to snap what shots you can. To that end, the first level gives you a fair taster of what’s to come throughout your journey. From the Lapras hiding in the background that you need to snap before it disappears, to the sleeping Snorlax, and finally to the battle between Meowth and the Pidgey, there are lots of little things that are either easy to miss or that hint at needing to redo the level. And replay different sections you will. As you progress, Professor Oak gives you a number of additional items that you can use to aid you. Apples that can be used to stun or attract Pokémon, a Poké-Flute to awaken, irritate or hatch Pokémon, and Pester Balls for stunning Pokémon are all up for grabs, and each can be used to improve the quality of your photos or open up new areas and exciting upgraded shots.
And therein lies the beauty of the game. Professor Oak will grade all your shots, comparing new shots of the same Pokémon with previous incarnations to decide which is best. The criteria? Whether you kept your target within the frame, how big they are, and what pose they’re doing all get taken into account. Special poses and capturing more than one of a Pokémon in a shot all gain you extra points, and challenging yourself to improve upon your previously stored shot of each Pokémon easily keeps you coming back for more as you try to find ways to create the most interesting compositions that you can. On top of that, the game also required you to be strategic in how you played. You could only take 60 shots per round, and with your buggy moving on rails, you sometimes had to be quite quick in moving around for the right shot, meaning that more than one run-through to familiarise yourself with the lay-out and events of each zone was essential.
OK, so on the downside, the game only features 63 of the original 151 Pokémon (plus 6 more as signs), but that’s really not that big a deal. The Pokémon present still look really nice in their 3D models, and that made it a special first outing for the franchise on the N64 (and hey, Pokémon Stadium was pretty cool too). Plus, one of those 63 was the elusive and overly cute Mew!
You also have to realise that this was never designed to be something you’d dedicate hours of non-stop play time to. It was a simple diversion that had plenty to offer in terms of replayability, but that you could pick up and out down at your leisure. Pokémon Snap was never intended to be a worldwide phenomenon, more a bit of fun to show what the franchise could achieve on a non-handheld system. That, it does really well.
While not as fondly remembered as Red and Blue, Pokémon Snap was a fun little addition to the Pokémon universe. Although well enough received at the time, it lacks the exposure that it once had, and that is a shame because it’s a genuinely fun way to experience the original era of the franchise.
But what about you? Did you enjoy this slab of monster photography? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading everyone. I’ll catch ya later.