Every gamer out there has those classic titles that they will always remember fondly back when they were younger. For fans of the Nintendo 64, the usual suspects like Banjo-Kazooie, Super Mario 64, Goldeneye and Ocarina of Time will likely spring to most peoples’ minds and while they are indeed true highlights for the console, Pokemon Snap in my eyes also deserves to be added to that list too, with its unique take on the franchise offering some original and surprisingly fun gameplay ideas.. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered Pokemon Snap on the Wii’s Virtual Console. After downloading it I was ready for my brain to wake up and remember all the good times I had with this title back in 2000.
First of all this isn’t your typical Pokemon game. You won’t be battling other creatures with your trained buddies and capturing them all with the now famous red and white Pokeballs. The “Snap” part of the title refers oddly enough to a camera. That’s right you play an eager photographer adventuring across varying terrain looking for the all the best places to capture the cute and dangerous Pokemon on film. There isn’t much of a story besides being told you’re helping Professor Oak to learn more about the creatures through pictures.
So how does the game work? There are around seven levels based on differing environments which range from beaches and dank caves to volcanoes and even outer space. The whole experience is on rails with the only movement being restricted to where exactly you’re viewing. The idea is to lure out Pokemon or trigger events to bring them out via the use of certain items. These start off as simple apples for bait, but later you will be granted the use of pester balls which explode in a gust of smoke and a flute which can have unusual affects in certain areas. Holding onto the right button you zoom in and are then ready to take up to sixty pictures in one trip. That is essentially how the game plays with controls working well. Before you know it you’ll be snapping pictures like a pro.
Once you’ve made your way back to the base you will then decide upon which pictures you want graded by Professor Oak. To limit the amount you can hand him, only one of each species is allowed to be graded, so you won’t be able to hand over twenty Pikachus. It means you need to analyse your photos and make a judgement on which may score better making things a little tougher. Each photo is then graded on size, the pose of the Pokemon and if it is centralised. There are also hidden bonuses which help score big points. All your top scoring pictures are then stored (one per Pokemon) and your favourites can be put into and album and sent to friends via Friend Codes (a new feature for the Wii version)
Obviously this is a Nintendo 64 title so there was a worry the button mapping may have been off when using newer pads. I used the Gamecube control when playing and it worked fine. The Classic controller also does the job pretty well and none of the button placement feels awkward or gets in the way of the fun.
With only seven levels you’d expect to finish this quicker than you’d like. However that isn’t the case. You will often find yourself repeating levels upon being handed new items to test out which will often reveal new Pokemon, nab you better pictures or even unlock new levels. Your overall score and Pokemon discoveries are also taken into account with certain milestones being required in order to keep exploring. It’s a pretty neat way of progressing through the game and lengthens what would have been a game that could have been finished in under an hour. I have also found myself trying to improve my scores for species I felt I could have taken better pictures of and I’ve also yet to find every single creature so for completionists there is a good amount to do if you want.
Visually the game is very blocky when it comes to the background which is to be expected of a Nintendo 64 title. However the Pokemon themselves animate and look pretty decent. I was definitely expecting the visuals to be a lot worse but I have to admit they surprised me. Seeing a wild Bulbasaur sit on the grass or a herd of Charmanders huddling near a firey volcano gives off a great safari feel. The music is nice and matches each environment you’re in, and even better the Pokemon actually use their real noises rather than the stupid beeps and bops heard in the Gameboy and Stadium versions. That is definitely a real plus.
I sort of lost interest ever since the Pokemon number went over 151 and haven’t touched a Pokemon adventure since. I never liked the newer species that appeared, so it was nice to see the old favourites again. Most of the recognised ones are there, but sadly only around half make it into this game. It’s a shame as with all 151 thrown in this could have been a Pokemon fans ultimate dream.
Many will argue the game is too short, but to me it feels like the game ends at just the right time as the basic gameplay mechanics can only go so far. It may be short but you are definitely going to enjoy that time spent.
I had an absolute blast with Pokemon Snap. While it isn’t exactly the longest game, it’s a truly memorable experience with plenty to love about it. Not only has it brought back those fond memories I once had, but it has also sparked my interested in the Pokemon series as a whole and tempted me to try the later adventures I missed out on. A unique and enjoyable game.