Version Tested: Nintendo Wii Virtual Console – Originally on: N64
We’re all familiar with the Pokémon formula, top down RPG games where we get to go on an adventure capturing and battling a variety of little monsters that fit in our pockets.
Pokémon Snap was released in 1999 on the Nintendo 64 to a warm critical reception and offered a completely different gameplay style to what we were used to in Pokémon.
Players take on the role of a photographer hired by Professor Oak to put together a report on an Island about the Pokémon who reside there. The player explores various regions including the beach, a volcano, a river, a cave, and a valley in an amphibious buggy named the Zero-One.
The gameplay takes place on rails and the player is moved automatically through the regions, the world is viewed from a first person perspective, and players control the camera and the various items at the disposal to manipulate the Pokémon and the environment to get the best possible photos.
The game urges the player to experiment in each level by throwing apples, pester balls, or playing the Poké flute to change the Pokémon’s behaviour. Often this leads to a lot of trial and error, testing out different ways of getting the Pokémon to move or evolve, or interact with others.
This level of experimentation is worth it to get the best possible photo of each Pokémon. Each photo is graded on the pose, size, and technique, bonus points are added for unique poses or for having more than one of each Pokémon in frame. Strangely this is highly addictive and I often found myself going round courses again and again for another ‘hit’. This game is more addictive than meth.
On some trips around a course you will find yourself launching pester balls into the face of every Pokémon with the hope of some sort of prize, half the time you just knock them out which raises a few questions about the ethical treatment of the Pokémon. In one level, as far as I can tell you actually kill Koffings with pester balls. Is this some sort of animal abuse? My answer is no, as they are fictional creatures.
Level progression often requires you to solve some kind of devious puzzle which on first glance is not entirely obvious, for example knocking a Squirtle into a Mankey at a very precise angle so the Mankey hits a button.
Later on the game becomes more humane equipping the player with a flute. Playing music offers different poses and triggers new events, you are also awarded with a dash engine letting you speed up through any level segment to capture any missing Pokémon in your collection.
Once all the courses are unlocked you need to return to each one to take photos of Pokémon signs which are cleverly concealed into the scenery of each course, capturing all of these unlocks the secret final stage which acts almost like a boss battle.
No spoilers here but this final stage features only one ultra-rare Pokémon which is remarkably difficult to snap, but a bit of experimenting should help you snap the prized photo.
Pokémon Snap has some good endgame content but is fairly limited, due to the small number of courses (there are only 7 to choose from) and also the small numbers of Pokémon, only 63 of the original 151 are included.
After all the Pokémon are snapped and all the courses are clear Oak issues challenge scores to beat on each stage. To beat theses scores you need the best quality photos of all the Pokémon from each stage, making it remarkably difficult to beat this score on all the stages.
The final prize is a nice credits reel showing off all of your best photos. Though graphically Pokémon Snap has not aged well the gameplay is still as fun and fresh as it was back in 1999. It has fantastic replay value and you will always find yourself going back to it.
The Virtual Console version does suffer from slightly clunky controls, but it includes a nifty little feature allowing you to share photos with your friends, which makes up for this. The game is short and sweet and so I give it snap-tastic 75.