Retro Review: Pokémon Snap
I’ve had some time to revisit some of the N64 games from my youth, among them Pokémon Snap – a game that’s about as weird as they come.
Straight on the outset it’s a concept that only the Japanese could find logical to put into development for a games console – a game where you spend your days travelling around a mysterious Pokémon island on an all-terrain vehicle (which includes flying and hovering) taking pictures of rare Pokémon and then having said pictures rated by the original Pokémon professor himself, Professor Oak.
Photos are shot in a first-person manner, likening this game to an on-rails shooter, and then are rated by Professor Oak on three categories: the pose of the Pokémon, the size of the Pokémon and whether the Pokémon is in the middle of the shot. On top of this you acquire two items to provoke Pokémon into certain poses throughout the levels, Pokémon food (seen as an apple) and Pester Balls (which do exactly what their name suggests, pestering Pokémon into doing something weird). Some of the most enjoyable parts of the game are the secret poses or Pokémon which can be discovered by using these items, which include knocking Pokémon into lava to make them evolve and irritating Electrodes to the point of self-exploding.
There are 7 levels to explore and each is unlocked by either finding a secret route in the previous level, taking pictures of a certain amount of Pokémon (total) or having a certain threshold of point score – accumulated by taking great shots of Pokémon.
As with most games, when it works it works well. Pokémon Snap is a one of a kind experience that offers family friendly entertainment with high replayability – if only to get that perfect shot of Snorlax that you always dreamed of.
Unfortunately Professor Oak needs to change his glasses, because often he will judge the size or positioning of the Pokémon as incorrect – despite the obvious proof otherwise which is right in front of his eyes. This can add some frustration to your playing, as there is nothing more annoying than losing half the score of your best picture because the Pokémon apparently isn’t in the center of the frame.
Despite this, Pokémon Snap is a classic for a reason – it’s original, refreshing and has aged surprisingly well considering it’s about 14 years old at this point in time. Its biggest downside is its length, running just over 2 hours depending on your ability to photograph Pokémon (if you are a gaming adult, 2 hours might even be a generous estimate). But considering its target market is a lot younger than your average gamer, the length can be excused since it’s largely derived from the difficulty of the game. And of course, being one of the earliest console Pokémon games in history, respect is due.