Pokémon Snap

released on Mar 21, 1999

Traverse various areas and take photographs of different types of Pokémon by discovering their secrets. Capture the perfect frame to gain bonus points from Professor Oak in order to unlock helpful items and locate and photograph the elusive Mew, a legendary Pokémon whose existence has never been recorded.

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Low as the rating might seem, this is honestly a kind of comforting game. It's short and sweet and has a pretty cool concept that makes it warm, fun and nostalgic. The reason the rating is so low is...damn, has this game aged poorly. Some elements feel so clunky, to the point where it can feel hard to go back to. Still, it's a great piece of nostalgia with charm and amazing music that's nice for a quick afternoon playthrough.

A bitesized piece of comfy Sunday afternoon fun.

Pokémon Snap's concept is a genius idea that really takes advantage of the vast amount of different Pokémon that are featured in Pokémon Red. Blue, and Yellow. The concept of the game is to go out to a handful of different environments to get as many good photographs of the various Pokémon you'll find on each stage and bring them back to Professor Oak who will then judge the quality of the photos you give him. Not only is it a clever way in bringing Pokémon to the big screen, but also seeing how they live and interact with the world and other Pokémon around them.
The items that Professor Oak gives you not only help you get better photographs of the Pokémon but also require you to get creative in how you'll get the ability to get snapshots of certain Pokémon you otherwise wouldn't see or even how you'll unlock a few of the levels. The best examples I can think of are when you have to knock the Magikarp into the waterfall with your items to evolve it into Gyarados or when you have to use items on Squirtle & Mankey to unlock one of the levels. It makes the game a bit less linear while also adding a level of interactivity that allows the player to get a deeper sense of immersion while sightseeing in the Pokémon world.
I'm probably asking a bit too much given how much work it would take to animate all 151 Pokémon and the limitations of the system, but I think the game should have added all of Gen 1. It could have allowed for a few extra levels to be included in an already short game and it would satisfy those whose favorite didn't get featured. I know I would have loved to see Poliwhirl and a fully animated Mewtwo make an appearance in this.
When it comes to getting a deeper look at the world of Pokémon and in utilizing its unique concept, it delivers. It not only is a game I'm glad I played, but it also made me interested in playing its sequel which took way too long to come out. I hope that one features more of my favorites in it.

I don't care what anyone said, Pokémon Snap is one of the best Rail Shooters.

It's 1996, and Pokemon games have just exploded in popularity, both in Japan and in the west. While we now know that Pokemon would go on to be the most valuable franchise in the world, it was very unclear at the time whether or not it was a passing fad. Because of this, Nintendo was insistent on capitalizing on its success while it had the chance. Now, the on-rails shooter was a concept that was popular at the time, but for obvious reasons, that formula didn't really work in the kid-friendly world of Pokemon. Thanks to the clever idea of shooting with a camera instead of a gun, however, the genre received a fresh coat of family friendly paint, and Pokemon Snap was released, just 1 year after Pokemon Red & Blue were released in the west, and 3 years after the original Red & Green were released in Japan.
Pokemon Snap was only the 2nd Pokemon spinoff game, and the first for a home console. Snap benefited greatly from this, because everything Pokemon related still felt fresh and innovative. Pokemon Snap by itself was an enjoyable enough game, though, and while it often feels like it lacks depth, it's just unique and charming enough to keep players interested.
Pokemon Snap is at its best when you're discovering new patterns of Pokemon behavior. Filling out the Pokedex in this game is fun because discovering how to make certain Pokemon appear is satisfying. The game rewards exploration into what items to toss where, what angles to take pictures from, and how to time things just right. However, filling out the Pokedex is also one of the most disappointing aspects, as only slightly more than 1/3 of the original 151 Pokemon are present in this game. With the game being as short as it is, it feels like they could have made a much more fulfilling endgame if they committed to a "Gotta Snap 'Em All" aspect. While catching all Pokemon in the mainline games is not usually an option for most players, it feels like this could have been their chance to do so, so it's frustrating that the chance was missed.
Each of the 6 main areas are designed pretty well, even if the game could have benefited a lot from a little more variety. The areas do look good though, and even in outdated graphics, there's a lot of character that's on display in the Pokemon you photograph. Seeing as this was the first instance of Pokemon in 3D graphics, it's surprisingly impressive how alive they feel. The secret 7th area is extremely disappointing, unfortunately, and doesn't feel satisfying in any way, as there's only 1 Pokemon throughout the whole level.
The basic mechanics of the game have also aged poorly, as have any game that involves precise aiming with the N64 controller. Focusing on Pokemon in the distance, or ones that move too quickly, can be pretty difficult in some situations, and the controls can take some getting used to. After a few tries the controls can still feel awkward, but they are also pretty generous, so it's not a huge deterrent. The music is enjoyable, if slightly forgettable, but serves as a nice background to your photographic adventure.
Pokemon Snap is a fun game, but a game without a lot of substance. A bigger Pokemon roster, a 2 player mode, or more course diversity would have gone a long way in making this game more replayable, but as it is, it's still a somewhat charming experience to pick up and play.