Pokémon Snap stands as one of the most unique and beloved Pokémon spinoffs, having been released way back in the N64 days and, until recently, never been replicated. Call me a fake fan, though, but I'd never tried the game in my childhood -- I'd seen in in magazines and websites, but the opportunity never showed itself. Until now.
In Snap, you play as as an assistant to Professor Oak, who now has a lab on a deserted island, where he practices Pokémon photography and invents tools to support that new hobby. And, of course, he sends children out to do the hard, dangerous part of the work. Yeah. I thought his casting was strange at first, but the reliance on child labor makes it still in-character.
Anyway, scattered across the island are different biomes inhabited by Pokémon, and your job is to ride the Zero-One -- an on-rails vehicle -- and take pictures of the creatures found along its route. Your pictures are rated by the professor himself based on a few factors, like how clearly they depict their subject and the presence of multiple of that Pokémon in the same picture. As you add better photos to your album, you gain access to other tools that allow you to get different reactions out of the critters you wish to photograph.
I can see why it took Nintendo and Game Freak so long to put out a new one of these. It's a short game that can be beaten in an afternoon, and even if they wanted to make it longer, it's one of those games where the minute of playtime is incredibly expensive for the developer: Snap's stages clearly took a long time to design and implement, yet they take but a few minutes to play through -- the 100% speedrun for the game is about 25 minutes long with no skips. It's easy to see how other more scalable spin-offs wound up being prioritized.
It has to be said, though, Pokémon Snap hasn't aged much. The grading system is the jankiest part, and Pokémon fans that stuck with the franchise over the years will notice some creative liberties -- it's the IP in its infancy, after all -- but the core mechanics are solid and the Pokémon found on the island are given a lot of personality. I can say, with no nostalgia for the game, that it remains a great play today.
I'm looking forward to giving the Switch sequel a shot and seeing how it iterates on the formula.

Reviewed on Jan 20, 2023