Pokemon Snap: Retro Review

Gotta… Snap’em all?
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We are in the midst of the age of nostalgia. TV shows, Movies, even Video games are being rebooted to massive acclaim. Some titles have been revived in their full glory for people to experience all over again. The Crash N’sane Trilogy is a great example of bringing an old franchise back to life. But not every title was as great as people remember. Often times a game with only a small cult following can revive a game that probably was better off in the past. The point of Retro Reviews is to go back in time, take off the rose tinted nostalgia glasses, and evaluate the game itself for how it holds up today. Modern standards won’t apply as graphics only become better as time goes on and to compare the graphics from a classic game to a game from today would be totally unfair to the work that was put in by both development teams. With that being said, let’s start the review.

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Pokemon Snap is an on-rail picture taking game from HAL laboratory. It was released in North America to fairly positive reviews, garnering a 77 on metacritic at the time. This N64 game quickly became a cult classic and with the almost sure prediction of the N64 classic being released at some point in the near future, this game is a perfect candidate to be an oddball classic included, so what better time to talk about this almost mythical spinoff? This game is beloved by Pokemon fans from the 90s, with good reason too, it was one of the first times we got to see Pokemon in full 3D, this game is one of the many spinoffs to make fans crave a console Pokemon.

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The story is basic to say the least. You play as Todd Snap, who is working for professor Oak to capture pictures of every Pokemon on the island. That isn’t nearly a tough task to handle as one might think. This game limited itself to only 1st generation Pokemon and not even all of them were included. There are 63 Pokemon in total that are available to capture on film. That is almost 100 Pokemon left out of the game. There should be no problem taking picture of everyone, right? Well, some Pokemon are shy, or just busy, so you have to get creative to take their pictures.

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There are seven unique areas to “explore” with some Pokemon showing up on every map and others being map specific. This is Nintendo and HAL’s take on a on-rails shooter that for the most part actually feels pretty fun. The stages don’t last too long that they get boring, and there is enough packed in them that going back to old courses to get better shots seems like more fun than a chore. With a constantly evolving artillery of items to create the perfect shot you are always finding new Pokemon to pester or throw an apple at to get those all important technique points.

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When you start a stage you have a full reel of film, obviously, and you are tasked with taking the best picture of every Pokemon possible. When you finish the course you return to Professor Oak’s lab where you may select one picture of each Pokemon that you took for his appraisal. This creates a tough situation when you have a few good pictures of a Pokemon and can only chose the best one. It becomes a risk-reward situation, where your judgement is going to make or break your score in the end. They don’t leave you out to dry, however, as there are a few given parameters that help you when making your decision. The three major component’s to professor oak’s judgment are Size, Pose, and technique. These are never really explained as they are generally pretty self explanatory. You can’t get too close or too far, the more interesting the pose the more points, and if the Pokemon is in the middle of the screen, the score is doubled, simple, right? Well, looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to size, sometimes the judgement feels a little buggy when comparing an old photo to a new photo, often times the Pokemon would look physically closer in the new photo but be given less points than the old one. A perfect example is a Scyther i found. The first time i took its picture it was across a field of flowers and was getting further away by the second. The second time I took the picture he was closer, and much more clear, but for some reason the older picture’s size score was much better. These little things, the subjective bits, are the things for me that hold this game back the most. It feels so deflating to find out you just barely missed the center of the screen and won’t get your score doubled. Or the picture with multiple close Pokemon gets half the score you thought it would because the size and pose were off.

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The graphics are nothing too special compared to what it could look like today obviously, but, for the time they are pretty good. All of the Pokemon had clear and distinct shapes that were instantly recognizable and even a transformed ditto looked good enough to be able to tell the difference between the real and a fake. These graphics and being able to see the Pokemon in this environment for the first time is part of what sparked this long craving for a Pokemon game on consoles. I can see why too, watching the Pokemon interact with each other and play around in full 3D is so much fun, this is an aspect of Pokemon that you never get to see and I really wish there were more opportunities to see Pokemon interact not in battle, it brings a level of charm and realism to the game that other Pokemon titles just plainly don’t have.

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Overall I can understand why this game still has a strong cult following to this day. The gameplay is probably the most unique in the series, and after almost 20 years it still stands out from the bevy of games that have released since then. If there was to be a Pokemon snap 2 there would be a few things i want changed. The on rail mechanic was fun for so long, but then it got tedious. Personally i would enjoy being out of the Zero-One, or at least not be on a rail the entire game. On rail sequences are fun, but an entire game built around the mechanic feels more like a novelty than a legitimate stepping stone. It would be so cool to see it expanded too, give us more than just in track for each part of the island. Make a beach section with different parts of a beach that you can find normally. Or, better yet, with how many generations there are, make it almost a museum of Pokemon. Include all of the regions and select Pokemon to be in the region based off of what generation they are from. This could add not only more time to the game, as this can be beaten in an afternoon if you so choose. But is also adds a lot more replay-ability if you add more areas, and the switch can definitely handle the extra work load. You can even add another bonus island and add Pokemon Go features to allow taking picture of Pokemon in real life and being able to have Professor Oak judge them too.

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This game still has a lot of life left in its main premise despite its flaws. There are some control issues and the on-rails mechanic does get tiresome by the end with all of the backtracking you have to do. However the fact that this game is so beloved and well made and it still hasn’t gotten a sequel or even an remake is saddening. I think in today’s selfie obsessed culture this is the perfect opportunity for Nintendo to revive this spin-off and give it the second chance it deserves.

Score: 7/10

Good

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