Pokémon Snap


   Gamers approached Pokémon Snap -- the first U.S. Pokémon title to hit the Nintendo 64 -- with high expectations. Would the title capture the appearance and personality of the creatures from the hit television show? The answer is a definite "yes," but the game - like the entire Pokémon phenomenon - will not appeal to everyone. Pokémon Snap is a quirky, hard-to-define title that will likely alienate as many gamers as it thrills.

A blazing saddle

   Traversing Pokémon Island in the all-terrain ZERO-ONE vehicle, the player drives, flies, and floats through environments, photographing wild Pokémon. At first, all you can do is point your camera and shoot. Later, your character gains a variety of "skills" that can help get that perfect shot. Pokémon Food lures Pokémon towards the camera, while Pester Balls annoy Pokémon and drive them out of hiding. Skillfully lobbing the two of these can help get Pokémon in just the right spot. The final item, the Pokeflute, causes Pokémon to dance and face the camer -- without it, you'll never get the best shot. Unable to steer or control the path of the ZERO-ONE, coaxing and capturing Pokémon is your only way of interacting with the environment.

   At the end of each level, you select one picture of each Pokémon type for Professor Oak to "grade." The size of the Pokémon, the pose of the Pokémon, and the degree to which the Pokémon is centered in the frame affect your score. Bonus points are given for capturing multiple Pokémon of the same type in a single picture, as well as unusual poses. Sure, Pikachu is cute -- but Pikachu using his thundershock attack is PIKA! Er, fantastic.

'Help, I can't run away!'
Pikachu gets down with a Diglett

   Each of the themed courses -- beach, tunnel, volcano, river, and valley -- is meticulously constructed. It will take several trips through the levels to find all the Pokémon, and several more to get the "best" shot of each. Part of what makes Pokémon Snap so enjoyable is that the "best" Pokémon shot is completely subjective. While Professor Oak grades purely on form and composition, aspiring photographers will want to capture artistic, beautiful pictures that may not "score" the highest. In addition to the Pokémon Report, which holds the highest scoring photo of each Pokémon species, the game provides a sixty-picture album in which to place personal photo favorites.

   The unique gameplay of Pokémon Snap is at once its greatest asset and most glaring downside. There's really not much to the game besides capturing pictures of Pokémon. Some gamers will find this provides countless hours of amusement, while others will scratch their heads in boredom after ten minutes of picture snapping. The game's other glaring "flaw" is its shortness; most gamers will have no trouble capturing 98% of the game's sixty-three Pokémon within 48 hours of gameplay. Like Sony's PaRappa the Rapper, Pokémon Snap is a short, quirky game that lives or dies by its replay value -- and your replay mileage may vary.

Are you interrupting me?

   But for fans of Pokémon or unusual gameplay, Pokémon Snap is truly a gaming experience like no other. Trying to capture that "perfect" shot is not just difficult, it's impossible: there are a near infinite number of "good" shots that can be taken. The more artistically inclined will try for low-scoring, yet interesting, pictures. One of my personal favorite photos is of a miffed Jigglypuff; while Professor Oak prefers singing, cheerful Pokémon, I get a kick out of the fiercly scowling pink balloon. In a first-of-its-kind promotion, players can print out their favorite shots as sticker sheets at participating Blockbuster Video stores.

   Pokémon Snap, like many of Nintendo's games, develops a simple concept into a fleshed out, fully-developed title. Fans of Pokémon and non-traditional gameplay will doubtless fall in love with Pokémon Snap from the moment they capture their first Pidgey. Others should either give the game a rental or wait for the inevitably more polished sequel.

Review by Andrew Vestal, GIA.
Pokémon Snap
Developer HAL Laboratories
Publisher Nintendo
Genre Adventure
Medium Cartridge
Platform Nintendo 64
Release Date  Released
E3: Nintendo, Blockbuster ink Pokésnap deal
71 screen shots
6 Toru and "Zero One" sketches
Japanese box art
Sticker sheet