Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Pokemon Snap (N64) Retro Review

We're going to start off the month of reviews in April with something of the retro variety. It's the 1999 hit, Pokemon Snap. How does it hold up eleven years later? Is it worth investing money so you can photograph crude 3D models of Pokemon? Let's find out.

Photographing Pokemon? It's A Snap.

The Pokemon franchise started gaining steam originally in 1996 in Japan where it is known as Pocket Monsters. In America, it came out two years later and thus figuratively set the world on fire. With any popular franchise, it wasn't surprising to see it branch out into new genres. One in particular was the photography simulation that is Pokemon Snap. Is this game one that's picture perfect?

You're a precocious young Pokemon photographer who, by request of Professor Oak, has been tasked with coming to Pokemon Island to capture as many Pokemon as possible. But you're not capturing Pokemon with Poke balls. No, no. Instead, you'll be capturing them on film! The island is home to around sixty-five different types of Pokemon. Unfortunately, not all types are available for shooting which is a bummer. No Blastoise, no Raichu, no Golbat. Et cetera.

And I expect you to stay single, Oak.

There's seven different courses to play through, and each one is a different locale. You'll be visiting a sandy and sunny beach, venture into a electric Pokemon-filled tunnel, ride along the hot trail of a volcanic playground, wade down the gentle current of a river, explore a cave, and ride down the river rapids in the valley. You unlock new courses in various manners. Some you merely have to capture enough Pokemon on film while others require a bit of ingenuity to unveil secret paths to the new courses. Each course has a number of different Pokemon to take photos of in their natural surroundings.

You're not alone, however, in your journey to take a photograph of every possible Pokemon. As you progress through the game you earn new tools of the trade such as bait to bring out Pokemon in hiding as well as make Pokemon happier, pester balls which can be thrown at Pokemon to make them move around, a Poke flute to make Pokemon dance with glee, and even a warp drive to make your Zero-G unit drive much faster.

There's no bigger pleasure than chucking pester balls at Pikachu.

What exactly is the Zero-G unit? Well, that's the vehicle you ride in to take photos. In Pokemon Snap, you are on a fixed path, but you can look around 360 degrees at the landscape. When something blocks your path, the vehicle grinds to an emergency halt until the path has been cleared. Shots can be taken of Pokemon, and when you're not in zoom mode you can toss bait, pester balls, and use the Poke flute.

Most Pokemon are out in the open ready to be photographed while others require some extra work. Some Pokemon love bait and will call other Pokemon to enjoy its delicious meal with. Others hide in the water, needing a pester ball or two to pop up and say howdy. Some Pokemon will interact with the camera in different ways depending on what item you use.

At the conclusion of each course, you choose your best pictures representing each new Pokemon you've taken a picture of. Professor Oak then rates them based on certain criteria: size, pose, technique, and same PKMN. Size shows how big the Pokemon is in the shot. The closer and in-frame that your Pokemon is, the better your score. Pose indicates what special position your Pokemon is in such as being happy or startled. Or in a legendary Pokemon's case, a special pose would be bursting out of their egg. Technique describes if your photographed Pokemon is in the center of the shot or not. You get double the points if this is the case. Finally, same PKMN shows if there's multiple types of the same Pokemon in the same shot.

Smile for the camera!

Pokemon Snap isn't necessarily a long game. It can actually be completed in less than three hours. There's always the longevity of getting high scores on all courses and with all Pokemon pictures, but really that won't last too long either. Back in the day, players could take their photos to a local Blockbuster Video to print out stickers of their specialized shots. Nowadays on the Wii you can save your photos to your message board. Unfortunately, there's no option to save your best shots to an SD card which is a mind-boggling misstep. Back in 1999, this game cost approximately seventy dollars to own. Not worth it for how quick the game can be beaten. In 2010, however, you can get the game on Nintendo's Virtual Console service for ten bucks. Not bad all things considering.

All-in-all, Pokemon Snap is a worthwhile purchase in recent times but not back in 1999 where the game was more expensive than current HD games. There's a fair amount of Pokemon to take pictures of, secrets to uncover, and mysteries to solve, but most players will have the game completed in but a few short hours. Now that it's on the Virtual Console for Wii, it makes for a much smarter purchase. For voyeurism of the Pokemon type, you cannot go wrong with Pokemon Snap.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.75/10]

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