Reviewed by Andrew Fedurko
There have been many odd video games since the inception of the
home-console, but perhaps none so off-the-wall as Nintendo's Pokemon
Snap for Nintendo 64. It is a game centered around Japanese phenomenon
turn American pop culture -- Pikachu and gang -- Pocket Monsters (or
Pokemon for short). And while this certainly isn't a weird concept in
itself, the backbone supporting the game -- that of snapping photos of
the crude Pocket Monsters that inhabit it -- is definitely a bit wacky.
Naturally, when IGN64 first previewed the game more than a year
ago -- then running on 64DD hardware -- we immediately chalked it
up as one of those crazy Japanese fads that just doesn't translate to
America. Bear in mind that this was before the craze that is Pokemania
had invaded the States and turned our nation's children into Pikachu-starved
lunatics hell-bent on anything and everything related to the Nintendo-created
monsters. But even if the US had been subject to the Pikachu hype at the
time, we probably still wouldn't have predicted a game primarily
centered around picture-taking would carry over into the US.
It seems, however, that Nintendo was right and we were wrong.
Pokemon Snap is, at its core, a game about snapping photos of Pocket
Monsters in order to earn points -- and it's on rails. But through clever
design, intuitive control, lots of traditional secrets and, of course, more
than 60 Pokemon to snap pictures of and toy with, it's a game that is a
lot of fun in spite of its seemingly simplistic design and nature.
Snap pictures of your favorite Pocket Monsters in 3D environments.
More than 60 Pokemon.
Save 60 of your favorite photos to cartridge. Interact with Pokemon
by throwing objects at them, playing songs, etc. Loads of hidden characters
and secret signs. Create your own Pokemon album.
In a smart marketing feat, Snap owners can bring in their cartridge and
print up special sticker-sheets of their favorite Pokemon characters.
Note that this is only available at participating Blockbusters. Click
here for details. Rumble Pak support.
The premise behind the HAL-developed Pokemon Snap is simple: Players
roll through 3D environments (on rails) and try to snap the very best
possible pictures of various Pokemon characters. Of course, there is a lot
more to it than that. The game features seven big levels (fully 3D polygonal
backdrops and characters) and more than 60 Pocket Monsters. That's a lot
of picture snapping. Adding strategy to the process, players need to accomplish
a number of different tasks before certain Pokemon will respond (either
purposefully or accidentally) and pose for the camera. For example, in the
game's Beach level, Pocket Monster Snorlax (also known as IGNpocket's
Craig Harris) sleeps peacefully as players cost by on rails, unable to take
a decent picture of the giant Pokemon as he rests on the ground. The only
way to wake Snorlax is to play him a song on the Poke Flute, which isn't
attainable until much further in the game. Therefore, players must build
points, advance a few levels and grab the flute, at which time it's possible
to come back to the Beach, play the flute for Snorlax (Craig), wake him up
and snap an award-winning photo. This sort of strategy is common in
Pokemon Snap and works wonders to extend the life and replay value of the game.
Players control Todd, a photographer contracted by Professor Oak to
travel to Pokemon Island and snap pictures of the Pocket Monsters in their
natural habitat. Helping Todd on his adventure is Zero-One, a vehicle built
by the professor himself designed with only two goals in mind: One, take
Todd for a cruise through all the areas of Pokemon Island and two, keep the
Pokemon safe. Because of this, the vehicle comes to a stop whenever players
are about to hit a Pocket Monster, giving the creature a chance to escape unhurt.
Todd begins each level with a film roll capable of snapping 60 photos.
Players must decide when to take a picture and when to hold off, but they
also need to determine what object to use in order to entice the Pokemon
to pose for them in any given situation. Some Pocket Monsters, after all,
don't respond to the sound of music; others want food; still others only
react to pester balls. Each Pokemon may dictate a different course of action
in order to capture the best possible picture. Once players are satisfied with
the pictures they have snapped, they can take them to Professor Oak for
judgment. The better they are, the more he likes them, the more points
players are awarded.
Control is very intuitive. As players don't have a say in what direction
Zero-One takes them in, nearly all of the buttons are freed up for other
purposes. The analog stick is used to control the direction players face
as they coast along on rails. The B button throws pester-balls (which are
like stink-bombs and generally bother Pokemon). The Z-trigger zooms the
camera. The A button throws food (an apple) and, when the Z-button is
pressed (thus zooming the camera), the A button snaps photos. C-down
plays the flute, which causes certain Pokemon to dance or react and the
R button speeds up Zero-One. Everything controls wonderfully and it really
is a lot of fun to just try out different methods on the various Pokemon.
Or, if you're anything like us, laugh at them after they have been hit with
a stink-inducing pester-ball.
Pokemon Snap does have a fair amount of problems, however. The biggest
of which lies in game-depth -- or, as it were, lack of it. The title features
only seven levels and takes roughly a few hours to complete. Though
developer HAL has done its best to enhance replay value with hidden goodies,
the overall quest is far too easy.
Imagine each course takes an estimated three to five minutes to run
through. There is no getting around it, Pokemon Snap is a short experience.
Worse yet, Pokemaniacs are bound to be disappointed with the selection
of Pocket Monsters in the game -- roughly 62 out of a possible 151 in all.
It looks as though Nintendo 64 owners will have to wait for the US release
of Pokemon Stadium before they'll have the chance to play with all of the monsters.
Pokemon Featured in the Game (and their accompanying number):
Depth, quite frankly, is our only complaint about Pokemon Snap. Had
the game been longer and featured more Pocket Monsters, we would
have only criticized the fact that everything runs on rails, which is not
really as bothersome as one might think.
Pokemon Snap takes place in full Polygonal 3D environments with a
graphic style that screams, "I might very well be running on the Super
Mario 64 engine." What we mean by this is that levels are generally very
bright in appearance and polygon models are equally low in detail and
construction. This creates a somewhat generic overall 3D terrain that
HAL has done its best to avoid with lots of variation in textures and
overall atmosphere, but has not been entirely successful. Hills and grass
are a clear-cut example of this as both lack proper curves, giving off an
appearance that is much more blocky and polygonal than most games of
With all of this said, Pokemon Snap is by no means an ugly game. Think
Super Mario 64, add in more texture variety, improved animation and the
like. The characters themselves are what really make the experience
worthwhile, and they look exactly as they should only in full 3D. You'll
laugh wholeheartedly as Pikachu jumps out in front of you in polygonal
glory and you send a pester-ball his way, knocking the creature off his
feet. Or maybe you won't... but we will.
Happy. Generic. Funny. All three of these words sum up the audio in Pokemon
Snap, which is, for all purposes, neither bad nor particularly good. Throwing
objects results in your standard "throw object" sound -- a cross between a
beep and a flute. Balls bounce off Pokemon with a clunk. Pikachu says,
"Pikachu!" Other Pocket Monsters sing in harmony. It's everything you'd
expect and nothing more. On another level, some character reaction sounds
are amusing and the music, which is definitely repetitive, is not
I have to admit that when I first learned of the concept behind Pokemon
Snap I was not particularly impressed. I was expecting a game solely
intended for a Pokemon-crazed Japanese audience. However, since that
time Pikachu and friends have also engulfed the America audience, and
the idea of taking pictures of various Pokemon doesn't seem as wacky
as it once did.
Developer HAL has done an amazing job of creating an addictive, fun
little game out of an undeniably strange concept. The problem with the
title isn't its control or its graphics as all of this comes together wonderfully.
The problem lies with depth, a facet of game play that Pokemon Snap fails to
touch on with only seven levels and little more than 60 Pocket Monsters. It's
as if HAL ran out of time before it could implement the remaining levels and Pokemon.
Otherwise, Pokemon Snap is an addictive, surprisingly fun gem of an
experience that definitely deserves a rent. And parents would certainly
be wise to snatch this game up for their kids. As an added bonus, gamers
can bring their Pokemon Snap cartridge to participating Blockbuster
locations and print up their favorite photos -- which is sure to spawn
more hype for the Pokemania craze sweeping the nation.
Overall: 7.3 out of 10