An highly enjoyable game with little value.
Negative: - only 63 kinds of Pokemon out of the 150 from that time - only seven areas to go to, making the game short and taking away lots of potential value -
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a game where you take pictures of made-up creatures? Boring? Dumb? Stupid? Pointless? Probably. Well, that's just what Pokemon Snap is. It's a game where you take pictures of Pokemon. Only those adjectives don't fit the game's description. On the contrary, Pokemon Snap is actually a fun, interesting game that is a joy for fans of the franchise but should also be enjoyed by people who don't care for Pokemon at all.
Pokemon Snap's story is... different. Professor Oak wants you to take pictures of Pokemon for him. Kind of bizarre for a video game, isn't it? So you go out onto the island to get pictures of Pokemon. There are seven areas to go to and sixty-three Pokemon to see in all. Some of the courses actually feel somewhat like they could be a ride at Disneyland where the characters are all over the place and you see them doing stuff... it's great. Pokemon pop up all around you and you take pictures of them. Once you get to the sixth area, you have to open a gate to find Oak's secret lab (or something like that) where he tells you to find the six Pokemon Signs (objects in the shape of a Pokemon, like a mountain shaped like a Dugtrio), one in each level. Some of these are very difficult to spot, while others are right out in the open and in plain sight. This unlocks the last area where you achieve your final goal- getting a picture of the one Pokemon the main character has been hoping to get a snapshot of.
The screen always has a little reticle in the middle to show you where you're looking/aiming. The controls work really well, look around with the (left) control stick, L (on GameCube or Classic controller) makes you zoom in to take a picture, A (while zoomed in) lets you take a picture, A (while not zoomed in) lets you throw a snack to attract Pokemon, B (while not zoomed in) throws Pester Balls which make Pokemon come out of hiding, C down (down on the right control stick on the classic controller, while not zoomed in) plays the Poke Flute, and R makes you boost. Those last four things are unlocked as you go through the game so you have to revisit areas where they can be used to find more Pokemon you couldn't get before. The Pester Balls and food are thrown in the direction you're aiming and how far they go depends on how high you're aiming, so you have to focus on getting a good shot at where you want the object to land.
One of the best parts of the game is seeing Pokemon in their environments, especially if you're a Pokemon fan. Some Pokemon are easy to see, like the Pidgeys flying in your face or the Pikachu sitting on the side of the track, but others are more difficult to see, like the Lapras off to your right in the water and the Dragonite hidden in the whirlpool. The Pokemon will do different poses for you at different times and your goal is to take a picture in which the Pokemon is clearly visible and not too small, doing some kind of cool pose, in the middle of the picture, and possibly with other of the same Pokemon in the picture. These goals can be quite difficult to achieve sometimes and adds some value to the game, but since there are only seven areas, the game still retains little overall value. At the end of the level, you choose which pictures to show to Professor Oak, who rates them according to the conditions I said before. By throwing Pester Balls or food or playing the Poke Flute, you can make some of the Pokemon do cool stuff. For instance, if you throw food between the Magmar and Charmander in the Volcano level, the Magmar will attack the Charmander, but the Charmander will evolve and take down the Magmar! By playing the Poke Flute in the Tunnel level, you can make a Pikachu use thunderbolt and open an egg! It's really cool to see stuff like this and see just how much you can do to affect what the Pokemon do, even if you don't bother to take a picture! The graphics in this game are also very good for the N64 and don't look terrible even when you play it these days. Some N64 games can burn your eyes of bad graphics (Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, for example), but this game sure doesn't. The music is also pretty good and very fitting to the game, but it's nothing particularly great.
I think I'll take some space here to say that this game would make an absolutely excellent game for the Wii outside of virtual console. If it is remade with more areas, more Pokemon (including ones from newer generations, of course), more-modern graphics, and Wii controls, it would make an absolutely awesome game. I really think Nintendo should do this and release it either on WiiWare or on a disc if it's big enough (or too big, for that matter). Honestly, this game is just screaming for a new installment!
Pokemon Snap is a pleasant surprise of a game. Nobody could expect it to be this good just by knowing what it's about. It's very fun, interesting, and entertaining. I definitely recommend getting this game from the Wii Shop Channel if you have nothing better to do, because you'll be surprised at how much fun you'll have with it! Even for people who don't care about Pokemon, this is a good game that doesn't require being a fan of the franchise to enjoy it.
(this does not necessarily effect the overall score)