It’s pretty weird walking around town, or popping onto Facebook, and seeing just how popular Pokemon is in 2016. The virtual console releases of Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow hit some nostalgia strings back in February, then the release of Pokemon Go on mobile phones in July caught everybody else. More people are watching the cartoon on Netflix, shops have Pokemon mugs and t-shirts on display for any passing mugs, and the games which released after the Pokemania died down are suddenly flying off the shelves. Classic Pokemon games have also been popping up Nintendo’s Wii U virtual console service, which is how we come to Pokemon Snap.
Pokemon Snap was one of the first spin-off games the series received, alongside a pinball game, a stadium battle game, and a trading card game. Rather than beating Pokemon down to an inch of their life, then entrapping them with a Pokeball, Pokemon Snap involves a different type of catching, with the player catching over sixty of the original Mon’s on film. You still abuse the monsters with Pester balls, but generally, this is a more sedated experience. PETA still wouldn’t approve.
Split into a series of natural environments, the player finds themselves guided along a linear track, not too dissimilar to the Toy Story Zurg shooting game they have at Disney Land Florida (Is it still there? I’m thinking back to about seventeen years ago), with numerous Pokemon getting on with their day-to-day business. Fat bastard Pokemon Snorlax sleeps, the legendary birds find themselves trapped in eggs, and then you have Pikachu, who certainly isn’t camera-shy. Some Pokemon can be snapped easily for high scoring points, but others need a little bit of manipulation to get those killer shots.
So you return to levels with new tools, then proceed to irritate or lure the Pokemon so you can be the best photographer, even if it can lead to a few brutally beaten monsters. The electric ball Pokemon, Electrode, explodes when attacked with an apple or pester ball, with anything nearby taken out along with it. There is one incident which involves knocking Magikarp from the river onto dry land, which results in Mankey giving it a firm kicking. You must be a photographer who cares littler for the wildlife if you want those best scores, and it’s a lot of fun to cause so many headaches for the creatures who are just trying to exist. Isn’t that what we all want, to be left alone?
Back in 2000 when the game was originally released, I avoided the game due to the short length mentioned in reviews (good old N64 Magazine), for £40 was a lot to chuck at a 4 hour-long game, but in 2016 the length isn’t such a problem. The game has been released on the Wii U digital store for £8.99, and it’s certainly worth snapping up at that price. I still remember my cousin bringing his Pikachu themed N64 around to my Aunt’s house with this game, and we took it in turns to find all the routes, collect all the points, even make it to the moon. By bedtime the credits were rolling. I had a good time, but my cousin sat in front of the TV, watching the credits with a slightly melancholy expression. How many months till his next game? How many more days could he keep on snapping? What was the trade in value?
There is fun to be had figuring out how to force Pokemon into situations which provide the best points, and it’s something which hasn’t been repeated since, making Pokemon Snap a wholly unique experience sixteen years later. Sure you can take pictures of Pikachu & co in real life locations via Pokemon Go, but Snap involves a lot less walking. And the ability to push a Charmeleon into a pit of lava.
And who wouldn’t want to snap that?