Photography and Pokémon might seem like an odd mixture, but Pokémon Snap demonstrated just how well the two could work in tandem. Developed for Nintendo 64 by Game Freak and HAL Laboratory, Snap is one of those oddball video games that didn’t really fit into a particular genre, was intoxicating in its execution, but has never been reproduced in the years since. It’s a shame, because in terms of spinoffs, Snap is incredibly playful and creative with the source material. Let’s take a look at what made this game so special!
In Snap, players were cast as Pokémon photographer Todd Snap, who Professor Oak handpicked to take photos of wild Pokémon for a research project. Professor Oak sent Todd to a remote location called Pokémon Island to take these pictures, using a buggy called the Zero-One to safely explore the terrain. Players took pictures from a first-person view, and each photo was scored based on how close and clear it was. Similar to the Metroid games, progression in Snap requires players to acquires items during gameplay in order to back and reach previously obscured or hidden Pokémon.
It’s hard to put a finger on a specific element that makes Snap so great. There was the thrill of seeing so many beloved Pokémon rendered in 3D, running around the screen and being mischievous. There was also the sense of satisfaction gained from figuring out how to make a Pokémon pop out into the open or turn around to be photographed. Ultimately, the biggest appeal of Snap was how much the game inserted the player into the world of Pokémon. Sitting in the Zero-One snapping photos felt almost real, as though it was possible to just reach out and touch a Slowbro sitting near the water, or pat Pikachu on his head while he scampered around. Snap is a unique video game that captures everything special about Pokémon and is a joy to play.
Snap also took interactivity to a new level using Nintendo’s partnership with Blockbuster. The movie rental chain (remember those?) had special kiosks set up so that players could print their pictures of the wild Pokémon as stickers. It was something Nintendo would also do for Pokémon Stadium. It was unconventional, certainly, but considering how nonconformist Snap was, it was the perfect compliment. I suppose getting hold of one of those kiosks might be the ultimate collectible, these days!
Fans wanting to experience Snap are always welcome to get hold of an original copy and play it on a Nintendo 64, but for those who can’t, look to Wii’s Virtual Console service for the game. There’s been no word on a sequel, but fans continue to hold out hope that a new installment will come one day. Wii U, with it’s unique GamePad controller, would seem to be the perfect candidate for a revival, so be sure to write Reggie and let him know!
Released 1999. Developed by Game Freak and HAL Laboratory. Published by Nintendo.
Pokémon Snap is available on Nintendo 64. It is also available via download from the Wii Virtual Console service