Tomodachi Life: Move-In Version Impressions


I really had no clue what to expect when I played Tomodachi Life: Move-In Version. Nintendo has been disseminating the demo (seemingly) at random to Platinum-status Club Nintendo members, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a download code in my inbox. Rather than the typical 30 uses normally allotted to 3DS eShop demos, Move-In Versionis a limitless, pared-down iteration of the full game. Even after watching the mini Nintendo Direct that detailedTomodachi Life, I found myself with more questions than answers, so I was stoked to get this opportunity to learn about the title firsthand. I have a feeling I’m not alone in my cluelessness, so sit back and join me as I delve into Move-In Version!

The demo started off by asking me to name the island where the game takes place. It’s not a tropical island, though, but rather a small city with a lone beach sitting in the water. I christened my new getaway Oakland Island (you’re stuck with the word “Island” no matter what name you choose), and from there Move-In asked me to make a duplicate Mii. Either an existing Mii or a new one can be selected, so I pegged the Robert already on my 3DS… and that’s when the hilarity ensued. After assigning a Mii, the demo wanted details like date of birth, favorite color, whether I was a grown-up or a kid, and most importantly, a name. The name, my friends, is where Tomodachi began to assert itself.

Tomodachi Life features a synthetic voice system allowing for in-game speech. Once I typed in my name and proceeded forward, I was shocked to hear my Mii start talking! To be clear, the voice isn’t in any way a true replication of how the player actually sounds. Instead, Nintendo opted for an intentionally digital and semi-robotic sound, instead, and handed customization of it to the player. I spent a few minutes tweaking the pitch and tone of the voice until it sounded close to me, in spirit, and I was chuckling non-stop as I did. It was very reminiscent of the pure joy I felt the first time I made Miis on Wii, as it was entertaining just to make avatars that looked like the people I know. With Move-In, that same whimsical spark is back, as it added another layer of immersion to the experience.

Nintendo also found an ingenious workaround for trickier name pronunciations via a phonetic input option. The game displays your name the way it’s written, but then allows for a phonetic version of it to be keyed in separately in case the computer doesn’t say it right. My last name, Marrujo, is pronounced muh-roo-ho; I typed in Murruho into Move-In, and the computer got it spot on! It’s a small touch, but I think very important for folks to really gel with what Tomodachi is trying to accomplish. With my name in place, Move-In proceeded to ask other questions about me to ascertain my personality. On a sliding scale, I set how fast I moved, how polite I am when speaking, and other traits, which the demo then used to formulate a snapshot of me as a person. It was surprisingly close! In this abbreviated version ofTomodachi Life, players are limited to two other Mii characters who can be made, and I had a blast recreating Angela (my sister and fellow Nintendojo writer!) and one of my friends.

Interestingly, I expected, after making my Mii, to be able to control him directly, but everything actually happens by way of menu screens and tapping the touch screen, instead. At first, I was disappointed, because I initially had visions of Animal Crossing with Miis floating through my mind, but then I started playing, and it clicked. Tomodachi isn’t Animal Crossing, though there are shades of it present, but something more akin to a really goofy, almost surreal Sims. The Miis players create all live in a big apartment, with their own individual residences. Players then go room by room visiting and interacting with each Mii and solving problems for them. Money is used in the game to go and buy the items needed to feed and clothe the Miis, and as problems are resolved, more money is rewarded and the characters level up. This leveling system rewards new items and other perks, like the ability to give the Miis catchphrases to say (oh, the shenanigans of putting words into other people’s mouths!).

Again, not having control over the Miis’ movement seemed disappointing, but there was so much to do that I quickly stopped caring that I couldn’t move around in a traditional way. The island has different buildings and shops to click on, with some open right away, while others are constructed after completing specific criteria in the game. Between choosing different foods to feed my characters (which itself is interesting because not every Mii likes the same thing!), talking with them, and seeing what they’re doing at any given moment, I was enthralled with the wealth of activity taking place. With just three Miis (the full game allows for over 100 to be in the apartment), I was hooked waiting to see what they did next. What’s more, when the full version of the game comes out, I can transfer the Miis from Move-In and get a couple of exclusive panda outfits, as a bonus.

One other thing about the Miis: they start forming relationships with each other. When creating Miis, the player designates how they relate to the main, duplicate Mii. On my island, I listed Angela as a sibling and the other as unrelated (the game is only specific about familial ties). As the characters go about their lives, they can become friends, hate each other, or even fall in love and have a baby! The more of the Miis’ problems that are solved, the more the island grows and expands, and the more the Miis do, too. It’s an interesting system that seems rife with possibilities– possibilities that I can’t wait to check out in the full game. Especially because, as I mentioned earlier, the gameplay is just so darn entertaining and funny!

I was having a great time watching my Miis roll around on the floor of their apartments for no reason, or aimlessly dig holes in the sand at the beach. The animations aren’t anything beyond what other Mii-centric titles have featured over the years, but the personality and expressiveness is unlike anything yet seen with Nintendo’s lovable creations. Nintendo’s localization team is second to no one, as the quirkiness of the Miis, including the bombastic dialogue, is so perfectly conveyed here. While this isn’t a game that everyone will love, I think that fans of Animals Crossing, The Sims, and other offbeat titles should be excited for Tomodachi‘s release. The demo gave just enough to let me know what to expect when the full game releases, but also left me wanting way more. The handful of things I got to do just got me wondering what else to expect, and I look forward to sharing my thoughts on Tomodachi Life when it releases in a couple of weeks on June 6!


Mario Kart 8 Impression


In case you didn’t get in on the fun, Nintendo had Mario Kart 8 preview events at GameStops this past weekend, and I was lucky enough to give the game a go. I’ve been with the Mario Kart series since its debut on SNES, and have thoroughly enjoyed every installment since. Mario Kart 7 has become something of a benchmark for me following its release on 3DS, with its brilliant new air and underwater additions to the racing formula, so I had very high expectations for 8 as I walked into my local GameStop. I’m happy to report that if the final game is anything like what I sampled, fans have quite a bit to look forward to when it drops on May 30th.

From the outset, the MK8 demo hits the ground running, as players are greeted by way of Mario shouting the title’s name with total abandon. Just to reiterate, this isn’t the final game, so I’m assuming there might be tweaks to certain things in the game’s final retail version. That being said, I enjoyed the serenity of selecting a racer then quickly assembling a kart to my liking. As in MK7, 8 has carried over the simple mix and match system of combining chassis, wheels and tires, and gliders, which I hope is never abandoned. Besides the strategic aspect of it, kart customization adds a small flourish of individuality that I greatly appreciate. From there, players select from one of eight tracks, and it’s off to, well, the races!

It never ceases to amaze me how easy Nintendo makes track design look in the Mario Kart games. In just the small sampling of races that the MK8 demo affords, I was floored by an incredible variety of courses. Toad Harbor feels like a pseudo-San Francisco with its hilly roads and cable cars, while Sunshine Airport sends a jetliner straight at the player as they glide through the air. In terms of visuals, it’s easily one of the top games on Wii U. My eyes were darting all over the screen trying to soak in every glittery detail of the tracks I was zooming around. If Wii U is “last-gen”, I don’t ever want to leave.

As far as course design goes, the MK8 demo is also tops. Course layouts are intentionally pulse-pounding, with mini-events like the incoming jetliner I described packed into every course, which is both visually arresting but also a means of keeping players on their toes. What seem like simple eye candy is often an obstacle or hazard in disguise, tasking players to act on the fly to avoid crashing and falling behind. What’s more, sometimes these events happen once per race, which further amps up the thrills. It’s not as jarringly chaotic as I’m making it sound, either, as players will have clear indications of when road conditions change or a hazard is incoming; it’s a more than fair setup. Essentially, it’s a new way of making every race unique and fun, no matter how many times someone plays through the game.

Finally, the controls are as rock solid as ever. I played using the GamePad and Wii Racing Wheel, and while I race exclusively with traditional analogue stick and button controls, I was pleasantly surprised at how much better the motion tracking was in the demo than Mario Kart Wii. That not to say MK Wii had rotten motion controls, but MK8 is clearly a step up. Regardless of which setup I used, my racer controlled perfectly. That’s important, given the insane amount of action happening on the screen. The transition from land to sea to air is as smooth as it was in MK7, and the new anti-grav mechanic is equally sound. It might seem like a mundane new feature, but anti-grav is a thrill to experience. Racing along a wall with other drivers below me was mind-bending and exciting. The avenues this opens for finding shortcuts was not lost on the developers, either, so look forward to secrets peppered about that tie-in to the mechanic.

Overall, I think Nintendo has put together a racer to be proud of. I couldn’t get enough of the demo and found myself even more hyped up for MK8 than I was before. May 30th can’t get here soon enough, and when it does, I’ll be following up with a full review!

REVIEW-Kirby Triple Deluxe


Let’s get something out of the way early; Kirby games are intentionally made to be easy to play. While not a genre, in the traditional sense, the approachability of Kirby games is a part of the series’ DNA. As such, I go into playing any Kirby title with my expectations set accordingly. I don’t pigheadedly declare that Kirby has to be harder, just like how I don’t decide that a first-person shooter shouldn’t have shooting, or that a racing game should have much less driving. I don’t think it’s right to slam a game for not being what I want it to be; a game should be reviewed for what it is and if the developers made their vision into a reality.

With that out of the way, let’s return to Kirby Triple Deluxe, the latest platformer from the talented folks at HAL Laboratory. Like 2011′s Kirby’s Return to Dream Land for Wii, Triple Deluxe is a traditional 2D Kirby platformer, with the usual dynamic compliment of copy abilities, inhaling, and floating in tow. Players are cast as Kirby, who finds his world being pulled skyward by a mysterious, giant beanstalk (called a Dreamstalk), and his arch-nemesis/sometimes-buddy King Dedede being carried away by a mysterious figure. The chase is on to find out where the stalk is from and who’s abducted Dedede! Kirby games do a good job of balancing between recycling plots and characters of old while also introducing new ones, and Triple Deluxe is no different. It’s no Shakespeare, but I was genuinely curious to find out who was causing all the mayhem.

3DS continues to amaze me with the quality of visuals it’s capable of producing. Triple Deluxe is a triumph of art direction and graphics that ranks right up there with Kid Icarus: Uprising and Super Mario 3D Land. I don’t know if it’s a company mandate that Nintendo platformers no longer stick to worlds with specific themes (ice, lava, forest, etc.), but continuing the trend was a brilliant move, as Triple Deluxe is a visual feast as a result. Levels float freely between different types of hazards and aesthetics, which helps keep gameplay varied and interesting. One level featured pillars of water shooting from the background forwards, surrounded on all sides by pools of magma. The texture work is stunning, and the animations of Kirby and his enemies fills the game with life. If there’s one weak link in the presentation, it’s the music. While it’s not as sickeningly saccharine as more recent soundtracks in the series (which I appreciated), it’s pretty by the numbers. There are some memorable tracks, but I wasn’t wowed by it, for the most part.

Along with Kirby’s Hypernova powers (which we’ll get to in a bit), the game’s primary gameplay hook is the ability to swap between the background and foreground of the environment. Similar to Donkey Kong Kong Country Returns, the game’s camera will often remain stationary as Kirby shrinks into the background, where gameplay continues unabated. HAL really had some fun with the new play control dynamic, as there are a ton of new challenges centered around switching back and forth. It’s never treated arbitrarily or abused, either; the use of swapping is expertly balanced so it that never feels like a gimmick. Unlike many of the more recent releases on 3DS, Triple Deluxe relishes in the 3D capabilities of 3DS. Switching planes is one aspect of the game that really benefits from the visual trickery, and while not necessary (2DS users will be able to play just fine), it adds some flair to the already beautiful graphics.

There are other areas where the level design shines, in particular the mini-boss and boss battles. The mini-boss battles, I’d like to point out, aren’t limited to the usual encounters with bulkier baddies like Mr. Frosty, for instance, but full-on fights. The battles are impromptu and kept me on my toes, as I never knew when to expect them. Each successive fight had me grinning from ear to ear as I learned to lob things into the screen to hit the enemy on the background plane, or whatever unique stratagem was needed to come out victorious.  One tool that came in handy during some of these battles was the aforementioned Hypernova ability. Granted by a piece of fruit that appears in certain stages, it allows Kirby to inhale godly sums of items and enemies, regardless of size. While perhaps not the most original move added to Kirby’s repertoire, HAL employed some wonderful uses of Hypernova. It was fun using Kirby’s giant maw to pull back on a ball and chain to destroy obstacles, as well as inhale gargantuan eels. I hope Hypernova finds its way into future Kirby games.

In the spirit of Return to Dream Land‘s Energy Spheres, Triple Deluxe has a number of Sun Stones to find in each stage. The final stage in a level can only be reached if a certain number of them have been gathered, and those who make the effort to find all of them are rewarded with an extra stage. Along with the Sun Stones, there is also a whole host of 8 and 16-bit keychains to obtain throughout the adventure. The trinkets range from common to rare, and are randomly awarded at the end of each stage. As I mentioned earlier, Kirby games aren’t known for their difficulty, but coupled with its excellent level design and some truly dastardly Sun Stones to retrieve, Triple Deluxe is no pushover. Boss battles in particular can be quite beastly if a less than optimal copy ability is equipped beforehand! Between the Sun Stones, keychains, and smart level and boss designs, even hardcore players will face a respectable challenge. I will note, though, that sometimes the boss fights spike the difficulty level a bit out of the blue, and with ability selection being something of a crapshoot, it made some altercations unfairly cumbersome. It’s not game breaking, but I think that HAL could have done better, here.

Beyond the single player campaign, Triple Deluxe also offers a handful of other modes. Kirby Fighters is a fighting mini-game that plays somewhat like a scaled-down Super Smash Bros., and Dedede’s Drum Dash, a rhythm-platform mini-game. While not beefy enough to warrant their own full games, both are excellent diversions and time killers. I was particularly taken by Drum Dash, which offered a  potent mixture of game mechanics. Finally, StreePass is devoted to swapping keychains with other players. The keychains, by the way, act almost like the trophies in Smash Bros., as they’re each based on a character or enemy from past Kirby games, recreated pixel by pixel. StreetPass should neatly assist satisfying what will surely become an addiction for many fans! Altogether, there is a ton of content to experience in Triple Deluxe that will keep players busy well beyond the conclusion of the main game. This is a game easily worth any player’s time, be they a rookie or veteran player. Make your day deluxe and buy a copy of Kirby’s latest game!

Score: 8.7/10

+ Excellent graphics and art direction; Level design is brilliant and varied; Hypernova ability and keychain collecting; Plane swapping provides for some clever battles and puzzles.

– Some boss battles arbitrarily ramp up the difficulty level, with players unable to compensate with at least a favorable ability equipped.

Top 5 Most Creative DS Games

If there’s one thing that DS did better than any of its contemporaries, it was pumping out one creative title after another. In all my years of gaming, I’ve never seen a system with so many unique and different titles. When compiling this list, my goal wasn’t to catalogue the titles with the greatest stories, graphics, or sales numbers, but the games that stood out for trying something new with gameplay. Here’s a breakdown of the top five most creative DS games and what made them special!

5) Cooking Mama

Cooking Mama

Developer: Majesco/Office Create | Release: 2006

The touch screen-only gameplay of Majesco’s Cooking Mama might seem ubiquitous now, but when this first game in the series launched back in 2006, it was unlike almost anything else on the market. The goal of the game was to follow the titular “Mama”‘s instructions in order to craft a variety of dishes. The recipes could be a little weird, and the controls weren’t always perfect, but the sheer fun of virtually chopping veggies and manipulating a frying pan were undeniable. The various stylus movements required to cook were surprisingly authentic compared to their real world counterparts, which made the experience even more enjoyable. It was a surreal experience seeing something mundane come to life so vividly, which is really reminiscent of Harvest Moon, in a way. Cooking Mama was a perfect example of how goofy and alt gaming could be and opened the medium up to a whole new audience of players.

4) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright

Developer: Capcom | Released: 2005

Visual novels were uncommon on American consoles in 2005, which was especially true of the handheld scene. Enter Phoenix Wright, Capcom’s game of farcical courtroom proceedings and crime investigation. Players used the DS stylus to navigate through different environments to find clues to solves crimes and engage in simple logic problems during trials to discern lies from truth. The combination of intuitive controls, rich sprites, and incredibly clever writing made Phoenix Wright a hit and spawned a number of sequels as a result. Games like Professor Layton and Ghost Trick might have (arguably) done it better than Phoenix, but this first game was in a league of its own when it landed and was a major turning point for me, as a player. It really opened my eyes to what gaming could be about beyond Mario and it had a lasting impact on me as a gamer.

3) Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Hotel Dusk

Developer: Cing | Released: 2007

Oh, Cing, we hardly knew ye. The now-defunct developer was responsible for Hotel Dusk, an engaging title that had players hold their DS open like a book. The odd orientation of the handheld was intentional though, as Hotel Dusk cast players as a detective trying to solve a mystery, with a tone every bit of what a person would expect from an old Chandler or Hammet story. The game’s scratchy, illustrated-looking characters also contributed to the game’s gritty, thriller vibe. Players used their styluses to flick and pan the screen, exploring the old hotel to look for clues, solve puzzles, and interact with characters. Part visual novel, part first-person adventure, Hotel Dusk remains a unique experience on DS that was never quite replicated by anyone else. Too bad the Wii sequel never made it West.

2) The World Ends With You

The World Ends With You

Developer: Square Enix | Released: 2008

The World Ends With You was the perfect example of how to properly merge a tried and true genre like RPGs with the quirky touch controls of DS. Along with its engaging story and vibrant graphics, World Ends featured an innovative touch battle system that practically crackled with energy. The game also introduced interesting concepts like rewarding XP for not playing it! World Ends has created something of a cult following in the years since, but it was a game that any player who tried it found intoxicating. In a world of stale JRPG conventions, World Ends went against the grain in almost every way it could, and was a better game for it.

1) Kirby Canvas Curse

Kirby Canvas Curse

Developer: HAL Laboratory | Released: 2005

While one of the earliest titles released for the console, Kirby Canvas Curse remained one of its finest all the way until the end. Relying only on the stylus for control by drawing ethereal lines to guide Kirby with, Canvas Curse was a revelatory gaming experience. Somehow, HAL was able to take everything that players loved about Kirby and translate it into an almost entirely new experience. The controls were intuitive, and while clearly designed to highlight the new touch screen, never felt gimmicky. As ever, Kirby brought fans a game unlike any other, and it’s the marquee example of what made DS the center of creativity in the video game industry!

Believe me, there are a TON more games that deserve a place on this list. Guitar Hero: On Tour (with it’s awesome guitar peripheral), WarioWare: Touched!Picross 3D999Okamiden, and more, but this little handful always stands out to me, in particular. List any other great DS games that you think got the creative juices flowing!

In Defense of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’ Ending


Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers for all of you who haven’t seen the end of MGSV: Ground Zeroes.

“There’s a bomb in my…”, Paz trails off, as she jumps from the helicopter in order to save her rescuers from the impending explosion building within her. It’s a powerful moment, as the player realizes that Paz, who was a traitor in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, is sacrificing herself in order to save the very person she betrayed. It’s also powerful, or at least jarring, to realize the implications of where the bomb is inside her, exactly. Players had just been subjected to the sight of Snake and a medic removing a bomb from her stomach, sans painkillers. Blood, guts, and screaming filled the scene, which was brutal to watch. Thinking she was safe, it was more than surprising when she declared they’d missed another explosive hidden away. It’s this moment, however, that is stirring up controversy across the internet, because the implication is pretty explicit that the bomb is either between her legs or in her anus.

There’s really no other place for it to be, though I will grant that it doesn’t necessarily mean there wasn’t another bomb in her stomach that they simple missed. However, if it were that straightforward, I’d think that Ground Zeroes‘ director Hideo Kojima would have made it so. It is then reasonable to assume it was, for all intents and purposes, an intentionally vague descriptor. The resulting speculation has lead many to decree Kojima incapable of the mature storytelling he claimed to be striving for with this twist, that it was just more violence and abuse against women in media. Which is unfounded, for a number of reasons.

First of all, Paz had a history that exists beyond the confines of Ground Zeroes. Again, her story is detailed in Peace Walker exhaustively, and to a lesser, though no less illuminating, extent in the recordings scattered about the game. People have complained that Paz was simply female fodder, but the truth is that her actions had come full-circle that night and culminated in her death. She also goes out somewhat redeemed, too, because rather than kill everyone else on the chopper, she hurls herself into the sea, instead. Ignoring the sexual implications of her murder, the ending itself for this character was tragic, but part of a greater narrative.

To segue just a bit to the narrative of MGS, there’s also no escaping that Ground Zeroes is one of many games in the series. Just because it might be the first exposure for some players, that doesn’t excuse an ignorant dismissal of the overarching story at play. To say Paz is just randomly inserted and used as a piece of meat is ludicrous. It’s like stepping into an episode of a TV show and claiming that a story element is inappropriate or out of place without doing the slightest bit of research to see where it fits within the greater context of the series. The tapes that catch players up on the story are enough of a resource, but the player bears some responsibility to educate themselves beforehand knowing they’re arriving in the middle of a story.

Still, going back to the real crux of the issue, it’s the notion that Paz suffered some form of rape or sexual abuse prior to her death that’s primarily stoking so many people’s ire. The popular sentiment being that it’s more of the pro-male, anti-female dogma so common in today’s video games. While I strongly support the initiative by those who would prefer to see stronger female leads and characters in the industry, I don’t see what happened to Paz as a blow against that. To repeat, her story isn’t limited to Ground Zeroes. Paz is, to a degree, paying for her own past transgressions. Paying, I fully acknowledge, in one of the worst ways possible, but to address another criticism of the game, audiences have no entitlement to see a narrative end as they please. Like a movie, TV show, or book, sometimes the ending doesn’t feel justified, but that doesn’t mean the creators did something wrong.

There’s this odd opinion that because Ground Zeroes‘ gameplay was fun and compelling, that to kill Paz so horribly at the end didn’t feel earned. That by virtue of playing the game and going through all that trouble to save her, she should have lived. I myself noted much the same thing in my own review of the game. There’s a difference, though, between being letdown and something being inappropriate. From a pure enjoyment perspective, the ending of Ground Zeroes is a letdown. It’s a killjoy. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, though. It’s like the ending of Inception, wanting to see that top stop spinning, and it never does. It’s frustrating, but it’s not out of bounds. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we want them to, and that includes narratives. It happens all the time in entertainment, so I see no reason to subject Ground Zeroes to a different set of rules.

It’s awful if Paz was sexually abused before dying, but as Kojima himself noted, video games have to be able to broach topics like this in order to proceed further as a viable outlet for narratives. In execution, Paz’s potential rape and/or molestation might be a bit grating compared to previous MGS games, but really, the series has always been edgy and pushed narrative boundaries. Ground Zeroes clearly is a step in a new, grittier direction for the series, and while there were plenty of winks at longtime fans, the overall experience upheld that vision all the way to that final scene. I don’t want to think that Paz was attacked in that way, but there a lot of things I don’t want to have happened in stories I’ve experienced and read over the years, but they did.

I think it’s a healthy response for people to debate the ending of Ground Zeroes, but ultimately I think that it was handled well. I’d like to also point out that Hideo Kojima is no slouch as a director. MGS’s story is very dense and layered, to put it mildly, but the wide array of characters, both male and female, that Kojima has depicted over the years is staggering. Kojima’s run the gamut of character personality types and portrayals in his years with the series, and I’ve never once felt like he treats women any differently than men in his games. Ground Zeroes is a compelling game, and it’s ending is only as offensive as someone wants it to be. I think it deals with Paz’s situation as gracefully as it can and look forward to the rest of the adventure in The Phantom Pain.

Retro(spective) 18-Pokémon Snap

Pokemon Snap

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