Pokémon Snap - Review  

Snap Rhymes With...
by Anna Marie Neufeld

Wii Virtual Console
Mostly Easy
5-15 hours
Click here for scoring definitions 

   In late 1999, the Nintendo 64 was gasping near its last, labourious breath, but that didn't mean there wasn't a profit to be made by milking the cash cow that is the Pokémon franchise. With the graphics already being prepared for the upcoming Pokémon Stadium, Nintendo decided to give players a sneak peek at what their wild friends would look like in three dimensions. Thus the idea for Pokémon Snap was born. Though not all of the original set of pokémon are available, it was a fun little game when it was first released. Back again on the Wii Virtual Console, a game is surely in trouble when the sole redeeming factors of the title are that it is both simple to play and finished with a minimal amount of time and effort put into its completion.

   The photography system is pretty simple: look around using the left analog stick, switch quickly one way or the other by flicking the right analog stick in the desired direction. Zoom in using the left shoulder button, and snap away. Although Todd is limited to sixty pictures per course, this is enough for even the most avid shutterbug. Pictures are scored by any special moves they represent (a Gust'ing Pidgey is one of the first specials a player will likely get), size, pose, technique (whether the pokémon is in the centre of the picture), and if there are any additional pokémon of the same type in the photo. Poorly done pictures can score as little as 50 points, where exceptional pictures including the best of all elements can score upwards of 6000 points. To unlock further stages and gifts from the Professor, Todd must either accrue a certain number of points or snap a specific number of pokémon.

   The controls could be called intuitive if they weren't flat out easy. As the game progresses, Professor Oak gives a variety of gifts that will be used to acquire additional pokémon shots, all of which can be used infinitely in each level. The A button is used to throw apple-shaped food, which generally turns pokémon towards it. The B button will toss a Pester Ball, which is a catch-all item to flush new quarry out of bushes or from behind objects, wake up sleeping Snorlax, and other duties. The final tool Todd will receive is the Pokéflute, used to lighten the hearts of any pokémon, making them dance or use special abilities normally inaccessible; to activate the small selection of songs, simply flick the right analog stick directly down.
Stages Seven stages of Variety
While the game design is modified from N64 controls, it is frustratingly easy to accidentally shift the camera left or right while activating the Pokéflute, often ruining a perfect picture moment.

   Both the visuals and music are unusually uneven. While the pokémon themselves are very well done, the backgrounds are only average and the human characters (Todd and Oak) feel like even less little effort was put into them. It's nice to see that the main stars were so nicely done up, but it doesn't really excuse the lackluster feel the rest of the game gives. The nice thing is, the pokémon still look good on the Virtual Console and have aged gracefully. The rest of the graphics still, however, look like garbage. With regards to the music it is very much like the graphics: hit or miss. The sound effects of the pokémon are spot on and will make fans smile at the silly antics accompanying the voice acting. However, the music (what little there is) seems rather thrown in and while it doesn't detract from the various stages, nor does it do anything to add to it either. Had more effort been put into either of these middling aspects, the game would have fared significantly better.

   For most of the game, spotting and snapping pokémon is laughably easy. Most players would be able to stumble through the game with only average shots, as the benchmarks needed to move from one area to the next are not terribly stressful. However, near the end of the game when the player is required to snap certain "signs" that direct to the final level, the difficulty takes a sharp curve upwards simply because the symbols often require either being precisely positioned at the right time, or using the provided tools in rather unique ways. That isn't to say this section in itself is hard, it is simply unexpectedly harder than the rest of the game. Due to the ease of the game and the limited number of pokémon, the game will likely take as little as five hours to complete. Those looking to catch each creature in the best pose will likely spend upwards of fifteen hours before they tire of the monotony of the task.

Scyther Scyther says "Peekaboo!"

   While the concept of a static path through a level isn't new, it is rather unusual to equip the rider with a camera instead of a gun; it's a terrible pun on the idea of rail 'shooter'. The pokémon featured are 65 of the original 151, so while the Poképerfectionists will suffer, those that set out to simply enjoy the game will find the selection pleasing. As for the story, well, there actually isn't one; that being said, what text is available is translated well, and stilted voice acting is included for those that desire to listen to Oak's voice yet again. The main role is played by Todd and his job is to take pictures. That is literally the extent of the story. While it's a good set up, it leaves much to be desired in the way of depth.

   There's been several waves of Pokémon games since the N64 died a dismal death, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Snap made its way onto the Virtual Console. While it will never be a fantastic game, especially since it follows the trend of Pokémon games having zero replayability, it's a change of pace from the usual Pokémon formula and is, if nothing else, a good way to waste an afternoon or evening with the Wii. Those that got into the series since the turn of the century may find this to be an amusing distraction. Others that have played it before or are not fans of the "Gotta Catch 'em All" franchise would be wise to invest their money elsewhere.

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