Revisiting Pokemon Snap | An Overlooked Gem of the ’90s

I remember going to Blockbuster as a kid and seeing the N64 they had in their lobby. Often, I would try and get a few rounds of something in before I was carted back home and sent to bed so my parents could watch a movie without me. However, one day it all became Pokemon Snap stuff. 

This mysterious Pokemon game that I had never heard of that allowed you to have face-to-face interactions with the creatures that I had seen in my GameBoy. 

I was mystified for a time, but it wouldn’t be until my sixth birthday that I would get the chance to really sink my teeth into it. It took me years to beat because I had a dumb baby brain, but when I did I felt so accomplished for figuring out all the little puzzles in the game. 

Seeing as the new Pokemon Snap game has been out for some time now, I felt the need to revisit the original and see if it still holds up today. 

Pokemon Snap

A Minor Character Gets a Game

Instead of Ash, Misty, or Brock receiving their own games to tie in directly with the anime, we received a game about Todd Snap. This eccentric Pokemon photographer appears in an episode of the show before the game released.

I guess this was to flesh out his character because he has zero personality in the game. He is merely a conduit in which to funnel the player’s thoughts and actions.

There isn’t too much of a story in this one. Todd is helping Professor Oak by taking pictures of Pokemon on Pokemon Island. He must work through several regions of the island, many of which haven’t quite been discovered yet. It’s like a wild picture-taking safari. 

Todd rides around the island using a little one-person buggy called, “Zero-One” which is one of the most ‘90s names for anything that I have heard. This buggy is all-terrain and can take Todd anywhere, no matter the elements.

The only caveat is that Todd has zero control over the Zero-One’s route. Presumably Professor Oak doesn’t trust a child to pilot his expensive vehicle across a barely explored island.

The on-rails nature of the game actually makes this something akin to an eye spy game you’d play with your siblings on your way to the beach, your eyes dart around each environment, looking out for the slightest movement.

There isn’t necessarily an “end” in the traditional sense in this title, either. In Pokemon Snap, you explore all of the regions until you have proven your photography skills sufficiently so that Mew itself will bless you with its presence in one final level. 

This level is more or a less just you and Mew playing tag with a camera while it darts around the screen. It was cool to see Mew, but I think I would have liked a more fleshed-out level instead of just barrelling through space. Maybe even make it so that Mew spawns randomly on the maps that we have already visited and interact with Pokemon there. 

That would have been a really cool reward that could impact future replayability. As it is, this Mew level is more of a once-and-done thing. 

Pokemon Snap

The Levels Are Charming

The real reason to play Pokemon Snap is to explore these little environments that the developers have made and see how the Pokemon act in their natural habitats. As I said earlier, the entire island isn’t necessarily explored yet, so Todd only can go where Professor Oak says he can. 

That means he is starting with the iconic beach level where Pidgeys fly high, and Laprases can be seen floating on the horizon. It’s a nice little start to your professional Pokemon photography journey and even offers up hints that there is more to do here that you aren’t ready for. 

This idea that these levels have additional secrets or require an item to fully see is what draws me so much into Pokemon Snap’s premise.

However, it wasn’t until I remembered how to unlock the entrance to the volcano level that I really understood young me’s fascination with the game. See, there are all of these Electrodes in the tunnel, and if you know anything about Pokemon, you know these spheres are dangerous. 

They will explode with the slightest provocation, so throughout the level, it can be a lot of fun to chuck apples at them and see them blow their tops. That is until the very end when one of these explosions destroys an entire wall revealing the trail to the volcano. 

These are the moments that make this game special. By using your knowledge of Pokemon or just playing around with the limited sandbox, you are able to progress or see little easter eggs that you might have missed otherwise. 

For instance, you can make Magmar and Charmander fight on the volcano, which will lead to Magmar completely scorching Charmander. However, this fire will lead to Charmander evolving into Charmeleon and absolutely curb-stopping Magmar.

The fun isn’t necessarily taking cute pictures of a Bulbasaur on top of a log as much as it is trying to get the Pokemon to interact with each other, their environment, or you. Another great example is when Pickachu is being kidnapped by a Zubat, but if you manage to peg it with an apple, Pickachu will become the iconic balloon Pickachu. 

In that same level, there are even Jigglypuffs that you can rescue, and if you rescue all three, you get your own little concert at the end of the level. 

The game isn’t hard at all and can typically be beaten in a couple of hours, but it’s just such a charming premise that it makes me want more. Which I guess is a good thing, but I know if I had been a smarter kid and beaten this earlier, I would have been upset. 

I can play this every few years but trying to make it stretch out till the next holiday as a kid with no money? Would never happen. 

Overall, I think Pokemon Snap is one of the most charming games on the N64, and while we did just receive a sequel, I hope that the series can continue to live on in some capacity for Nintendo.

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