Oh (Pokémon) Snap!
Trainers! Today is the day! After a 22-year wait (yes, you read that right) we are finally getting a new Pokémon Snap. As I have waited not-so-patiently for this long-desired sequel, this week I thought I would fire up my Nintendo 64 and play through the original Pokémon Snap for a trip down memory lane. I was not disappointed.
Originally released in 1999, Pokémon Snap was a delight to fans of the franchise. Up until this point, the Pokémon games had only been available for the Gameboy. Pre-dating the wildly successful Pokémon Stadium, this was the first time that many Pokémon had been rendered in 3D (and it kinda shows. I mean, look at that low-poly Eevee). This could be a big reason why only 63 of the original 151 Pokémon were available in the game.
After a little (okay, a LOT) of dusting and some fiddling with cables, I was able to hook up my N64 and boot up the game. Oh my, it was like a literal time machine! The instant wave of nostalgia that flowed over me as I heard the familiar theme music was intense. All of a sudden, I was a 12-year-old girl again, giggling with my siblings about the silly pictures we would take and begging my parents to take me to Blockbuster so I could have those images printed out as stickers so I could share them with my friends.
Professor Oak greeted me like an old friend and explained the rules of the game. But I was in for a little bit of shock on that first run though the beach level of the game. I was having a hell of a time aiming my camera and it took me a minute to figure out why—I have been so used to modern gyroscopic controls for aiming that I have totally forgotten how to aim with a joystick! Yep, I was trying to aim the camera by moving my whole transparent purple N64 controller. Needless to say, I didn’t get many good pictures on that round.
Even once I came to my 1999 era senses, this game was still challenging. In every level there is so much going on! In this rail shooter style game, once the level starts you are on a set path and pace, with a limited time to capture any given scene. Trying to get just the right pose at just the right angle as you are continuously moving through the environment is hard, but so satisfying when you get it right.
Though there is a limited number of Pokémon available in this game, one thing that still impresses me about it is the replay value. You will play through the first few levels, then Professor Oak will give you the apples. Apples can lure out Pokémon and make them exhibit different behaviors, and you play through the levels over and over again to find how they react to the treat. Then later you get the pester ball which can bother a Pokémon out of hiding or encourage it to spontaneously evolve, and the Pokéflute which will wake up sleeping ‘mon and make some others dance.
On top of that, there is so much happening in the environment around you that you would be hard pressed to get everything in a single run through a level. Pokémon are appearing on all sides of you, sometimes only offering a good shot for just a moment before disappearing off screen. I found that it was easier to do several runs of a single level and only focus on getting shots of a few Pokémon each time so that I would have a maximum chance of catching Pokémon in a rare pose and get the highest score possible.
Even now, I’m still finding new things in this very old game. For some reason, it never occurred to me to look behind me while on the track. I decided to do so while playing through the cavern level. Nearing the end of the course, you can free a Pikachu from a Zubat with a well timed pester ball, which will result in Pikachu flying past you tied to a bunch of balloons. It took a few tries, but I managed to get it, and I thought this was the extent of the interaction. I proceeded to play through the level, playing the Pokéflute to make the Articuno egg hatch. Now, Articuno is my favorite legendary bird, and I was hoping to get one last chance at a good shot of it, so I turned around behind me to see if it would come up again. I was almost too shocked to take a picture when I saw the Pikachu riding Articuno!
It is interactions like this that made the original Pokémon Snap so popular. There was always something new, a hidden Pokémon, a new pose. As the Pokémon franchise has grown over the years, fans have continuously asked for a new Pokémon Snap so they could have that same fun again with all new Pokémon. Well trainers, that day is finally here!
As I fidget through the rest of my workday until I can rush home to open my mailbox and start a whole new Pokémon Snap journey, I’m curious. What will this new game be? Will all 932 Pokémon be available? What new features can we look forward to? I suppose I will just have to find out.