North American Nintendo 64 cover art
|Genre(s)||First-person rail shooter
Pokémon Snap (ポケモンスナップ Pokemon Sunappu) is a first-person rail shooter and simulation video game co-developed by HAL Laboratory and Pax Softnica and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. It was first released in Japan in March 1999, and was later released in June 1999 in North America and in September 2000 for PAL regions. It is a spin-off game in the Pokémon series, being one of the first console-based games for it, and featuring many Pokémon rendered for the first time in real-time 3D. The game was re-released for the Wii's Virtual Console in December 2007 as well as Wii U's Virtual Console in 2016.
Originally announced as a Nintendo 64DD title, development of Pokémon Snap was moved to the Nintendo 64 due to the 64DD's poor sales. The gameplay is similar to other first-person games, viewing from the perspective of protagonist Todd Snap as he moves automatically on a rail. The objective of the game is to take pictures of Pokémon, using items such as apples and "pester balls" to achieve better shots. After each round, players are judged based on the quality of their photos. The Virtual Console version features the ability to send pictures taken in the game to the Wii Message Board and send them to friends, whereas the Nintendo 64 cartridge could be taken to either Blockbuster or Lawson stores in North America and Japan to have pictures from the game printed on stickers.
Its release was promoted heavily by Nintendo, including being featured in more than 86,000 hotels, and a contest to send the winner to Australia. By the end of 1999, Pokémon Snap sold 1.5 million copies, and was a strong rental title in 1999 after its release. It was met with a mostly positive reception by critics, described as "addictive" by IGN and Boys' Life, and "innovative" by Electric Playground. It has also been compared to other video games with photography, such as Afrika, Dead Rising, and Beyond Good & Evil. It has also been used as a notable example of video games with photography.
Synopsis and gameplay
Todd Snap (トオル Tooru), a Pokémon photographer, is summoned by Professor Oak to Pokémon Island, a place with a variety of climatic and geographic regions where Pokémon live relatively undisturbed by humans. Oak needs quality pictures to accompany his scientific findings, and knows from past experience that Todd is the right person for the job. Using a motorized, amphibious buggy named the Zero-One, Todd explores the island and takes photographs of the wide variety of Pokémon that inhabit its environments.
From Professor Oak's research hub, the player can select between the game's levels and features using a menu system. The path through the levels is linear, similar to a rail shooter. Up to 60 pictures can be taken per visit to a course. After completing a course, the player selects their best picture of each Pokémon to be rated by Professor Oak and added to the Pokémon Report. Scoring takes into account various aspects of the pictures, such as the Pokémon's size, its pose, and keeping the Pokémon in frame. Extra points are awarded for capturing a "special" pose or Pokémon, such as a surfing Pikachu, and if there are multiples of the same Pokémon within the frame. Scoring well in the Pokémon Report and photographing a wide variety of Pokémon is required to make progress in the game. Players can also use an "Album Mark" to mark their favorite pictures; this adds the pictures to a personal in-game album to view at a later date or show to friends.
Players start out with only a camera, but as they progress, Professor Oak will provide them with a number of special items used to obtain better photographs. The game features seven levels: Beach, Tunnel, Volcano, River, Cave, Valley, and the special course "Rainbow Cloud." However, the staggered acquisition of items ensures that the player must re-explore the courses to discover new material. Levels must be replayed after acquiring new items in order to locate hidden Pokémon, alternate routes, or photographic opportunities that yield the best scores. The first item, apple-shaped Pokémon food, can be thrown to either stun or attract Pokémon. Another, "Pester Balls", are able to knock out Pokémon or flush them out of hiding. The Poké-Flute item is used in a variety of ways, such as awakening, irritating, or hatching Pokémon. It can cause Pokémon to dance, and it can play three different songs, resulting in different dances from certain Pokémon. Additionally, players can obtain a Dash Engine for the Zero One, allowing the vehicle to accelerate and move faster than normal.
Pokémon Snap was developed by HAL Laboratory and Pax Softnica, and published by Nintendo. The game features 63 of the original generation of 151 Pokémon. It was released on March 21, 1999 in Japan, July 26, 1999 in North America, and September 15, 1999 PAL regions.
Pokémon Snap was initially revealed as a Nintendo 64DD game, but later shifted development back to the Nintendo 64 due to poor sales of 64DD hardware. The title did not start development as a Pokémon product, but the developers felt it lacked a motivation for the players to take quality photos, which led to the idea of incorporating Pokémon.
In December 2007, Pokémon Snap was re-released for the Wii as a Virtual Console title. While the original release supported the ability to take the cartridge into Blockbuster or Lawson stores in the United States to have taken pictures printed as stickers, the re-release replaced this with the ability to save photos to the Wii message board and share them with friends.
On April 4, 2016, Pokémon Snap was re-released in Japan for Wii U as a Virtual Console title. This version was released in Europe and Australia on August 18, 2016, and North America on January 5, 2017.
Promotion and sales
Pokémon Snap has had several promotions made by both Nintendo and Blockbuster among others. Nintendo and Japanese convenience store Lawson formed a deal where people could bring their copies of Pokémon Snap and have pictures from the game printed in Japan. Nintendo and Blockbuster formed a similar deal where Blockbuster would exclusively print stickers from players' copies of Pokémon Snap in the United States. They hosted a contest called "Take Your Best Shot", where the player who produces the best picture from Pokémon Snap to Nintendo would win a trip to Australia. Nintendo, partnering with LodgeNet, included Nintendo 64s with Pokémon Snap for more than 86,000 hotels with the intent of capitalizing on the Pokémon franchise for the holiday travel season. Nintendo displayed Pokémon Snap at a Pokémon event called "Pokémon League Summer Training Tour".
The game was fourth on the chart for top selling games in Japan for the week of its release, March 18 to March 24. For the week ending May 21, 1999 in Japan, it ranked fifth. In the United States, Pokémon Snap sold in excess of 151,000 copies in the first three days of its release. Since its release, it was the most rented game, up to October 22, 1999. For the month of November, it was featured in the United States' top 10 list of best-selling video games. For the week ending November 27, it ranked as the 10th best-selling video game, while it remained the most-rented video game for the same week. By the end of 1999, Pokémon Snap was the sixth best-selling video game in the United States, having sold in excess of 1.5 million copies. IGN attributed this success with "well targeted promotions" and the tie in with Blockbuster.
Pokémon Snap received above average reviews from the media, scoring 77/100 on Metacritic. Pokémon Snap was included among a test of video games that are fun, safe, easy to play, and of value for children. Ars Technica editor Frank Caron commented that Pokémon Snap had become a "fan favorite", while author Marina D'Amato called it "famous". Author Amit Dhir called it one of the most popular video games of 1999, alongside Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy VIII. Kotaku described it as a "cash-in branded title". Before its US release, IGN praised it as "strange", yet "fun". Matt Casamassina of IGN called it an "addictive, surprisingly fun" game, noting however that "Pokemaniacs are bound to be disappointed with the selection of Pocket Monsters in the game -- roughly 62 out of a possible 151 in all."
GameSpot praised it as a "refreshingly unique game". IGN editors Mark Bozon and Casamassina commented on Pokémon Snap's likelihood of becoming a Virtual Console title; the former called it a "cult classic" as well as a "fresh and entertaining little package". While Casamassina again criticized the lack of Pokémon and length, he noted that a Virtual Console re-release would be appropriate, due to it being "simple and quick". IGN also called it a "wonderful game for kids of all ages", though again bemoaning its lack of length. Official Nintendo Magazine gave the game an 85%. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the game an 83/100. GamePro commented that while "for Pokemon fans, this is a wonderful game", others will not find it as fun.
Game Revolution called it "an absolute must-have for Pokemon fans and kids in general" but "for the rest of us, it's actually a decent diversion". Electric Playground editor Victor Lucas called it "innovative" and "worth taking a look at". Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu, praised it for its "sense of peace", as well as its reproduction of "the feel of a safari or a theme park." The Detroit Free Press editor Mike Floyd commented that while it has a "lot of initial flash", it "lacks depth to make it a great title". Wired editor Susan Arendt commented that while Pokémon Snap was considered the "bastard child of the Pokémon franchise" by some, the people in her office loved it. The Denver Post editor David Thomas commented that the concept of Pokémon Snap should have "never worked", but it turned out to be "one of the most creative and entertaining games on the market".
The Los Angeles Times editor Aaron Curtiss commented that while he strongly disliked the Pokémon franchise, Pokémon Snap was a great game. In the book Pikachu's global adventure: the rise and fall of Pokémon, author Joseph Jay Tobin called it "innovative" in how it incorporated elements from the Pokémon franchise. The magazine Boys' Life called it addictive, praising the reactions of the Pokémon as "unique and always entertaining". Author Andy Slaven commented that "you have to give Nintendo credit for trying something different with Pokémon", calling it "bizarre". Allgame editor Scott Alan Marriott commented that while the number of Pokémon was lacking and there were a small number of courses, the game has a "substantial amount of replay value". Game Informer commented that Pokémon Snap was "just as much fun as the main entries" in the series. Blockbuster nominated it for best Nintendo 64 game in its "Blockbuster Awards".
Pokémon Snap has been used to describe several other video games, as well as used as an example of photography and aiming in video games; the Washington Post editor John Gaudiosi called the adult video game Panty Raider a "Victoria's Secret meets Pokemon Snap". Game Infowire called Beyond Good & Evil an "odd mixture" of Ratchet & Clank, Jak II, Metroid Prime, and Pokémon Snap. Wired compared Sea Life Safari's premise to Pokémon Snap's. They also compared Pokémon Snap to African Safari. An application called Virtual Stakeout was compared by Kotaku to Pokémon Snap. The book Patterns in game design used Pokémon Snap as an example of "aim & shoot" gameplay. Author Raph Koster similarly used Pokémon Snap in order to describe video games with photography. Author Shanna Compton used Pokémon Snap as an example of a video game that required players to produce photographs for judges to determine their quality. Developer Wade Tinney attributed the inspiration for the game design of Snapshot Adventures: Secret of Bird Island to both Pokémon Snap and the video game Spore. The PlayStation 3 video game Afrika was said by both UGO Networks and Shack News to be Pokémon Snap-like. Dead Rising's photography mechanic was also likened to Pokémon Snap's by Kotaku.
The Virtual Console re-release was met with generally mixed reception. Nintendo Life editor Marcel Van Duyn praised it as a "fun and a relaxing break from the other Pokémon titles", but criticized it as "super short". RPGamer editor Anna Marie Neufeld criticized it for having "zero replayability" and "if nothing else, a good way to waste an afternoon or evening with the Wii." IGN editor Lucas M. Thomas called the photo sharing feature a positive of its release, while criticizing its limited selection of Pokémon, similar to the review of the Nintendo 64 version from IGN. He added that a sequel updated to include Wii controls and Pokémon from recent generations would be welcome. IGN included Pokémon Snap in its wish list of Nintendo 3DS remakes, commenting that it could take advantage of the 3DS' ability to produce stereoscopic 3D photos would be an enjoyable feature for Pokémon Snap. IGN also included Pokémon Snap in their retrospective of the Pokémon video game series, praising it as "fun and innovative". IGN praised it for its visual prowess, citing how it allows players in the United States to see Pokémon in three dimensions. In their Pokémon Snap retrospective, Game, Set, Watch editor Danny Cowan commented that it was a "turnoff for fans", calling how overlooked it was "tragic". Retronauts speculated that the popularity of Pokémon Snap was due to being released at the height of Pokémon fandom. However, one of the commentators on the podcast, Justin Haywald, found this odd, calling it “horrible.” The podcast discussed briefly the prospects of a Pokémon Snap sequel, feeling that the Nintendo 3DS' gyroscope and augmented reality cards could be used, citing Steel Diver for its use of the former feature. Retronauts member Jeremy Parish commented that if they didn't make such a sequel, it's because they are “stupid and don't like money.” IGN commented that a Pokémon game better than Black and White was Pokémon Snap, stating that "It hasn't become stale", "It has better Pokémon", and "It made the Pokémon world feel real". They commented that none of the past Pokémon games "have managed to make the little critters seem as alive as Pokemon Snap did ", and praised the 3D modeling, calling it "glorious". 1UP.com used Pokémon Snap as an example of a game that would use the Wii U controller's gyroscope to look around, calling it "The coolest version of Pokémon Snap ever".
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