The recipe for a successful Pokémon game has typically been pretty simple: 1 cup Capture, 1 cup Battle, mix until fluffy…Don’t get me wrong, I have always enjoyed the tried and true formula, but sometimes you just want to sit back and relax. The world needs more Pokémon games that focus less on the fighting and more on the way Pokémon interact with each other and the interesting world in which they live. There just so happens to be a Pokémon game for the N64 takes such an approach. Who hasn’t wanted to take a selfie with a Snorlax? Or alliterate with a Arcanine? Pokémon Snap offers an alternative Pokémon experience that is refreshing and will be sure to put a smile on your face. This game can be appreciated on a whole new level when you have the opportunity to share it with your little one.
My daughter, Mae, has seen the original Pokémon series on Netflix and this seemed a natural progression. I first played Pokémon Snap in a hotel (remember that controller that was hooked directly into the TV?) [Editor’s Note: YUUUPPPPP! – Tom] as a kid and thought that Mae might be old enough to start taking some of her own Pokémon pictures. One problem we are consistently running into since starting Raising a Gamer is that it’s pretty hard to find a game that suits Mae’s skill level. Many games seem completely up her alley at first and then, a moment later, a challenging platforming section or somewhat technical puzzle shows up. I have been looking for a game that I can share with Mae where we can start taking off the training wheels and let her and enjoy it on her own.
This is one of those games that is best when you just sit back, relax, and take in the scenery. The lack of consequences is refreshing, there are no lives, no continues, no evil moon crashing into your hometown…simple. The photo rating system that is in place is not overbearing and, depending on how you choose to play, not even required. Mae was very content just taking pictures of whatever caught her eye, be it volcanoes or palm trees, Metapods or Slowpokes. In addition to snapping pictures, Mae invented a unintended mini-game. Once we unlocked the Pokémon food, she would just go through the different courses throwing apples and feeding all of the different Pokémon. She said that she was the delivery girl and had to feed all the Pokémon pets…yea adorable, I know.
Given our close proximity to the Disney parks, the immediate parallel I can draw is one of those theme park safari rides, the only thing missing is the tour guide with those cheesy canned jokes. The photographer rides on a predetermined track and Pokémon pop out at regular intervals. Mae and I both enjoy the random events that occur if you are looking in the right spot at the right time. You can toss an apple and cause a fight between a couple of Magmar, A group of Pidgeys use their whirlwinds to defend their nest from a sneaky Meowth. A lot is going on and you need to revisit each course multiple times to photograph each Pokémon and really experience all that there is to see.
Upon completion of each course you can choose which pictures to show Professor Oak, or you can just mark them to go into your own personal gallery to be viewed later. When I was playing, I was trying to get a high score to unlock new courses and items. When Mae would take the controller she would choose the pictures that she liked, not the ones that might get the best grade. One of my only gripes that I have with Pokémon Snap is the way in which the pictures are scored. The position of the Pokémon on the frame is weighted most heavily. You leave a lot of points on the table if the Pokémon is not in the center of the frame. I guess I get it, and I understand it would be near impossible to program subjectivity into a N64 game…but sometimes the picture might look better when the subject is not dead center. Again, this really doesn’t matter when you adopt Mae’s play style. But it was something that I noticed when trying to unlock stuff for her.
We have yet to unlock all of the items and courses in Pokémon Snap, and I think Mae will enjoy when we get the Poke-Flute and wake up Snorlax. I know that I am looking forward to snapping pictures of some legendaries (Zapdos was always my favorite). I think we are going to play some more Genesis games next, I have been on a big Nintendo kick lately and I have been itching to get Mae and I back into some old school SEGA goodness.