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Pokémon Snap – Second Opinion

Dale Weir's picture

To speak of Pokémon Snap's far-reaching appeal, I must mention that the Bronx Zoo angle came to me and Chi separately. I first thought that a photo-journalistic approach (linking the experience to bird watching) was the most fitting comparison. Like bird watching, photographing the Pokémon in their natural environments was key and getting a nice big shot of a rare Pokémon was like finding gold. It was here though that Chi mentioned the idea of a zoo experience. This was a great revelation because the more I played the game the more striking the similarities were and the more I got a kick out of the idea of doing some Pokémon "hunting" of my own.

I hadn't been to the zoo since my freshman year in high school (it was for biology class), but this time around, it was actually quite a different experience than I remember. Previously, going to the zoo served as part of a class assignment; this time, it was purely for fun and adventure. I now realize that I appreciate this latest trip more because of that distinction. So with camera in hand, I really focused in and tried to get caught up in the whole thing; And indeed, there were times when I forgot I was at the zoo and instead thought I was playing a game from my couch. Anticipating the animals' movements as well as factoring in the movement of the monorail was a lot like playing the game. But to be fair, the game was probably more like the real life experience rather than the other way around. Nevertheless, the differences did begin to blur at times.

As I got caught up though I noticed a couple of things. Pokémon Snap is a game and for all its ingenuity, it's simplified a few things that just would not work in the real world. For instance in Pokémon Snap, getting the shot of the Pokémon is key and not the actual well-being of the Pokémon themselves. My character was given gadgets to "encourage" the Pokémon into better poses so I could earn higher scores. Now this works well in a game but as I progressed through the park looking at the far less animated animals, I kept wishing I had a "pester ball" or just a piece of fruit to heave at them. A case in point occurred at the giraffe exhibit. The poor animal must have been hungry or just too shy because it was intent on staying by the gate where the zookeepers were. And sure enough, this other photographer must have been feeling impatient as I was, because out of nowhere came a flying chunk of pizza; right into the pen. It was a surreal moment that became a hysterical one as the giraffe actually moved towards the food (and closer to my camera). Click, click, and I was off to another exhibit. I silently thanked the moron who got the giraffe's attention but I wondered if we were all caught up in getting the shot and caring less about the rules or about simple courtesy to the animals. Maybe Jack Hannah has an opinion on that.

As I was writing this second opinion, I was reminded of when I had to write one for Pokémon Pinball and how I felt that Nintendo was exploiting the franchise; to an extent I feel the same way with this game. It's a shame that the hardcore gamer will probably ignore this game because this is the one that I would recommend most to someone who hasn't yet been caught up in the Pokémon frenzy. It offers so many new videogame elements (some of which are on consoles for the first time), that it should be played by every gamer who considers him or herself a sophisticated player. After all, here is a game that tries to convince gamers that becoming an ace photographer is a worthy goal. All destructive or really harmful elements are gone and we beg you to simply play innocently. I shouldn't have to tell you that a game like this doesn't come along everyday. Rating: 9.0 out of 10

Category Tags
Platform(s): Nintendo 64  
Developer(s): Hal Laboratories  
Key Creator(s): Satoshi Tajiri  
Publisher: Nintendo  
Series: Pokemon  
Genre(s): Weird  
ESRB Rating: Everyone  
Articles: Game Reviews   Best Work  

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