Pokemon Snap – Finally! A good use for my degree in Photojournalism.

It’s pretty hard to miss the hype for Pokemon Snap. If you turn on the TV, you’ll see all the commercials. If you go to Blockbuster Video, you’ll see the Pokemon Snap sticker machines. Clearly, the Pokemon are synonymous with the rest of our pop culture. Those little pocket monsters from Japan have won the hearts of the American children.

Does that make Pokemon Snap a good game? It’s one thing to have lovable characters in your game, it’s another to have a fun game. For all intent and purposes, Pokemon Snap is a rail shooter. For those of you not familiar with video game jargon, that means you don’t control movement. You ride on “rails” aiming at things. Not all rail shooters are bad. I personally enjoyed the Sega CD classic Sewer Shark.

So is Pokemon a bad game?

I’d have to say that Pokemon Snap has some good points and some bad points. Each depends on what kind of player you are. It’s as cute as cute can be. There is no violence at all, and that was a refreshing change of pace for me. I found myself having a good time. For those of you that need high-res blood splatter all over your screen, Pokemon Snap is not for you.

The replay value is somewhat low. Once you take all your winning pictures, there is little reason to play again. This game was designed as a rental. You go to blockbuster, you play Pokemon Snap for a few nights, you print your best stickers and you never give it a second though. The best Pokemon action is still on the Gameboy – to do battle with your friends. Pokemon Snap is something more of a solo adventure.

I have to admit though… since I am a professional photographer and I was raised by Nintendo games, this game really hit home for me. The story of Pokemon Snap is going on Safari to capture pictures of all the Pokemon. Once you take your pictures, you’re graded on them. Sometimes I found myself disagreeing with the grading. Pokemon Snap believes that the best photos are with the subject dead center. Any photographer knows that the best photos are with the subject slightly off-center. Oh well, what are you going to do?

Anyway… I believe Pokemon Snap to be an excellent game – an instant classic. Sure… there are some problems with replay value, but overall it’s a fine cart. It’s cute and entertaining. I played Pokemon Snap straight through – from the first Pickachu to that magical cat at the end.

Graphics – If you like the Pokemon, you’ll love the game’s look. All of those little guys are in full color. They’re just so adorable. However, the graphics on the N64 no longer impress me. At least… not as much as they used to, now that I own a Dreamcast. Since the Pokemon are only available on Nintendo, 64-Bit is the best they’re going to be… for now.

Sound – The music and sound really isn’t impressive. It’s not bad, but it’s not exciting either. It’s just some tunes that keep with the cutesy theme of Pokemon Snap.

Control – The controls are fairly easy and designed for even the youngest of players. Remember, it’s a rail shooter. If you need to be in total control of movement, then this game is not for you.

Innovation – While there is nothing terribly revolutionary about the game’s engine, sound or graphics, the story line is somewhat unique. I don’t know of many other games where a photographer is the main character. (At least, not counting Spiderman.)

Playability – At first, Pokemon Snap is rather addicting. Then like most games… once you beat it, you’ll probably lose interest.