Younger gamers may not remember it, but there was a time when the Pokémon brand name was more synonymous with quality than the Nintendo Seal. The official series titles are still critical successes, but lately the spin-offs have ranged from bad (PokéPark) to mediocre (Pokémon Ranger). Pokémon Conquest seems to have turned that around a bit, but that seems to be more of an exception to the rule. But in the early days of the franchise, the spin-offs had an almost unprecedented level of quality. In 1999, Pokémon Pinball made a strong splash, giving the series its first ever spin-off, a quirky and addicting pinball title. A few months later, the Nintendo 64 would receive its own spin-off, an equally quirky game that would become one of the system’s fastest selling titles: Pokémon Snap.
Pokémon Snap was interesting to say the least. While Pokémon Red and Blue (and even Pinball to some extent) were focused primarily on battling and capturing the pocket monsters, Snap was a much more laidback experience. It tasked its players with simply taking photographs of Pokémon in the wild. For the first time ever, players were seeing Pokémon flying through the air, swimming through massive rivers and even just lounging in their natural habitats. Outside of the animated series, this had never been seen before. Suddenly, the Pokémon world felt like a real place. As players progressed, they were granted different items to help them coax the titular characters into posing for higher scoring photos. Some Pokémon couldn’t even be seen until Professor Oak gave you the right item to use, giving players an incentive to return to previously completed areas.
While Pokémon Pinball went on to receive a sequel, Snap wasn’t so lucky. It’s a shame too, as the title seems like it would really benefit from a sequel. What’s interesting about Pokémon Snap is that so much has changed since the game first saw release. Nintendo has had three video game consoles since then. The graphical jump alone would make a return to Pokémon Island seem worth it, but there are a lot more reasons than just that.
The Wii U seems like the ideal console to house a follow-up. Imagine using the GamePad as a camera and using motion controls to take pictures of Pokémon on your TV. When the original title first came out, you could bring your copy to Blockbuster Video where a machine could be used to print your photos as stickers. Blockbuster Video barely exists today. And the way we take photos has completely changed since 1999. The advent of camera phones has made everyone a photographer. Nintendo could add different camera filters to the game, and incorporate the ability to post and compare photos online via Miiverse, or even some kind of partnership with Instagram. With our society’s newfound obsession with photography, it only makes sense to do more with this little corner of the Pokémon universe.
Another reason that a new Pokémon Snap would be a smart move is that the number of pocket monsters has grown exponentially since the first title saw release. The original title only featured 63 of the original 151 Pokémon. While the original group of 151 consists of a number of fan favorites, there are now a lot more Pokémon to choose from. Characters like Magnemite, who didn’t quite fit into the original game’s island setting, could be replaced by more logical choices. This would also help the game add some variety, and maybe even help endear older fans to Pokémon from the newer generations.
When Pokémon Snap debuted in 1999, it was unlike anything we’d ever seen from Nintendo. And now, 14 years later… it’s still unlike anything else on the market. The game’s mechanics have yet to be repeated and it offered a much more relaxing atmosphere than we see in most games today. I’d even compare it to the more mellow tone of Kirby’s Epic Yarn. I’d more than welcome a return trip to Pokémon Island. I think there are plenty of exciting reasons to go back. Here’s hoping that Nintendo agrees.