The lights are on
Since the series’ debut almost 20 years ago, Pokémon has cemented itself as a global phenomenon – so much so that Japan has made some fan-favorite Pocket Monsters mascots for its 2014 FIFA World Cup team. Known not only for their exploits dueling each other at the hands of their respective trainers, Pokémon have appeared on virtual pinball boards, trading cards, and even as the subjects of fictional photographer Todd Snap of 1999’s Pokémon Snap.
Fifteen years old this month, Pokémon Snap lingers in the hearts and minds of gamers who grew up during the height of Pokémania thanks to its original, if odd, premise: Rather than capture Pokémon in a Pokéball, you’re sent by Professor Oak to capture them on camera (check out our Replay episode of the N64 hit to see it in action). Despite only featuring roughly a third of the original 151 Pokémon and a sparse seven stages, Pokémon Snap’s charm lies in the voyeuristic view of the world (named Pokémon Island) and observing Pokémon in their natural environment rather than clipping them to your belt buckle to train for battle. However unlikely it may be (don't expect any news on a sequel at E3), the time is right for a Pokémon Snap revival. GamePad and 3DS technologies like the touch screens and image sharing functionality lend themselves perfectly to many of the original game’s mechanics, not to mention the gyroscopes practically inviting us to wield our controllers like a camera. To commemorate a decade-and-a-half since Pokémon Snap’s release, here are some additions to the formula we’d like to see.
Night /Day Cycles
Introduced in Pokémon Gold/Silver, the real-time clock changed the way players interact with the world of Johto. Most notably, some Pokémon only appear at night. Whether based on the 3DS or Wii U internal clock or selectable at the stage select screen, introducing an after-dark version of every stage would essentially double the amount of available courses. Perhaps Todd would need to balance using a flashlight for visibility at the risk of scaring off wild Pokémon, using his trusty apples and the environment to stage the most opportune shots.
Recent Nintendo hits like Fire Emblem: Awakening, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Pokémon X/Y all feature varying levels of character customization, and a new Pokémon Snap should be no different. The core Pokémon games have since included everything from gender and skin tone options to accessories as trivial as hat logos. Pokémon Snap 2 should afford the same level of avatar customization.
Pokémon Snap carried a sense of urgency thanks to its on-rails, forced progression. But just because Oak went through the trouble of creating the Zero-One vehicle doesn’t mean players should have to use it exclusively. While a “classic” game mode on the versatile buggy would certainly be welcome, we’d love to be able to explore an open world crawling with Pokémon, investigating every corner of forests and abandoned power plants to find hidden creatures. Considering how many Pokémon have entered the fray since the original, the possibilities for adventure abound. Imagine, for example, happening upon a Lickitung chasing a helpless Vanillish on a snowy mountain peak. The map doesn’t need to be as expansive as the regions featured in the main games, nor should all 719 Pokémon make appearances. You could see and do just about everything in the original title in about an hour, and brevity played to Snap’s strength. Still, I’d at least like to see Nintendo attempt a greater scope, even if the adventure only lasts a few hours.
A Deeper Inventory
As it stands, Todd has a fairly limited toolset at his disposal: Pokémon food, used to lure Pokémon from one location to another; the Pester Ball, which emits noxious fumes for dizzying Pokémon or smoking them out from their hiding spot; and the Poké Flute, which can wake Pokémon like Snorlax from their slumber or induce a Pokémon to dance. Imagine if Todd were equipped with a fishing rod and water stones. He could reel in a Staryu, flinging his line in the air and leaving him just enough time to hurl a water stone at the little guy, providing for a glamorous shot of the newly-evolved Starmie in mid-air as the sun’s rays refract through beads of water washing off its body. With more items, players would only have more opportunities for interacting with the world.
Social Media Integration
Animal Crossing: New Leaf demonstrated just how eager players are to share their gameplay experiences not just with their friends, but with the entire world. Although the game released nearly a year ago in most territories, searching the #ACNL hashtag on Twitter reveals players still regularly update their followers and community members on the events in their virtual towns. Nearly every tweet has a picture attached to it, showing off everything from a player’s garden or a silly quote from Muffy the black sheep. With 3DS Image Share (or Miiverse), players could post their picture of Espurr and Slowpoke mid-staring contest to Twitter with just a few button presses, rather than bringing their game pak to the video store to print out shots Professor Oak deemed “Wonderful!”
Email the author Wayne Stainrook, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.