Why Pokémon Snap is still one of Nintendo’s best ever spin-offs

Photo mode.

With 151,000 copies sold in North America alone on release day and a total lifetime sales of 3.63 million, Pokémon Snap! was – and still is – a fan favourite and the 11th highest selling Nintendo 64 game. There’s been calls for a sequel for the last 22 year, but it’s only now that Nintendo are finally granting Pokéfans’ wishes with ‘New Pokémon Snap’ releasing 30th April 2021.

Counting down the days until its Nintendo Switch launch, let’s take a look back at what Pokémon Snap such a memorable entry in this power-selling franchise.


Fairy tale beginnings

Premiering as ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ at 1997’s spring Tokyo Game Show, Snap initially had nothing to do with the Pokémon franchise. Furthermore the game was originally in development for the 64DD, a disc-drive add-on for the Nintendo 64 that flopped, only releasing in Japan with a measly spread of ten supported titles.

We know very little of Jack and the Beanstalk and, if not for the breakout success of Pokémon Red and Green, it would have likely been cancelled or shunted into obscurity. Nintendo were having a hard time making their photography game appeal to players, but happened on the notion of merging it with Pokémon to create one of the N64’s fun and most unique offerings.

Pokémon Snap! is a first-person 3D photography game featuring on-the-rails movement to keep gameplay focused. Firstly, Todd Snap, the game’s protagonist, is tasked by Professor Oak to visit Pokémon Island and collect high-quality pictures for Oak’s research. Players soon learn that the island is untouched by humans, showing Pokémon in their natural habitats.

How did Pokémon Snap play?

Upon completing each of the seven stages in Pokémon Snap, you need to go through your camera roll and choose 60 photos to submit. Professor Oak’s scoring system then considers the positioning, posture, and size of captured Pokémon with bonuses for hidden poses and rare Pokémon. Nailing photos means more points which unlock further levels in-game.

Items also unlock as the game progresses to enhance the replay value of Pokémon Snap. Pester Balls and apples are thrown at Pokémon to capture different poses and trigger different scenarios, for example.

Photography was Super Effective

Receiving an average score of 77 out of 100 on Metacritic, Pokémon Snap! was met with good reviews due to its unusual yet alluring gameplay mechanics and the novelty of an on-the-rails shooter. One of its most significant achievements was attracting players outside of the fandom. Los Angeles Times editor Aaron Curtis commented that whilst he hated the Pokémon franchise, he loved Pokémon Snap.

Nintendo launched a cross-promotion with Blockbuster and Lawson stores in America and Japan where players could print off their photos. The Pokémon Snap Station lasted for around a year, featuring a competition called ‘Take Your Best Shot” for an Australian outback safari holiday as the main prize. Sticker stations are now collector’s items, selling for over $1000.

Franchise firsts

Perhaps one of the biggest allures for fans was that Pokémon Snap! was the first game to feature 3D Pokémon and egg hatching. Both were mind-blowing for the time. Following the animé, Pokémon Snap featured the voice actors of Pokémon. The main character Todd also appeared in a series of his own named ‘Snap’ for home video releases, his name later confirmed as ‘Todd Snap’ to clear up any confusion.

Early beta footage features cut content, including two levels and Ekans. If included, Pokémon Snap would have featured 64 of the original 151 Pokémon – a missed marketing opportunity? Cut original soundtracks have surfaced in recent years also, composer Ikuko Mimori having uploaded the track “Fantastic Horror” calling it a ‘tune for a lost stage’.

The Masuda Method

Junichi Masuda, Pokémon producer, has issued mixed comments about a sequel to Pokémon Snap over the years, most likely to play down any hype about a potential sequel in development. Speaking about the possibility of a Wii U Pokémon Snap in 2014, Masuda was quite optimistic about a new entry:

It’s really popular! We get this a lot. If they were to create another one, they’d probably need to come up with some kind of new invention to make it fresh. Of course, everyone thinks of the gamepad, but whoever made it would have to come up with something unexpected.

Of course, that never came to pass. Had the Wii U been more successful, a Pokémon Snap that took advantage of the console’s second screen on the Gamepad to act as an in-game camera would have put a distinctive spin on the original. New Pokémon Snap for Nintendo Switch has to be a bit more traditional.

From what we’ve already seen of New Pokémon Snap, it seems to be shaping up rather nicely. Without straying from those core Snap gameplay mechanics, we can expect a much larger Pokédex to encounter, Nintendo also allowing players to edit and share shots with other players. New Pokémon Snap will launch exclusively for Nintendo Switch on April 30th, 2021.