No one in the ’90s could have ever predicted the Pokémon craze. Since its debut on the Game Boy in 1996, the franchise has seen plenty of shows, movies, main games, spin-off games, and merchandising. We even had a Pokémon Direct for the newest, upcoming titles this morning! Simply naming everything would take forever to do, so I won’t.
Yet even amidst this 23-year-old franchise, one game in particular often finds itself overlooked. It was the first game in the franchise to debut on a Nintendo home console. It is also one of the few Pokémon cult classics to never see a sequel in the 20 years since its release: Pokémon Snap.
Pokémon Snap is an oddity even in the Pokémon franchise. Most games in the series, even the spin-offs, tend to focus on RPG features: hit points, battle strategies, traversing an expansive world, leveling up. Yet Pokémon Snap, which originally wasn’t supposed to be a Pokémon game at all, was always meant to be unique. Initially meant for the N64DD add-on in Japan, the game quickly transferred to a standard cartridge when the development of said add-on started to drag.
The Pokémon element, too, was also a late addition in 1997, meant to capitalize on the surprise success of the franchise. Nintendo simply hadn’t anticipated how big this small series of games would be at first. But they took the plunge anyway.
The premise of Pokémon Snap is quite simple. The player takes the role of Todd Snap, an aspiring photographer hired by Professor Oak to observe Pokémon in their natural habitat. Initially armed with nothing but a camera, the player sets out through the various regions of Pokémon Island and attempts to photograph — or “snap” — the various Pokémon you come across. It sounds silly, almost juvenile, but there was always something pleasant and relaxing about this game. It was short, breezy to pick up and play, and, most importantly, had tons of replay value.
“Pokémon Photo Safari…”
I think that last part is frequently overlooked with Pokémon Snap. Most on-rails games are shooters meant to be fast-paced and heart-pounding. They’re about quick thrills and immediate action, forcing players to think on their feet. But while there’s definitely an appeal to such games, it doesn’t always have to be like that. On-rail titles are surprisingly flexible, as Pokémon Snap has demonstrated. Besides, this doesn’t mean that the game’s gimmick can’t be challenging, especially for expert photographers trying to get that perfect shot!
Besides, photography, when done well, can be exciting. I know that gamers like games with action and suspense, but sometimes the simple concepts go a long way. And nowhere was this better demonstrated than in Nintendo’s push for gamers to save their photos and head to specially-marked kiosks in the real world to print them out. Even the Virtual Console re-release allowed gamers to share their photos via message boards. This promoted interactivity in ways that gunning down enemies never could.
More than meets the eye
On its own, though, Pokémon Snap also came crammed full of secrets and easter eggs. Perhaps the funniest one, in my mind, was the Jigglypuff concert near the end of the Cave level, where three Jigglypuff would sing for you if you’d saved them all from those pesky Koffing. But even simple ones, like a surfing Pikachu on the Beach level or witnessing some angry Electabuzz in the Tunnel level pouring their energy into a projector, made repeat trips to each location worthwhile.
In some cases, repeat trips were mandatory to further progress the game, as you could only access the Volcano level with the Apple item and the Cave level with the Pester Ball. And let’s not forget Rainbow Cloud, the final level in the game, which could only be accessed by photographing special Pokémon symbols found in each of the previous locations.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Pokémon Snap gained a cult following. Its initial run on the Nintendo 64 sold over 1.5 million copies, while its Virtual Console re-releases made it a popular download for the Wii and Wii U. It also received praise from various critical outlets at the time, including Nintendo Power and Famitsu.
And all of this only further begs the question: why was a sequel never made?
Nintendo, you got some ‘splainin’ to do!
This question is especially baffling when you consider that almost every other Pokémon spin-off, regardless of quality, has had at least one sequel. The Pokémon Trading Card Game, for example, had a Japanese-exclusive sequel released in 2001 for the Game Boy Color. Meanwhile, two Pokémon Stadium games appeared on the N64. Even My Pokémon Ranch, which is no one’s favorite Pokémon game, has had its share of spiritual successors in the Pokémon Rumble games. But Pokémon Snap? It’s been 20 years, but still no sequel announced.
It’s not like a sequel isn’t possible. The Wii, DS, 3DS, and Wii U could all have served as perfect fits for a new game for different reasons. I could just as easily see a Switch entry doing well now. Plus, given how much the Pokémon catalog has opened up since 1999, as well as how far technology has progressed, a sequel could hold a number of possibilities. Just imagine an entry you could take on the go. Perhaps you could even challenge a friend in local competition mode? I’m not a programmer; I’ll leave that to the professionals at Nintendo. But the possibilities are endless!
What are they waiting for?
It wouldn’t be so frustrating if the original game’s premise didn’t feel worthy of its own franchise, but it does. And the fact that Nintendo has kept re-releasing the original game, each time to praise and new fans, only helps that case. Besides, if Kid Icarus can make a comeback on the 3DS in 2012 despite having been absent since the early ’90s, then why can’t Pokémon Snap have its long-overdue sequel?
So Nintendo, if you’re reading this, I’m begging you to make a Pokémon Snap 2. I know I’m not alone in wanting one. Nintendo Enthusiast even included it in a Top 5 list a while back, and it’s not like it wouldn’t be marketable to a newer generation who grew up with the games. So why the holdup? Do you not think it would work? Because I can assure you, a sequel would be eaten up even now, in 2019.
Those are my thoughts, anyway. What do you readers think? Would you like to see a sequel to Pokémon Snap? Let us know down in the comments.
News and editorial writer for Nintendo Enthusiast. Is hoping to one day publish a graphic novel or two.