Last week, Nintendo released Pokemon Snap for the virtual console. (Still no word if they’ll be releasing its obscure sequel, Pikachu, Oh No You Di’nt!)
The original game was a brilliant concept — a Pokemon photo safari — and it was presented really well. I’ll never understand why it didn’t go on to become a huge best-seller, since it got everything right: it’s got the obsessive/compulsive collecting aspect of Pokemon, in a completely non-violent setting that doesn’t come across as cloyingly or smugly non-violent.
And since it puts you in a little car on rails, where you can look around and see cool stuff happening around you, it feels more like what a Disney game should be than any game Disney’s actually put out.
The Virtual Console release is still pretty fun to play; I managed to get a few minutes in today, before the cold took me over and my head collapsed in on itself.
More than anything, though, it seems like releasing it on the Wii may have backfired on Nintendo. The Virtual Console and the Wii remote are really two separate marketing concepts (and in fact, you need a GameCube controller or their “classic” controller to play Pokemon Snap at all), but playing it on this console just reminds you how much better it would be as a Wii-native game. Moving the camera around with a joystick feels clumsy after you’ve just used a pointing-and-shooting device to start the game.
It’s highly unlikely, but I’m hoping that they’ll see a ton of downloads of the VC version of Pokemon Snap (since it’s had years to build up kind of a reputation as an underrated classic of the N64), and that’ll encourage them to make a sequel tailored for the Wii.
Fatal Frame, Dark Cloud, and Dead Rising all borrowed the photo-safari concept to one degree or another, but put them as an afterthought to a traditional (and combat-heavy) game. They don’t get the same basic appeal of Pokemon Snap, which flips the interactivity on its head, pushing you through a cool “ride” and letting you interact with that.