New Pokémon Snap: story of a spin-off

New Pokémon Snap: story of a spin-off

New Pokémon Snap

There are only a few weeks left until the release of New Pokémon Snap: April 30 marks the great return, on the Nintendo Switch, of a spin-off that dates back to twenty years ago. Pokémon Snap was released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64, and although it is still one of the most popular variations on the theme today, for all this time the concept has never been resurrected. And to say that Pokémon also thrives on spin-offs: over the years we have seen them in all shapes and colors, it should be said. From the turn-based role-playing games of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon to the various puzzle games such as the recent Pokémon Cafe Mix, from the Pokkén Tournament fighting game to the Detective Pikachu adventure that later inspired the film of the same name ... the photographer simulator by HAL Laboratory remains however one of the most original and unexpected derivatives of the Nintendo franchise. And to think that it shouldn't even have existed ...

In the beginning it was Jack ...

In 1996 Pokémon Snap, in fact, was not in the least in plan when Nintendo assembled a dozen key figures - including Shigeru Miyamoto, Shigesato Itoi and Satoru Iwata - for a project known only as "Jack and the Beanstalk". At the head of the team was Yoichi Yamamoto, who was only relatively involved with video games since he was an architect. The game was announced in the spring of 1997 at the Tokyo Game Show for the 64DD peripheral, which would later be released in a limited edition in Japan only. As for the game ... today no one knows exactly what it consisted of. Officially sold as a "simulator", it seems that it took full advantage of the peripheral features, starting with the internal clock: the players had to plant seeds, a bit like the protagonist of the British fairy tale that inspired him, better known in Italy, did like Jack and the Beanstalk. No one knows why today, but it certainly had nothing to do with photography.

New Pokémon Snap: Pikachu on the beach. Some ideas were then recycled into other games, or at least tried. Shigesato Itoi brought some to Earthbound 64, but that game never saw the light either, since it was canceled in 2000, and so it becomes even more difficult to define the mysterious Jack and the Beanstalk. Not that it matters anymore: the only traces that remain are the team logo, JACK and BEANS, which appears at the beginning of Pokémon Snap along with those of Nintendo and HAL Laboratory. The way in which those opening credits came about is certainly curious. While the guys from JACK and BEANS were looking for a reason to make their game take pictures, tapping into the advantages of the Nintendo 64 peripheral, Pokémon Red and Green, which had been released a few months ago, continued to climb the charts. , beginning a long series of prodigious successes. The solution was obvious: instead of throwing everything away, Jack and the Beanstalk would become the first Pokémon spin-off.

New Pokémon Snap: a lone Corsola. "The reason for taking the photos was unclear," Iwata explained in an old interview. "So we asked ourselves which subjects the players would prefer to photograph, and we ended up including the pokémon at a later time." Not everyone took this stretch well. Charcter design supervisor Masanobu Yamamoto of HAL Laboratory, for example, admitted that he reacted negatively to the decision to use characters other than those he and his artists had conceived. Later, however, he changed his mind. "The inclusion of the Pokémon world shed light on what we needed to do and the direction the game needed to take," he said. "And then I ended up getting attached to Pokémon, so in a sense we can say that the monsters saved us."

New Pokémon Snap: the dance of the Bellossom. In any case, the Pokémon Snap that then arrived on the shelves was quite different from the one shown for the first time during the actual development: thanks to some old videos we know, for example, that initially the game should have also included the pokémon Ekans , which however is absent in the final version, as well as an internship set in a desert area that was subsequently excluded and at least one musical track, Fantastic Horror, which composer Ikuko Mimori then shared on her own on the web. The title of the song, and the melody itself, suggest a stage focused on Ghost-type pokémon, perhaps discarded at the last moment for the simple fact that in the first generation of Pokémon these monsters were only three: Gastly, Haunter and Gengar.

... but then became Todd

New Pokémon Snap: Blastoise takes a bath. HAL Laboratory continued work on Pokémon Snap for 64DD until Nintendo changed its mind: the peripheral, continually postponed, struggled to take off to such an extent that the Japanese company decided to distribute it only in Japan at the end of 1999, releasing only a handful of exclusive titles. Most of those that should have exploited it, including The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Donkey Kong 64, only came out on the Nintendo 64. The same fate befell the Pokémon Snap, which debuted in Japan on March 21, 1999 and in Europe on September 15 of the following year. In the game, the protagonist Todd Snap - later also appeared in various episodes of the anime - is recruited by Professor Oak to work on a photo report on an island composed of different biomes in which 63 different species of pokémon live in freedom. Thanks to an amphibious vehicle called Zero-One that crosses the zones following a predefined path, the player can take photos of the various monsters - for a maximum of 60 per game - and interact with them to a limited extent.

New Pokémon Snap: the protagonist takes a picture. At the end of each stage, the game calculates a score based on the photos taken, the size and rarity of the subjects and the poses in which they are depicted. Accumulating points unlocks new gadgets and tools that allow you to influence the pokémon: for example, it is possible to encourage a Magikarp to dive into a waterfall, inside which it will evolve into Gyarados as happens in a famous Chinese fable that saw the normal fish transform into dragons passing through a sacred waterfall. The launch of Pokémon Snap also saw an interesting promotion: at the time, you could take the cartridge to Blockbusters equipped to print the best photos. The initiative lasted only a year, but later, when Nintendo re-launched the game on the Virtual Console in the days of Wii U, it implemented a system that allowed you to upload photos to the Wii Message Board.

New Pokémon Snap: Pichu and Scorbunny. It is really strange, in this sense, that Junichi Masuda for years has completely disinterested in Pokémon Snap: some time ago, the famous director had stated that at the time of Pokémon Snap the hobby of photography was much less widespread and the game had more sense. Today, thanks to technology and especially smartphones, anyone can take pictures of anything, and this somewhat diminished the idea behind Pokémon Snap. Despite this, Pokémon Snap has remained in the hearts of players for years, and beyond. When asked about the titles he wanted to replay on Wii U, Shigeru Miyamoto had listed Pokémon Snap in second place, squeezing it between Metroid and F-Zero.

New Pokémon Snap: a prairie full of pokémon. New Pokémon Snap, this time developed by Bandai Namco, should finally do justice to all the fans who have waited twenty years to return to photograph their favorite monsters, also representing a moment of important escapism in a dark period of our history: how was with Animal Crossing: New Horizons last year, New Pokémon Snap could help many players make it through what we hope are the last few weeks before the much-needed reopening.

New Pokémon Snap: Close-up of Dugtrio. Have you noticed any errors?

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