If you’re a Nintendo fan, you’re hurting right about now. After a lackluster run with the Wii, the gaming giant have already poorly kicked off their next console’s lifespan with the Wii U. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
But can you really blame fans for buying the new system? Up through the Gamecube, Nintendo always delivered when it came to their first-party games. Titles like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time changed the landscape of gaming in their day, setting the bar incredibly high for 3D games. And they were never afraid to try new things, rather than rehash the same platformers over and over. Whether it was Pikmin or Animal Crossing, there was no shortage of new, fun ideas coming from the company. Oh, how times have changed.
The Wii U’s launch window line-up offers a bleak outlook for those hoping Nintendo is looking to recapture their glory days. While Nintendo is sitting on an impressive piece of technology, they’re doing a poor job at proving that they know how to use it. What Nintendo needs a killer app; a game that showcases the console’s wide range of features and integrates them into an engaging experience. May I recommend Pokemon Snap?
“What? Pokemon Snap? You mean, the gimmicky on-rails photography simulator for the Nintendo 64?” Why, yes, dear hypothetical reader. Pokemon Snap isn’t a particularly deep game, but there’s no doubting its lasting charm. Over a decade after its release, Snap is still a joy to play with its simple formula and stellar, though imperfect, feedback system. With the Wii U, Nintendo has a golden opportunity to flesh this throwaway spin-off out into a must-own title. In a perfect world, this is Pokemon Snap U.
The Gamepad Is Your Camera
Nintendo’s new controller was born to be a camera. The design of it resembles a camera body, with the screen in the center acting as a viewfinder. Plus, it utilizes motion controls, allowing players to change their perspective. In an early tech demo, Nintendo showcased a game in which players could turn the screen 360 degrees and see the world around them, not just what’s directly ahead of them. These innovations would allow players to feel like photographers, replacing joystick flicking with physical movement. Do you see a Dugtrio out the corner of your eyes? Quick, turn your gamepad and get a snap of it. This aspect would give players more control over their pictures’ compositions, while testing photojournalistic impulses. Pokemon could even be 180 degrees behind you, entirely off-screen. You won’t know unless you explore your surroundings. It’d be an immersive experience that would upgrade Snap from a cute gimmick to an actual photography simulator.
More Photo Options
There’s only one way to take a photo in the world of Snap; point and click. Of course, in real life, photography os much more complicated. Different lenses and camera settings can drastically change the image. So why not introduce these things into Snap U? Nintendo doesn’t need to go all out, making players understand film stocks and ISO. But even the smallest tweaks can give the system more depth. For example, some Pokemon are much quicker than others. Wouldn’t it be interesting if players had to adjust their shutter speed to catch a Rapidash speeding by? And if a Pokemon is very far in the distance, shouldn’t players be able to attach a zoom lens to get the shot? Things like that could be unlocked as players progress through the game, giving them more reason to revisit older courses. And not everything has to be practical. Small additions like Instagram-esque filters would give players more options for how to make shots their own.
A Better Scoring System
One of Snap’s most notable flaws comes from its incredibly limited scoring system. Professor Oak has a specific set of criteria, calling for Pokemon to be close and in the center of your frames. Essentially, Oak doesn’t know squat about the rule of thirds. With more powerful hardware, Nintendo has the ability to make their feedback system much deeper, giving players more freedom in taking their shots. It’s somewhat unsatisfying to take what you find to be a really interesting snapshot, only to have Oak scold you because the frame is too left-heavy. A system like this will likely never be perfect with such a subjective form of art. But integrating in more rules of basic photography in the scoring system would give players a much wider set of ways to take ‘good’ photos. The more you play, the more you’ll understand the fundamentals, also crossing that aforementioned gap between gimmick and simulator.
But there’s a better way to judge photos that Nintendo finally has at their disposal; actual people. With the Wii U, Nintendo has finally gotten with the time and integrated online play into their system. But Nintendo is most interested at building a community than having players engage in one-game-stands. They experimented with this on the Wii with things like the Check Mii Out and Everybody Votes channels, giving the community have a voice in random polls and contests. Again, this is something that’s tailor-fit to Pokemon Snap. Snap U would include its own online community where users could upload their photos and have fellow snappers vote on which is the best. There’d be a weekly “Best of” set decided by players. Sure, the top picks would usually be mildly inappropriate shots of Pikachus bent over in just the right way. But it has the potential to bump up the game’s feedback system another level, giving players a better grasp of their skills.
And of course, there’s a variety of obvious additions as well: more Pokemon, more courses, less strictly scripted levels. 2 generations of consoles have passed since the first Snap, and rightfully so. The GameCube wouldn’t have done much for the would-be series, and the Wiimote doesn’t make a great camera. But the new technology available on the Wii U makes for a perfect storm that could make Pokemon Snap into Nintendo’s next killer app. Seriously.