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Pokemon Snap Preview

Publisher - Nintendo
Developer - Ninendo Co. Ltd.
Platform - N64
Release Date - February 1999
Type - Simulation

When Nintendo announced that the 64DD's writability features would pave the way for unique gameplay, we knew some strange games were headed our way. But a photo safari starring everyone's favorite monster, Pikachu? You better believe it.

For those of you who still don't know what Pokemons are: Pokemon is short for Pocket Monsters -- Nintendo's cute and cuddly creatures that have sold millions of Game Boy games and even starred in their own TV series in Japan. Although virtually unknown in the US videogame world, Pokemon have already made headlines last year when flashing light effects in one scene of the TV anime caused epileptic seizures in those prone to epilepsy. (Note that apart from the character license, Nintendo has nothing to do with the TV show.)

But as early as Christmas '98, the Pokemons are poised to create some positive headlines in US magazines with their international Game Boy debut and possibly their first 64-bit adventure.

Pokemon Snap (also known as Pocket Monsters' Snap), one of several Pokemon games in development at Nintendo in Japan, is perhaps the strangest 64DD title so far. You don't control some wacky mascot with attitude or methane-driven cyber racer -- you're just your plain old self. On board of a car, raft, or truck, you will be driven through the wild polygon jungles of the Pokemon Lands, armed only with your quick reflexes, a bunch of apples, and a camera.

If that sounds odd, then consider the goal of the game: Snap pretty pictures. Much like in the hang-glider in Pilotwings 64, you hold a camera with limited exposures and can take pictures of your environment.

With the analog stick, you point your character into any direction you like and even use a zoom lens to get a closer look at things. Like in a real-life photo safari, the object is to get the best possible pictures of the native wildlife -- in this case: Pokemons. But simply turning around and making pictures of them sitting on their butts isn't enough to score points. You need to use food to lure the shy monsters out of their hiding places, play the flute to make them dance, or throw rocks at bushes to startle flying monsters and get good pictures of them in the air. All pictures can be saved directly to the 64DD disk and kept in albums for later use (whatever that may be).

Yes, it sounds incredibly odd. But considering the success of Pocket Monster dolls, figurines, socks, medals, stickers, and posters in Japan, Japanese gamers are going to go nuts over any chance to meet face to face with the popular gang. And quite frankly, we're dying to give this strange gem of a game a try -- if only for novelty reasons (and to pay back Pikachu for all the suffering he has caused with a big fat rock).

As with most N64 titles, the graphics are fully polygonal. Creatures are rendered in detailed 3D and animated fluidly thanks to real monster motion capturing. True to Nintendo's promise of "interactive" 64DD gaming, it is likely that Pokemon Snap will be compatible with other 64DD or Game Boy titles and work in tandem with the upcoming Pokemon Stadium.

We will keep you updated on the progress of the game. So far, Nintendo hasn't announced its US plans with Pokemon Snap -- but if the Game Boy Pocket Monster games catch on over here, it's a safe bet that the polygonal cousin will follow.