It’s a different world than it was in the ‘90s, and that might make all the difference for the Pokémon photo safari game.

The Nintendo 64’s Pokémon Snap was really a game that came out too soon. That’s not to say it had a rushed development or shipped with unresolved bugs, but that it came out at a time when it didn’t really have much of a chance at success.

Unlike other games in the series, Pokémon Snap isn’t about catching ‘em all. Instead, it’s basically a Pokémon photo safari game, where you automatically glide through a natural environment while snapping photos of various wild Pocket Monsters. However, at its release in 1999, Pokémon Snap was met with disappointment from many gamers, if not outright ignored.

But more than two decades later, the Pokémon Company is ready to give it another go, and is currently developing New Pokémon Snap for the Nintendo Switch!

So does New Pokémon Snap have a better chance at becoming a hit than the old Pokémon Snap? Almost certainly. First off, the game’s environment looks beautiful, at least in the preview that’s been shown.

But what’s more important are the changes to technology and the video game industry that have taken place, as the N64 Pokémon Snap ran into four hurdles that are all likely to be a lot lower this time around.

1. There was no easy way to share photos

If you wanted to show someone a cool shot you took in the original Pokémon Snap, you basically had to have them come over to your house. The N64 lacked online connectivity, and while there was a short-lived deal where you could print stickers of your photos at convenience stores in Japan or Blockbuster video branches in the U.S., that was a lot of trouble to go to. But now? The Switch, like every modern game console, makes it a snap to share images online with people around the world.

2. No one wanted to just look at Pokémon

The N64 Pokémon Snap was released in 1999, in March for Japan and June for North America. That was just three years into the game franchise’s life in Japan, and less than a year since the very first English Pokémon games, the Game Boy’s Pokémon Red and Blue. Particularly for English-territory fans, the series was far too young for people to get all that excited about anything less than the full-course experience of catching, training Pokémon roster to fight in ever-increasingly challenging battles.

Now? A lot of fans forged their passion through watching hundreds of Pokémon anime episodes. Like the Pokémon Gameboy games, the Pokémon anime had been out in the U.S. for less than a year when the N64 Pokémon Snap was released). But now, there are fans who’ve spent way more time watching Pokémon than playing it, and to them the Pocket Monsters are essentially characters to appreciate for their artwork, personalities, and lore, not weaponized wildlife to use as tools to achieve victory in battle, and so the chance to appreciate them frolicking in their natural habitats should appeal to many more people than it did back in 1999.

3. The gameplay was too shallow

At their core, the mainline Pokémon games are pretty simmilar to turn-based RPGs. You go into the field, get into random-encounter fights, and if you win enough of them, your combat parameters (or your Pokémon’s combat parameters, anyway) go up. Things start out easy and simple, and the challenge and complexity of the battles get gradually ratcheted up until the final confrontations with the cream-of-the-crop NPC trainers and top-of-the-power-tiers Legendary Pokémon.

That’s not at all what Pokémon Snap offered, though. While its play mechanics basically mimicked a rail shooter’s (you moved automatically through the environment and controlled the direction of the lens and camera controls), it was a relaxed, low-stakes experience, and most gamers of the day found it pretty lacking in entertainment value.

But “casual” gaming is now a huge segment, and arguably its biggest hit is Pokémon GO. Thanks to the mobile game phenomenon, there are millions of people who can recognize, and get excited about seeing, their favorite Pocket Monster species but don’t necessarily crave 30-plus hours of grinding for experience and memorizing which attacks are super effective. For them, a spin around New Pokémon Snap’s island, with some cute or cool photos to show for it, might sound like a great way to spend 15 or 30 minutes.

4. Photography was a niche hobby

Back in 1999, being into photography didn’t make you a weirdo, but it did make you different. Personal-use digital cameras were expensive and their images low-quality, so if you were an enthusiastic shutterbug, you needed not only an SLR, but plenty of knowledge about how to use it and what sorts of film were best for which purposes. That involved a lot of expense and time, since you had to wait for the film to be developed each time before you could see the results of whatever new technique you’d tried out, and for a lot of people it simple wasn’t worth the trouble to care that much about photography.

Nowadays? Everyone with a smartphone (i.e. just about everyone) has a respectable-quality camera on them at all times, and being able to snap and share photos that intrigue, inspire, and amuse others is one of the most widely admired talents there is. In a world where people feel a warm sense of satisfaction when complete strangers like an artsy photo they took of their lunch or a sunset, won’t there also be people who feel happy knowing they liked their nicely framed photo of Pikachu or perfectly timed shot of Magikarp?

Of course, that’s not to say that New Pokémon Snap (which is being developed by Bandai Namco, not the original Pokémon Snap’s HAL) is a guaranteed hit. After all, the system it’s coming out on, the Switch, has a dedicated screen shot button right there on the controller, so it’ll have to offer players more in-depth and rewarding gameplay mechanics than just copying what’s shown on screen when they press the shutter. Compared to 1999, though, it’s got a better shot at finding an appreciative audience, and it’ll be interesting, and no doubt adorable, to see what the finished game, which has no set release date yet, has to offer.

Top image: The Official Pokémon YouTube channel
Insert images: ポケモン公式YouTubeチャンネル
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