pokesnap01.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64.]

Because "Bastards of 32-Bit (And Also 64-Bit Sometimes)" wasn't as catchy.

Photography has largely existed in videogames as a supplemental element of gameplay. Titles in the Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto series, for example, give the player the ability to frame and shoot photographs, but the act seldom results in meaningful consequence. Rarer still are games that feature photography as a dominant gameplay mechanic. There's Gekisha Boy, and...well, that's pretty much it.

Amidst its RPG predecessors and a number of spinoffs into safe, marketable genres, Pokémon Snap stands out as an oddity. Rather than milk the Pokémon franchise with yet another puzzle or card battle game as the company is wont to do, Nintendo instead decided to try something new for the series's Nintendo 64 debut: a game based around photography. The reaction from fans was mixed, to say the least, and the game was generally ignored in favor of more conventional Pokémon releases.

pokesnap02.jpgOh! Wonderful!

The object of Pokémon Snap is to take the best possible pictures of various fictional creatures, as found in their natural habitats. There are optional items one can use to lure the Pokémon closer and to make them strike poses, but otherwise, gameplay centers around simple point-and-shoot photography. Points are awarded for picture clarity and subject matter, with dynamic action shots being the most desirable.

Players cruise along a predetermined path through an environment, and scripted events involving the Pokémon will occur at certain points during the trip. It's up to the player whether he or she wants to photograph these scenes at face value, or interfere with the goings-on in the interest of a better photo opportunity. For the most part, players will get the best results by screwing with nature as much as possible. A picture of Pikachu smiling at the camera will only get you so many points, but a shot taken after you bonk him on the head with an apple and knock him out cold will result in Professor Oak giving you bonus points and calling your cruelty "Very funny!"

magmar in the housePokémon without the Pokémon.

The game's leisurely pace offers a serene experience, free from the pressures and anxiety found in more action-oriented titles. The events that occur are generally out of your control, but there's just enough interactivity present to encourage replay, in the interest of getting better shots. Pokémon Snap also makes for a great two-player game, as players can take turns to try and capture the best picture of the elusive Psyduck, or alternately try and rack up the highest Charmander bodycount in the volcano level by Pester Balling the poor creatures into submission.

Pokémon Snap's unconventional gameplay may have been a turnoff to fans, but more tragic was the fact that this unique, original title went overlooked by many simply because of its possession of the Pokémon license. It doesn't take any sort of familiarity with the Pokémon franchise to find the simple fun in photography, and if you approach this one with an open mind, you might end up enjoying a Pokémon game more than you ever thought you would.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com , and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]