Most of us fancy ourselves as virtual photographers these days. Not everyone is an Ansel Adams, but the tools for taking pictures have never been more accessible, nor as readily available to so many. In most games, it’s merely a matter of pressing a button: Share, or F12, or F10 if you’re using Fraps. Or saying “Xbox, take a- ah, damn, it moved. Xbo- hang on. Stop listening. Xbox, take a screenshot”. (Okay, it’s easier for some than for others.)
Other games let you freeze the action and view it from any angle, zooming in or out, adjusting saturation, focus and bokeh – whatever that means – to get the ideal snap. It’s fun to spend time framing and developing a beautiful shot, but it’s not really much of a challenge. A good time, then, to rediscover the rarefied pleasures of a video game that requires care, commitment and sharp reflexes to properly master the process.
Pokémon Snap’s arrival on the Virtual Console this week has nothing to do with this and everything to do with the current voracious appetite for all things pocket-sized and monster-shaped. On its release in 1999, this spin-off already felt like something of an oddity – partly because this wasn’t exactly what people wanted from a 3D home console Pokémon game – but these days, it feels particularly quaint. That’s not a complaint, either. Snap is as strange and fascinating as it ever was, mostly because there’s not really been anything quite like it since.