During one of my long commutes to work through the beautiful and natural landscape of Ottawa, my mind wandered onto one of the most random and original games ever made.
It was random enough that my mind wandered to the depths of my mind to recall such a unique game, but it was another to realize that the game was truly one of a kind and in fact, pretty special.
It was a game based on a billion dollar franchise, that had specific mechanics original to itself where similar games never seemed to follow. Pokemon Snap was also a game that provided me my greatest gaming moment, but we’ll get into that in a second.
If you’ve never played Pokemon Snap, it was released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64 at the height of the Pokemon craze.
What the heck could Pokemon Snap be about, you ask?
Well, you’d ride on a sort of mine cart around a set track and simply snap pictures of Pokemon.
Doesn’t sound too crazy fun does it?
Well, the challenge was to get the best pictures possible of the rarest Pokemon you could find. The basic Pokemon would be easy enough to spot but the rarest ones were always hidden away and difficult to find.
In the first level, Lapras is a bit difficult to find. But with a combination of knowing where to look at the exact right time can provide you with a beautiful, up close picture of the legendary creature.
In another level known as “The Valley”, a lonely Magikarp sits on the side of a river. You wouldn’t know it, but hitting that Magikarp with Peseter Ball, will send it flopping into a nearby Waterfall where it reveals a Gyarados!
With fun micro puzzles and truly surprising payoffs that will have you saying “Oh Snap”, that the game truly shines.
But that wasn’t even what made the game truly special.
The Charm(ander) of Pokemon Snap
You grow up learning about the exotic animals of the world like Lions and Tigers and Eagles (Thought I was going to say Bears? THINK AGAIN) and when you finally see them in the Zoo for the first time, you’re astonished and amazed.
When it came to Pokemon, kids like me could only dreams of seeing a real Pokemon one day. We knew they were fake, we knew they were cartoons. In fact the closest we could get to these creattures at the time was the limited art capabilities of the gameboy games and the anime. The problem was, these were controlled environment.
And with the limiting art capabilities of the game boy games and the tv show were all we had to go off of.
But these were controlled environments.
Pokemon Snap provided a look at the creatures in their natural habitat. It was the game that let kids like me get the closest they possibly could to the creatures they so wished existed in real life.
I still remember the surprise and amazement I felt seeing a Charizard in a volcano or some Metapods hanging from a tree.
I still remember meeting Mew and my greatest gaming moment.
My Greatest Gaming Moment
Along with being legendary, powerful and cute, the most exciting thing about Mew was the mystery surrounding the Pokemon.
Pokemon released in 19906 and internet access as well as online gaming content was limited (how far we come!). Kids would whisper about gaming rumours and cheat codes about videos games on the playground all the time. One crazy rumour was Mew, a Pokemon that not too many people had even seen at the time.
It was literally a Pokemon that existed that there was NO WAY to get.
Game Freak and the Pokemon Company would unlock Mew for players who would show up to promotional events. But us normies who weren’t lucky enough to get to go to one of these events were left without Mew for a very long time. The code simply existed in our games and there was no way to get our hands on the legendary creature.
So when it came to finding Mew in Pokemon Snap, it was so exciting. Being a kid and coming face to face with this legendary thing that I had only thought to be a rumor. I just HAD to snap a good picture of it.
But Mew, being the rarest Pokemon in the world at the time, would only flash by for a couple of second before flying off. Taking a picture of Mew from far away wouldn’t do you much good in terms of points and that blurry spec of a picture just wasn’t enough for a future Pokemon Master like me (I know I’m a nerd but whatever).
So 8 year old me got an idea.
Let’s bop MEW on the head with an apple! But Mew was so far…
So try and try again I would throw apples one after the other. Never hitting it on the head. Until one day, hail mary after hail mary I finally bopped it! It was stunned for a couple more seconds longer… and then it flew away.
DRATS not enough.
So I tried and tried again throwing apple after apple. Then I remember it like it was yesterday.
I threw and apple and it hit. I threw another apple and it hit again. Then another, the another. I was practically ON TOP of mew! I snapped a pic, got my insane points and cheered.
BUT it wasn’t my greatest gaming moment just yet.
The best moment came when I was reading through a players guide and it had the world record for points for snapping a picture of Mew. I looked at the score, remembered my score, looked it again, and I had realized I had a higher score than the world record!
The combination of meeting this legendary creature, being skilled enough to take a close up pic and getting a world record was the greatest gaming moment of my life and I’ll never forget it.
One Of A Kind
Pokemon Snap was truly a one of a kind game.
I mean, how many games can you recall where snapping pictures was the main goal of the game?
Firewatch comes to mind although, picture taking was a feature rather than a main mechanic of the game. Dead Rising was another that allowed photo taking and more recently, Final Fantasy 15 and The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild all utilized picture taking as a fun feature.
It’s surprising to me that no other developer has ever made picture taking a main mechanic.
However, this truly makes Pokemon Snap unique. A game who’s sole purpose was to capture Pokemon in intimate moments within their natural environment rather than Pokeballs.