New Pokemon Snap Review
Personally, as a gamer, I’ve had a semi love/hate relationship with Pokémon over the years. I was an early adopter to the series having Pokémon Blue when it came out and did really enjoy the game. But we haven’t really had anything quite like that until then. Obviously, since then it has blown up to a worldwide phenomenon with people camped out for cards, buying games left and right, storming Build-A-Bear to get plushies…its been a crazy ride. I’ve gone and come back to the series here and there as the formula for the base games largely hasn’t changed. I check in every couple of iterations to see what’s new. Ironically I’ve followed the spin-offs closer as I always find it interesting when companies experiment with their IPs. Pokémon Snap was personally one of my favorites. It was just an easy-to-play game, with high replay value that I enjoyed with my wife, and something we could play together. So when this was announced, I was already all-in on it.
New Pokémon Snap is a 2021 on-rails first-person simulation video game developed by Bandai Namco Studios and published by Nintendo and The Pokémon Company for the Nintendo Switch. It is a sequel to the 1999 Nintendo 64 game Pokémon Snap. Announced in June 2020, it was released on April 30, 2021. Players travel in the Lental region using an on-rails hovercraft and research Pokémon by photographing them.
In New Pokémon Snap, the player is a Pokémon photographer who visits various islands in the Lental region to help the research studies of Professor Mirror and his assistants. Todd from the original Pokemon Snap makes an appearance in these games as well, which is a nice little touch for those that enjoyed interacting with him in the original. The research lab located in the Lental region is called the Laboratory of Ecological and Natural Sciences (L.E.N.S.). Taking photographs helps the player build a compendium called a Photodex; the game features over 200 different Pokémon for the player to photograph. In addition to adding photos to the Photodex, the player also helps investigate the Illumina phenomenon, where Pokémon and plants appear to have a special glow. This all ties directly into the games story.
For each research expedition, the player travels in an on-rails hovercraft, the NEO-ONE (an updated version of the ZERO-ONE from Pokemon Snap), to safely photograph Pokémon in their natural environments. These habitats include jungles, deserts, and beaches, which can be visited during the daytime or at night to photograph different types of Pokémon. Each photo the player takes is graded by Professor Mirror on a scale of one to four stars, taking into account things like shot composition, how close the Pokémon is, and whether they are facing the camera or not. Players can decide to save those photos to the Photodex, which can hold up to four photos of each Pokémon (one at each rating). As players take higher-quality photos, they earn Expedition Points that go toward improving the Research Level of each area in the Lental region. Higher Research Levels will open up more levels to explore in that area.
To get better pictures, the player is encouraged to use various tools. To lure Pokémon out, players can use a fruit called a fluffruit, or play a melody that can get some Pokémon to dance. They can also throw an item called an Illumina orb to cause Pokémon to glow. Throwing the Illumina orbs at Crystabloom flowers can also create unique photo oppertunities. The orbs serve to help the player take pictures at night and potentially change a Pokémon’s behavior. Depending on the Pokémon, the Illumina orb can help wake up sleeping creatures or even sometimes cheer them up. Players can also find hidden Pokémon in the area by using their camera to scan for them – this scan feature can also make a Pokemon turn and look at the player for a better quality shot.
Largely at its core, if you played the original Pokémon Snap, this isn’t very much different. Sure graphics are (greatly) improved, and there are more courses to go through, including the day and night mechanic. But at the foundation it is (1) drive around, (2) take pictures of Pokémon – rinse and repeat. So if you didn’t enjoy or “get” the first game, you can probably just skip this now. But as someone who enjoyed the original 20 years ago, this was exactly what I was hoping it would be. It basically was on from Friday night through Sunday night non-stop in my house, between me and my wife both playing our own files.
The charm of the game is insane, and to anyone even just watching, it’s completely adorable. You can go through a specific course 5-10 times and still keep finding new stuff each time. You might have a Scorbunny hop across your screen in one instance, but the next time you see him he’s up in a tree doing flame kicks in the air. These interactions change as you level up each course. Each course takes you through different environments, woods, jungle, desert, volcano, oceans it’s all there. It’s like riding on Disney Worlds Kilimanjaro Safaris, as you are right in the thick of the wild with animals featured in all directions around you. You try to move and look at all directions because you can’t stop the vehicle…although sometimes a Pokémon will. But every time you ride it, you may see different animals doing different things.
Bandai Namco did a decent job of trying to tie in a narrative throughout the stage but it falls a little flat. Honestly, however, I wasn’t expecting much there anyway. But it helps give you a reason to drive around and take pictures. The graphics throughout the game are amazing, it’s really cool to see how the Pokémon react and interact to each other and their environments as well as how you can affect and manipulate that in the process.
There is a lot you can do with the photos as well, besides just added them to your album. There are tons of filters and effects you can mess around with and play with to see what you can do. Additional frames and stickers can be unlocked after completing various achievements in the game. These features are what our TikTok and Instagram-obsessed kids will likely enjoy a lot. There is also some online features to see other players’ photos and award medals to those you enjoy.
In summary, many will likely think the game is rather shallow with not much from a gameplay mechanic angle, and I can see that. However, what this game does masterfully is give you the nostalgia feels of discovering Pokémon all over again for fans of the original. It’s an easy-to-play game that really anyone can play and enjoy. It’s fun to both play and watch, with high replay value as you experiment in each stage trying to get that perfect shot. If you think of how Nintendo has been angling themselves during 2020 and so far in 2021, as a nostalgia device that’s easily accessible for all types of people, this fits right there with Animal Crossing and the others. In the long run, when we look back at the Nintendo Switch, will this be a standout example of Nintendo at its finest? Probably not, but that’s ok, as it is cute and a lot of fun. Sometimes, that’s exactly what we want.
If you want to see more of New Pokémon Snap in action, be sure to check out fellow GamesReviews staffer Adam over on Youtube below.