New Pokémon Snap – Happy Snapping
It’s hard to believe, given the love affair and ongoing fandom expressed for Nintendo 64 title, Pokémon Snap, that it has been 22 years since the one and only entry in the sub-series. For decades fan expectations have exploded over the internet and the mere rumour that a new title might be in the works, but finally, after 22 long, painful years, the masses have their Pokémon Snap title, aptly titled, New Pokémon Snap. Impressed by Bandai Namco’s work on Pokken Tournament, and the depiction of the Pocket Monsters within it, The Nintendo Company and Game Freak determined that the same studio was the best fit for a revived Pokémon Snap series, and so, now that it’s finally here, will the fan hopes and dreams be met?
The DNA of the original Pokémon Snap title is well and truly preserved in this 2021 take. Navigating the Lental Region requires the same on-rails approach that the original title took. You’ll be placed in your Neo-One as you travel across the region taking photos of Pokémon in their natural environment to fill your Photodex. Players of the original title will encounter familiar faces, familiar mechanics, and familiar Pokémon, in a journey that covers a swathe of biomes within the Lental region that plays host to stunningly realised Pokémon living their best lives. The narrative is wafer-thin but can be a bit bloated at times, getting in the way of what players most want to be spending their time doing: snapping Pokémon doing their thing.
Players have got everything in a full 360 horizontal plane and from directly below you to directly above you to aim at, with Pokémon popping up in all sorts of weird and wonderful places, triggered by your actions, as well as the Research Level of the map you’re visiting. Each visit to a region, whether by day or by night will earn you ‘Expedition Points’. These points will help each your Research Level in each biome (and the applicable time of day) increase, and as they level up, more Pokémon will appear, or those that already are native to the area, may react in different ways to what’s going on around them, opening up more opportunities to fill your Photodex, or to simply diversify your photo album. Repeat visits are encouraged to get the best shots, as well as to improve your Research Level further, creating more to see and do. The loop is very in your face, but with each run you’re likely trying to improve the rating of the photo for a certain Pokémon, meaning it doesn’t feel too much like a grind. The game signposts that changes will come with each Research Level that increases, but there are other times where change occurs seemingly randomly. This can be frustrating for players looking to boost their rank to unlock new areas because even you believe you’ve maxed out an area, something could inexplicably change and you’ll be none the wiser.
Following a field trip, photos are critiqued by the local Professor, Professor Mirror through a number of lenses, with points attributed to the way with which you address each lens. The Professor looks at your photos in terms of the pose struck, the size of the Pokémon in the shot, their direction (orientation), how they’re centred in the shot, whether there are any other Pokémon present, and what may be going on in the environment around them. These points combine to form a total, and a consequential star rating (bronze, silver, gold, diamond). The scoring and the ambiguity around it can be frustrating at times, but the Professor is largely pretty generous meaning the diamond tier photo shouldn’t be too hard to attain.
To help encourage Pokémon to behave in a way that elicits the best shots, players have a number of tools at their disposal, from returning favourites such as the Fluffruit, apple-like fruits that can be tossed out to Pokémon to lure them into a better position for a photo. The Illumina Orb is a new feature that best shines at night time (though does still work in the day), lighting up the environment, as well as the Pokémon in it, creating some gorgeous shots and memorable moments. Your camera even gets fitted with a melody player, allowing it to play a little tune that may mellow the more excitable Poké-souls facilitating further photo ops, or awaken those that are sleeping. Pokémon will respond differently to the effects of the melody player, so trying them out on everything you find adds to the exploration.
Technology has changed a bit since Pokémon Snap launched in 1999, and so the many facets of photography that we see today have found their way into the New Pokémon Snap experience as well. Players can touch up photos, apply filters, stickers, frames, and even caption the photo, before putting them out there for the world to see on the Internet where people can like them (called “Sweet” -ing them in-game). Don’t stress about the online mode spoiling other Pokemon deeper into the experience, the game notes where the photos were taken and what they were of, consequently hiding things you’ve not seen from you unless you specifically opt in to take a look.
While playing it quite safe in a number of ways, New Pokémon Snap is simultaneously a blast from the past, and an evolution to a formula established and once thought never to be developed further. New Pokémon Snap isn’t going to blow your mind in any way, but what it is, is a really fun, very pure title that is perfect for those with a penchant for photography, wonderful for the established Pokémon fan, and a zen, relaxed experience for everyone else. There are some rough edges, but this new entry is close to picture-perfect all these years on.
New Pokemon Snap was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with code kindly supplied by Nintendo Australia.