For as long as I can remember being a Pokémon fan, I’ve always wanted to play some of the older games that launched on the Nintendo 64. Pokémon Snap was probably the one I wanted to play the most. Riding on rails through an area while snapping shots of Pokémon in their natural environment just sounded so appealing to me. It’s been 22 years since the initial release of the game and it has finally received a sequel in the form of New Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo Switch. Does it live up to the legacy of the original game? Yes, and then some!
There isn’t much of a story in the game that you have to follow but more a reason why you’re doing what you’re doing. You assume the role of a player-named Pokémon photographer who visits a number of different areas in the Lental region to assist Professor Mirror with their research studies. Players do this by taking photographs of Pokémon in their natural habitat in order to compile a Photodex. This also leads to the investigation of a phenomenon known as Illumina, where Pokémon and some plant life seem to emit a strange glow. This is the reason to snap away while your hovercraft, the NEO-ONE, follows a set course through a particular area. However, it’s not just about getting a picture, there’s so much more that goes into it.
The ultimate goal in New Pokémon Snap is to take the best possible picture of any given Pokémon when riding along a course, however, a number of factors are considered when scoring points. Six different categories are considered, ranging from the size of the Pokémon in the picture to the pose they might be performing and even if there are other Pokémon in the shot. Aside from your points scoring, shots are also given a star rating, up to a maximum of four, which determines just how interesting the action is that the Pokémon is performing. It can be tricky to get a good shot in the early going as there are so many different Pokémon on screen at one time, but thankfully it never feels overwhelming. The stars add a little bit of a puzzle-solving element to the gameplay loop. It can be slightly frustrating though because the game never explains how it categorises the photos when it comes to the stars. You could take a photo of a Pokémon doing something that looks incredibly rare but when it gets rated, it’s treated as something completely average. It’s a little hit and miss.
New Pokémon Snap is played using the left and right sticks, which is great since it works well. However, combining this with the game’s motion controls make for a more immersive and more accurate photography experience.
When attempting a new course, the Pokémon that live there will often run at the first sight of you. This isn’t always the case though, as earning Expedition Points and increasing the Research Level for that course will result in Pokémon being more comfortable around you. This means that you could be treated to new Pokémon species to photograph and more interesting actions to see. It’s always exciting to revisit a course to see exactly what has changed. It can feel like somewhat of a grind, however, as you replay courses to rack up more points to progress to the next environment – this might be off-putting for some players.
Each course is also generally divided into a Day and Night offering, with each one featuring different Pokémon to photograph or new activities to see. Some courses also feature an Illumina Spot that you can visit in order to photograph an Illumina Pokémon, but these tend to be unlocked once certain criteria have been met on that course.
As you progress through the game, you unlock new items to use during expeditions to create more photographic opportunities. You can offer Pokémon a snack by lobbing a Fluffruit at them or even make them dance by playing a melody. There are some additional tools that also become available later on.
There are also requests that start to flow in early in the game, where Professor Mirror or his assistants will ask for special photos, which helps with completing your Photodex but also rewards you with filters and stickers for editing your photos.
Speaking of which, once your photos have been scored and rated by Professor Mirror, you can revisit your shots in order to Re-Snap them. This essentially allows you to go back to when that photo was taken and make minor adjustments in order to improve the shot. You don’t get any points by doing this though and is more for your own enjoyment.
The game looks and sounds amazing though and is an absolute pleasure to play through. Each Pokémon looks fantastic and is presented with the greatest amount of detail. There are over 200 species of Pokémon to see in the game, so the journey is quite an exciting one.
New Pokémon Snap is great. Following a set course to try and capture the best shots of Pokémon in their natural habitat is such an amazing experience and a nice change from capturing and battling with them. It’s not without its issues though. It can feel like a bit of a grind sometimes and might be off putting for some players; not to mention that the rating system can be a little hit and miss. These are pretty small issues though and they don’t really tarnish the enjoyment that can be had in New Pokémon Snap. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 22 years for a sequel!
Pokémon Snap is exclusive to Nintendo Switch and can be purchased here for £49.99
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