The original 1999 Pokemon Snap N64 game is one of my earliest gaming memories. I very vividly remember moments like turning out the end of a course to find a peculiar shaped rock formation that vaguely looked like a Pokemon, guiding a Pikachu to a surfboard to get an incredible action shot, and just a litany of metaphorical and literal snapshots. Pokemon Snap captured the magic of the world and for the longest time, I wanted a sequel. On the GameCube. On the Wii. On the DS. Just somewhere, I wanted to be able to experience an updated version of the game. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to play the original in 2018 at a local arcade bar, and awkwardness of the controller aside, the game held up reasonably well, and I was waiting.
Thankfully, the 22-year gap between games was well worth it. Between the improved technological capabilities of the hardware and the increased Pokedex of several generations, New Pokemon Snap has come at just the right time. And whether you’re a casual fan of the franchise or a dedicated completionist, you’re gonna enjoy the time you spend in the Lental region.
The story and gameplay of New Pokemon Snap are largely unchanged. You are an aspiring photographer/researcher that has been sent to help a professor with their studies. This time around, you are able to name your character and pick from one of eight avatars rather than simply being “Todd.” But the fundamentals haven’t changed. You’re put into a fancy vehicle with a fancy camera and tasked with taking pictures of Pokemon out in the wild.
The core and crux of the original rail shooter is very much intact. Although, that isn’t to say that the game hasn’t evolved. One of the first things you’ll notice is that each of the courses has their own experience bar and you can level up such that Pokemon feel more comfortable with you resulting in different dynamics and poses. Furthermore, there are now several types of pose classifications that you are tasked at getting (working off a star rating that indicates how rare that behavior is) and given that you can only submit one photo of a Pokemon species at a time, multiple expeditions are required. And as you level up, you’ll unlock alternative routes, night time variants of courses, more locations, and new ways to interact with the environment, most notably the SCAN function, a button you’re going to want to be pressing as frequently as humanly possible between pictures.
Each of the locations in the Lental Region ultimately culminates in a “boss” fight, where you attempt to take a picture of a Pokemon under the influence of Illumina. Just imagine a couple different versions of Rainbow Cloud course from the original, and you’ll figure things out in short order. Although unlocking the boss fights can be tricky. While the game does try it’s best to prompt you in the right direction, some of the things you have to do are not exactly the most intuitive, and I would not fault you for going to a friendly guide or asking someone else for help because some of the puzzles are straightforward and some of them you’ll be pleading with Acerus for a mild respite.
New Pokemon Snap also features a surprising array of social features, where you can compare your scores amongst your friends and the world, and more crucially, share your favorite shots on a personalized profile. This is further aided by the game’s Re-Snap feature, allowing you to photo-shop your favorite pictures to get a better angle or apply a filter. It’s fun and completely optional, but your end results are limited only by your creativity.
In little over a week, I managed to have the credit rolls with a million points in my PhotoDex that made me a “Decent Archiver” which given that current leader in total PhotoDex score is 3,902,940 I can understand why I’m only decent despite my endeavors. And as I have mentioned previously, when it comes to Pokemon, I am not a completionist. I do not need nor particularly want a full PhotoDex that would like require running through the multiple variants of each course repeatedly. But I did have a great time exploring the Lental region under Professor Mirror.
New Pokemon Snap is exactly what it’s supposed to be. A sequel that polishes the charm of the original and presents a fun and engaging experience from start to end. While it’s not without small gripes, it’s largely overshadowed by the combination of nostalgia for the original rail shooter and the incalculable joy of being in the world of Pokemon. Furthermore, this is one of the few Switch that I made it a point to play in docked mode so I could fully appreciate the world and the updated graphics of all of the Pokemon. You can get an easy 20 hours out of this game. You can get an easy 100 hours out of it if you’re so inclined. If you’re a fan, you probably already have purchased it, but if you haven’t, consider this a push. Pick up your camera. Take a stroll. Narrate your journey in your best nature documentary voice. It’s a fun experience, and that is what games are supposed to be at the end of the day. Fun.