New Pokémon Snap was a surprise announcement for the Nintendo Switch. After laying dormant for so many years, the original Pokémon Snap finally has a worthy successor. While it is not perfect by any means and does carry some flaws, there are several aspects of the game that improved over its predecessor and we are not just talking about the visuals.
New Pokémon Snap is a completely different spin-off from a standard Pokémon game. While we are collecting Pokémon and having them fight each other in most of the other spin-offs, this one takes a radically different approach. Instead of collecting Pokémon (or capturing if you prefer it), we are now photographing them living in their natural habitat. For the pacifists, this is the perfect Pokémon game with almost zero violence. It is also a relaxing game to play for a couple of moments every day especially if you are a fan of the Pokémon games.
In New Pokémon Snap, you take control of a young photographer who has received the offer to work as a research assistant for Professor Mirror. Your goal as a research assistant for Professor Mirror is to photograph Pokémon’s unique behaviors while investigating the enigmatic legend of the Illumina phenomenon. With lots of exposition and cutscenes exploring the phenomenon and the ramifications of the mythology around it, the game has a remarkable amount of plot. The story offered only enough crumbs to inspire me to connect with it instead of relying entirely on getting snaps of my favorite Pokémon, even though it never gets particularly in-depth. Its prose isn’t going to win any honors, but it’s strong enough to keep you going.
You are playing most of the game as an on-rail shooter. The gameplay revolves around going through different areas of the Island while riding a vehicle called Neo-One, and trying to find specific Pokémon and capturing their photos in the best way possible. The reason for capturing ideal photos is because of how Professor Mirror will rate the pictures at the end of each stage, rewarding points based on specific criteria like pose, behavior, and so on. These points are then calculated to determine the ranking of the picture that goes from Bronze to Diamond. They are further divided in tiers from 1-star all the way to 4-star pictures.
New Pokémon Snap’s main setting is the Lental region where you are given various tasks by Professor Mirror who works at the Laboratory of Ecological and Natural Sciences (L.E.N.S.). You then visit various places in the Lental region which features a diverse Biome. Every biome has a unique Pokémon including several fan-favorite Legendary Pokémon. They also host a set of secrets as well. Your first stroll through each new location will usually deal with finding out the new Pokémon. While each run through a stage doesn’t take that long, you are to return to the same stage again to find secrets, discover hidden Pokémon, and so on, adding to the overall replay value.
Each run through a stage can feel different depending on the time of day. Some Pokémon can only appear in specific conditions so you will need to keep this in mind as well. There will be some stages where you will have diverging paths and going back and forth can lead to different outcomes. There is a massive amount of variety when it comes to Pokémon so needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed in this regard. These Pokémon all fit in with their natural habitat as evident with the variety of Biomes that are available in the game.
The Photodex and mechanics in the game help and extend this variety. There are different behaviors and scenarios to capture when it comes to every single Pokémon. You have a few tricks up your sleeves like using accessories to lure or change the behavior of Pokémon. You have fluff fruit that you can use to entice Pokémon closer to you, and then take a picture of them as they get busy eating. You can also scan surroundings to find interesting locations or initiate new directions, as well as trigger unique Pokémon behavior. Illumina balls are a unique type of accessory which can energize and confuse Pokémon.
While the game is fun the first time, as you get closer to the end game, it can become tedious as you start repeating stages. The speed of Neo-One is a big factor in it since there is no way to speed up your movement, and the camera also feels a little slow to control. The controls are not perfect but small quality-of-life changes like the ability to move faster come a little too late. You can only submit one picture of a Pokémon by the end of your run so if you are a perfectionist, you will need to go through a stage multiple times to capture all Pokémon and get them rated by Professor Mirror. The grind to get the best pictures with a Diamond ranking can become an obsession. There is also a player research level where you gain points for submitting pictures and improve your standing. This leads to the ability to find more types of Pokémon.
Visually speaking, New Pokémon Snap is a gorgeous game. It is pleasing to look at for a game and feels like an upgrade over the mainline Pokémon Sword/Shield. If the progression system was not flawed and didn’t suffer from repetition or grind, it would have been the perfect sequel for the original game. As it stands, I would still recommend getting it if you are a big fan of the Pokémon series because it checks all the right boxes.
Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher