New Pokemon Snap is finally here and I couldn’t be more excited.
It’s been over twenty years since the original game had you gearing up as a young photographer named Todd Snap, who aided Professor Oak with his Pokemon research through such “scientific” methods as antagonizing Meowths and making Snorlaxes dance. With the wonderful world created by the first game and the cult fanbase it created, New Pokemon Snap had big shoes to fill — and boy, did it.
For those that have never played the original Pokemon Snap, the basic gameplay is that of a rail shooter — the difference being that you’re shooting pictures, instead of bullets. Don’t be fooled, New Pokemon Snap isn’t just about aiming your camera at Pokemon and clicking a button; it’s about using your tools and observation skills to set yourself up to take the best pictures of Pokemon possible. The game is also about exploring and getting lost in a wide variety of courses with a multitude of themes and Pokemon. From deserts to beaches to volcanoes, you’re guaranteed to find some of your favorite Pokemon no matter what type they are.
The first Pokemon Snap had you take pictures of Pokemon, which Professor Oak would then judge and measure against your previous pictures of that Pokemon, keeping the highest score. Most courses in the original were unlocked by reaching a score milestone, or discovering some kind of secret path (sometimes at the expense of an Electrode in the wrong place at the wrong time). New Pokemon Snap keeps this same gameplay loop and design, but with a few little twists, which I’ll get into a bit later.
While the first game only had the player and Professor Oak researching the whole island by themselves, New Pokemon Snap gives you some companions. At first you meet the new professor, Professor Mirror and his assistant, Rita; these two have been studying the Lental Region at the Laboratory of Ecological and Natural Science (L.E.N.S. for short). Mirror and Rita’s main goals consist of finding the secrets of the Illumina phenomenon (mysterious circumstances which cause Pokemon and vegetation on the island to glow) and Crystabloom flower, unique to the Lental region. They decide to give you the role of going out and capturing pictures of this flower, as well as Pokemon, in order to help them research and uncover the mysteries of the region. There are a couple of other people that join in on the fun later in the game, including an old familiar face. However I’ll leave that up to you to discover, as I’d like to keep this review as spoiler free as I can.
One of the first things that jumps out immediately when starting the game (other than selecting a character) is the intro cutscene. That’s right, this game has cutscenes, and they look amazing. The opening cutscene pulls you immediately into the world – showing the player walking into the Florio Nature Park’s camp, surrounded by curious Pokemon, and being basked in bright, warm sunlight. This is just one of the many cutscenes you’ll see through the game, and while some are mundane, others are absolutely stunning.
The cutscenes look fantastic, but they are nothing compared to when you finally take a seat in your Zero One buggy and set sail through the 60 FPS, HD trail. The graphics play a huge role in the immersion of the game: the Pokemon models and animations all look smooth and fluid, the textures of both the world and the Pokemon are finely detailed, and the shaders make every course pop. If you haven’t seen the water in this game yet, be my guest and check it out – because it is stunning.
Not only does New Pokemon Snap have cutscenes; it also has voice acting, which is a pretty wild thing for a Pokemon title. However, not the weirdest thing for Pokemon Snap, as the original had a little bit of voice acting as well — only it consisted of Professor Oak saying one word followed by a few lines of text. In New Pokemon Snap, Professor Mirror and Rita aren’t afraid to give you an earful — which is surprisingly doesn’t get too grating given how endearing their voice acting sounds. While not every text box in the game is read in full, there are many times where a character will read out the first few lines and then let you read the rest. Still, this is a welcome surprise and I’m all for it.
Beyond the voice acting, the game’s sounds are incredible once you get onto a course. There’s nothing like strolling through the beach and hearing the ocean waves crash at the shore, the bird Pokemon chirping from above you, and Pokemon shuffling through the greenery.
I’m sure we’ve all learned by now that there are no graphics or audio tricks in the world that could carry a poorly designed level, especially in a rail shooter about taking pictures. On the other hand, fantastic level design will make most forget about the polygons they’re looking at. The proof of this lies in the first Pokemon Snap; its levels were all designed wonderfully with many secrets to discover and Pokemon to see. It was able to easily drag in players even with its graphics from the time period. While New Pokemon Snap doesn’t have those same graphical limitations, it’s safe to say that it didn’t forget its roots, giving us the best of both worlds.
New Pokemon Snap puts major focus on both the graphics and the world design. I don’t want to spoil too much about the game and ruin the fun of discovering every level for yourself, but even the very first island you explore in the Lental Region takes you on an amazing journey through a wildlife park bustling with a wide variety of bird, fish, and floral Pokemon. The Lental Region spoils you right off the bat with lush green scenery, an adorable Pichu/Grookey combo running around and the ambient sounds of nature radiating from every direction — all within the first ten seconds of teleporting in. Every course feels chock-full of Pokemon, so much so that it can even be a little overwhelming the first time running through a new one. Sometimes you can’t shake the feeling that there’s a Charizard behind you break dancing while you’re too busy trying to line up the perfect picture of a Wurmple to notice.
Unlike the first game, these courses are not just static levels that stay the same every time you play them. Each course has a daytime and nighttime mode, and each mode has a course level. The difference between the daytime and nighttime run of a course is very substantial; most of the time it’ll drastically change which Pokemon you see and whether you’ll see them snoozing or moving. Every time you get a photo of a new Pokemon (or a new star level of a Pokemon) or you beat out the score of an old photo, you’ll get experience towards your level for that specific course at that specific time (daytime and nighttime have different levels). As you level up a course, new Pokemon will start to appear, and old Pokemon will start to do new things as they begin to trust you more and get used to your presence. This adds a level of replayability and a reason to backtrack to a course you’ve already completed.
The original Pokemon Snap presented ways for players to interact with the Pokemon and environment. You were given, for example, apples, a Pest Ball, and a flute – each of which played different roles in getting better pictures or finding new Pokemon. For example, maybe you’d have to play the flute to finally get a good picture of Snorlax (shaking what his mama gave him), or maybe you could lure Pikachu to a surfboard with a trail of juicy apples.
New Pokemon Snap keeps this tradition alive and gives you a few new tools to work with during your ventures. You can use Fluffruits (softer, sweeter apples), and other tools provided by the good people of L.E.N.S. to interact with the Lental Pokemon. Every Pokemon has four different star ratings, and which one you capture depends on the Pokemon’s current action. For example, a Pikachu just chilling will land you a one star Pika pic, while a Pikachu being nailed with a Fluffruit will net you a two star photo. Obtaining a higher star rating doesn’t mean you’ll get more points. It’s actually good to get every star rating that a Pokemon has to get the most bang for your buck from capturing photos of them. Every time you capture a photo of a Pokemon with a star rating you haven’t gotten before, you’ll get full points of the photo awarded to your course level. So even if you love watching Dodrio fly up in the air, sometimes you’re just gonna have to just get a picture of him snacking on a Fluffruit.
Don’t worry about not being able to find all of the secrets and interactions (and there are many). The good people at L.E.N.S. also provide you with requests in which they give you little tips as to where a certain Pokemon might be hiding or how one Pokemon may really like a flute being played. If you prefer to find the secrets yourself then you can easily ignore these requests and use the old trial and error method. My method of choice is the latter, and referring to the former when I run out of ideas.
So far I’ve only really mentioned Gen one Pokemon, but New Pokemon Snap does a great job at including Pokemon from every generation. I’m a huge fan of Gen 3 and 4 myself, and the Pokemon present from those games have definitely not disappointed. If you look hard enough while you’re running through the first course, you could probably find Pokemon from just about every single generation living together in harmony. There are over 200 Pokemon in the game to find, feed, and snap pictures of, nearly tripling that of the original. However, unlike the first game, you likely won’t be able to do something as violent (or sadistic) as knocking a Charmeleon into lava or baiting two Magmar into KO’ing each other over an apple. But you might just be able to force a Pelipper to cough up a Pyukumuku that it was planning on having for dinner or get a Pinsir to chase you around for knocking him on the head with a Fluffruit.
I won’t spoil too much of the story, but the basic premise is that we’re uncovering the truth of the Illumina phenomenon and the Crystabloom flower. Every now and then you’ll discover an Illumina spot in which you get to capture pictures of an awe inspiring Illumina Pokemon. Again, I don’t want to spoil the magic of what this entails, but I will say that it is awe-inspiring your first time seeing one.
New Pokemon Snap adds a couple of very interesting features with the pictures you take, one of the most interesting being how you can edit the pictures from your album, adding stickers and filters (both of which you can unlock through playing). You can also take these pictures and post them online for other people to “Sweet!” It may seem like a no brainer feature to add, but I am very happy they added it in, and will likely spend at least 50 hours of my life throwing together goofy photos.
New Pokemon Snap also lets you edit your online profile with unlockable titles and profile pictures, another cosmetic, QOL addition which adds surprising amounts of enjoyment to the game.
Pokemon Snap Final Verdict
This game is everything I wanted and more from a Pokemon Snap game. It sticks to its roots creating amazing courses to get lost in and of course, plenty of Pokemon with which to interact. New Pokemon Snap isn’t just a reash, though — it has also added onto this world with new courses and Pokemon level mechanics, making replaying courses interesting and exciting.
When I play New Pokemon Snap, I feel as if I’m being teleported back to first grade playing my favorite game again. For fans of Pokemon that haven’t played the original, this game is an opportunity to see Pokemon in a different light. Instead of just capturing and battling with them, you can see how they live, play, and dance. For non-Pokemon fans, you can go on a safari through a make believe world of wonderful creatures which have captivated the imagination of audiences for over two decades.