Nineties kids unite! Nostalgia is still all the rage and Nintendo knows it. Not only are the Pokémon Diamond and Pearl remakes on their way, the New Pokémon Snap arrived for the Nintendo Switch on the 30th of April. Even if you don’t have fond memories of the original game, it could still very much be worth your time. I never played the original myself, so definitely read on if you’re looking for a review that hasn’t been written through pink nostalgia glasses.
|Buy if||Not for you if|
|– You like achievement hunting|
– You enjoy casual games
– You liked the original Pokémon Snap
– You want to see Pokémon behave in a
|– You care most about the Pokémon battles|
– You have no interest in photography
– You are looking for a challenging game
with intricate mechanics
Is New Pokémon Snap a remake?
Nintendo released Pokémon Snap for the Nintendo 64 in 1999. Over twenty years later we now have New Pokémon Snap. Despite what the very uninspired title may suggest, it is not in fact a remake! If anything, New Pokémon Snap should be considered a sequel to the original game. Although the game play is very much the same, that’s where the similarities stop. There is a new story, with new characters, and it is all set in the new Lental region. New functionalities are now also available that make perfect sense for a Nintendo Switch game.
The ultimate goal of New Pokémon Snap is to complete your Pokémon Photodex. For every Pokémon there are four entries in the Photodex: 1 star, 2 stars, 3 stars and 4 stars. The use of stars for what are actually “categories” is rather confusing. The amount of stars does not indicate how good your photo is, because that is indicated by the type of stars that are awarded. Anything below 2,500 points gets bronze stars, between 2,500 and 3,000 are silver stars, between 3,500 and 4,000 points are gold stars, and finally diamond stars for anything above that. The amount of stars then is determined by the behaviour of the Pokémon in the picture. “Normal” behaviour usually gives 1 star. Other types of behaviour are e.g. eating, sleeping, running, flying, jumping, waving…
Professor Mirror will rate your photos after every expedition. You can choose one photo per Pokémon, regardless of the category it falls in. This can be tricky because a photo with a higher number of stars means it shows “special” behaviour, and may be more difficult to snap again on your next expedition. However, you also want to show him your best photos, so you’ll end up choosing between the best photos and the ones that will help complete your Photodex. The categories that determine how good your photo is, are: Pose, Size, Direction, Placement, Other Pokémon and Background. Mainly focus on this: make sure the Pokémon is nice and big in the centre of your photo and looking at you.
The main activity in this game is going on expeditions to different areas in the Lental region. During an expedition you follow a fixed trajectory and have the ability to snap photos. You can also have limited interactions with the local Pokémon. You can throw fluffruit, play a melody and of course use a scanner. The scanner not only points out where Pokémon are hiding, but can also alert them, which may make them look in your direction. The fixed trajectory is definitely my least favourite thing about this game. I know we’re not getting a true open world Pokémon game any time soon, but wouldn’t that just be the best thing ever?
Going on expeditions and submitting photos to the professor will grant you “Expedition points”. With these points you can increase the research level of a certain photo course, meaning the Pokémon grow more accustomed to you and will exhibit different behaviour. You’ll also notice “new” Pokémon who might have been hiding before. Levelling up various courses is thus necessary if you wish to complete the Photodex. Most areas have different courses for night and day time, which is pretty nice. If you’re a bit cruel like me, you’ll like nothing better than throwing food at a sleeping Pokémon to snap a photo of their big yawn.
A welcome new feature in New Pokémon Snap is the Re-snap functionality. After each expedition you’ll have the choice to save any photo to your album. You can then adjust those pictures by adding filters, frames and a shitload of stickers. What Professor Mirror considers a “good photo” is not necessarily the type of photos we prefer ourselves. That’s where the re-snap feature and your personal online page come in play. You can upload any photo from your album to your online page and if people like it, they can award you with “Sweet Medals”. Sweet! Sidenote: you will need an active Nintendo Switch Online subscription to use this functionality. You can also check online leader boards and see where you place in terms of Photodex points, just in case you can’t enjoy games without any form of competition.
You’re a young kiddo with a natural gift for photography. You meet professor Mirror and his assistant Rita, who want your help to explore the Lental region. What can be considered an urban legend thus far is what interests the professor most. The so-called ““Illumina phenomenon”. Captain Vince explored the region and documented it in his Travelogue 100 years ago, but the pictures are rather blurry. This is the main motivator to go on expeditions, learn more about the Pokémon, the history of the region and about the Illumina phenomenon. The Lental region in New Pokémon Snap features Pokémon of all eight generations. Throughout the game you’ll also encounter 6 Majestic Illumina Pokémon, who’ll play a key role in uncovering the mystery.
During the expeditions, your scanner will point out “Crystalblooms”. These crystal-shaped flowers can sometimes glow during the nighttime, which triggers the Illumina effect in nearby Pokémon. If you snap a photo of a glowing Crystalbloom and show it to the professor, he’ll create Illumina orbs for you. The Illumina orbs are different in every area. If you throw one at a Pokémon it will become illuminated and can exhibit special behaviour. You can also throw it at a Crystalbloom, which will light it up and might attract Pokémon to it. I recommend actively using them; they help you level up the course faster and at the very least a glowing Pokémon looks cooler in your photos anyway.
Requests and achievements
Although there definitely is a main story, it kinda disappears into the background. The main focus lies on completing the Photodex, which will eventually progress the story anyway. To keep you engaged they’ve introduced Requests in New Pokémon Snap. You’ll like these if you are an achievement hunter. The professor or any of the other characters will ask you to snap a very specific behaviour of certain Pokémon. These requests are tricky, for some you’ll definitely need to level up the photo course first to even attempt them. And there’s the added difficulty of being on a fixed trajectory. If you missed your shot you can’t just walk back and keep trying. You’ll have to finish this course and then restart it to try again.
New Pokémon Snap also has an achievement program built in. Completing very specific tasks or crossing milestones will grant you “Research titles”. There are the obvious ones you’ll receive when you complete a course for the first time, or for e.g. registering 100 species of Pokémon. Receiving all the titles won’t be an easy feat and will require some serious grinding. Seriously, how many hours will it take me to get Pokémon to move a total of 6.21 miles by using fluffruit? How many meters is that even? Receiving a new title because you got a high score on your photo is fun and all, but I’m not concerned with gathering them.
Look and feel
The game was designed for the Nintendo Switch and as usual it looks amazing and runs really smoothly. The Pokémon in the Lental region are very cute and the different types of behaviour that have been programmed in make me gasp from time to time. I never cared about Bidoof until I saw it swimming with sticks in its little mouth to build a dam. The characters on the other hand are rather dull, and I couldn’t care less about them. Something about their design just isn’t all that appealing. I noticed that during conversations they even hardly blink. I swear they stare at me like they’re plotting a murder.
The music during the loading screens very much reminds me of that from The Sims games. Which means I am totally feeling the vibe and getting all excited for the expedition to start. While you’re snapping photos, the music is a bit more adventurous and less prominent. That’s perfect because it adds to the pace and leaves room to hear the actual Pokémon. I suggest throwing something at them if you want to hear their cry.
New Pokémon Snap brings the achievement hunting aspect of other Pokémon games without the combat. It has its own unique story and although it sounds like you’re just taking photos of Pokémon, there’s actually a lot to do. Completing the Photodex, progressing the story, fulfilling Requests and collecting Research Titles. Thanks to motion control, playing handheld can actually feel like you’re snapping pictures. I don’t care that much about grinding in games, but I love looking at cute Pokémon in their natural habitat. I think the game is definitely suited for casual and younger gamers. Achievement hunters and nostalgia buffs will also definitely get their money’s worth out of New Pokémon Snap.