New Pokémon Snap – Review
Follow Genre: Simulation
Developer: BANDAI NAMCO Studios
Publisher: Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

New Pokémon Snap – Review

Site Score
9.2
Good: A visual treat
Bad: Minor pacing issues
User Score
9.5
(4 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.5/10 (4 votes cast)

It’s been 22 years since Pokémon Snap debuted on the Nintendo 64, and fans of the series have been clamoring for a sequel ever since. Even so, the announcement for New Pokémon Snap came as a surprise when the game was revealed last June. Naturally, expectations for New Pokémon Snap were sky-high. Now that the game is available, the question remains if it was worth the wait.

Story

Players start out their journey in New Pokémon Snap as a new recruit for L.E.N.S., the Laboratory of Ecology and Natural Sciences. Here, professor Mirror is studying the mysterious Illumina phenomenon, which occurs among the Pokémon that inhabit the Lental region. Together with the professor and his team -which includes a familiar cameo in the form of Todd Snap, the protagonist of the original Pokémon Snap game- you must document the region’s inhabitants as well as the Illumina phenomenon. This simple premise serves as the framework around which New Pokémon Snap’s gameplay is built and it works surprisingly well as long as you don’t expect character depth or plot twists.

Graphics

The graphical prowess of the Switch is often laughed at, especially when directly comparing the visuals of a Switch port to those of the PlayStation or Xbox versions. Titles like Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition or Monster Hunter Rise showcase how the Switch is still capable of holding its own when a game is designed with the Switch’s architecture in mind, however. New Pokémon Snap might not be as visually impressive as either of the aforementioned titles, mostly because of the cartoonish aesthetics, but it’s a fantastic showcase of what the Switch is capable of. This is the best-looking Pokémon game so far, easily surpassing the underwhelming visuals of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Admittedly, New Pokémon Snap occasionally pushes the Switch to its limits. We noticed a severe frame rate drop whenever the massive whale Pokémon Wailord made an appearance, for example. Even so, New Pokémon Snap is a treat for your eyes, and really brings the world of Pokémon to life like never before.

Sound

Admittedly, New Pokémon Snap’s soundscape is a bit of a mixed bag. We were happy to finally see voice acting in a Pokémon game, but unfortunately, this is limited to snippets and the majority of the dialogue is only presented as on-screen text. Hopefully, this sets a precedent, however, and serves as a small step towards full voice acting in future titles. As for the monsters themselves, New Pokémon Snap takes things in a different direction than what you might expect. Rather than say their names over and over again like in the anime or simply using the low-quality sounds that have plagued the main series since the Game Boy era, the critters now sound like actual animals. This works surprisingly well and adds a degree of realism not yet seen in a Pokémon title. Finally, the music is serviceable but ultimately forgettable.

Gameplay

New Pokémon Snap is essentially an on-rails shooter, but instead of using guns to take down enemies, your task is to take pictures of Pokémon instead. Your ultimate goal is to complete the Photodex. To do so, you’ll need to snap photos of the 214 Pokémon that inhabit the Lental region. It’s not enough to snap a single photo of each monster either. To complete a page, you’ll need to get four photos, each with a different star rating. A basic photo will typically net you a one-star rating, whereas a four-star photo usually requires you to capture a special pose. Getting those special poses usually requires action on your part, whether through direct interaction with the monster or simply by performing a series of actions as you traverse the stage. The in-game AI is fairly advanced when it comes to judging photos but we occasionally got a higher score than we expected on a fairly crappy photo, with better shots getting lower scores.

The stages are modeled after various environments, including a jungle, a volcano and even the ocean floor. Traversing a stage is a relatively short affair and often feels like a theme park ride. Unlike in the original, each stage here has different modes. You can explore each environment during the night or during the day for starters, but there are also variants that depend on your exploration level. A higher exploration level typically means more variety in which Pokémon you encounter and more opportunities to take special pictures, but you are free to return to “lower” versions of the same stage, which can sometimes be helpful to take certain photos.

Since the release of the original Pokémon Snap, which featured 63 first-generation Pokémon, we’ve seen seven additional generations, and New Pokémon Snap reflects this with its roster. Unavoidable series mascots like Pikachu and Charizard are present of course, but the game is surprisingly diverse and pulls out some of the more obscure creatures like Clawitzer and Bounsweet. The selection of monsters makes sense as it seems to be based on what would logically inhabit an area rather than fan service, although it feels odd to see certain members of evolutionary families missing, especially when they are middle stages. For example, Pikipek and Toucannon are present, but Trumbeak is nowhere to be found. Having ultra-rare shiny Pokémon appear in the stages randomly is something that is also missing, surprisingly, and would’ve been a welcome addition as well as an incentive to replay stages.

Stages and tools are unlocked gradually as you progress through New Pokémon Snap. When you start out, you’ll only have your trusty camera at your disposal, but soon enough you’ll be able to lure Pokémon with Fluffruits, play a tune to wake them up or make them dance, and make them glow using Illumina Orbs. If you were hoping for the Pester Balls from the original Snap to make a return, you’re out of luck though. New Pokémon Snap is clearly taking a far more pacifist approach. You’re still able to pelt the critters using Fluffruits but these are essentially harmless. The game doesn’t allow you to knock a Charmeleon into a pool of lava to force it to evolve this time. In fact, as far as we found, there were no ways to get a Pokémon to evolve in New Pokémon Snap, which is a shame as that was a bit of a hallmark of the original. That said, the game’s controls are smooth as butter and pelting Fluffruits or Illumina Orbs at critters requires only minimal accuracy. New Pokémon Snap also offers motion controls, which makes us want a VR version of the game but unfortunately, the game fails to capitalize on this. This would’ve been a great way for Nintendo to finally shift those dust-gathering Nintendo Labo VR kits.

Compared to its predecessor, New Pokémon Snap feels like a much larger title. Given that the number of creatures in this game eclipses the number of monsters in the first generation this makes sense, although we couldn’t help but feel that New Pokémon Snap has a few pacing issues. For one, the game’s tutorial feels stretched out -especially given the simplicity of the core mechanics. Secondly, the exploration level system requires you to replay stages over and over to grind experience in order to unlock a new stage variant. While it’s impossible to snap everything during a single-stage run, it did feel slightly repetitive at times, especially when we were just a few points short of a level up. This exploration level is stage-dependent and is even determined separately for night and day versions of the same stage, so be prepared to replay certain stages maybe one or two times more than you’d like.

This artificial gatekeeping also applies to the Illumina phenomenon, which is New Pokémon Snap’s main gimmick. We’re not quite sure why almost every Pokémon game feels the need to introduce a new gimmick or Pokémon variant. We would have been happy if New Pokémon Snap offered up only regular Pokémon. Instead, the game adds Illumina Pokémon as “boss” variants. These have their own dedicated stage and in order to take their pictures, you’ll need to hit them with Illumina Orbs to make them glow. This can be done to regular monsters as well, and is a good way to increase your picture scores, but for these boss monsters, it’s obligatory, as the professor won’t accept non-glowing photos of them.

Rounding out New Pokémon Snap’s features is -of course- the social element. You’re not just able to share your photos online but as you keep hitting milestones, you’ll be rewarded with filters and frames, allowing you to personalize your snaps to your heart’s content. This feature is likely going to be a big hit with the Snap community, and it will ensure that the game will have a dedicated niche following for years to come as talented Pokémon photographers will continue to keep pushing themselves to get the best shots, even beyond the game’s own requirements.

Conclusion

After two decades of waiting, we would’ve accepted an HD remaster of the original Snap, so getting a completely new entry in the series is fantastic. The game suffers from a few pacing issues, and we do miss forcing monsters to evolve but overall New Pokémon Snap is superior to the original in every way. Even if you’re not a fan of the mainline games, there is a good chance that New Pokémon Snap will appeal to you.

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Rating: 9.5/10 (4 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 2 votes)
New Pokémon Snap - Review, 9.5 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


1 Comment

  1. 3rd-strike.com | New Pokémon Snap DLC – Review
    August 12, 2021, 00:02

    […] In our original review, we said New Pokémon Snap was the best looking Pokémon game ever, and our opinion hasn’t changed. The biggest new visual change comes alongside the shrinking feature, of course, which unfortunately is limited to an unlockable sidepath on a single course. It’s a neat little trick, but ultimately a gimmick that doesn’t add a whole lot. Hopefully, this feature will be expanded upon in future updates, with more sidepaths added or the option to shrink down the Neo One in existing routes, so that you can experience new viewing angles. […]

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