The Pokemon company has a long history of canning spin-off games of the titular franchise that has often baffled the community, with the likes of games such as Stadium, Colosseum, Puzzle League and one of my personal favourites, Conquest, just to name a few. The likes of these fading into obscurity with just one to a small handful of releases before they are retired. Pokemon Snap was no exception to this rule, disappearing after it’s initial release in 1999. Snap was pretty popular among my Pokemon loving peers, though it was much different to what we actually enjoyed about the series; battling, trading, creating teams and raising our ideal Pokemon partners. Instead Snap aimed to achieve an understanding of how a Pokemon would act in it’s natural habitat to the franchise’ fan-base.
There were actually two titles created specifically for this purpose, including Hey you, Pikachu!, however there was never competition in which game did it better consistently and kept people coming back. (Spoiler alert, Hail thee, Electro-rat! Was not it.) It is ever since then we were treated to constant playground rumours that a Pokemon Snap 2 was in the works, something that would cause constant disappointment to young minds until it was clear that it wasn’t going to happen. Some held onto the memory (including myself) of the fantastic critter-spotter world that was Snap, however it mostly faded into obscurity just as most one-time spin-off titles do. I wouldn’t be the only one to say that seeing two decades later we would be getting a true sequel to Pokemon Snap was much like living in a fever dream. It’s happened, it’s here, and a pinch is not needed.
The premise is simple. You’re an aspiring Pokemon photographer who joins a small team of Pokemon behaviour researchers led by Professor Mirror, a man who spends more time in his lab rather than actually interacting with the Pokemon he wishes to know more about, and three other photographers that would rather shirk their responsibilities onto you rather than re-run the same course a second time, and make you run it a twentieth. The hub you are introduced to is mostly menus with no option to freely explore (But with the option to route it much like other locales you will be visiting later on) and a bunch of options that will allow you to explore locales, check your progress, see what other people have snapped and more.
You will be seeing these characters and the menu hub plenty during your time in New Pokemon Snap as the name of the game is completion. Snap in it’s own right is a very short game from finish to end, as the priority is more or less about snapping Pokemon in different scenarios to fill your Photodex and your album. Four unique picture types can be obtained from each individual Pokemon in the game, so expect to be repeating shots of each Pokemon to not only obtain diamond rank on not just one photo, but four. Doing this will raise your course ranks, which will actually change what happens in the course too. During rank one, you might see a path that is blocked off with no way to remove it, but then upon ranking up you will have the option to power-up a Clauncher to blast through a boulder offering access to a new area of the course.
This is where your fellow photographers come in. If you ever find yourself stuck, the other photographers will give you challenges with a hint photo that will more often than not give you an idea of exactly where and what needs to be done to achieve the perfect shot. They also throw out constant hints during a route that will inevitably help you find things that you miss in specific sections. While helpful, it’s also a little annoying throughout the game once you’ve repeated a course several times, only to get random “Woah!” or “Nice!” comments thrown in. They can be turned off which is appreciated, but comments still appear in the corners of the screen which can be a little off putting.
Much like the original game, there are several tools at your disposal that will help you with interacting with Pokemon to create different scenarios and shots, accompanied by pretty environments and objects that are more often that not important to how each route differs. With the Fluffruit, Illumina orbs, tune player and eventually speed boost attached to your travelling pod the NEO-ONE, you are given everything you need to change the scene and take some awesome pictures. Throwing a Fluffruit at a Pokemon may prompt the Pokemon to pick up and eat it, or anger it if you hit it. Playing a tune may cause them to dance or give you a new gesture to snap. However the most important tool you have is very much the Illumina orb.
The Illumina orb replaces the Pester ball tool from the original and it can be used to interact with Pokemon in many interesting ways. These orbs have an unlock requirement per course that will see you snapping photos of flowers called Crystalblooms or Pokemon affected by Illumina in order for the professor to have the information to create Illumina orbs. Hitting a Pokemon with one may power it up, causing some interactions to go differently. Throwing it at a Crystalbloom may attract Pokemon to it or reveal things unseen without it. However Illumina orbs have a far more important use in scenarios where you encounter “Illumina Pokemon”.
New Pokemon Snap is a gorgeous game on the exterior, but it demands that you appreciate what's under the hood.
In terms of story for New Pokemon Snap, Illumina Pokemon are the main focus. These Pokemon are huge variants of several species of Pokemon that will have you following routes specifically catered to catching as many pictures as you can. Splashing these Pokemon with enough Illumina juice (We’re calling it that now) will cause these Pokemon to take on the Illumina effect, which can create some absolutely gorgeous photos. These encounters with Illumina Pokemon aren’t too dissimilar from encountering the final photo-op in the original game in that they will usually do the most they can to keep you from taking the shots you need to pass the course, with the exception of the first one you find.
Speaking of, there are other mythical Pokemon found throughout the initial journey and within the post-game that will have you trying many different methods to attract their attention. Most of these are quite well hidden until after you have trekked across the entire Lental region’s beautiful nature parks, jungles, beaches and other locales. I had the pleasure of encountering one before I managed to finish the game, however the picture was from quite a distance and it wasn’t until after I was done that I’d managed to get the better ones, but it was a nice surprise to reward my keen eye during my journey.
U gotta know about the different types...
✔️A brilliant successor to a much beloved game
✔️A lovely insight on the meanderings of Pokemon.
✔️In general, good laid back fun.
❌Not fully voice acted, yet a very short scripted game.
❌While an averaged roster across the board, lacking Generation 8 Pokemon (2 in the game).
❌That poor, poor Pyukumuku…
A grand total of 214 Pokemon will appear over 24 courses during your time with Pokemon Snap, with a bunch of Pokemon often repeating in different courses that will reward you with different perspectives. 856 different types of photos can be catalogued as a result, and depending on the course you snap the repeating ones on will often give you better perspective for greater scores on your photos. Depending on your score you will receive a rank from bronze to diamond star rating on each photo category, and the points are converted to XP. Repeats of the same photo that get you a better score will only give you the difference that you made in score towards your total XP count, meaning that taking several shots of the same scenario in the same route is highly beneficial. You can snap up to 72 photos for one go, which is plenty enough to grab a few photos of every Pokemon in the course.
It seems like a lot to take in when you put it in words, but the experience isn’t as stressful as it seems. The ratings portion is actually pretty forgiving and doesn’t require you to take the pinnacle snap in order to hit diamond rating. I manage to take pictures that were large enough to fill the frame with no face or movement whatsoever, including a picture of Quagsire’s butt which remains as my 1-star diamond photo since I encountered it in night time Jungle. Each course seems to have a differing max rank from one and other and whilst playing I managed to max out a few of them, and I plan to go back and do all of them casually as I please. If I can offer one tip, it’s to use mixed control scheme to your benefit. If you play Splatoon you know exactly what I’m talking about, if you don’t however, I mean that using both your sticks and motion controls in tandem to control your camera is a beneficial way to taking some high rank shots.
The soundtrack is a nicely orchestrated selection of very… “Pokemon” sounding music. Being such a visual experience however, it’s quite hard to pay attention to it at times. It will help draw you in to the majesty of the experience as it did with myself, but you will eventually tune out as it just becomes background noise to what is currently happening in front of you. After you’ve experienced the game, I do highly encourage taking it easier and listening to the music as you roll through courses taking casual snaps, as it is actually quite a nice selection of music that fits the tone of the areas you explore.
All of this wrapped up together in a neat little package is a glimpse at what you’re going to experience in New Pokemon Snap. The question that I’ve been asked during my time with the game most however (Even by those peers from 1999) has been “Does it hold up?” and to that I say yes, it does, but only as a casual gaming experience. It’s a fantastic laid back game with no real difficulty and easy to understand gameplay. However, what Pokemon Snap lacks is length in sacrifice for replayability. If you are looking for longer game play with unique scenarios around every experience, you won’t find it here much like it’s older brother.
New Pokemon Snap is a gorgeous game on the exterior, but it demands that you appreciate what’s under the hood. You will run courses over and over and over again until you are absolutely sure that you have the best shot of every Pokemon you possibly can because that is how Snap is designed. At an 80 dollar AUD price tag, the people who will be getting a bang for their buck will be that of the completionist nature. Clocking in myself at about 22 hours, I managed to get a lot of Pokemon Snap completed, but I know it’s going to be another 10 to 20 before I’ve completed everything. If collecting is the thing for you, you’ll love it. If you’re somebody that is looking for more substance there is a lot to be desired, and you likely will not find it worth the price tag. That being said however, I still recommend Pokemon Snap. It’s a delightful experience that embodies what the original game intended to create and amps it up to 11. Picking it up on sale would be best, but if you cannot wait that long and really want a laid back experience, it’s a worthy purchase.
Also, if you placed your bets on Pyukumuku for Pyukumuku V Wailmer, I feel sorry for you.
New Pokémon Snap is a 2021 on-rails first-person simulation video game developed by Bandai Namco Studios and published by Nintendo and The Pokémon Company for the Nintendo Switch. It is a sequel to the 1999 Nintendo 64 game Pokémon Snap.