It’s been 22 years since the original Pokemon Snap was released on the Nintendo 64, and in that time, many fans have been practically begging for a sequel. Many thought at the time that the technology of the Wii or Wii U would lead to a sequel, but it never happened. So when the New Pokemon Snap was announced in summer 2020, it was a big deal.
Now, the New Pokemon Snap is out, and it’s still relevant. The core formula of the 1999 title is still there, meaning players will traverse courses via fixed tracks designed to find and shoot wild Pokemon. It’s a simple formula – one that doesn’t need much to change – and that’s the essence of New Pokemon Snap. It’s not the most innovative Pokemon game, but then again, it doesn’t have to be.
Players find themselves in the new Lental area with the goal of helping Professor Mirror, Rita and returning characters, and Pokemon photographer Todd discover what’s causing the Illumina phenomenon. To do this, the goal is simple : Shoot as many Pokmon as possible within the allotted time, while discovering little secrets and advancing the story. Many of the tools required for this are pre-installed on the player, such as scanners and fuzzies, while regional Illumina Orbs are required when the player moves from one area of the map to another.
Along the way, players will discover New Pokemon Snap’s greatest strengths : Changeable environments. New Pokemon Snap’s gameplay isn’t necessarily the most exciting, but it’s incredibly relaxing. The game’s atmospheric style means there’s little difficulty in gameplay, and players can explore everything from simple natural parks and beaches to snow-capped mountains and the Lental Seafloor. These classes add new Pokmon each run, really incentivizing people to return to areas they’ve already visited in pursuit of secrets and new Pokmon, but the game also offers day/night versions of most classes. Some Pokmon that sleep during the day are active at night, or sometimes brand new Pokmon that explore the area based on the time of day.
In other words, there are multiple reasons to revisit a course, and while the New Pokemon Snap can sometimes be “disgusting,” it often feels quite the opposite. Breaking in can sometimes lead to frustration with the game or its RNG, but even playing the same track a few times in a row can still be relaxing. This is notable because, especially in tutorials, sometimes players do have to repeat tracks. Whether it’s because they haven’t gained enough experience or missed a specific photo of Crystalbloom, there are elements of “roughness” in the game, but it never feels like this.
When it comes to interacting with these locations, Pokemon, and characters, New Pokemon Snap has all the charm of the original, even if it lacks some features. In short, New Pokemon Snap is more streamlined, with more Pokemon and a diverse map, but in the process, elements like evolving Pokemon through well-designed schemes and well-placed fruit don’t make it into the game. That’s not to say the game doesn’t have any requisite skill, as players will need to hit Crystalblooms with Illumina Orbs to unlock certain Pokmon, but it may not be as complex as the original.
Of course, no game is perfect, and neither is New Pokemon Snap. One notable and negative aspect of the game is the inconsistency of Professor Mirror’s rating system. Players should aim to get 1, 2, 3, and 4 star photos for each Pokmon, with the color of these stars (Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum) indicating its overall quality. Factors such as the composition of the Pokemon, the background/other Pokemon captured in the photo, and the Pokemon’s pose are all important, but not quite the feeling. For example, a poor photo with a certain pose (which may not be recognizable in the photo) could be rated as a high quality 4 star photo, while some of the best photos in terms of all factors could be rated as a medium quality 1 star photo .
So sometimes it’s better to take a bunch of photos until the game seems to represent one of them as a really good photo (via Rita and others in the course) rather than really aiming for a good photo. It’s not a huge problem overall, but it will be a recurring problem for many players. Fortunately, after beating the New Pokemon Snap, this may not matter as much, but it’s something to keep in mind. A good photo doesn’t always equate to good progress, sometimes quite the opposite.
The game does lag a bit at times, especially when there are a lot of Pokemon on the screen or something complicated is happening, but it’s very minor. It’s not a frequent problem, and it doesn’t seem to get any worse depending on how you play it. Whether docked or handheld, the New Pokemon Snap delivers a solid tech experience. That being said, Joy-Con Drift, for those who experience it, can be a real pain in the game. Because of the level of precision required to take pictures, Joy-Con Drift can throw players completely off track and disrupt an otherwise peaceful experience, but that’s clearly a problem with the Joy-Cons, not the game.
Many fans have been waiting for the sequel to Pokemon Snap since they were kids, and while it might not be exactly what they imagined, it’s a solid experience and highlights something sorely left out of the series. A worthy sequel, New Pokemon Snap is a relaxing journey through the world of Pokemon that can be enjoyed at home or on the go.
The new Pokemon Snap is now available on Switch.