Available On: Switch
Played On: Switch
The original Pokémon Snap introduced many Pokémon fans to a surprisingly beloved 3D spin-off, where players traded in their pokéballs for cameras, and their bicycles with an on-rails vehicle. The gameplay is little more than snapping pictures during a lively theme park ride, and we loved it. Over 20 years later Nintendo finally releases a sequel in New Pokémon Snap, proving that the simple formula is just as enjoyable, though not without some frustration.
The Lental Region is an all new archipelago teeming with Pokémon. Lental includes all the major biomes you could ask for, including underwater reefs, cavernous volcanoes, and ghostly forests. Mytask is simple: take pictures of every Pokémon I see – and I’ll be seeing a lot.
In the beginning only the Florio Nature Park zone will be available, featuring a dozen Pokémon such as Pichu, Vivillion, Bouffalant, Pidgeot, and Dodrio. Pokémon sleep, fly, hide, swim, frolic, and mock battle each other in the same scripted sequence each time you visit. Taking pictures is as simple as point and shoot, though I gradually unlock new features and abilities, and new zones to explore.
Scanning uncovers hidden secrets (and alerts certain Pokémon), while playing music causes many Pokémon to dance. The most important tool is flinging the unlimited supply of Fluffruit, encouraging many Pokémon to move around and eat. Illumina Orbs are new to New Pokémon Snap and a unique feature of the Lental Region. I can toss them at Crystalbloom flowers and at Pokémon for different glowing effects.
Since each zone features the same scripted encounters, embarking on missions is an exercise in patience, diligence, memorization, and reflexes. Even if you take six amazing pictures of Pichu, each with a different pose, you can only ever turn one picture per Pokémon into Professor Mirror to rate after each run. Superior picture ratings add to your level for each individual zone, and reaching a new level changes the available Pokémon, their patterns, and their interactions – as well as sometimes opening up entirely new paths on the route.
There’s a bit of grinding involved to unlock more research levels in each zone, but it’s a gratifying loop. Leveling up more than once in each zone is mostly optional and not required for the main story, but is required if you want to complete the Photodex.
A Simple Request
While I can only ever turn in one picture per Pokémon at a time, I can have up to four pictures of each Pokémon in my Photodex, one for each star rating. Professor Mirror does a poor job explaining how the star rating relates to certain poses, however, and it remains a frustratingly obtuse system throughout the game.
From what I can tell, a one-star picture is a common pose, like the Pokémon just walking around, while a four-star picture is the rarest pose, usually only after witnessing something unique. Sometimes it happens naturally, like Quagsire leaping into the water, but other times you have to set the 4-star picture up by using a combination of items and abilities in the exact right time (and in the correct level of that zone) – and often with only seconds to pull it all off.
Achieving all four star-rating pictures per Pokémon is a lofty goal that requires numerous repeat trips to each level of each zone. Additionally, each zone has a number of requests from your various friends and mentors at the research lab. These requests point to very specific scenes and Pokémon, and typically hint at how to achieve a 4-star picture.
For example, once I unlock Florio Park Research level 3, I’m given a request to take a picture of Bidoof inside its newly built damn. I’ll need to use the scanner to take the alternate path close to the dam, then throw a flufffruit on the dam to lure Bidoof inside. Once he pops his head out of the top, I quickly take a picture of the cheeky beaver to achieve a 4-star pose and complete the request.
Requests are a fun idea that provide some much needed direction for each zone, but I often found them incredibly limiting and frustrating. Requests very specifically want a certain picture that can seemingly only be obtained by doing a certain thing a certain way at a certain time in a certain level of each zone, and the hints are usually far too vague. I also wish there was a reward for every completed request instead of only about half of them, and that there was a way to pause and look them up as a refresher in the middle of a trip. Rewards include stickers, titles, and frames that you can use to customize your online page and the simple but fun photo editing for online photo sharing.
New Pokémon Snap is rated E for Everyone. Controls are as simple as moving the camera view in first-person and taking pictures, though use of items and abilities, along with reflexes and timing, are required to take the most high-scoring pics.
New Pokémon Snap is easily one of the best looking Pokémon games ever designed, and a joy to discover and interact, at least somewhat, with your favorites in a variety of locations. Despite its challenging requests and occasional split-second timing, New Pokémon Snap remains a fantastic photo-taking adventure and an excellent non-violent excursion for kids and families.