Bottom line: New Pokémon Snap brings the spirit of the original game to a brand new generation on the Nintendo Switch. With breath-taking visuals, tight gameplay, and an unmistakable Pokémon charm, this title is a relaxing and laid-back experience worth exploring.
- Beautiful graphics & stages
- Very well-structured environments
- Great level variety
- High replayability
- Fun lore, adorable Pokémon
- Improves on the original formula
- Basic story
- Some frame rate issues in handheld
- Photo rating system is a little off
- Sometimes too much hand-holding
- Not for adrenaline junkies
22 years is a long time to wait between sequels. Time weathers all things and can put rose-colored glasses on any experience making things in the past seem better than they were. The same can be said about video games; we all like to think our childhood favorites can't be beat or everything about them was so much better than some of today's games. That can make bringing old favorites into the future a trial, even though fans may long for it. With the announcement of New Pokémon Snap for Nintendo Switch, I was both excited and fearful; would this new game even come close to matching my love for the original?
I'm happy to report that New Pokémon Snap not only exceeded my expectations, but it made me fall in love with the game all over again. With plenty of levels, numerous Pokemon to photograph, and many new ways to do it, New Pokemon snap manages to brush the dust off the old formula and gives fans something amazing. This photo-sim was lightning in a bottle the first go-round, and it seems that it can strike twice.
New Pokémon Snap: What you'll like
|Category||New Pokémon Snap|
|Title||New Pokémon Snap|
|Developer||BANDAI NAMCO Studios|
|Publisher||Nintendo, The Pokémon Company|
|Game Size||6.0 GB|
|Play Time||15+ hours|
New Pokémon Snap is simply a photography simulator with Pokémon. This newest entry in the series does what it was meant to do; it's a mix of nostalgia with new-age Pokémon and a fresh coat of paint to finish it off. Essentially, the game takes the parts that were great in the original and makes them even better. The developers really didn't try to reinvent the wheel, but they did add a load of new details and exploration to bring a whole new perspective. Players start by selecting an avatar, and while there's no real customization, it's not necessarily needed. You barely see your avatar since you're constantly behind the camera.
You are a new photographer brought to the Lental region by Professor Mirror to join his research team. The goal is to study the Pokémon that live on that island and discover the secrets of the mysterious Illumina phenomenon that occurs. That's really all there is to the story, but it is a fun mystery to solve by taking pictures — and you will be taking a lot of photos. So, what's so great about this game?
Let's start with the visuals. This game looks fantastic. As you ride slowly through each area in the NEO-ONE, you cannot deny how detailed the scenes are. Pokémon interact with each other, the colors and environments are bright and different, and I found myself always noticing something new on each return trip.
These islands felt lived in, and it raised a few questions that I've long had about the series — like do Pokémon hunt each other? Turns out, it is very plausible; and they can be territorial or skittish, among other things. I was excited to explore new levels and islands to discover a new layer to the game's lore. Plus, every time I visited a level, things would change, especially if my Research Level went up — which happens after you take enough pictures.
Before I go further, the scenes in each level typically have the same Pokémon performing similar behaviors, just like the first. However, as you interact with them, it can change the environment. Leveling up causes the Pokémon to become more friendly toward you or encourage new Pokémon to appear. This new twist was very refreshing to the original formula, which was one path, same Pokémon, slight changes due to interaction.
However, a higher research level in New Pokémon Snap means new tools, new paths, and possibly more Pokémon. There are over 200 Pokémon throughout the game to capture on film. And since the environments are so lively, you can find something new on each research trip. Your head basically needs to be on a swivel. If you level out of a section, no worries; you can always return to previous versions of the map.
Taking all the pictures
The goal here is to fill up your Photodex for Professor Mirror, and the new system is much more fun this time around. Instead of keeping one photo, you're tasked with finding four different Pokémon behaviors. While you could grab one photo of each and call it a day, in addition to four open slots, your pictures have star ratings. So, while the worst picture in the world can earn you a bronze star, a much better picture can go platinum. My only issue here is you can only pick one photo per Pokémon, which could be annoying when I captured multiple behaviors on a trip.
I found myself unloading entire reels to get better shots and ran out a few times. Oh yes, that's the catch — you have limited storage space and limited time. The courses can run pretty short, which could be bad or good depending on how you look at it. Bad, since you might want to stick around a little longer for more shots. Good because you may have missed something mid-level and want to get right back to it.
Despite being allowed only four photos per Pokémon, there are plenty of other opportunities to catch photos. The whole research team has requests that you can try to fill them as they generate. Some of these are easier to get than others, but it's still a lot of fun trying. Plus, if you have any photos you like, you can re-snap, edit, and share with any other New Pokémon Snap lovers, provided you have Nintendo Switch Online services. It's a fun little addition to compare scores and share photos with a community. And the more you play, the more filters and editing perks you can acquire. Plus, you can even print them out, just like old times!
There is a lot of replayability here, and while the courses do repeat, they offer variations so that you can switch it up for every trip. With the addition of tools as you level, you can really power through courses to get some pretty great photos and share them with the online community. And that's what this game is all about.
New Pokémon Snap: What you won't like
So, while New Pokémon Snap made plenty of strides, a few places missed the mark. I enjoyed this game thoroughly, but my preferred method to play is usually docked. You get the most impact that way. I played the game a lot in handheld mode but spinning around to get photos did leave me feeling nauseated after a while. However, this was after a few straight hours of playing. Whenever I played for shorter periods, I didn't have a problem.
On the other hand, motion controls were a big nope for me. I threw them on to test it out, and it easily is a game made for the motion controls. They worked well, and everything would have been great if I didn't feel like the world was spinning. So, if you aren't prone to motion sickness, you'll probably enjoy the immersion with the motion controls.
Another issue I had with New Pokémon Snap was the unbalanced tutorial system. Sometimes the game pushed the typical Nintendo helicopter tutorial, while others, you were tossed in the deep end without an inner tube. This seems to be a common problem with most Nintendo games, so it's not completely unexpected.
Finally, when it comes to actual gameplay, while everything about the game is pretty solid, the one place it could use work is in the photo rating system. It can be a bit random at times when Professor Mirror evaluates a photo. Sometimes you go in thinking you have a great shot, and he'll take points off because the Pokémon isn't looking directly at the camera or it's not big enough. Sometimes the better shot was worth far less. While I could write this off as the professor looking for something specific, I should think the professor would prefer to see the whole Pokémon and not just a close-up of its head.
New Pokémon Snap: Should you play it?
New Pokémon Snap is fun, relaxed, and a beautiful game to take in. However, keep in mind that this is not a fast-paced platformer. This game is slow; the tracks, the progression, and gameplay. If you pick up this game expecting thrills, you will be disappointed. If you are a fan of Pokémon, the original game, and you are looking for a chill experience, this game is perfect.
There's plenty to do, a lovely course variety, and it has a fun little mystery to uncover. You can immerse yourself with the motion controls or take in the full experience on the dock. Or hey, just take it with you, snap all the photos, and share them with your friends online! New Pokémon Snap is a wonderful successor to the original, and it's definitely worth playing.
Bottom line: New Pokémon Snap is the photo-sim game you've been waiting for. If you loved the original and are looking for a fun and relaxed gaming experience, you can enjoy the beautifully fleshed-out environments of the Lental Region while unlocking the mysteries of the Illumina Pokémon.
Sara is the Freelance Coordinator, writer, and editor at iMore. When not editing or writing away, she's glued to her Nintendo Switch, Xbox, or PS5, though she's a retro gamer at heart.
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