(Available for Nintendo Switch only)
After years of fan demands, one of the most popular Pokémon spin off games finally has a new entry. Pokémon Snap was an on rails photography game for the Nintendo 64 in which you played as photographer Snap (renamed Todd in the Anime) on an on rails vehicle trying to take good photo’s of Pokémon in their natural habitats for Professor Oaks research. You would have to travel to several environments on the island the game took place and both learn the habits of the Pokémon and solve environmental puzzles to get special pictures of the Pokémon using the gadgets you unlock, for example throwing a pest ball at a Charmeleon to force it into a lava pool to evolve into a Charizard which was the only way to get a photo of that Pokémon. This new entry, which to a certain extent is the first game to come out for the 25th Anniversary of Pokémon, is much of the same though new items and mechanics have been added to the game as a larger collection of Pokémon, a lot of replay value and some new environments. In short, as the title suggests this isn’t a straight remake of the N64 game and is really a complete follow up. I’ve read many interviews when asked why we never got a new Pokémon Snap game, particularly during the Wii U era, was that Pokémon Company felt they didn’t want to revisit it if they didn’t have any new ideas to bring to the table, clearly that has now happened and it’s interesting to see what the devs have come up with.
- Graphics and environments: while many are similar to the environments to that of the N64 games a wide variety of biomes are used such as a desert, an icy tundra, a coral reef and a mysterious forest. Each of them is brimming with life and tons to observe. The environments really feel amazing to explore with you wanting to look all over in order to not miss anything and get the best Photos for your Photodex. This is coupled with the graphics which is not only the best the Pokémon world has looked but is also one of the best looking games on the Switch. The game looks amazing and it feels like a true HD Pokémon experience we have been truly waiting for probably more so than Sword and Shield were. Now that being said one of the ways that it’s achieved is that this game is on rails with a set path which allows for more detail than a game with complete movement so I won’t be judging later Pokémon games too harshly when comparing with this.
- Controls: the traditional controls work very well and fell very intuitive for photography which is not something I could say entirely about the N64 game. You do have to get used to judging distance for throwing items like Fluff Fruit and Illumina Orbs but once you do it’s instinctive. The other matter is the gyro controls which is also pretty good when played in handheld. When playing the game in handheld you can move the Switch like you were using an actual camera and can add an extra dimension to the game. they weren’t too useful when using a pro controller when the Switch was docked to a TV so didn’t really bother with gyro at that point and went back to traditional controls.
- Replay value: the biggest issue that the N64 game was its lack of replay ability. This new game adds plenty of reasons to replay each course. For one thing most of the courses have both day and night cycles but also research levels. When you take more Pokémon Photos you earn points which when they reach a certain level raises the research level which adds more variety of Pokémon and some new Pokémon and changes some of the Pokémon behaviour on a revisit. There’s also the ability to edit and post photos online for people to see and it has been fun to post and see other people’s photos though I suspect I won’t be getting very much into it. There’s also photo requests as well but I’ll go into my thoughts on it later in the review
- Pokémon selection: I thought since this games creation feels like a nostalgia trip that it would have a large focus on Pokémon from the first generation of the game but to my surprise there is a very good variety of Pokémon from all 8 regions and are all used very well.
- Photo Requests: the requests act like side quests. A member of the research team will ask you to get a certain photo though won’t tell you exactly what you’re looking for which adds a puzzle aspect to it. However while it adds replay value I did run into the problem that if you get the picture prior to receiving the request you have to get the picture again even if it’s saved to your album which feels dumb especially given a problem of only being able to submit one photo of each Pokémon.
- Still quite short an experience: the original Pokémon Snap was very short coming in at 3-5 hours and this new one does extend the run time to around 9-16 hours according to HowLongToBeat.com. the run time didn’t really bother me until towards the final few stages where I found myself doing a lot of the same stuff again and again to fill out the Photodex. That was the point when the game started to feel like it was slightly dragging though at no point was I complexly bored with the game
- Methods of unlocking new environments are a bit too cryptic: New Pokémon Snap like its predecessor is a bit of a guide game. There was a whole bunch of times where I had no real idea how to unlock the next stages since I was reaching high research levels but not getting the right photo to unlock the next stage. There was one instance where I had to fulfil a very specific criteria to unlock a course and had no idea what the process was and had to look up a YouTube Video in order to figure it out and it was such a process that it really annoyed me. Now in the later portions of the game it’s way less of an issue but unlocking things in this game was a lot more taxing than I anticipated and I wish it was better handled
- Only one Photo per Pokémon is allowed each run: this really got on my nerves. When you complete a course you get a list of all the Pokémon you photographed. Now all photos are rated as 1,2,3 or 4 stars with star ratings depending on certain behaviours which encourages you to go back to stages to get the circumstances for each star rating and you need 1 of each star rating for each Pokémon to fill out the Photodex. The problem is that you’re only allowed submit 1 photo for each Pokémon each time you do a course so if for example you need a 2 star and 3 star photo for Pikachu and you get both on the same run you can only submit 1 of them and will have to go back and hope to get the other on a repeat run. This is even worse if it happens on your first go of a course since you don’t know which star ratings are harder to get so just go with your gut instinct. I kind of wish the game had a total photo submission limit so that I could submit multiple pictures of the same Pokémon but be limited on the total amount I could submit I would say that would be fairer.
New Pokémon Snap is the best Pokémon spin off in years. The graphics make one of the best-looking games on the Switch, the controls feel way more refined than the N64 game, the environments are a joy to explore and it walks a good line of nostalgia and good new content to make the concept feel fresh. The game does suffer from having rather annoyingly cryptic methods of unlocking levels and does feel like you need guides for some portions and it does lose some of its novelty towards the end. Your enjoyment will be down to if you enjoy the gameplay loop of repeating the same courses to take more photos but as I’ve already mentioned the game does have good ways of making repeat playthroughs worth it. This has become my personal relaxing game which I chuck on for a few minutes each day to take more photos to improve my online profile and I’ve been really enjoying finding new secrets when I go back to some environments. I think it joins the list of great relaxing games on the Switch that you’ll do a bit of each day for short sessions like Animal Crossing and 51 Worldwide Classics.
I really recommend picking this one up as a good relaxing game particularly if you like Pokémon, however as usual for Nintendo first party games expect no sale or a discount on a second hand copy any time soon so if you’re not willing to pay £50 right now, whether you think a casual photography game is worth £50 I’ll leave up to you (my personal opinion is it is)
And now for Reece’s review
New Pokémon Snap is a sequel to the original Pokémon Snap on Nintendo 64 from 1999 in Japan and North America, while we in Europe got it in September 2000. It also featured the greatest crossover with the now defunct company Blockbuster where players could go to a special kiosk in Blockbuster to print off their favourite photos that they took in the original Pokémon Snap.
After 22 years, fans of the original game got the sequel we have been clamouring for on the Nintendo Switch, even though it would of been perfect for Nintendo’s WiiU with its gamepad that could of doubled as a camera with its built in gyroscope.
The plot of New Pokémon Snap is to be a junior Pokémon photographer working for Professor Mirror in the Lental region. The player is tasked with travelling across the region that features 11 different stages to explore, along with each stage having various courses for Day and Night. These courses range from forests, deserts, beaches and volcanoes.
The main gameplay mechanic is that the game is an “First person rail shooter”, meaning that the player goes down a fixed linear path on the stage while not being able to leave the fixed path to explore the environment, only being able to diverge at select points to take an alternate path but these are normally only one per stage but do allow the player to see new Pokémon and locales.
Beautiful Graphics. Easily the main selling point of New Pokémon Snap is simply how amazing the game looks on Switch (Even in handheld mode). New Pokémon Snap is the best looking Pokémon game to date and makes Pokémon Sword and Shield look quiet poor in comparison.
Unique stages. As mentioned above New Pokémon Snap has 11 stages with 24 courses overall due to each stage having multiple courses and the “boss stages” where the player has to take atleast one photo of a special Pokémon called an Illumina Pokémon which is a Pokémon that is larger than usual and glows with a unique pattern when exposed to Illumina Orbs. These courses last a couple of minutes and are normally just the player trying to get photos of a single Pokémon until higher Research Levels are unlocked allowing more regular Pokémon to appear on the stage.
The 11 stages also feature the Pokémon in their typical natural habitat for players to take photos of so it helps the player feel more immersed in the Pokémon universe that an any previous Pokémon game.
The stages do revisit previous ideas from the original Pokémon Snap e.g. both games having a Volcano stage, but New Pokémon Snap has longer stages with new shortcuts that take the player can use to explore new environments on the stage.
Replayability. As the player unlocks higher levels of Research more and more Pokémon will appear on each of the stages making each stage feel unique and alive. As each stage also has a “Night” version where the player encounters different Pokémon in different poses.
After the player beats the story mode they unlock the feature to see the course score, so they keep replaying stages to get the highest possible scores to compare with the global online leader boards or their friends if they have added them to their friends list.
Longevity. The game features 214 Pokemon for the player to take photos of. This is an increase of the original Pokémon snap that only had 63 Pokémon in it.
Each Pokémon also have 4 different levels of photos of them to take for the Photodex. These range from 1-4 stars and require the player to take photos of different poses and interactions of the Pokémon e.g. Getting a photo of Mightyena howling at the moon.
Customisation: Players can now for the first time re-edit their photos after they have finished the stage. The new options are the ability to alter photos with new effects e.g. putting filters on your photos to make it look like a Roy Lichtenstein comic style painting, or you can place hats and sunglasses on the Pokémon. This allows 2 players to never have the same photo of the same Pokémon.
Online: New to New Pokémon Snap compared to the original is the new online mechanic. These new mechanics allow players to share their favourite photos online for the world and their friends to see.
It also allow players to like their favourite photos that other players have posted by giving them a medal.
The game also rotates what photos are popular and which stage is highlighted e.g. Volcano may get highlighted so it display photos that other players have taken on the Volcano stage.
A new feature is the player’s personal page where they can select upto 8 photos to display so that if a friend sees your account then they can see the photos you are the most proud of.
Controls. This is from my personal experience but starting off with default setting that the camera sensitivity for horizontal and vertical movement is set too low, so if the player tries to turn the camera to take a photo of a Pokémon that is currently moving then the camera can’t keep up with the Pokémon as it flies offscreen. I would recommend turning up the camera sensitivity in the option menu if you are missing your photos (This happened mostly to me during the Illumina Pokémon boss stages, as certain later ones are too fast to track with the default camera).
Late game mechanics. As with the original game, the important “Turbo” button is locked until the player gets 3/4 through the story. This can be frustrating as if a player needs to replay a stage to get a photo of one particular Pokémon then the player has the wait as the Neo-One (The player’s hoovering vehicle) slowly moves along the course. I personally would of given the Turbo mechanic to the player after the 2nd island as that would only be 1/4 through the game, so it’s still something to look forward to but wouldn’t be locked off for too much of the game runtime.
I still love this game as a new modern reimagining of the original that had everything players enjoyed about the original and only added to it without removing anything in my opinion.
I would highly recommend this game even if people never played the original, as it caters to all types of players due to being a nice relaxing photography game for people who prefer slower paced games that the player can’t lose. Then competitive players can enjoy trying to get the highest score possible for each stage and then comparing against online leader board to try and get the highest score in the world.
Then fans of Pokémon get to see their favourite Pocket Monsters in their natural habit while displaying typical natural behaviour that isn’t shown in other games or the Anime.
Anime Amigo and Nerd Consultant
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