Grab your camera, buckle up in your Neo-One and embark on your photography adventure in the new Lental region to gather research and snap photos of your favourite Pokémon. It’s no secret that fans have clamoured for a sequel to the N64 game classic for quite some time, but was it worth the wait?
It’s been a long time since the N64 days and Pokémon Snap. In fact, it was more than two decades ago where we witnessed a generation of Pokéfans hop in the seat of the Zero-One buggy to take control of Todd, capturing pictures of Gen-1 Pokémon for Professor Oak to critique. It’s much the same this time around in New Pokémon Snap for Nintendo Switch, but now you’re in the hot seat reporting to Professor Mirror. And there’s over 200 fan-favourites – spanning across all generations – to research.
The Research Lab is beautifully nestled within the Lental Region and, with the guidance of Professor Mirror and Co., you’re quickly put to the task to investigate a strange phenomenon called ‘Illumina’. Essentially, some Pokémon have been spotted with a glowing aura, which occurs in certain conditions, and the Professor asks you to piece together the theory behind these events. It’s a loose plot and one that I never felt truly invested in, but it’s a step up from the previous game and at least serves as a basis to get you and your camera out there in the wild.
If you’re new to Pokémon Snap games, the idea is fairly straightforward where gameplay is concerned. If you’re familiar with the ride ‘It’s A Small World’ at Disney, where creepy animatronic singing children are placed strategically as areas of interest along the boat ride, New Pokémon Snap is similar in style but thankfully not in aesthetics! Here, you’ll be using a camera that has the ability to scan, throw apples and light orbs, so it’s a very slow-paced, on-rails ride, where it’s down to you to snap interesting pictures of Pokémon in their natural habitat. Players should keep a keen eye on their behaviour, movement patterns and use the environment to trigger certain in-game actions to net a decent amount of points from Professor Mirror.
Unfortunately, much like the infamous slow water ride, repeatedly moving along the same courses does get boring. There are 23 courses in total – counting day/night versions – to play through, but I found tedium crept in at the four to five hour mark. In this sequel, you’re given Research Points by Professor Mirror and the better the photo, the more points you’ll receive. After completing a course, usually in around five minutes, the points rack up enabling you to increase your Research Level and, in turn, discover more locations to visit. There’s a level cap, but I was able to progress fairly easily in the sub-15-hours it took to conclude the base storyline. However, a small amount of grinding is required to progress during the adventure, meaning you’ll likely need to repeat the same handful of courses, which makes the whole process a bit of a slog.
Thankfully, Bandai Namco has done a fantastic job of bringing the world of Pokémon to life, which helps detract from the slower parts of the adventure. Watching Pokémon wander through the luscious jungle in Florio Nature Park, and all the way to the vibrant depths of the Lental Seafloor that’s home to schools of Luvdisc, nearly every locale is interesting to ride through. For example, you’ll really want to get that four-star picture of Bulbasaur or snag a perfectly framed shot of Exeggutor sitting on the sun-drenched beaches of Maricopia. There’s a lot of replayability here as completing a course the first time means you’ll eagerly want to go back for more, snapping every Pokémon you can. Yet the reward lies in returning to a route to capture that hard-to-snap Pokémon.
Most of the locations can be tackled during the day or night. Visiting the same area but in a different light is a nice touch and, combined with the behavioural patterns that adjust differently for each Pokémon, it’s a lovely sight to see. Progressing through the Founja Jungle when it was darker meant that I could take pictures of the otherwise illusive Liepard. The way the creatures interact with each other is not only amusing in itself, but snapping them while they scrap or sleep in the same shot will do wonders for those Research Points, too. Plus, it can be insanely cute.
For those completionists out there, filling the PhotoDex will garner a considerable amount of extra playtime since you’re able to capture one to four-star photos of each Pokémon. While it’s a time-consuming task, it’s a decent way to extend the longevity of New Pokémon Snap. Questions do arise around Professor Mirror’s ability to rate your pictures, though. On many occasions I found the grading system to be skewed when I opted to skip manually choosing photos to be rated. The ability to have the professor auto-select certainly speeds up the process, but it also means that the PhotoDex gets filled quickly with each variant making the cut. Weirdly, I felt like I was cheating at times, but ultimately it was a great way to get things done. Completing the PhotoDex isn’t compulsory and some post-game abilities definitely aid in the process, which will be a delight for those aiming for 100% completion.
There’s also the ‘Tasks’ that in-game folk set you along your adventure, asking you to snap pictures of Pokémon at a certain time and/or in a certain way. There are more than 100 in total and they’re completely optional. Personally, I didn’t feel the need to complete many of them and I finished the game with just a handful accomplished. However, it’s neat that the option is there as doing so will scratch the achievement itch that some players may have. It’s also helpful that you’ll easily complete some Tasks while you’re going about your business anyway.
One standout feature is the online functionality and, although the dream of teaming up and cosying up to your friend to gawk at Pokémon together online isn’t a reality, the photo-sharing feature is a cool addition. Having the option to edit, or ‘re-snap’, pictures in your library and pin them to your digital character card for other players to browse is a fun way to showcase your favourite photographs. Leaderboards also offer the means to brag about your overall score and, with another scoring option unlocked after the credits roll, there’s incentive to keep gunning for the perfect shot.
New Pokémon Snap may not showcase the Switch’s graphical capabilities, nor will it blow you away with its unimaginative storyline and anti-climactic conclusion, but if you’re a fan of the N64 original, you’ll definitely want to pick this one up. For non-Pokémon fans, the repetitive gameplay does unfortunately hold it back from being a must-have, however its adorable aura and slower pace will have you glowing more than an Illumina Maganium.
A review copy of New Pokémon Snap was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.