“New Pokemon Snap is a worthy sequel to a beloved classic that’s full of charm and a surprising amount of content.”
Intuitive photo mechanic
The gameplay rewards curiosity
Lots of content
Fun photo editing
Grindy gameplay loop
Uncooked social traits
How on earth did it take so long for New Pokémon Snap to exist? The original Pokémon Snap has held a special place in fans’ hearts for over 20 years, and they’re practically begging for more. Given that there are as many Pokémon spin-offs as there are creatures themselves, the decision to wait that long is mind-boggling.
As a series (god it feels good to finally call it a series), Pokémon Snap is almost the ideal implementation of the franchise. Instead of fighting monsters, players can simply immerse themselves in their living spaces and observe every precious behavior. While it is a tragedy that Pokémon are not real, the photo simulator is a suitable vacation in their world.
New Pokémon Snap is a wonderful sequel that fits the social media era perfectly. With tons of courses to explore and interactions to discover, it’s a laid-back amusement park ride that’s a worthy evolution of the original.
Take a picture, it will take longer
For those who have never grown up with a game old enough to drink, New Pokémon Snap is a first-person shooter – but not what you think. It’s a photo simulator where players leisurely drive through the new lental region, taking pictures of creatures as they pass. It’s like touring a series of healthy nature reserves.
Pokémon has always been a franchise with two distinct strengths. For RPG Diehards, it’s a strategic game that can be highly competitive and complex. For those who think Pikachu is just damn cute, it’s just a good excuse to collect some creatures. New Pokémon Snap is a game designed specifically for the latter that gives “I have to catch them all” a new meaning.
The central photo mechanic works so well because it is easy to understand, but gives dedicated players plenty of nuances to work with. The challenge is to create perfect compositions, rather than doing the basics. Almost anyone can pick it up and immediately understand how to play. It is particularly suitable for our modern times, when children use cameras from a young age thanks to smartphones. Photography is incorporated into our basic lives more than ever, and New Pokémon Snap is putting those skills to the test.
It’s an ingenious twist on the franchise that turns something we do every day into the most intuitive gameplay hook in the world.
To help players get their perfect shots, the game features little tools that create different interactions. Throw a fluffruit at a Pokémon and they will happily chew it and give players a new pose to capture. Play a little music box and a chandalure might spin in response. Each tool brings a level of experimentation into the game that constantly rewards curiosity with consistently pleasing results.
The slow, relaxed pace won’t work for everyone. Like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it’s a leisurely game that is best suited to when you sit back on the couch in handheld mode on a lazy weekend day. But as for Pokémon games that try to appeal to casual fans, it’s an ingenious twist in the franchise that makes something we do every day the most intuitive gameplay hook in the world.
More to discover
While the original game was a brief curiosity that could be 100% completed in six hours, New Pokémon Snap is finding several ways to improve game time. The biggest difference is that the sequel features a narrative about a mysteriously glowing Pokémon phenomenon that brings more specific goals and progress to the game. There are even “boss fights” where players have to test their reaction time to snap rare photos of giants like Milotic. It’s a simple solution that adds structure to those who are put off by the free form of its predecessor.
There is a lot more to photograph this time. The original game only had 62 Pokémon, while this one has over 200. In addition, each monster has four different poses that can be caught. It takes over 800 unique shots to get one shot of everything, which is way above the Nintendo 64 version.
The same applies to courses. There are 11 main locations, but each has a variant that increases the number of unique levels to 24. It doesn’t even take into account the alternative routes hidden at each level or the research level system, adding four minor differences to each level. Throw in over 140 photo requests and a slew of unlockable objects and players with a lot more to do this time around.
While targeting casual gamers, it’s a deceptively deep package that a dedicated fan can spend a lot of time mastering.
Granted, it can be a bit of a chore. To get everything, players have to repeat the courses over and over again. Even with the variations, it can be a bit difficult to play the same stage a dozen times to get the maximum level of research. The NEO-ONE vehicle slowly rolls along the game’s tracks. A turbo tool during the game helps to speed things up, but if someone wants to grab a Pokémon that doesn’t appear until the end of a stage, they’ll have to wait for the car to stomp to the end for the chance.
Despite the repetition, it’s a little surprising to compare the content of the original and the sequel. The story alone lasts around 12 hours, and adding online leaderboards gives the game a huge lifespan for those who have that high score itch. While targeting casual gamers, it’s a deceptively deep package that a dedicated fan can spend a lot of time mastering.
The social network
The best thing about a sequel to Pokémon Snap that launches in 2021 is that it can reach its full social potential. Something like that. New Pokémon Snap has an online element for players to share their best shots. For longtime fans, a dream comes true, although without some restrictions it wouldn’t be a Nintendo internet experience.
Players can only upload six photos at a time, which is disappointingly limited. On the Online tab, players can only browse a very small selection of trending photos. This includes photos of friends that appear under a vague “Featured” tab that only shows the most recent snapshots. There is no way to search for a friend and just check their profile. Instead, players will need to find a photo of them when it appears in Recommended and click on their page from there. It is an unnecessarily sparse and yet convoluted implementation of a basic idea.
For longtime fans, a dream comes true, although without some restrictions it wouldn’t be a Nintendo internet experience.
It’s hard not to think about what could have been here. Imagine an in-game social media app where players can scroll through their friends’ photos, add tags to their shots, or filter by a Pokémon’s name to find the best creature shots in the world. It is particularly surprising that the game lacks integration with Nintendo’s mobile app. It feels like a missed opportunity that could reach its full social potential.
Fortunately, the game has an ace up its sleeve: its photo editing tools. Players can customize shots in a mini version of Instagram that includes filters, frames, and stickers. Images can even be “re-captured”, giving players the option to re-frame a shot, change the exposure, or play with focus. It’s a small but powerful touch that breaks the game wide open. It no longer feels as if there were a certain number of “good” shots during the journeys on the rails. There are tons of ways to create a masterpiece. Even a bad snapshot can subsequently become a work of art.
The photo editor gives the game its true social power. I’ve spent the past few days sending photos to friends or sharing them on Discord servers. The satisfaction of having a mate compliment on my carefully crafted shot is far more satisfying than the thousands of strangers who like it online. It might be just a side-effect of the lack of online functionality, but New Pokémon Snap is a more personal social experience that’s best enjoyed when players have someone to trade discoveries with.
New Pokémon Snap is a wonderful sequel to a beloved classic, which is no easy task. It avoids being a simple act of nostalgia by giving players tons of photo ops to track and more control over their final shots. There’s more room for growth, be it through DLC or a sequel, but it’s a healthy photo game for fans looking to immerse themselves in the colorful glow of the Pokémon universe.
Is there a better alternative?
There are many great niche photography games like Umurangi Generation, but New Pokémon Snap is unmatched in its depth of content.
How long it will take?
The main story lasts 12 hours, but if you take all of the 800+ shots, the watch will have plenty of time. Unlockables, side requests, and post-game leaderboards make this a surprisingly robust package compared to the original.
Should you buy it?
Yes. It’s a chill experience that goes perfectly with the Nintendo Switch. It’s the kind of game that you can break out when you have a few minutes to spare and add a little bit of fun to your day.