New Pokémon Snap

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: April 30, 2021


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Switch Review - 'New Pokémon Snap'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on May 3, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

In New Pokémon Snap, you’ll explore deserts, jungles, and more as you photograph fan-favorite Pokémon and discover never-before-seen Pokémon expressions and behaviors.

Buy New Pokémon Snap

Pokémon Snap is a weird oddity that embodies the idea of Pokémon. There are tons of Pokémon games about fighting and saving the world, but Snap is pretty much the only one that focused on how darn cute they are. It was no surprise that New Pokémon Snap was met with some excitement from longtime fans who wanted to see their favorite cute monsters in action again.

In New Pokémon Snap, the player is a photographer who's invited by the cheerful Professor Mirror to some distant islands that are thriving with a unique biome of Pokémon, and Mirror wants to document them all. Most important are the Illumina Pokémon, mysterious glowing versions of existing monsters who exist only in this area. Your goal is to find out the truth behind the Illumina Pokémon and see every darn Pokémon on the island. Nice and simple.

Like its predecessor, New Pokémon Snap is functionally a rail shooter, but rather than shooting enemies with lasers, you snap their photos. You are thrown into a course and gradually follow a path until you reach the end, so you focus on the photograph, not the exploration. You do have gadgets such as an infinite bag of apple-like fruit, a music player, and a glowing ball that can illuminate certain crystals, which you can use to interact with the environment and guide Pokémon to certain places for a perfect photo. You might even need to lure some out of hiding or occasionally bonk one on the head with the (soft) fruit to get their attention.

The trick to New Pokémon Snap is that you can't get just one perfect photo. Instead, each Pokémon has four potential photos ranked from one to four stars. Getting a higher star ranking involves finding Pokémon in unusual or unique situations and catching a shot of them. Find a Pokémon and take a quick snap? That's a one star. Find it sleeping? Maybe two. Find it battling another Pokémon? That could be four stars. The trick is that every star is important. Your goal is not just to get a four-star shot but to get a high-scoring shot for all the stars. Each one is graded differently, and your level, which makes more Pokémon appear when raised, is determined by all of the shots combined, not just your highest star ranking. Thankfully, the game provides hints about unusual shots by way of in-game requests for specific photos.

This makes it rather engaging to try and find the best possible shot. If you see a new Pokémon, you might snap it right away to get basic points, but then you'll want to figure out how to get closer, how to properly frame it in the shot, how to get a shot with other Pokémon, and so on. You can double or even triple your initial point offering with careful shots, and there's something tremendously satisfying about taking a lame picture and making it awesome. Your shots are ranked from bronze to glittering stars, and even if it isn't strictly necessary, it's a lot more fun to get good shots.

Truth be told, New Pokémon Snap is not a particularly challenging title. Finding all the various Poke-interactions is largely a matter of keeping your eyes out and occasionally throwing faux-apples into every hole you can reach. There's nothing hardcore or even particularly punishing about the game. It's a relaxing experience where you get to watch cute Pokémon interact while you try to figure out how to capture particularly silly interactions. That's also likely to be the biggest barrier to entry for older players. Are you the kind of person who will get a delighted smile out of watching a Pichu and a Grokey play together? Then you'll enjoy Snap. If you're not in it for the cute Pokémon, then there's absolutely nothing else for you.

That said, the game occasionally has a problem with being too obtuse. Some of the triggers for three- or four-star shots are either unclear or inconsistent. I got frustrated trying to figure out a couple of the requirements only to accidentally get the right shot without realizing what I had done differently. This is relatively rare and ironically more likely to be the kind of thing that bothers an older player. Younger games who just want to take a billion photos will get all four stars eventually, even if it takes time.

Speaking of time, New Pokémon Snap shares an issue with its predecessor in that it's a fairly short title. It's not quite the "finish in a day" short of the N64 version, but you'll probably take around 8-10 hours to finish the main storyline, and from there, how much fun you have depends on how determined you are to fill out your Photodex and see every Pokémon and every interaction. If you're the kind of person who really gets into watching the cute monsters in their environment, you'll get your money's worth, but if you're the kind of person who stops when the credits roll, you might want to wait for a lower price.

The other potential flaw is the Pokémon count. The original game had a similar problem where it had roughly half of the current Pokémon roster. New Pokémon Snap comes after the numbers have ballooned from 150 to over 800, but it still has only about 200 total Pokémon in it. The developer clearly did its best to hit most of the favorites with a nice sprinkling of obscure or unexpected Pokémon, but a bunch are missing, including one of my favorites, the spooky ghostly Haunter, as well as fan favorites like Lucario and Mimikyu.

The ability to trigger evolutions from one Pokémon to another also seems absent, which is disappointing, since that was one of the most fun parts of the N64 version. There are plenty of Pokémon to photograph, but one can't help but wish the numbers were a little higher. There is more variety than pure numbers, as many Pokémon have multiple forms, including differences by gender and pure form changes, like how Lycanroc changes between its day and night forms.

Visually, New Pokémon Snap is a mixed bag. It isn't the highest-def game in the world, and some of the textures and environments look a little awkward. On the other hand, the Pokémon are bright, colorful, and full of detail. It's a delight to see how these little creatures interact when not beating the stuffing out of one another, and seeing them wander around without human interaction really gives them a lot more personality. As appropriate for Pokémon Snap, the biggest appeal is the Pokémon themselves. The soundtrack and voice acting are perfectly fine but forgettable. I wouldn't have missed voice acting if it had been omitted, but it also doesn't bug me, either.

All in all, New Pokémon Snap delivers exactly what the title promises: a Pokémon Snap that is bigger and more modern, but with a core that's very similar to the original N64 game. Whether this is a plus or a minus depends on how much you enjoy seeing cute cartoony monsters being adorable. There are few more relaxing and chill games on the Switch, and if you're looking for something to de-stress after a long day, New Pokémon Snap has you covered. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to figure out how to get this giant turtle monster to yawn....

Score: 8.0/10

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