The Pokémon company has been pivoting how Pokémon are portrayed across all its games recently. Not just as collectibles or static RPG party members but as lovable, intelligent creatures. In the New Pokémon Snap, Bandai Namco further brings the Pokémon characters to life with an on-rails nature photography game where you only catch Pokémon on camera. New Pokémon Snap successfully shows off its Pokémon as believable, adorable, living monsters.
0:45 New Pokémon Snap has more courses, more available Pokémon and possible photos than its decades old parent managed. The game also has more story to drive it along. With a Pokémon professor named Mirror and his crew of research assistants trying to solve yet another Pokémon mystery. Though overall it’s a fairly forgettable progression tool.
1:33 You’ll visit a sparkling beach, a dense jungle, a desert and several more locations. All of which look better than any Pokémon game looks yet. Beauty which comes at the cost of some occasional frustrating frame rate dips when it pushes the switch beyond its comfort zone. Fortunately most of the Pokémon manage to look good without melting your switch. Reacting in interesting ways to just about anything you literally or figuratively throw at them. Be it fruit, glowing illumina orbs or a catchy tune.
2:07 New Pokémon Snap gracefully avoids Pokémon Snap’s repetitive course problem in several ways. Most courses both get day and night versions. With each variation including more than enough distinct Pokémon and interactions to merit the duplication. Many courses also hide branching pathways that let you get better views on certain monsters or discover new ones entirely.
Most interesting though are the multiple research levels that reflect how comfortable the creatures on any given course are with you. And thus how varied their interactions will be. For example, there’s a brief appearance by Grookey and Pichu at the beginning of the first stage you visit. They’re shy and elusive to start with but after repeated visits to the park and numerous well-scored photos, trust is earned and your research level goes up. Eventually Grookey and Pichu will greet you like a familiar friend and pose for you often as you follow them through the park.
These gradual changes over time were the greatest unexpected joy of New Pokémon Snap allowing Bandai Namco to develop interesting ongoing stories over each level’s different iterations.
3:22 A sidequest system helps you reach the resolutions of the more puzzling of these staged stories. By having NPCS request you look into certain locations or Pokémon for rare or hidden photo-ops. The hints themselves were useful and helped me discover a number of genuinely cool shots I may have otherwise missed. Getting the exact timing on a shot required to finish the quests could be annoyingly precise.
3:47 It’s in a handful of photo taking adjacent systems like this that new Pokémon Snap trips over itself a bit. One irritating example is the star rating included in photo scoring. Which both serves to indicate how rare the moment you snapped a photo actually was while also providing four slots per Pokémon to fill in the Photodex. However there’s sometimes no apparent rhyme or reason to which photos get unique four star ratings and which don’t. That meant I was occasionally left disappointed after taking a shot I initially thought was something special. Where New Pokémon Snap gets its addendums right is how it takes cues from modern photography and photo editing.
4:34 The re snap feature in particular is a great addition. It lets you go back and adjust a shot in the moment in case you were just a little bit off or out of focus. Also while online features weren’t turned on during this review, their mere existence is an essential function. I’ve stockpiled a veritable album of exciting shots and goofy photo edits to share with my friends the second sharing goes live.
4:56 Fun as these are, the most memorable bits of New Pokémon Snap lie squarely in its photo taking core. This is especially true of the best moment with Pokémon who don’t often get the spotlight in other games. New Pokémon Snap has me feeling a bit like a kid again eager to catch them all!
5:30 After a 22 year gap, New Pokémon Snap is a successful modern reinvention of all the best ideas of Pokémon Snap. It has more courses, more Pokémon and more reasons to revisit familiar spots in pursuit of the perfect shot. Some of its supportive systems like its star ratings or side quests can drag down momentum or even frustrated at times. At the end of the day some artificial grade is utterly secondary to the clever environmental storytelling you’ll experience as you level up courses, the fun of discovering surprising photo ops and the sheer joy of observing a moving ecosystem of believable personable and lovable Pokémon.