Pokemon Snap for the Nintendo 64 charmed and delighted us when we were younger. It showed that Pokemon aren’t only tools for battle, but actually showed first hand how these creatures live in a larger world for you to explore and uncover. But now with decades of games starring these little creatures, and tech that has the capacity to show off grander worlds compared to those tiny, poorly lit Gameboy screens. I was skeptical that Pokemon Snap could even be a modern novelty as Pokemon games have evolved since 1999. But ultimately my skepticism was mislaid as New Pokemon Snap for the Nintendo Switch truly shows how varied the world and ecosystems of the Pokemon can be. It might just take you a little busy work to get there.
The Lental region is where you’ll start your journey as a photographer. You’ve been recruited by Professor Mirror to be on his new research team, to learn about the Pokemon living on these uncharted islands. This takes you to lush jungles, beachside getaways, and even treacherous locations like snowy mountaintops. Each habitat is teeming with life and while some Pokemon are eager to strike a pose, some are a little more reluctant to get their photo taken.
As you finish each level the professor will grade and score your photos. These photos have the same scoring system as in the original Pokemon Snap but now can also receive different star ratings as you have a lot more interactions with each individual Pokemon. Getting a clean shot of a Bidoof building a dam might be easy. But getting a shot of a pair of Bidoofs taking sticks back to the other might be a little more challenging, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg as for every Pokemon there is there’s many more interactions between them all over the course of each stage and some Pokemon might appear in multiple stages so your four-star Bidoof photo might be some work to get.
Uncovering all these secret interactions is where New Pokemon Snap shines. Seeing not only little moments like a Grookey and Pichu playing in a field of flowers. Luring out Pokemon with fruits or music jingles can reveal some truly magical moments that are worth capturing on camera. However, to get to some of these moments there is some major researching work you’ll have to do.
With the photo scoring systems also comes a research-level you must meet for each level. This also gates story progress as you work to uncover bigger secrets in the Lental region. Alongside the professor and his team, you’re here to uncover the mystery of the Illumina Pokemon. These usually involve photographing rare glowing Pokemon in special levels you’ll unlock as you level up your research levels which do become a bit of a grind. As you get into the second and third levels of research more Pokemon will start to appear on levels, you’ll even find some that weren’t there before.
While this does open up many fun and interesting interactions in the game. You’ll probably have to replay some levels three to five times before you get to the next level of a specific stage. Once you’re on that new level you’ll also find Pokemon you’ve already snapped photos of probably doing more interesting things. This feels a little frustrating as that perfect picture you thought you took before could immediately be outclassed by a moment you didn’t even know was there before.
Spread that over eleven courses which include versions at night and you’ll have a lot of photo-taking to do and a lot replaying for that perfect shot. I think ultimately the research level system breaks some of the “magical elements” of the game as capturing these moments on film are all scored and that score then goes into the level of the specific stage. This makes it feel like you’re more so checking off a list of moments rather than living in the moment and capturing these moments in an organic world.
If you’re willing to put in the time, New Pokemon Snap still does a great job of letting you capture some truly magical moments in the world of Pokemon. Even with its built-in grind it only really amounted to an 8-10 hour playthrough of the main story. Once you get past that and everything is open to you, you’re free to find your favorite moments to capture on film. There’s still plenty of secrets to find after the credits roll. Add on that you can share and edit photos further with the games built-in photo sharing systems and I can’t wait to see everyone’s favorite shots shared on social media. While the story is ultimately just the vehicle to get you to cooler zones and teach you the gameplay systems, seeing fun callbacks to the original like having Todd reappear to be a part of the adventure was a fun surprise as a fan of the Nintendo 64 title. It turns out capturing photos of Pokemon can still be a fun novelty in 2021 but it might ask you to do some more busywork than you like. But if you do the research and put in the time it might pay off with some cool photos that you might want the world to see.
This game was captured and played on Nintendo Switch by the reviewer
The music used in the video review was produced by insaneintherainmusic, for more check out their channel!