It seems like forever since we’ve been calling for a New Pokémon Snap.
This franchise certainly isn’t afraid of spin-offs, between Mystery Dungeons, Pokken Tournaments, and even pinball, there’s something for everyone. Yet it’s the photo-sharing simulator that took the longest to get a sequel.
And while part of me is regretful the Wii U GamePad never got the chance to contribute to the franchise, the Switch frankly feels like it was made for this game like nothing Nintendo has ever done before.
To the point where playing New Pokémon Snap with the Pro Controller, or without using JoyCons in handheld mode feels clunky and restrictive. While the scenery looks beautiful on the big TV, never has a first party Switch game quite felt so necessary to play in handheld mode as this one.
Holding console in both hands, swirling around the room looking for the perfect shot, just feels so natural, simple, and mentally relaxing. This game is a palette cleanser in every sense of the word and every moment I spent playing it was just incredibly refreshing.
All of a sudden, I feel like I’m back in Florida, riding around on the outdoor Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, admiring all the amazing wildlife and taking in stunning views. I’m not going to make it there this year what with this awful pandemic, but New Pokémon Snap has wonderfully recreated that feeling in digital form, by making me point and gawp at the screen at a mon I’ve just spotted, while appreciating one gorgeous environment after another.
The aim is simple, you’re on a guided, on-rails tour in various different environments and have to take photos of the Pokémon you see as they perform unique poses and actions. You’ll need to take four different photos of each Pokémon – one to four star rating shots -to fill your dex, and each photo you choose to provide at the end of the tour is rated on different criteria.
Like, is the Pokémon facing you? If they’re not, then is there another Pokémon in the shot? What were they doing when you took the picture? Did you feed them or play them some music to get their attention? All these factors and more are taken into account.
That’s the coolest thing about Snap, actually, being able to keep replacing your photos with new and better ones as you find different angles, see the Pokémon in different habitats, and learn how to time your shots better. You’ll notice your proficiency naturally get better and better, and sometimes that’s down to your skill in framing, sometimes it’s because you’re aware of timing and what to look for, and every now and then, it’s just a little bit of luck.
But even when you’re replaying the same course for the tenth time just to get that perfect moment, the tour never feels dull or unenjoyable. You’ll still find yourself cracking a smile when Pikachu and Grookey wander around the fields, playing together, and gasp when Magikarp launches itself into the air from deep underwater.
There’s lots of hidden surprises as well, concealed behind bushes, climbing at the top of trees, soaring through the skies. You’ll need to be aware of all your surroundings if you’re going to get top marks across the board.
And each course has multiple different variations. So if you’ve earned enough XP from the first go around, you’ll unlock a second stage where positions of Pokémon change, new ones feature, and your route around the course can also alternate. There are also day and night equivalents of courses, which opens up the possibilities for even more unique mons to show up.
The big addition is Illumina Pokémon, though, which can kind of be likened to Shinies, but not really. These are unique to the Lental Region, another innovation which is pretty neat and are basically Pokémon that radiate and glow really brightly. Eventually, when you’ve made your way through the courses, you’ll unlock an Illumina stage.
There’s several to find within the game, and the entire essence of that course is to take photos of the Illumina, trying to find the best poses and reactions for them throughout. It’s a nice idea and often quite breathtaking as you continually admire its frame and form.
New Pokemon Snap also throws some new and interesting ideas at players as well. For one, you can now take your images online – something you could have only dreamed about back on the N64. You have your own online profile where you can affix favourite pictures and even mess around with them, adding frames, effects, and props all in the name of getting likes.
Interestingly, Professor Mirror will also select some of his favourite photos from your collection and add them to your profile, though you can tweak and change this setting if you want to. And, of course, you can go through a vast online collection of photos from players all over the world, rating them accordingly.
You can also scan the environment now, which can both find unique items and trigger certain events. This also opens up the possibility for shortcuts and route changes on the course to mix things up.
What’s most impressive here is that Nintendo and The Pokémon Company haven’t just gone in and recreated the same game but put it on Switch. This is a meaningful addition to the franchise, with features suited for the modern market and a visual style that really shows the beauty of the latest engine.
You can tell that plenty of time, care, and attention has gone into making a game that feels relevant and worthy of the Snap name. But it also presents a new avenue for those who love Pokémon and may have been dabbling with Go for years, but have felt off-put by the main-line games.
Simply put, I don’t think we’ll be waiting another 20 years for another Snap game. This addition feels like it has done the hard work of reinventing the franchise for a connected modern market while giving us something truly special to keep on our Switch memory for when the day’s been pretty tough or you don’t feel like playing something taxing.
New Pokémon Snap is lovely, not just as a solitary, soul-cleansing experience, but as a shared adventure with friends and family both in your living room and all over the world. Trust us, it’s been worth the wait.
+ Each course offers something different and special
+ A huge assortment of Pokémon to discover
+ Illumina are truly beautiful and a great addition to the game
+ One of the most beautiful Pokémon games ever made.
+ Photo editing is great fun
– Would have liked a few more Illumina types
New Pokémon Snap is now available exclusively on Nintendo Switch
Code kindly provided by Nintendo