Pokemon Snap on the Nintendo 64 is one of my earliest gaming memories when it comes to playing through a single-player game alone. Looking back now, it was a super simple game where I got to see my favourite Pokemon living their best life, whilst taking photos of them.
New Pokemon Snap doesn’t stray too far from the simple premise of the original game but adds some mechanics we’ve seen from other games in the decades past since the original. The game has you taking to a number of courses on-rails, with the goal to take as many photos of Pokemon as you can. Many of these courses take place in similar locations to the original, which allowed me to really reminisce on my great experiences with the first game.
The brunt of the experience is controlling your camera – and I had mixed results. While you use the left analog stick to control your pointer, the right analog stick controls the camera as a whole. Gyro is also supported, though I really only found that useful for minor movements. That being said, there’s four different control schemes that I encourage you to play around with to find the one that works best for you.
While the original game only had around 60 or so Pokemon, New Pokemon Snap has almost four times as many. Not only are there many more Pokemon in each level to shoot, but each Pokemon has a more dynamic set of behaviours than seen in the original game. This time around, the Pokemon you’ll see have heaps more personality, performing a larger variety of actions during your Pokemon safari. Such an increase in attention to detail makes for a much better adventure.
The much broader range of Pokemon behaviours dovetails nicely with the way scoring now works. Each Pokemon needs to be snapped not only four times, but in four different situations. You essentially need to seek out one of each ranking, from one star to four stars. One star photos are usually reserved for simpler shots – where the Pokemon is standing still or doing nothing. Other shots, ranked from two to four stars, see them doing something interesting, or interacting with other Pokemon.
While this is my favourite change to the formula in New Pokemon Snap, it also has brings a frustrating caveat.
Just like in the original game, you can submit one photo of each Pokemon for grading at the end of each level. But in New Pokemon Snap, there were often times I’d have three photos of three different rankings for a single Pokemon, but I couldn’t submit them all to fill each rank. Instead, I had to pick one, submit it, and then run the stage again to try and get the rankings I wasn’t allowed to submit for. While I still enjoy the idea of submitting your best photo, it feels like it’s artificially lengthening the process to make me discard multiple photos of a Pokemon that I could easily submit.
Outside of the behaviour of the Pokemon you photograph, the rest of the scoring is handled a bit more complexly than in the original. Each photo is ranked based on the Pokemon’s pose, size, direction, and placement in the frame. Additionally, much like the original, you’re given more points if additional Pokemon appear in the frame too.
Something that I really enjoyed is that the photo opportunities are presented to you as challenges, with cryptic clues. This is great because if you need just one more photo of a certain Pokemon, you’re not left in the dark in how to get it, but instead have a checklist in the way of challenges to provide a bit more direction than the original game had.
Another major way that progression has changed since the last game is that you can now level up each course. Experience is earned by taking new photos of Pokemon and earning expedition points. As your research level increases, you’ll unlock new Pokemon actions to alter your runs on that course. Each course also now has different instances (such as day and night) which change which Pokemon appear and, if there are some who appear on both, how they behave. While I like this idea, the game separates your research level by instance too, which means sometimes it can feel a little bit grindy as there’s inevitable overlap between the two.
Still, I appreciate it’s a great way to modernise the game and bring it to new audiences.
As in the original, you’ll be kitted out with all kinds of gear to play around with. Items such as the fruit and a musical attachment for your camera mimic the apples and flute from the original game. You’ll have to use your items creatively to both lure Pokemon out of their hiding or elicit a response from them to get the four differently ranked photos required. What’s a bit newer is a scanner, which reveals key areas of interest (that you can also photograph for points), and Illumina Orbs, which can be thrown at Pokemon to give them a new form. In terms of the variety of items, it feels like the right amount, keeping things simple and not overwhelming while also preventing tedium or repetition.
Where I’m a bit of an old-school Pokemon fan, the newer Pokemon that don’t resonate with me as much were still enjoyable to watch and shoot. In fact, the game as a whole is a really nice change of pace from most other games I usually play and others on the market. It’s a genuine, heart warming joy to see Pokemon looking better than ever (visually, especially) and living their best life on an island.
There are some light online elements – you can both upload your favourite photos and rate others, which I think will take the game to a whole new level. So many games today have a Photo Mode of some sort, so it’s kind of ironic to see us come full circle with New Pokemon Snap. The new Re-Snap mode even lets you add borders, stickers and filters while adjusting the brightness too. It’s a nice little tool that lets your photos go well beyond what you originally photographed.
So many Nintendo games often have the best music, so I was a bit letdown with the soundtrack here. While I acknowledge that this is perhaps a design choice, to let you listen out for the right Pokemon, the music is extremely subdued. It’s a bit of a nitpick, I’ll admit, but in a game so simple in concept I’d have loved some more interesting music for my adventures.
All-in-all, New Pokemon Snap does stay faithful to the original game. It adds some more challenge, and each course and the Pokemon within them are overflowing with personality. It’s a quite lengthy adventure, but not without a bit of padding.
New Pokemon Snap really captures what has made Pokemon popular for so many years. It gives a new life to so many Pokemon that we've known and loved over the years and provides a relaxing relief from the plethora of action games on the market. I don't know if a lot of the padding was necessary, but I still enjoyed every second of my time with the game.