Review: New Pokémon Snap (Switch)

The perfect combination of bringing back what made the last game spectacular, while also modernizing and innovating for current audiences.

By Achi Ikeda. Posted 05/07/2021 17:02 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Amazing visuals; great level design; creative gameplay
Poison Mushroom for...
Stages vary in density of Pokémon; Professor Mirror’s lackluster commentary on your photos

There are various Nintendo franchises that have devoted, yet disappointed fans. F-Zero, Kid Icarus, and, until recently, Pikmin are series that have been in limbo for some time. Though Pokémon Snap for Nintendo 64 was a spin-off title, like other Nintendo games, it had many fans who adored the it but had long since given up hope on getting a remake or sequel. And then, a little less than a year ago, New Pokémon Snap was announced.

I’ve heard of players who replay that game on the regular and others still have their physical copies of photos that they took in-game and got printed. I can barely imagine the excitement they felt when hearing the announcement. I was incredibly excited and I only first played the original Pokémon Snap on a N64 a couple years ago. I immediately fell in love. I found it to be a creative concept with polished gameplay and fleshed out ideas that have led the game age very well. So when I say that not much has changed since 1999, I mean it as a good thing.

All of what made the original wonderful is back and better than ever. First, the player is still planted in a vehicle that sticks to invisible tracks through each course. While this may sound limiting, it actually works fabulously. Since player movement and even speed is limited, developers can densely populate the area around the path to make the world feel like it’s teaming with life. Developers can also dedicate their time on level and puzzle design. Pokémon aren’t just scattered about, but meticulously placed. The first time you visit a new area, you will likely be zooming your camera left, right, up, down, and behind you to snap a shot at everything you see. The gyroscope makes this easy to do, and though it might make you look silly while doing so in handheld mode, I found that this helps reduce motion sickness.

Another returning feature is photo evaluation. This time, Professor Mirror does the honors. Though I miss Professor Oak’s gravelly voice saying, “wonderful,” the evaluations this time around feel more accurate and you can have up to four photos per Pokémon. Each photo you submit for review accumulates points based on various criteria such as size, placement, and direction. At the end of a run through each stage, players can choose one photo of each Pokémon that they got a snap of to be evaluated. Though some players may be frustrated to have to choose when multiple great shots were taken, I enjoyed the challenge of trying to choose which photo will score the highest or which one may be the hardest to replicate.

Why do scores matter? A fantastic new feature to the game is the leveling up of stages. The total points received at the end of a run adds up to your expedition level on that stage. Leveling up an area makes Pokémon less wary of you, can show the progression of time, or may open up new routes on a course. For the most part, raising the research level increases the number of Pokémon you encounter and how close they will be. However, if you feel like you could have gotten a perfect shot on a stage in its previous research level, if only your timing had been better, you can always visit each stage as it was in a prior level.

Another new and welcome feature is the number of photos that can be saved. Previously, you could only keep one photo per Pokémon. Whenever sharing a new photo to Professor Oak, you had to choose if you wanted to replace the old one. Now, not only can you have up to four photos per Pokémon, you can also choose which photos you want to keep in your own personal photo album. Initial space is limited, but if you opt to open space onto your Switch when prompted, how many photos you want to keep is almost limitless.

Yet what first struck me when initially starting the game was just how good it looks. I watched and re-watched the various trailers multiple times but they didn’t fully prepare me for just how well done the visuals are (especially compared to Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield). The 3D models were impressive in Pokémon X and Y, yet have since become dated. Not only are the new models more detailed, even in the 3D models photodex they have more personality and life than the models in Sword and Shield. I have a favorite picture I took of a Wurmple. A Wurmple! Just because of how vivid the colors are, how nice the light and shadows look on its little spikes, and how crisp the grass is in the background.

Though the first stage had me entranced, the wonder wears off in later areas. Later stages feel less detailed or dense than the first areas. On one hand, these are environments that are usually less dense with life, yet it is a bit disappointing that the stages can get less exciting as you keep playing, even if it is only minor.

There are also a few other points of disheartenment. Sometimes Pokémon just don’t even flinch to being hit with an apple or react in satisfying ways. The professor’s reactions to most photos also becomes repetitive. For some behaviors photographed, he makes very specific comments about what he’s seeing, sometimes even informing you of what is happening. But most of the time, he says things like “you don’t see that everyday” or “what fascinating behavior,” even when I myself want to know what is so interesting. What kind of Pokémon professor are you? I just wish the developers had spent a little more time attaching dialogue to more behaviors so it really feels like a Pokémon professor is teaching me about Pokémon.

Playing New Pokémon Snap filled me with a joy and excitement that I haven’t felt from a game in a while. Though it has its minor flaws, it really is an experience worth playing that offers gameplay you won’t find elsewhere.

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