- Developer: Bandai Namco
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Release Date: 30/04/2021
- Price: £49.99 / $59.99
- Review Code provided by Nintendo
Introducing: New Pokémon Snap Review
22 years is… well it’s a long time. The world was a vastly different place in 1999, but one crowning moment in every Nintendo fan’s memory will always be the release of Pokémon Snap for the N64. The original title is such a massive departure from anything that Nintendo was doing at the time as Pokémon games were relegated to just the standard titles in the series. At that point, Gold and Silver had come out that year and we had news about Crystal coming out in the near future. Sure we had Pokémon Stadium, but that was just 3D Pokémon fights and a few silly minigames. Fun? Sure. Revolutionary? No. Then, Nintendo decides that not only are we getting our second 3D title in the series, but one that had no combat or capturing was strange but exciting.
Pokémon Snap captivated me as a kid. I got to see how these creatures interacted in the wild and how they sized up to each other. Until this game came out, all you had were descriptions in player’s guides and cards or watching the TV show to get a feel for life in their universe. Once Snap came home from Blockbuster, I got to really see how little a Meowth was, or how gargantuan a Dragonite was! My 11-year-old brain about exploded in my head.
But after Snap came and went, fans of the game were left out to dry. We would reminisce on how fun it was to make the events happen to reveal secret “Pokémon” or how much we loved plastering random critters with Pester Balls and apples, but every conversation finished with the same sentiment: “Why don’t they make another one?”. I had hopes for the GameCube, and when that came and went, I moved on to the Wii, the DS, 3DS, and finally the WiiU (which, mind you, had it been successful would have likely been an incredible experience).
Fast-forwarding to as early as pre-Covid 2020 a few office friends and I were thinking about the next big announcement that Nintendo could whip up and the thought came as soon as the LABO camera was shown off. How great would that have been? You’d better believe that I would have shelled out an extra 20 to get the full-on experience with a cardboard camera (and don’t lie and say you wouldn’t totally love it). So finally, after all these years, Nintendo listened to us and gave us the sequel we all have been demanding for dang near 20 years. So how does it hold up? Let’s talk New Pokémon Snap.
New Pokémon Snap is about as simple of a concept as you can muster for its premise. You are a fledgling wildlife photographer on the distant Lental Islands, a small archipelago bursting at the seams with wild Pokémon both new and old. Your task, given to you by the game’s mentor, Professor Mirror, is to photograph as many different aspects of the native wildlife to gain a better understanding of what lives out there. As you photograph more creatures, more areas and even in some cases different times open up for observation. So unlocking a new area might mean visiting the beach or it could mean visiting the same jungle you’ve been to but at night time. Each new area has LOADS of new creatures to photograph and interact with and even a few new side paths to unlock.
As you progress the story you begin to unlock new ways to interact with the Pokémon and the environment around you. Tools include Fluffruit (effectively apples to either entice critters to be cute or to smack them to get their attention), Lumina Orbs which both energize Pokémon, coating them in a luminous aura that looks super great, and activates Crystablooms – crystalline flowers with mysterious powers, a scan function that lets you see where creatures are and enables you to go to alternate paths in each level, and lastly a sound system that lets you blast a song around you that monsters can dance to.
There’s plenty to do in each area, and a plethora of different poses and photos to grab, so having variety in your arsenal is pretty grand. Honestly, the only gripe is that the music that you blast could use some variety because I am pretty done with the one chime. DLC, anybody?
The Art of the Callback
Dang it, people, this game is gorgeous. Seriously, there is something special about how the team at Bandai Namco handled everything in this world. I mean this in a few ways, actually: graphically, sure, the game is beautiful, but I was not expecting the game’s handling of the concept of scale to be as big of a deal to me. Let me give an example: In the underwater area of the game, there is a part where you dive a significant distance to the ocean floor. As you do this a ton of fish and other creatures shoot past you, but then seemingly out of nowhere a Wailord blasts right in front of you as it shoots towards the surface. I was captivated. Short and simple, there are so many moments in this game that had me saying “WHOA” or “THAT’S SO COOL” as I stared in wide-eyed amazement (followed by furious picture taking).
The designers of this game not only wanted the experience to be pleasing to the eye but they wanted to give you a sense of wonder and excitement as you watch these beautiful creatures interact with each other in the wild. You really must experience this for yourself. I am still confused why there isn’t a free demo.
Secondly, the audio for this game is a pretty big change from Snap 64. Snap 64 had soundtracks that tied into every area and honestly, it’s pretty memorable. Big brassy beats that gave each area a new energy and character. However, for New Pokémon Snap there’s music playing in the background, but it’s not nearly as pronounced. The music, while present, takes much more of a background place, and I’m a big fan of it. Every song feels like a subtle accent to the stage, not the main focus of your time in each scenario.
Also, I love that the Pokémon don’t say their names like they do in the show. Instead every monster roars, chirps, and regular animal sounds like, you know, regular animals do. It’s a really smart idea to help you feel like you’re in their world and not a glorification of the show. Big props here to the sound team.
Working With The Settings
I’m not going to say that this game is perfect. While a lot of the experience in the Lental region is a smooth experience, I have noticed a few things that could use a touching up. Occasionally there is some noticeable pop-in in certain areas that can be a little frustrating, but nothing to the level of game-breaking. Sometimes you’ll notice when an animations framerate take a plunge, but it’s really about as bothersome as seeing an assist trophy in Smash Bros Ultimate; if you want to let it bother you, it will. When the game starts I will say that the speed at which you can move the camera is pretty slow (for my tastes at least), but the settings are generous in letting you adjust both the reticle speed and the camera movement speed.
Other than that, this game feels so great to play. The settings are tuned to give both completionists and casual players an extensive amount of value in their play. By the time my wife and I finally completed the Photodex (the Photo-Pokedex) we realized that we had something like 15 to 20 hours in total playtime. The game is smooth and plays just like you would expect a first-party Nintendo (and Pokémon) release would be.
The End of The Film
Man, New Pokémon Snap is really good. My kids love it, my wife can’t stop playing it and I love seeing how the team at Bandai Namco interpreted a world full of wild animals that keeps you excited to see more. There are going to be your fair share of sceptics who will always say that “It’ll never be as good as the original”, but I am here to tell you that this is everything you wanted in a Pokémon Snap sequel.
There are a few things that I wish were brought back (like the cool hidden Pokémon you had to find or forcing evolutions in real-time), but I left my time in the Lental region wanting more. I honestly hope that this game gets DLC in one form or another. I mean they brought back Todd from the original, so a man can hope that there’s like a call back to an old area. There is a lot to love here and I cannot recommend this game enough.
- Over 200 Pokémon to discover and photograph.
- A ton of varied locations and atmospheres to find these creatures
- LOADS of branching paths to keep each run fresh.
- Why on earth is there no LABO VR or Camera Support?
- You can only show Professor Mirror one picture per Pokémon per run.
- No pesterballs.