New Pokemon Snap game review (2021)

New Pokemon Snap contains much more content and versatility than I thought it would. It can get a bit monotonous after awhile, but the vibrant colors, different objectives to accomplish, and the joy of snapping pictures of your favorite Pokemon delivers a lasting charm that’ll keep you coming back for more.

I’m going to be honest here. Although the original Nintendo 64 version of Pokemon Snap has some sort of cult following, I always thought it was a bit overrated. Granted, I only played it in a limited capacity back in the ’90s, so I was maybe too young to fully grasp what it was all about and more than likely didn’t appreciate it for what it was. However, I still stand by my statement since I don’t remember being able to do much else other than taking pictures of several types of Pokemon in different locations, and for a child like me, at the time, it wasn’t appealing. Now that it’s been close to 22 years, I’m both older and wiser (I’d like to think), and I believe a game like this is something I can get behind and give it a shot, especially on the Nintendo Switch. Truthfully, I’m glad I did give New Pokemon Snap a try. It’s pretty basic and straight forward, but there’s a particular charm about it that’s undeniable. It also has a lot more to do than most will initially realize.

As mentioned, there isn’t much to New Pokemon Snap in its simplest form. In reality, it’s very similar to its predecessor in the sense that you travel around in a vehicle known as the NEO-ONE (an upgraded version of the ZERO-ONE from the first game) throughout various islands in the Lental region and take pictures of Pokemon. In terms of explaining the game, this is the easiest it’s going to get. But, as you play more and more, you begin to notice there’s much more to do and different objectives to take on and accomplish.

As the player, you’re a Pokemon photographer who is assisting L.E.N.S. (the Laboratory of Ecological and Natural Sciences) and their studies, which is led by Professor Mirror and two of his assistants, Rita and Phil. As you travel through different islands on the on-rails NEO-ONE, you’ll be able to encounter over 200 different types of Pokemon and snap all kinds of pictures in their natural habitat. Whether they’re standing still, running around, sleeping, hanging out with other Pokemon, flying, or just partaking in other activities, you can capture all of these moments. Once you take a picture of a Pokemon once, it gets added to your Photodex, which is exactly like a Pokedex from the standard Pokemon games where you capture Pokemon and it gets added to the list. You’ll also be able to save photos to your Switch console, which is pretty neat.

This is where the game gets a bit complex. For each Pokemon, you can have up to 4 different ratings, which comes in the form of stars. It’s a bit complicated, but basically, each rating in the form of stars depends on what the Pokemon is doing at the present time. For example, you can get a 1 star photo and it’ll range from Bronze, Silver, or Gold. Obviously, Gold is the best kind of photo, while Bronze being the lowest, and Silver lying somewhere in the middle. In order to progress through the game, it’s important to try and get at least 2 stars since it helps with moving on to new islands and even unlocking new behaviors from the Pokemon to capture new and different moments. It’s pretty cool and you’ll feel challenged to do this in order to get the most out of the entire experience. Each photo also comes in points, so the higher the points, the better it is in order to unlock new features and new objectives.

One of the coolest features is the Illumina Phenomenon. Basically, this’ll be a separate option to choose from when you’re planning to go explore a specific island. You can either go during the day, at night, or do the Illumina challenge. Both day and night will sometimes vary in different Pokemon. You’ll be able to see some of the same ones during both times, but usually, if you see one Pokemon during the day, there’s a chance you won’t be able to see them at night. The Illumina challenge is a bit different, however. The first time I did it, it was encountering just one Pokemon and trying to capture them in different moments. They call it the Illumina Phenomenon because once these Pokemon find these crystals called Crystablooms, they’re able to go to it and activate an energy, which makes their bodies glow. It makes for a fantastic photo opportunity and it’s, in many ways, crucial to advancing in the game.

There are some other features the game includes, such as throwing fruits called fluffruit, which are basically apples. You can throw them to some Pokemon and they’ll immediately try to eat it. Some others will ignore it and not pay it much mind, and some will actually get bothered by it, specifically Arbok, who will sort of snarl at you and show its fangs, but won’t ever do anything. It’s a cool way to try and get a reaction out of some of them in order to get a different kind of picture. There’s also the scanning feature. Sometimes, it’ll prompt you to do it so you can find some things you won’t normally pay attention to. Once you do it, you can move the camera to where it detected something and get a picture, which may be useful to Professor Mirror. You can use it to attract some Pokemon as well since some will react to it.

There are many other features to encounter and objectives to complete and I’ve labeled quite a few, which only really scratches the surface. You’ll realize as you continue playing how much more opens up to you and all the things you’ll be able to do. It’s truly a fun and enjoyable game, although I won’t say it’s perfect. The camera/controls are definitely smoother and easier to pick up than the previous game, but I wish it could be even smoother. I understand the creators are trying to make it somewhat challenging since that’s really the essence of what the game is all about. But, it can be a bit tedious to control. I also wish there was a bit more to do in terms of how you interact with the world. I may be asking for too much, but being able to get off the NEO-ONE and actually interact with the Pokemon would be a dream come true. Then again, that may also ruin the experience it’s trying to give the player.

In many ways, it’s only supposed to hit one note and, in this case, that’s okay, because ultimately, that’s the kind of game it is. It’s pretty unique, if I’m being honest. It does have plenty of content for the kind of game it is and you’ll definitely want to complete everything it has to offer. I’m not sure I’ll justify its price tag, though. As mentioned, there’s a lot to do but only with the available areas and everything else that’s provided. Again, this is a specific kind of game, but I think it has the potential for more and eventually, it would be great to see it fully realized. Speaking on what it is though, New Pokemon Snap is really a joy to play and it’s a nice change of pace compared to other games that have released this year. It could very well end up on my top 10 list when it’s all said and done simply because of how therapeutic it can be while playing.

Sit back, relax, and take snaps of your favorite Pokemon. You’ll soon notice there’s more to it than just photography.

Score: B+


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