Game Review: New Pokémon Snap

[Please note: I’ve attached some of my favourite photos I’ve taken in the game so far. None of them feature any story spoilers, but they will reveal some of the Pokémon in the game.]

Release date: 2021
Version played: Nintendo Switch in 2021

A sequel 22 years in the making, New Pokémon Snap was developed by Bandai Namco Studios, and released in 2021 for the Nintendo Switch. As a new recruit under Professor Mirror at the Laboratory of Ecology and Natural Sciences (L.E.N.S.) in the Lental Region, players must venture in various habitats in the new vehicle, the NEO-ONE, to capture Pokémon on camera. Upon returning at the end of each on-rails track, Professor Mirror will analyse and score the photos, with the hope of eventually filling out the Lental Region Photodex. In order to uncover details on an ancient mystery, everyone at the L.E.N.S. lab will need to keep an eye out for special Pokémon, said only to appear in legend.

+ the core gameplay is everything you remember about the original. You take photos of Pokémon in their (mostly) natural habitats, and can effect them in various ways by giving them food or playing music, etc. All of your top shots are saved in the Photodex, and given a fancy sprucing up to make them look less like a video game. I’ve attached some of my favourites below
+ despite my qualms with the photo scoring (see below), the urge to get that perfect shot is addictive, and serves as both the main hook and the replay value of the game. Getting what is determined to be a high scoring photo, but knowing you can do better, will keep you going with ‘just one more run’

– as Pokémon species number well into the 700s, it would be foolish to expect every species to make an appearance. That said, there are some surprising and frustrating omissions, including Ponyta, Gyarados and Psyduck. Don’t get me wrong: I am glad the included roster does not simply pander to the people who prefer Gen 1, but there are Magikarps everywhere and no way to evolve them
– the scoring feels a bit wonky. What you may consider an actually good photograph composition won’t score well if you don’t satisfy all of pose, size, direction and placement. In that regard, a close up picture of a partially obscured Pikachu from behind will score significantly higher than a crystal clear photo of a Pikachu from further away
– though there are now a handful of fully animated cutscenes between story beats, the flavour speech when getting stuff appraised is lacking. I think all I ever heard was a “Let’s see” and “Well done”. Even just something like “That’s nice and clear” or “Wow, look at that pose” could have made all the difference. Professor Mirror just feels so robotic compared to Professor Oak from the original
– it’s a tiny negative I leave until last, but the story is so unimportant that I can’t say I’d care if it was removed altogether. If Mirror told me “You, go take some photos and I’ll score them”, I’d be just as thrilled

> if there ever is a Even Newer Pokémon Snap, I hope it goes either open world-ish (maybe with sandbox levels instead of a single open world) or plays around with the on-rails stuff here. Photo quantity limits and a time limit feels so 1999

Should you play this game: I loved this. There are negatives, as clear from the above, but I am one of those people that has been clamouring for a sequel for the last 22 years and this did not disappoint. The thrill of getting that perfect photo, or capturing an interaction between Pokémon really does feel like you are seeing them in their natural habitats. The way the Photodex touches up whichever you care to keep has me coming back for more and more.



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