In 1999, Pokémaniacs across the globe were treated to their first taste of Pokémon in full 3D when Pokémon Snap launched on the Nintendo 64, and it’s taken over two decades for that game to receive an actual follow-up.
If you were a fan of the original, there are plenty of reasons why you’ll love this entry with the sheer amount of content being its most impressive feat. But aside from that and prettier visuals, it doesn’t do a whole lot to push the series forward unless there are plans to continue iterating on the title.
What Is It?
If you didn’t play the original, there’s nothing to worry about–it was almost four console generations ago anyway! Even someone who doesn’t know the slightest bit about Pokémon can find moments of enjoyment in New Pokémon Snap with a little patience.
Players first booting the game up will be introduced to the Lentel Region, a colorful place budding with all sorts of Pokémon. You play as a regular kid who comes across Professor Mirror’s lab as he studies Pokémon throughout the area with his young assistant Rita as they research what they call the “Lumina” phenomenon–instances in which different Pokémon have a glowing aura.
Eventually you’re tasked as a fellow assistant with your main responsibility being photographing Pokémon through the different locales in the Lentel region. With your help, the team eventually learns more about Pokémon going through the Lumina state in addition to learning more about the secrets of the region.
Why Should I Care?
Hardly anybody will care about what’s going in in the story with New Pokémon Snap, but for what it’s worth, the effort put in is fairly charming since the 1999 release hardly had a story at all. There’s even a pretty awesome moment early in the game where you come across a beloved character–we won’t say who, but it’s sure to make lifelong fans dating back to the late 90’s smile. Since then, New Pokémon Snap obviously has gone through careful production and while it’s all pretty simple, it’s also one of the best looking games on the Switch.
As stated, the game is all about taking pictures of Pokémon. Each level you explore will be on rails as you go from the start to the finish while traveling on a contraption called the NEO-ONE, a floating device that’ll protect you from anything the surrounding Pokémon might do to you if startled.
Think of it like a highly interactive safari tour where you can throw food and make strange noises at the animals to get their attention and perhaps get better photos of them in the process, except you know, there’s no worries or guilt about holding the creatures in captivity.
All that stuff I mentioned is easily done in New Pokémon Snap, except it takes a while to get fully equipped. When you first start the game, all you actually have access to is your camera, but as you keep playing, you acquire unlimited fluffruit (pretty much an apple), gain the ability to scan surrounding areas to support your research (or briefly get the attention of nearby Pokémon), acquire Illumina orbs that you can toss at Pokémon to make them glow (which pretty much replace the original game’s Pester Balls), and even play a melody that can make various Pokémon dance. All of these items are for the sake of getting better snapshots of each critter.
When you go through an entire level, it’s time to show the Professor your findings. You’re allowed to show him one picture per Pokémon (which is kind of a drag because you’ll likely take several), and he’ll rate them and award you with points that both level up the stage you’re in and unlock various stuff in the game such as the aforementioned items and even new areas to explore and take more photos. The points are given to you based on how they fit the following categories: pose, size, direction, placement, other Pokémon being in the photo, and the background. These categories are all pretty self-explanatory, as it’s obvious that the bigger the Pokémon looks in frame along with whether or not the Pokémon is actually looking at you makes a big difference, but factors such as the “rule of thirds”–something extremely important learned in any photography class, is not even a consideration, so it could be pretty frustrating. Anyway, you can get a bronze to up to a diamond rating for various point totals using those categories.
That’s pretty much it as far as New Pokémon Snap‘s gameplay loop. Most of your time in the game will be spent revisiting the same areas, trying to get higher scores while also taking unique pictures of Pokémon in the hopes of unlocking the next area. Usually, new areas unlocked are just the nighttime version of these courses, which bring out different kinds of Pokémon reacting to different scenarios and while things will oftentimes get samey and dull, as you keep leveling up stages, you’re also treated to even more new Pokémon doing different actions along with new places entirely to explore at your leisure.
It took me roughly nine hours to unlock every new area and while it was annoying to have to figure out how to unlock items like the Illumina Orbs when you already had them in other courses, they contained just the right amount of variety to keep me invested, though I did have to use a FAQ a couple times because I couldn’t figure out how to unlock a certain stage towards the end.
Another gameplay loop to keep you playing are the special requests made by the characters in the game to have you take pictures of Pokémon in very specific scenarios and situations and while some are enjoyable to do, they’re mostly useless and sort of remind me of the Korok Seeds in Breath of the Wild–they might be fun to collect for some people, especially the completionists, but considering there’s no achievements system on the Switch, there’s really no reason to pursue any of that aside from self-gratification.
Other than that, there isn’t a whole lot of replay value aside from leveling up the courses to see even more new Pokémon including Legendaries, but too much of the game at once eventually overstays its welcome. Safaris are fun, but it’s hard to really think of people who wanna do them for four hours a day, every day, for two weeks. You need breaks.
New Pokémon Snap also features a social aspect where you can upload your photo profile and best shots to the internet over Nintendo Switch Online, but it’s essentially just Pokémon Instagram to see who can go viral with their photos, That’s all the rage with kids nowadays, but it’s tough to see this really moving the needle for older fans especially since there’s no actual benefit to having any of your photos go viral–we’re a year late here as this probably would’ve been more desirable when the pandemic was at its worst.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
When I was 11 or 12, I beat Pokémon Snap on a two-day rental because there were only seven levels, and I obviously had nothing else to do. I’m 32 now, and I spent the $60 (okay, $50 because it’s cheaper at Walmart) and I don’t regret it. I spent more than 12 hours on the game running through its 23+ levels (granted, close to half of these are just night versions of some of the courses), and honestly that’s all I needed to be satisfied. If I cared enough to actually want to pursue the requests and take a picture of every Legendary Pokémon in addition to all the star poses, I can easily see myself spending more time playing. New Pokémon Snap is an extremely enjoyable game for everything it is, and if Nintendo decided to continue supporting it by adding more Pokémon or even new courses through any sort of DLC, I definitely see myself coming back to it.
For the sheer amount of content alone, New Pokémon Snap is well worth the price of admission especially if you already have an idea of what to expect. However, if you’re expecting the game to move the needle as far as real advancements in gameplay over the last 20 years, you’re not going to find that here. Also ask yourself: Do you see yourself having fun going on a fake safari for over 12 hours? That could answer your question about it being worth the $60.