New Pokémon Snap is a very welcome continuation of the Pokémon Snap series that provides a breath of fresh air to a player base that has become increasingly divided over the Pokémon franchise as a whole in recent years.
An adventure 22 years in the making, you fill the shoes of a yet another young, mute, Pokémon enthusiast who has travelled to the Lental region to join a research team led by Professor Mirror at the Laboratory of Ecological and Natural Sciences (L.E.N.S). Armed with a camera and sat safely in the NEO-ONE (an adapted version of the original Snap vehicle, the ZERO-ONE), you are sent into the various ecosystems of Lental to capture various Pokémon in their natural habitats.
Alongside fellow research assistants Rita and Phil, as well as Pokémon Snap’s original protagonist Todd Snap, you assist Mirror in exploring the Illumina phenomenon, a curious occurrence that hasn’t been seen in a century that bestows the flora and fauna of Lental with an ethereal glow.
With the premise of New Pokémon Snap remaining more or less the same as the original, it could have been easy for the sequel to be received as a repetitious attempt to revive the Snap series. Thankfully, this is not the case, as there is plenty to set this game apart from its predecessor. For one, the job of photographing every Pokémon available in the game has more than tripled in size, with over 200 creatures claiming the Lental region as home, compared to just 63 available Pokémon in the 1999 original.
Furthermore, the game cannot be completed by simply grabbing a shoddy snap of every Sobble or Seviper. Your main goal is to fill in your Photodex, a Pokédex-esque compendium that details everything about the 200+ Pokémon in the region. Each photo taken will fall into one of four different star categories, with a picture in each category needed for each Pokémon in order to complete the Photodex. Star categories are awarded based on the pose a Pokémon is adopting in the picture – for example, a Pelipper diving towards the water would net a higher rating than the same creature simply sitting on a rock.
To make matters more intricate, each photo is also judged on six separate factors, such as the subjects relative position to the centre of the frame and whether it’s facing the camera, to determine a final score. For the completionists among us, the scores determine which certification (Bronze to Platinum) each photo is awarded, so to have a truly complete Photodex, each Pokémon should have four Platinum-ranked pictures on their Dex page.
New Pokémon Snap also keeps things fresh by giving each course various Research Levels to max out. Going through a course and taking pictures earns a player Expedition Points, which go directly towards upgrading said course’s level. As a course’s Research Level increases, the locations of Pokémon change, some will exhibit unique behaviour to that particular level and new Pokémon and branching paths could be discovered. For example, Ducklett is nowhere to be found in Level One of the Florio Nature Park course, but upon reaching Level Two, the waterborne creatures can be seen swimming alongside their evolved form, Swanna, midway through the course. This gives each course true replay value, as your Photodex cannot hope to be completed without reaching the maximum level on each course.
As you progressed through the original iteration of the Snap series, several items would become available to the player to help create some fantastic photo opportunities, and the same can be said in New Pokémon Snap. Players will have access to Fluffruit, an apple-like fruit that can be used to lure the more bashful of creatures out from their hiding places or create some adorable photos – who doesn’t want to see a Pichu munching on an apple? On the other end of the scale, the fluffruit can also be bounced off of a Pokémon to incur a photo-worthy reaction.
Your camera also houses a build-in scan function, which can be used to survey the area for Pokémon at the press of a button, which can be especially helpful in uncovering some hidden or hard-to-find creatures – a Heracross hiding in a tree, for example. The scan also reveals some points of interest around each course which, when interacted with, could reveal some hidden Pokémon if their own. the scan can also draw a Pokémon’s attention to the camera, which is especially useful for some “say cheese” moments that you would otherwise go without.
The Melody Player is self-explanatory – activating it will result in a pleasant tune broadcasting around your immediate vicinity, which can lead to certain Pokémon breaking into a dance. It works much better on some Pokémon compared to others – a Bouffalant or Slaking might not be all too happy to bust a move, but an Eevee or Bellossom could be more easily encouraged.
The most unique addition to your toolkit comes in the form of Illumina Orbs, Professor Mirror’s own invention. Harnessing Illumina energy from each course, these orbs can bestow a glow onto any Pokémon they come into contact with and can cause some to perform some unique actions. They can also be used on dormant Crystabloom plants to light them up and draw Pokémon out of hiding – Vespiquen is only photographable if an Illumina Orb is thrown at the Crystabloom plant in the flower field at the end of the Floria Nature Park stage. The glow that Pokémon emit after being struck by an Orb also makes them much easier to see, especially in night-time courses, making photos much easier to snap.
As you progress through the courses and start to build up a healthy-looking Photodex, you are given access to specific requests from your team members in the LenTalk menu. This can make the task of locking down particular Pokémon or photo opportunities much, much easier, but does detract from the natural discovery element that can make the game appealing to so many.
Aside from the gameplay mechanics, New Pokémon Snap is absolutely gorgeous. Considering how different each research course is compared to the last, not one has failed to draw a grin of excitement. From the sun-kissed beaches and colourful coral reefs of Maricopa, to the lava-filled, prehistoric mountains of Voluca, each set piece was unique and full of life. The Pokémon themselves were also very impressive, with each model capturing the traits of the species very well indeed. A Machamp can be seen cockily flexing on Blushing Beach, a Pikipek is found pecking away at the tree trunks in Founja Jungle, a group of Bidoof can be found building a dam in Floria Nature Park – each creature is chock-full of personality, which long-time Pokémon fans will appreciate massively.
While Pokémon spin-off games don’t have a glittering track record, New Pokémon Snap provides a very enjoyable break from the norm. While gameplay is quite limited in terms of doing any more than sitting in the NEO-ONE and spinning to snap a picture or two, the calming nature of the adventure through Lental makes it easily accessible to casual or hardcore fans of the franchise.
Have you been playing New Pokémon Snap? Tweet us your best pictures @ENRGArcade!