Living in the era of remakes and nostalgia-baiting, many titles are being revamped or given sequels to capitalize on a lost sensation that modern games fail to capture. While some are eagerly awaited and praised, not many have been asked for more than a sequel to Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo 64. A novel concept for the series, Pokémon Snap tasked players with taking photos of the Pokemon in their natural habitats rather than capturing and battling them. What was a huge risk turned out to be an instant classic, and a widely loved game to this day. Now 22 years later, a sequel has been released and aims to recapture the feeling of mystery and imagination the original brought in many players. New Pokémon Snap has been an outstanding success on that front, and frankly is a stand out game all on its own.
What I feel was wanted most for a Pokémon Snap sequel was the same sensation of calm the original brought to the table. Pokémon Snap was not an intense game, and the player had a surprisingly limited amount of agency. The on-rails gameplay and nature of the environment made it so that you were only able to take pictures, with minimal interaction using apples and pester balls. New Pokémon Snap is almost exactly the same in that regard. The gameplay has not changed, it is still on-rails and there’s a limited amount of interaction with the environment. The key here is the gameplay mechanics being used to new effect in conjunction with the Pokémon and environment. New Pokémon Snap encourages players to take photos of Pokémon doing different things, and most of the time these new movements or poses are dictated entirely by player interaction. While there are other secrets in the game that are fun to uncover on your own, most of the gameplay comes from experimenting with the different systems to get Pokémon to do new things.
While the calming gameplay is largely unchanged, this brings about some negatives as well. While I love the game and the environments are beautiful, the nature of the game is incredibly repetitive. After a few rounds through a level to gather research points in order to discover new things, you’re largely doing the same thing in order to take very similar photos. The grading system is rather weighted towards taking optimal pictures, so ensuring the framing and pose are proper is key. While this is fine, taking the same picture five or six times over a few runs can get a bit tedious. The ways of interacting with Pokémon are fine, but it can get annoying trying to aim throws of fluffruit perfectly while being unable to stop the vehicle. That, and the music player to make Pokemon dance or wake up is incredibly grating after maybe three plays. The tone never changes, and always loops exactly the same way. With the amount that you need to spam it in order to get the Pokémon around you to interact, it gets old VERY quickly.
While there are some downsides to the gameplay, that’s honestly where they end. The game looks gorgeous. Every environment feels tailored for a specific experience and feeling, and the differentiation between day and night makes all the difference. New Pokémon Snap’s environments feel like a cohesive, living world. The Illumina effect is especially beautiful in the nighttime stages, and allows the player to take lovely looking photos in pretty much any lighting. The differences in Pokémon appearing as you progress through the game truly feel like you’re making progress in these environments, being able to scout out new paths and find new photography subjects. The sense of mystery and discovery is maintained in beautiful detail, and I can’t speak enough for how beautiful this game is.
New Pokémon Snap has a lot of features that elongate the game’s lifespan, and with how it looks it certainly won’t be outdated anytime soon. What was once limited to a two decade old game can now be experienced anew on accessible hardware, and feels like a true successor to the first. Features like day/night stages and photo editing keep the game consistently fresh, and every tiny discovery feels like you’re taking a real adventure. New Pokémon Snap is one of the most relaxing games I’ve had the pleasure of playing in a long time, and if you enjoy Pokémon or photography I highly suggest giving this game a try.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch