New Pokémon Snap – a Chill Photography Adventure
An easy entry point for Pokemon newbies
Plenty of new elements set it apart from the original
Photography controls can be awkward and frustrating
Fans of the original Pokémon Snap game, released on the Nintendo 64, will love what the New Pokémon Snap has brought to the series. For me, this was a venture into the wild unknown as I hadn’t played many Pokémon games previously.
It was like nirvana when I first captured a coveted photograph of the Pokémon I’d been hunting for in the Founja jungle. Whether I was searching for a Beautifly in its natural habitat, or waiting to see if the Pikipek glow at night too, New Pokémon Snap was an engaging and subtly thrilling adventure sim.
Positioning your camera to capture unusual behaviours, documenting every Pokémon you can come across and, of course, adding to your Photodex are the main aims of the game. While this setup veers from the typical Pokémon battle arena style game I’d seen before, it still perfectly projects the familiar ‘gotta catch ’em all’ sentiment.
The question is, does New Pokémon Snap brings more to the table than just being a carbon copy of its predecessor? That’s a lot to live up to for starters, as fans have been waiting 22 years for this sequel.
The Illumina Legend Behind the Snaps
My first question when I started New Pokémon Snap was what kind of story can they really give to a photography game?
I was pleasantly surprised by the Illumina legend narrative. It was neatly weaved not only through the opening but also through a lot of the aspects of gameplay. The legend goes like this…
Lental myths tell of formidable Pokémon that protected the region from a massive, mysterious disaster. Professor Mirror, essentially the guy your character is helping, has an idea he needs you to investigate. He thinks that a meteorite hit 2000 years prior, so big it would have caused terrible damage across a huge area. But despite ecological surveying, this incredible damage has never been found.
It’s the player’s job to investigate the historical mystery of Lental, where Pokémon have been reported to glow at night.
This pursuit of a mystery spurred me on in my photography, giving it a deeper layer of intrigue further than just building my Photodex as much as possible. To help Professor Mirror, I sought out common and unusual Pokémon alike, taking snaps of them in natural habitats doing their natural (very cute) behaviours. Along with this, is the challenge to get Pokémon doing unusual things. Even more important, is the hunt to find glowing Pokémon.
This storyline progresses in a surprisingly satisfying way. In the latter part of the game, I travelled to a kind of creepy underground cave where we found evidence of the Tellur Meteorite. This proved Professor Mirror’s theory and made the search for the Illumina Pokémon even more urgent.
Story spoilers ahead so read on at your peril… At the close of the main narrative, my absolute favourite moment happens. I met Xerneas, the original Illumina Pokémon. Xerneas apparently brought together six of the strongest Pokémon. When the meteorite hit, the six Illumina Pokémon drew together in a large circle and protected the people of the Lental region from the strike.
Xerneas had been sleeping and recovering ever since, causing the soft glow of some of the Pokémon in the area.
A Mostly Point-and-Shoot Experience
In essence, New Pokémon Snap has the same basis as the previous game. You take photos across courses and aim to take high rated snaps of each and every Pokémon native to that particular area. At face value, I didn’t think it sounded all that interesting, especially since you explore each area on-rails. This is no open-world explorer, that’s for sure.
From the Store
I did have to eat my words by the time I got invested in the mechanics of the game, though. There are several elements that come together to make this a truly gorgeous-looking and engaging game.
The environments in New Pokémon Snap do wonders to showcase the considerable improvement in graphics since the original game.
From the lush green Lentas park to the blustery desert planes, I was always impressed by the way this game held true to the Pokémon styling while still delivering some beautiful, detailed environments.
New Pokémon Snap has made this course format even more fun than its predecessor by adding Research Levels within each course. Different Pokémon appear depending on the Research Level. Exploring at night-time adds a little something different, keeping the courses from feeling robotic or straight-up boring.
Even after I’d progressed pretty well into the game, I returned back to several previously visited courses to snap the creatures I’d missed or wasn’t able to encounter previously because of my limiting Research Level or time of day.
Melody Player & Poké Behaviour
This is where things get pretty funny.
Since your goal is to see Pokémon behave in certain ways, it can take some time to finally get the perfect photo of it happening. You must line up your shot and discover whether the behaviour happens naturally or if you need to prompt it somehow. As I went along, I progressively unlocked the items that can help prompt these behaviours in a not-totally-ethically-sound way.
Throwing Fluffruit at a creature is one way to get a better shot. That’s right–corner a poor Dodrio and chuck a Fluffruit at its heads then quickly grab your photo!
Along with throwing things at wild creatures, I used the Melody Player. This is much nicer because it just gets the Pokémon to sweetly dance along while you get your special snap.
The most intriguing and valuable Pokémon behaviours happened when I used the Illumina Orbs.
The Illumina Orbs are intertwined with the Illumina legend progression. The further in the Illumina research I was, the more Illumina Orbs I unlocked. Along with Professor Mirror, I sought more information on the phenomenon of glowing Pokémon–otherwise known as Illumina.
The Illumina Orbs are used to create a special behaviour, which gives your snap a higher star rating. All this involves is throwing an Illumina Orb at either a Pokémon or a Crystalbloom flower, then quickly taking a well-aligned photo of what happens.
I learnt that the Orbs don’t have an impressive effect on every Pokémon, so I did waste a few Orbs in the beginning. On top of that, I found it awkward at times to line up my throw of Orbs and Fluffruit. I overshot my target more than once, or even just missed the photo opportunity by taking too long to line up the snap.
I restarted a course more than once because of missed Illumina Orb opportunities, which was annoying.
This game is highly progression focused. Yet another thing you can only access after progressing through the courses is the LenTalk quests. Once you have more knowledge of Pokémon behaviour and the Lental region has expanded, you can start completing these little quests.
I found it a nice distraction to follow the hints and then go off on a hunt for whatever is described, such as picking out a feisty Charmeleon that needs a bit of a literal push to evolve. I especially liked that I could take on these quests in any order, which was a nice change from the otherwise regimental flow of the game.
Wholesome Pokémon Photography Done Right
From my chilled-out playthrough of New Pokémon Snap, I felt like this might be a slightly underrated entry in the abundant Pokémon game franchise. It’s certainly not just an update of the original. It weaves together a cute narrative with fun, albeit sometimes clunky, photography mechanics.
Nintendo and the creators at Bandai Namco never touted this as a ground-breaking release. It was always described as a game that brings together the purity of a Pokémon’s nature with popular photography habits. We post pictures to social media every day and wait for the reactions. New Pokémon Snap ties into this idea perfectly with the photo rating system, and by giving extra points for more extravagant snaps that took more effort!
From the Store
This game builds on the premise of the first Snap game, and it’s a fun game with features that seems to say ‘don’t worry, the stakes aren’t too high. Just enjoy these glow-y Pokémon’.
As a newcomer to the franchise, I didn’t feel left out of the gameplay at any point. I didn’t need to know every Pokémon variety, I just needed to follow the natural direction the game took me in. I continue to play this game on slow, rainy days, and I think that’s exactly what Nintendo intended for New Pokémon Snap.