New Pokemon Snap Review
I guess I’ll forgive you for not including Mimikyu
Available on: Switch
Genre: Photography Sim
When I heard that Pokemon Snap was being remade for the Switch and then it was going to be sold for the full $60 price, I was pretty skeptical. Which probably wasn’t helped due to Pokemon Sword/Shield where I mistakenly decided to keep myself in the dark and it ended up not feeling like it was worth the money. Also the fact that I never played the original Pokemon Snap (which even if my family had a N64 I was a baby when it came out) so I didn’t have that nostalgia. I was pretty set on not picking it up, at least not for a while to give time to know how long this game ended up being, or at least I thought I was. I was weak and my love of Pokemon was too strong so I ended up picking up New Pokemon Snap anyway. And well, it’s time to talk about it.
After selecting how your character will look, choosing from a couple presets, and your name, you get to learn that you are volunteering at the Laboratory of Ecology and Natural Sciences (LENS) where you’ll be helping Professor Mirror and his assistant, Rita, in his ecological study of all of the islands in the Lentel Region. Instead of capturing Pokemon in Pokeballs and battling, you’ll instead capture their likeness in photos which you’ll then come to show Professor Mirror. Professor Mirror also tells us about a strange phenomenon called Illumina Pokemon and you’re asked to keep an eye out and take pictures if you happen to come across it, as the last and only picture of it happening is pretty terrible.
Todd, from the original Pokemon Snap, also returns all grown up with his own apprentice. Like I said, I never played the original game, but this is a wonderful call back for those that have and he’s so encouraging when he talks to you.
Also oh my gosh, this has voice acting. Not all lines are voiced, as we get the usual general ones used in many other games, but we get voiced lines during cutscenes. Pokemon SwSh has no room to say it can’t have voice acting (remember when the opening cutscene felt incomplete because it was structured in a way that suggests there would be voice acting? And Pier’s intro where he’s “singing” but he’s not and you just hear his feat squeaks and the crowd cheering).
Anyway, the name of the game here is taking pictures of Pokemon that are frolicking and hanging out. After choosing a map that you want to go into (you only start with 1, but quickly unlock more), you’ll be on rails in the Neo-One (which protects you from any dangers) on a pre-determined path. As you ride through, you’ll be able to snap the Pokemon you pass, or the Pokemon that passes you. Though, sometimes, you really need to be quick on the click. To move the camera, you do have a choice between motion controls or regular controls (which I eventually used a combination of both). You start out with only being able to zoom in on Pokemon and scan the area (which will get interactions out of some Pokemon, but as you advance through the story, you’ll unlock apples to throw (or hit Pokemon with or lead Pokemon to an area), Illumina Orbs (which each island/area needing it’s own orb), and a music box to play.
After you reach the end (or decide to quit early) you’ll then be asked to choose photos for Professor Mirror to evaluate, only one for each Pokemon. There are two ways photos are scored. When choosing photos, you’ll know the star rating (which will be between 1 and 4) which is given based on how weird or unique the posing action is. And, once you submit it, you’ll get the photo’s actual score based on the pose, size, direction, placement, if other pokemon are present, and the background of what Pokemon you shoot. With the total being what color the star will be (Bronze-> Silver-> Gold-> Diamond). These photos will then be put in your Photodex, which acts like a Pokedex and holds a photo for each star rating. All of your scores all together is made into Expedition Points that goes into leveling up that course’s Research Level. And don’t think about cheesing this by taking the same picture over and over again as it will remember and will only add points if it’s something entirely new or the difference between your old and new photos.
After all the photos are evaluated (pro tip, holding down A makes it go faster) and points added to the Research Level, you can save photos to your Album (you can increase it) and re-snap photos if you want to change the lighting, alter it a bit so the Pokemon is more in frame, and alter blur, focus, and focal point. There are shadow filters here as well if you want to.
You can also let the game auto choose your photos, which based on what I’ve seen, prioritizes what you don’t have and then prioritized the highest star’d photo you don’t have and may even choose the one that is scored the most (I can’t really properly test this to see if it’s true, so don’t take my word for it). It will also sometimes select the photo you took for a request (we’ll get to that), but it doesn’t always do that so always check.
Leveling up your Research Level for these maps is important as it’ll give you little changes like how Pokemon will interact when they see you, change up where Pokemon will be, add new Pokemon, and even add interactions as they’ll trust you now. Each course varies in how many Levels it has, but you just need to get them to Level 2 to generally advance the story (or photograph an illuminated Crystabloom flower to get the Illumina Ball for the area, or photograph Ancient Ruins that you’ll occasionally ride past). There are some early courses where it’s a grind to Level 2, but once you get really good, you’ll be able to get to that next level in 1 or 2 goes. It’s such a delight seeing how Pokemon change here and what’s new. And all of the Pokemon are so cute and do some cute interactions (with some being scary *shivers when looking at Bewear*) You really have to go through multiple times as it’s so hard to capture and see everything. And you will miss something as there’s a lot going on in each map. But, never fear, when you do level them up, while it does default to its current level, you can choose which level you want to go through.
You start your photo adventure on Florio Island, where Professor Mirror is set up at, as you go through Florio Park, but there are Night variants of maps (which a lot of them do when it makes sense for them to have one) and 5 more areas to unlock that has their own biome and Pokemon that lives there. And most maps also have an alternate route that you can find and unlock which will bring you into a whole new area and Pokemon that were hiding out there. Sometimes they’ll be unlocked for all future runs, but sometimes you do need to repeat what you did to unlock them in the first place.
You’ll also run into Illumina Pokemon, which are technically like boss fights here. After you do what’s required to progress the story, Professor Mirror will mention an area giving off a strong amount of energy and it’ll be an Illumina Spot where these Illumina Pokemon will appear. Of course, we all know Meganium is the first one and you encounter her pretty early. And you can actually choose where to go next between three other areas after you do (it took me about 10 hours to get to the next Illumina Spot as I was doing a little of everything at this point). However, I do recommend keeping these Illumina Pokemon a secret for yourself. Not only because it’s a huge spoiler, but you’ll lose the wonder of seeing what the Illumina Pokemon for that area will be. I literally gasped and was in immense delight at all of the Illumina Pokemon that was kept a secret from us and I want this experience for everyone else (it also helped some of them were Pokemon I really liked, but not quite in my top favorites). Please, keep these Illumina Pokemon a secret for yourself.
Other than the story, you have a couple goals that you can work towards, though don’t expect some amazing reward for it. The main one is photographing all Pokemon and getting all stars for each of them. Which isn’t going to be a quick task. You can even aim for getting Diamond Stars for every photo if you’re crazy enough. Or you can have a goal of having a themed Photodex and not care about scores. Your Photodex will also let you see the maps of each course, which you can choose to complete by photographing every Pokemon appearance (you don’t have to submit them) and anything of interest (crystabloom flower, ancient ruins). This will also lead you to your next goal in finding all alternate routes. Some maps will even give you a sticker on your Photodex cover.
Throughout the story, you’ll receive Research Titles, which act like achievements, but there are some that you won’t get with normally going through the game. So you can aim to get the more grindy ones.
And lastly requests. These requests will come in from the characters here where they’ll request a certain picture to be taken of a Pokemon doing a certain action. You only get a hint and a photo roughly showing where it can be done, acting like puzzles for you to solve both in decoding what they want and what you need to do to get the Pokemon to do them. These also gives a huge help in getting 4 star photos or diamond photos. Some are pretty straightforward and easy to figure out… while some are not and are pretty obtuse whether it being the hint not being structured well or the way to get it. So much so that there are some that I don’t believe I would have ever thought of. There is also some annoyance I had as some will call for a very specific pose or point in the pose for it to even read as completed (or worse, your camera detected a totally different Pokemon not even in frame). There’s are even requests that can only be done on a lower Research Level that you’re not told about and you might be on a higher level wondering why it isn’t happening or why the Pokemon isn’t where you need it to be. It’s also pretty annoying when you already taken a photo before the request comes up and you’ll have to go and retake it even if it’s in your Photodex.
I highly recommend leaving requests for after the story (or only go do these when you’re having trouble getting to Level 2) as you do get Turbo (to increase the speed of your Neo-One) around the end of the game and Burst Mode once you finish the story which lets you take multiple photos in a burst with one click (you do also unlock Course Scores when completing the game as well, which is a score based on how throughly you photographed the area in a single run). Turbo mode in particular helps a lot, especially when a request happens at the end of the course and/or it’s more of a random action that’s not guaranteed to happen or if you haven’t been able to quite get it before the Neo-One drives past yet. Waiting until the end will save so much heartache and getting annoyed. Also don’t be against looking at guides if you’re totally lost or unsure if you’re doing it right.
Getting Research Titles and completing certain requests will grant you stickers, filters, and frames that you can decorate your photo with to make them even cuter (or creepier) or more creative. This isn’t in re-snap mode, but in Photo Editing when you view photos in your album.
There’s also some light Online aspects here, which is kind of like Instagram without commenting. You have a page that you can upload 6 photos to (with Mirror being able to put up 2 of his favorite photos) to show anyone that happens to run across it. And you can see what others are putting up and give Sweet Medals to (which act as Likes). Thankfully, when these photos are taken in an area you haven’t been to, routes you haven’t discovered, and (I’m pretty sure) Pokemon that isn’t in your Photodex, it’s automatically hidden. You can opt to see it anyway, but I’m really glad this was thought in advance.
There are some other improvements that New Pokemon Snap can implement, but these are all really small that don’t really affect how much I love this game. There really should be an option to quit a course without having to go through Professor Mirror’s photo evaluation (something like Quit to Start). And it seems like an oversight to not include a way to bulk save your photos to your system (also I can’t help but hate the watermark you get when you use the “save to system” button).
I really hope we are getting DLC for New Pokemon Snap, which focuses on bringing in new Pokemon for the new areas. It’s so sad for those of us that doesn’t have their favorite Pokemon included (I’m lucky enough to have multiple favorite Pokemon, with some included here and some not) and it would be a great way to add in more Pokemon without messing with the already established maps.
Trying to sell a game like New Pokemon Snap to people is hard. Heck, I was one of those people that was skeptical towards it, wondering if there will be enough content to justify the $60 (or $50 if you’re getting this at Walmart) price tag. Especially after seeing how the original was. Well, I’m glad to say that it is and I don’t regret my purchase at all. I didn’t even have to wait until I finished the story to know that I didn’t regret it as I knew from the start. Not even the fact that the request system can be annoying at times gets me down that much. It still makes me so happy when I play and still surprises me.
I’m someone that pretty much fits in this game’s almost perfect demographic as someone that loves Pokemon and like photography, and if you’re the same, this is going to be perfect. And it’s a no brainer if you played and enjoyed the original Pokemon Snap too. I’d say that if you have no interest in photography this isn’t going to be for you, but this might be for you if you do like photography and don’t necessarily have any feelings towards Pokemon.
Anyway, for those that are worried about how much content this has and how long the playtime is, I got finished with the story in 19 hours and 42 minutes (taking away some hours to account for when I got obsessed with completing requests) and I have 32 hours with 68 requests done, 4 maps (I’m including the night/day/illumina maps as separate maps here) completed, and 46 Pokemon with all star photos turned in. And considering how there are a ton more requests for me to do, more Pokemon I still need to get all star photos in, and more maps to get completed, it’s going to give me even more hours of gameplay. And it will give even more if you want to get diamond star photos for every Pokemon and all research titles that you won’t get with normal play as well.