Games this Week… New Pokémon Snap!

I finally received New Pokémon Snap last Tuesday and have been playing a little here and there. I’ve maybe put ten or so hours into it at this point.

First impressions, it’s a lot like Pokémon Snap for the N64 way back in 1999, only with way better graphics, way more Pokémon, and more complex biomes. The basics of the game are the same: ride on a predetermined track, take pictures of Pokémon in their natural habitats, and receive a score at the end for your photos.

It’s definitely a nostalgia trip for me, as I played the old game to death, and there are plenty of similarities between the two games. You travel in the Neo-One buggy (much like the Zero-One in the original), you get items to influence Pokémon on your trips like fluffruits (apples) and a musical tune reminiscent of the Poké Flute, and the previous Pokémon photographer Todd even makes an appearance! There are a lot of familiar Pokémon from the original 151, and lots of new Pokémon from the latest generation and more.

Old Pokemon Snap graphics, for comparison.

There are a few new additions to the game, the main one being the Illumina phenomenon, unique to the Lental region, where the game takes place, and which has a mysterious mythos surrounding it. There is a loose narrative behind the game, tied to an explorer who came to the Lental region islands a hundred years ago and who wrote about his travels and the mysterious Illumina phenomenon. I don’t know if it will develop any more than that, but there are clues to a greater mystery or story at work, with references to the explorer’s journal and research, the mysterious origin of the Illumina phenomenon and the appearance of a meteor in the islands’ history, and ancient ruins scattered across all of the islands. I imagine it will be like the original game and all add up to finding a super cool legendary hidden somewhere in the region. 

Another interesting addition to the game is the changes to the levels as you play the game. The more times you repeat a level and select pictures to be judged, the more experience you get, ultimately allowing you to level up each track so that new Pokémon, new behaviors, and even new routes appear. Some tracks even have a Day and Night option, and there are also Illumina specific tracks in some regions. Also, in addition to the fluffruits and melody you can use to influence Pokémon, you can also unlock Illumina orbs for each region, opening up even more Pokémon behaviors you can capture with your camera. For instance, I got a really cool shot of a Charmander using a fire breath attack against another Pokémon by throwing an Illumina orb at it.

The scoring system is pretty basic. You get judged on the pose, placement, size, direction of the Pokémon, and you can get bonus points for a cool background or additional Pokémon in the shot. If I remember right, the previous game had only one best-score per Pokémon, but the new game introduced 1- to 4-star rating categories, depending on the pose you manage to capture of each Pokémon, and within those star ratings, you can get Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum stars, depending on how high your point score is for that photo. 4000 points or better seems to be the baseline for Platinum.

There is also a photo-editing mode where you can save your favorite photos to a personal album, adjusting brightness, blur, zoom, and adding stickers, frames, and filters, which you can upload to share with other players. I haven’t used this feature yet, as I was more interested in playing the game, but I imagine as I get more experienced with getting good shots of Pokémon, I’ll try it out.

There is a lot going on in this game! I remember in the original, you had plenty of time to set up your shots and get pictures of most, if not all of the Pokémon, on any given course, but with the new game, there are so many Pokémon running, flying, and playing on each course, that it seems impossible to photograph every single one. But it definitely encourages repeat play of each level so that you can get the best shots of each Pokémon, even if you have to miss a few to get that one perfect shot.

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed playing the game. To me, it’s a perfect blend of nostalgia from the old game and new mechanics to make it feel like more than just a remake, despite the many similarities. It’s not the most bingeable game, as it can get really repetitive running the same tracks over and over, but it is super laid-back and low effort, perfect for chilling for a half-hour or so. I’m looking forward to what comes next and to see what new Pokémon and biomes are still out there waiting to be explored!