Gaming

New Pokémon Snap is a theme park ride you’ll never want to end

Inverse score: 9/10

Few spinoff series were as well-loved but underserved as Pokémon Snap.

This photography-focused offshoot of the Nintendo RPG series got its start on the N64 with 1999’s Pokémon Snap. The game was quite short and only featured only 63 of the 151 Pokemon in existence at the time. But it left a lasting impression, as it allowed players to interact and get up close with Pokémon in a way the mainline games didn’t at the time.

Snap introduced features like Pokémon Camp and Poké Finder, which eventually became staples of the mainline games. Still, nothing has recaptured the same magic as the Nintendo 64 original. Now, New Pokémon Snap has arrived on Nintendo Switch to kick off the Pokémon series’ 25th anniversary.

What the game lacks in name creativity it makes up for in spades with charm, the number of things to do, and an excellent photo editor.

Just as you remember

New Pokémon Snap is a direct sequel to the original game, and it plays just like you remember it. You’re on a fixed track going through one of several levels throughout the Lental region, taking as many pictures of Pokémon as you can along the way so a Pokémon Professor can score them. You’ve also been called upon to investigate the Illumina phenomenon, which allows some Pokemon (like Meganium) to grow much larger than usual and glow.

It features a fairly barebones story following a young kid who comes to the Lental region to help Professor Mirror and his assistant Rita with their research. Still, investigating the Illunmia phenomenon and ancient society that appears to have live on Lental is enough to keep you motivated throughout the adventure. Fans of the original and the Pokémon anime will get a kick out of seeing Todd Snap all grown-up once he appears partway through.

The true joy of New Pokémon Snap comes from experiencing the vibrant environments and encountering brand new Pokémon. Every area in New Pokémon Snap feels like a theme park ride you never want to end. These courses look beautiful (much better than the somewhat ugly Pokémon Sword and Shield), and you can see Pokémon go about their routines and interact with one another.

It’s nearly impossible to spot every Pokémon’s action during a single run, so you’ll be replaying these areas repeatedly. Thankfully, the game accounts for that through Research Level progression. The Expedition Points you earn from photos also count toward increasing your Research level on a course.

Once a course levels up, you can go onto it again and will run into brand-new Pokémon and events along your predetermined route. Even though New Pokémon Snap seems like a short and simple game at a glance, there’s plenty for players to do. There are 24 unique stages that players can level up and 214 Pokémon that can appear across them.

Trying to capture four different poses for each Pokémon feels like a satisfying puzzle to crack each time. What’s more, the excitement you feel when running into a new Pokémon in a natural environment for the first time is unmatched. It’ll take you back to when you played the series for the first time.

Taking photos in New Pokemon Snap is easy but has a lot of depth. The Pokemon Snap

If you’re a fan of Pokémon designs but could never get into the turn-based RPG gameplay, you’ll probably enjoy this game a great deal. New Pokémon Snap is very accessible. While you can zoom in, scan the environment, throw fluffruit and Illumina orbs, speed up, and play music to get different reactions from Pokemon, all you need to know how to do is look around and press one button to enjoy everything on offer.

If you get stuck, the characters you’ll meet often have individual requests that tease how you can get specific reactions from Pokémon. It’s a complete experience that doesn’t get old.

When submitting your photos at the end of a level, Professor Mirror is also much nicer than Professor Oak in the original. While Oak could be oddly passive-aggressive about your bad photos, Mirror provides helpful feedback on how you can improve your photos. While you can debate the ethics of throwing fruit at a Pokémon so they notice you, New Pokémon Snap is still a much friendlier and more approachable game than the original.

Pokémon is already one of the biggest video game franchises in the world, but New Pokémon Snap still manages to be a great entry point for the series. Even if you’re just a fan of photography, few games capture that feeling as well as this game does.

Picture Perfect

Nintendo

That said, you might be frustrated by the lack of lens options and the scoring system.

Professor Mirror prefers the subject is in the center of a shot and prominent in the frame. While this can still result in some awesome photos, Mirror can occasionally score odd-looking pictures highly while amazing shots with unique framing will not be scored well. This is bound to happen when the game must choose what makes a “good” photo, and New Pokémon Snap is at least consistent in what it rates well.

The game could also benefit from a greater variety of lenses and enhanced zoom functionality. These would allow even better pictures to be natively taken, and enhance players’ options during an expedition. Still, there is an accessible charm to the game’s straightforward mechanics.

Nintendo

If you care more about how your photos look outside of the main adventure and scoring system, New Pokémon Snap does feature a robust set of editing tools. You can even move your angle slightly in post if your original photo wasn’t perfect. You can also add a variety of filters, as well as modify zoom and focus.

As photo modes are now standard in many AAA video games, it’s rewarding to see these features come full circle and be prominently featured in New Pokémon Snap. If you’re a photo mode fanatic and somehow haven’t tried this game yet, this latest addition to the Pokémon will be perfect for you. You can even share photos in-game and on social media.

What you see is what you get with New Pokémon Snap, and that’s a compliment. If you want a relaxing experience that allows you to partake in some virtual tourism surveying Pokémon and edit your best photos, this game delivers. Fans demanded a Pokémon Snap sequel for years, and New Pokémon Snap highlights why: at its core, this is the perfect concept for a Pokémon spinoff. 9/10.

New Pokémon Snap is out now on Nintendo Switch.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: When it comes to video games, Inverse values a few qualities that other sites may not. For instance, we care about hours over money. Many new AAA games have similar costs, which is why we value the experience of playing more than price comparisons. We don’t value grinding and fetch quests as much as games that make the most out of every level. We also care about the in-game narrative more than most. If the world of a video game is rich enough to foster sociological theories about its government and character backstories, it’s a game we won’t be able to stop thinking about, no matter its price or popularity. We won’t punch down. We won’t evaluate an indie game in the same way we will evaluate a AAA game that’s produced by a team of thousands. We review games based on what’s available in our consoles at the time. And finally, we have very little tolerance for junk science. (Magic is always OK.)
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