The mainline Pokemon entries always draw in the big bucks, but I've always found that the offshoots of the series draw more attention. My fondest Pokemon memories are not about my adventures in Ruby's watery Hoenn region nor are they about the recent Sword & Shield's European-inspired Galar region. What I always remember are the times I faced off against my brothers in Stadium or my addiction to Trozei on the DS. Of course, there's always that one gem of a game where you took pictures of Pokemon in their natural habitats; indeed, this one resonated with me most, and that game was Pokemon Snap.
And to see that this wonderful game received a sequel over 20 years later, it's like I'm reliving my childhood with New Pokemon Snap. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing though, and I didn't let that get in the way of me critically analyzing the quality of this sequel. Luckily, it turns out that New Pokemon Snap is a faithful sequel to its predecessor and easily my favorite offshoot of the series thus far.
Living in the World of New Pokemon Snap
What made Pokemon Snap a truly unique title for many players at the time was the way in which it portrayed the daily life of the titular creatures. The anime was, to me, the only other shining example of how pocket monsters lived and interacted with the world. Pokemon Snap created several environments jam-packed with Pokemon living out their life, and New Pokemon Snap continues this tradition extremely well.
There is an almost staggering number of environments to explore in New Pokemon Snap's on-rails gameplay. There's a forest dense with fog and an air of spookiness, a flame-filled volcanic area with some real rough-and-tumble types, and even an underwater area allowing players to see Pokemon interact in ways we've never seen before. There are plenty more levels, of course, and each area is quite distinct from one another. New Pokemon Snap offers players to experience these research areas both day and night, which is a perfect addition to this sequel.
It becomes abundantly clear just how much content there is in New Pokemon Snap. Day and night feature different Pokemon in new positions, with many more opportunities to catch some cool shots with your camera. In addition to different times of day, there's a clever addition of research levels. Players gain experience points for the pictures they submit, and each new research-level adds more ways to interact with the level and new critters to take a picture of. It's an ingenious way to keep players coming back without the same level feeling old.
After completing a level, players submit their pictures to Professor Mirror for review. He'll give you a rating for each picture based on multiple variables. Without listing every single variable, there are many different ways to make your picture stand out, such as having the Pokemon face you or if there's other Pokemon in the picture with your subject. There's a large layer of fun complexity to this deceptively simple game, so it becomes a challenge to find every way to get a picture of these Pokemon.
Expanding upon this, you can make your photos go from subpar to excellent by throwing fluffruit (basically apples that Pokemon love to eat) to Illumina orbs that cause Pokemon to glow. You can even play the flute to make certain Pokemon dance or interact in new ways. All of these different interactions are a perfect incentive to go through multiple runs in the same level, and I never got bored of doing it. With how densely packed each level is, you're not going to see everything in one run—not by a long shot.
The Many Sights of New Pokemon Snap
Like its predecessor, New Pokemon Snap is on-rails and takes players on a winding path through many different environments. Seeing how the native Pokemon of each area interact with each other is a treat and the routine of each Pokemon feels natural. Wailmer is a prankster that bellows at other creatures, which is frankly always funny to watch. New Pokemon Snap captures the charm of Pokemon in ways that we've never seen before.
Really, we haven't seen a Pokemon game like this before—the game is simply stunning. Every year, we see a new game that pushes the Nintendo Switch's hardware to its absolute limits. New Pokemon Snap looks incredible on the Switch and manages to stuff so much detail into every single level. If Game Freak made their mainline games look as good as this, we would see a much stronger reception to their titles. Bandai Namco Studios' work on New Pokemon Snap speaks for itself when you see how gorgeous it all looks.
New Pokemon Snap also features a soundtrack, though it's more subdued. The soundtrack is actually quite soothing and is the perfect backdrop for your excursions into the wilds. I always believe that Pokemon games have some of the best soundtracks, and while New Pokemon Snap's music doesn't wow me, it does what it needs to do. This title's audio design is much better, mainly focusing on the sounds that Pokemon make. It adds another layer of immersion.
New Pokemon Snap is a Sequel, and It's Not Messing Around
There are so many new features that make New Pokemon Snap an exemplary sequel. You can take your stunning photos to the next level by enhancing them to the way you see fit. The game already looks great, but if you want to, say, add a cute cartoon filter to one of the photos you take. Adding stickers or frames also make your pictures pop, which you can save on your system or upload online for all to see.
Speaking of online, there is an internet-based component to New Pokemon Snap. Players can upload their photos for all to see. You can browse through all manner of different creations and essentially "like" photos akin to social media. It's something fun that wasn't necessarily needed in New Pokemon Snap but is greatly appreciated. Likewise, there are leaderboards where players can compete for the highest score on certain levels. I don't dare shoot for the highest score since I know many will be better at it than me, but it's comforting to know that my photos aren't always total garbage when I check my standings.
I was also very impressed by the Photodex, which catalogs all of your pictures and the Pokemon you've seen throughout your playthrough. They've gone the extra mile by adding all the statistics you'd expect from a Pokedex, including a Pokemon's height, weight, and description. The amount of work put into New Pokemon Snap really never ceases to amaze me.
New Pokemon Snap | Final Thoughts
It's tempting to call New Pokemon Snap a perfect sequel, and indeed it would be perfect were it not for a few flaws of note. First, I encountered some longer loading screens that really drag on when you're switching from one menu to the next. If you're going from the Photodex to the hub area, you'll come across some loading screens that become quite annoying.
Exacerbating the nuisance of loading screens is the inclusion of exclamation marks, denoting every single new thing you unlock. I'm talking about everything, from the titles and profile picture images from completing challenges to every new entry in your Photodex. If you're someone who wants to keep things tidy in their games, you're going to go through hell to manage this.
Pokemon Snap was one of my all-time favorite games growing up, and I feel like I got to relive the magic of the first entry with this extremely polished, fleshed-out sequel. New Pokemon Snap captures the magic of the Pokemon series with dazzling visuals and so much content in each level. With so many ways to interact with Pokemon and create the perfect picture, this is one of the best Pokemon games of all time, main entry or otherwise.
TechRaptor played New Pokemon Snap on the Nintendo Switch with a copy purchased by the reviewer.
- Eye-popping Visuals Capturing the Magic of Pokemon
- Fantastic New Environments to Explore
- Robust Options to Customize Photos
- Online Features and Photodex
- Loading Times Become Tiresome
- So. Many. Exclamation Marks.