Last week I hosted an extra special six hour Extra Life charity stream in which I played the New Pokémon Snap! Having since put even more time in the game, I thought I would take an opportunity to leave a review. Similar in vein to the tabletop and board game reviews from Variant Berry, this will be a balancing act between an informative and opinion based review of the game. I do hope that I can provide enough of each to help you decide if this game is worth a purchase!
What is New Pokémon Snap?
If you are newer to gaming or the Pokémon franchise, you may be asking yourself “What is New Pokémon Snap?”. In essence, New Pokémon Snap is a game in which you traverse through an on rails safari themed adventure in which you are tasked with taking pictures of Pokémon in their natural habitat. If this pitch for the game didn’t grip you, I would encourage you to continue reading. I will be breaking down the game play, and why I have found it to be such an engaging (and enjoyable) experience.
Do note: The title refers to the fact that this is the second entry in the Pokémon Snap series. If you aren’t familiar with the first it is likely because it was released on Nintendo 64 in July of 1999. That’s right, it has been nearly 22 years since our last opportunity to catch them all (on film)!
How does New Pokémon Snap play?
I will attempt to provide a description of gameplay without spoilers. Before I begin, I should note this game is a single player experience only. It does however offer online functionality with its own set of features and challenges.
As I stated above, Pokémon Snap is a game in which the player is set on rails. What this means is that each level you play has a set path that you will travel, and aside from some areas that allow you to choose a route, you do not have the freedom of movement that most other games provide. The way in which you traverse the world is similar to the moving attractions at Disneyland (think Pirates of the Caribbean or the Jungle Cruise rides). Unlike many video games, New Pokémon Snap seems to benefit from this restriction in movement. Because your progress through a level is fixed, you can devote all of your efforts to taking the best photos of Pokémon that you can.
Speaking of taking great photos, this is the largest focus of the game. In each stage you will encounter several species of Pokémon, either individually or in groups (I’m not sure if they are called herds or packs in the Pokémon universe). These Pokémon behave in ways you would expect of animals in the wild— they sleep, eat, hunt, and play amongst one another. Your mission is to capture quality photos of these interactions and behaviors for research purposes. You only carry with you enough memory on your camera to take a specific amount of photos, and so quality over quantity often wins the day. But don’t get too discouraged, the limit isn’t so restricted that I often felt compelled to hold back my inner shutter bug.
As you take great photos, you unlock additional stages, new items and features to help you on your journey, and thePokémon grow more comfortable in your presence (providing new opportunities and new behaviors to photograph).
Note: The Pokémon species, quantity and behavior patterns are set for each stage. You do unlock tools that can manipulate said behaviors to a degree, however.
Is New Pokémon Snap fun?
This can be a loaded question, for me the answer is undoubtedly yes! Although the description I provided above may leave you feeling as if the game will easily become repetitive, in practice nothing could be further from the truth. There is always more going on within each level than you can possibly focus on in order to capture on film, which means that even with repeated plays through familiar stages you are likely to see an interaction (or even a Pokémon) you haven’t before. For an example, I watched Berry play through a level I had run through over a dozen times. During her run, she turned to face what I had assumed was a blank stone wall to reveal a small hole in which a Pokémon I had been struggling to take a satisfying photo of was effectively waiting and posing for the camera! Rather than seeing repeated runs of a level as dull, you will be able to approach each new journey with fresh eyes (and perhaps a new strategy to match!).
There is a story for the game, which ties directly into the progression of the levels, acquisition of new items, and explains why you are out taking your pictures. While I wouldn’t consider the story to be a major feature of the game, I did enjoy seeing it play out. And while it is shorter than one may expect (if focused, you can complete the story in just a few sessions of play), completing the story is a small fragment of the content available to tackle. Having completed it myself, I still have species of Pokémon I’ve yet to find, and literally dozens of additional challenges sprinkled throughout the game. So the game itself offers plenty of content to keep you coming back!
Finally, I want to touch upon the atmosphere of the game. While exploring the levels of the game (which cover a variety of natural biomes), you will find it hard not to become immersed in the Pokémon world. I am not sure how a series of pre-generated behaviors and scripted interactions between the Pokémon could feel organic, but Nintendo (and Bandai Namco) somehow figured it out! I found myself returning to levels I had completed not just to see what had changes since I had last visited, but to spend more time with my Pokémon friends! Most species will behave the way you expect them to— predators will chase prey, birds will often travel as a flock, and friendly species will pose for a shot or even approach you while you’re passing by!
The biggest allure is that New Pokémon Snap brings you into a Pokémon world that teems with life! Never before (even in the previous entry of the series) did I feel like I was interacting with a wild, natural, world and its creatures. Battling trainers, training partner Pokémon and saving the world are all fun, but stepping into the wilds as a (somewhat) neutral observer left me feeling more in tune with the Pokémon than I ever have.
Should I buy New Pokémon Snap?
While I cannot make this decision for you, I believe that New Pokémon Snap is among the most approachable Pokémon games in the series! It’s easy to learn controls and simple premise will allow less experienced (or even first time) gamers break into the excitement without feeling left behind. With over 200 Pokémon to find, a fun (if short) story to experience, and dozens of additional challenges to complete, this game boasts hours of entertainment! If you’ve never played the original, or have wanted to break into the Pokémon universe but was turned off to the traditional RPG elements, this may be the game for you!
It has been a daily staple of our household since we have bought it, with at least one family member marking New Pokémon Snap as their first game in the franchise they have been hooked on. If that doesn’t sell it, then getting your hands on it will!