Review – New Pokémon Snap

Whenever I remind myself that the first Pokémon Snap came out a whopping twenty-two years ago, I feel a bit dead on the inside. I was only six when that game came out, the perfect age to enjoy not only that fantastic Nintendo 64 gem (which still holds up pretty well), but also to enjoy the Pokémon craze in its infancy, during the peak of its pop culture relevance. I cannot believe it took them more than two decades to come up with a sequel to one of the most beloved hits of the N64 era. But you know how Nintendo’s modus operandi is: they won’t make a sequel to a game if they can’t add anything new to the the franchise’s formula. Unless it’s one of the ten thousand New Super Mario Bros games released back in the 2010’s, of course.

New Pokémon Snap Torchic

New Pokémon Snap is visually impressive for Switch standards.

New Pokémon Snap takes everything you’ve loved from the 1999 classic and cranks it up to eleven, increasing its size, scope, and sharing features exponentially. At its core, it’s pretty much the same game as before. It’s a mix between a rail shooter and a photography simulator, in which you stroll through a fixed path and take pictures of wild Pokémon minding their own business. All while having access to a few items that allow you to interact with them and the environment around you in limited ways, allowing for different responses and poses. At the end of each run you choose one photo per monster and a professor will score it based on a few criteria, such as pose, size, positioning, etc.

Almost all of the items featured in the original Pokémon Snap make a comeback. The apple is still used to lure and feed wild Pokémon, as well as a hard item to be thrown at them to anger them. The flute is back in the shape of a small musical sample, being less useful than before as fewer Pokémon interact to the sound of your speakers. The turbo is unlocked much later in the game, allowing you to reach further areas in a level much sooner. The only item that doesn’t make a comeback is the Pester Ball, which has been replaced by Illumina Orbs. Instead of bothering or knocking out a Pokémon, these orbs can be used to cheer them up and activate other scripted sequences within a level.

New Pokémon Snap Scorbunny

Scorbunny is as sassy as Bugs Bunny.

Using these items isn’t as interactive as it was back in 1999. In the original Snap, pretty much every single Pokémon had different responses to each of the three main items. Due to the larger roster in New Pokémon Snap, each one of them usually interacts with either one or two items at a time, and with limited responses. Most of them don’t react to the sound of your musical sampler, and not all of them react when you throw an orb on them. The apple is still the most useful item, as most Pokémon react to having a hard object being thrown on their faces. Sadly, this game’s throwing physics are as clunky as the physics featured in the original Pokémon Snap. You’ll need some practice in order to get used to its trajectory.

Besides the vastly improved visuals, some of the best I’ve seen in a Switch game so far, the main feature in New Pokémon Snap is without a doubt its size. The original Snap had a roster of sixty-three monsters and just six levels, plus a final “showdown” with Mew. You could 100% the game in a couple of hours. This 2021 title on the other hand, features more than two hundred of the little rascals and more than twenty different environments. It also has different variations of each level if you manage to reach a specific score dictated by the game’s professor, which unlock new monsters and behavioral patterns, allowing for even more photo opportunities.

New Pokémon Snap Photos

New Pokémon Snap is set in the most utopic of regions, where all pokémon are friendly towards each other, and they all play along and never battle. LAAAAAME…

Another way to pretty much bloat the game’s runtime is the fact that in order to complete the in-game “Photodex”, you’ll need to take four pictures of each Pokémon. You’ll need to take a one-star, two-star, three-star, and four-star picture. New Pokémon Snap does a really poor job explaining what this system means. A four-star picture doesn’t necessarily mean it will score higher than a one-star one. It means that it’s a picture featuring a slightly rarer pose/reaction, usually requiring you to throw an item at a particular point in the level, at a specific time. Finding out each of these moments is one of the most entertaining aspects of New Pokémon Snap, even if some of them feel completely pointless and nonsensical.

Another neat feature is the possibility to share your pictures online. You can also save them to your system’s memory, which then lets you upload them to social media or your computer. In a way, it means that if you really like a photo you took, you can edit it, save it, download it to your PC, and even print it and frame it in real life. You can upload it to the Pokémon Snap server and receive praise from other players as well, in a forward-thinking social experience you usually don’t expect from Nintendo.

New Pokémon Snap finally made Luvdisc relevant.

The game does feature a few issues, even if they’re not exactly huge. One of my biggest gripes is the fact that despite being best enjoyed as a pick-up-and-play arcade experience, just like its predecessor, New Pokémon Snap is quite story-heavy. Sadly, as you would imagine from a Pokémon spin-off, the story is largely forgettable and poorly written, even if the game features some surprisingly decent voice acting.

The other main issue is the clunky camera sensitivity. Even when you crank it to maximum levels, moving around with the right analog stick feels very slow, which may result in you losing a precious photo opportunity because you couldn’t aim it in time. You can use the Switch’s motion-based features to move the camera like a real-life camera, which is useful in portable mode, but feels extremely clunky in docked mode. Then again, the game doesn’t look nowhere near as pretty on docked mode as it does on portable, so I wouldn’t even recommend it playing on a big TV anyway, even if this game does drain the Switch’s battery in a matter of a couple of hours.


She’s gonna catch you.

New Pokémon Snap is great. Some of its new gameplay features, such as the four-star photo system, are unnecessarily convoluted and its story couldn’t have been more forgettable. However, this is exactly what we’ve been asking for the past twenty-two years: a bigger, prettier sequel to the 1999 classic, with more areas to explore and more Pokémon to interact with. I cannot believe it took them this long to come up with a sequel to such a simple and entertaining concept of a game. But I’m glad it ended up being as fun as it is.

Graphics: 9.0

The resolution might not be the highest when playing it in docked mode, but New Pokémon Snap does wonders with the Switch’s limited hardware. It offers detailed backgrounds, good lighting effects, and of course, well-modeled and animated Pokémon.

Gameplay: 8.0

Aiming and throwing items is a hassle, and the camera’s sensitivity is way too slow even at max settings, but it’s mostly the same fantastic control scheme and gameplay loop from 1999, with more features at your disposal.

Sound: 8.0

The soundtrack is good, albeit not as good as the original Pokémon Snap. All of the monsters are fully voiced according how they’d probably sound in real life, sounding way more realistic than in the mainline games. Finally, the voice acting is surprisingly good, even though the plot itself isn’t anything worth mentioning.

Fun Factor: 8.5

The increased focus on a very uninteresting story is a bore. The four star rating system makes little sense, but this is basically what we’ve been waiting for the past twenty-two years: a brand new Pokémon Snap with better visuals and a ludicrous amount of content.

Final Verdict: 8.5

New Pokémon Snap is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.