April 30, 2021

Get snapping and return to the flashy new Pokemon cult classic in our New Pokémon Snap review!

It’s the early 2000s. Friday after school, my mum picks up my sister and I and tells us she can’t be bothered cooking dinner tonight. We look at each other, excitement in our eyes. We knew we were going to every child’s favourite restaurant, McDonald’s. Our exhilaration didn’t come from knowing we’d be snacking on some nuggets soon or playing with this month’s Happy Meal toys. We knew our local Macca’s had the greatest thing of all. A Nintendo 64 game kiosk with a copy of Pokémon Snap.

We’d scoff down our food and run off to get our hands on the game. We’d marvel at Pikachu riding his surfboard or at the Charizard emerging from lava, happily snapping as many photos as we could. When it was time to leave, we’d beg mum for just one more go, and on the car ride home, I’d pretend to take photos of my favourite Pocket Monsters running alongside us. Now, decades later, those childhood memories I thought lost have returned to me in a flurry, and that childlike wonder has been reignited as New Pokémon Snap is brought to the Nintendo Switch.

New Pokémon Snap Review

Gotta Snap Them All!

When New Pokémon Snap was announced in June of 2020, I smiled ear to ear. Not only had these childhood memories come back to me, but when I saw so many new Pokémon in the trailer, I didn’t know how to react. The original title only utilised first-generation Pokémon, and I was in awe, wondering what developer Bandai Namco could do with nine generations and over 1000 different species to choose from. I was struck by its beauty and its potential. I just hoped that it would be a sequel that not only recaptured the charm of the original but elevated it in such a way that fans, new and old, could celebrate the wonderful world of Pokémon. And thankfully, it has.

New Pokémon Snap Review – Plot

After selecting your appearance, New Pokémon Snap immediately introduces you to the Lental Region, an assortment of islands currently being researched by Professor Mirror and his assistants. The Professor gives you a camera and basic training before swiftly tasking you with taking photos of a wide variety of Pokémon in their natural habitat. I was surprised to see the game had a story to tell, simple as it may be. The crux of Mirror’s research is around the Illumina phenomenon, a mysterious occurrence that causes Pokémon to glow in vibrant and beautiful ways. As Lental’s newest research photographer, you’re tasked with investigating how this marvel occurs and what’s triggering it.

New Pokémon Snap Review

Hello Professor!

The serviceable plot does an excellent job of placing you in the mindset for what the game has you do. As you explore deep jungles, frozen mountains, and even the ocean floor, environmental storytelling continuously adds to the mystery of the Lental Region in a way that doesn’t distract from the core gameplay. Progressing through the game introduces you to new characters, tools, and even ‘boss’ encounters that are usually accompanied by voice-acted cut scenes. All this is to say that the game does a great job of building a Pokémon world that is familiar but has its own little charms that have you excited to see what comes next. Along with the core story to progress through, New Pokémon Snap introduces a request system, where the Professor and his assistants ask you to take specific, often stylish photos. Getting these photos can be tricky, but snapping them is the most satisfying part of the game as they just ooze personality. Although it doesn’t take long to complete the main story, it is so incredibly stuffed with over 200 Pokémon to see, just as many requests to complete, and dozens of secrets to find. I was pleased to see that the game has a remarkable amount of replayability.

New Pokémon Snap Review

A wild Pichu and Grookey appear!

New Pokémon Snap Review – Gameplay

When you begin your journey, you are equipped with a camera and have only one biome to explore. After every on-rail adventure, you are asked to select one photo per Pokémon species to present to the Professor, who then assesses each photo, giving a 1-4 star rating and a research point score. Completing the ‘Photodex’ requires a photo of each star rating for each Pokémon, which may sound like a lot of work but happens surprisingly rapidly as you unlock more tools to use and biomes to explore. The point score you get on each run helps progress you through the game. Getting enough points levels up the research score of that route, with each upgrade changing the route slightly. New Pokémon appear, branching paths can be found, and behaviours change. Levelling up biomes also unlock night cycles and new biomes altogether, with new things to see either way.

New Pokémon Snap Review

Another Photodex entry complete!

Eventually, you’ll unlock each island’s unique Illumina Spot. These routes act as the game’s ‘boss’ encounters, having you follow a large Pokémon overflowing with the Illumina phenomenon. These stages create opportunities to take gorgeous photos and progress the main story. It can be very grindy to improve the research level of these ‘boss’ courses, but they offer some of the more challenging and beautiful moments in the game. It’s a magical feeling, not knowing what’s around the corner each time you unlock something new.

Improving your research scores also unlocks new tools to help along your journey. The Flufffruit can lure Pokémon out to eat, Illumina Orbs light up special plants and make Pokémon react uniquely, and the Melody Tool can be played to wake up sleeping creatures or even make them dance. These tools are unlocked relatively quickly and are necessary to get Pokémon to behave in a certain way to complete research requests.

There are lulls in the game’s pacing here and there as you grind to improve research scores, but nothing so terrible that I got bored. In fact, the huge variety in Pokémon to snap and behaviours to trigger meant I continuously saw new things well after completing the main story.

New Pokémon Snap Review

An Illumina Meganium like no other!

There’s a lot to love with each photography journey, but it doesn’t stop once your photos have been graded. After completing a level, the new ‘Re-Snap’ feature allows you to edit your snap in a photo mode. You can adjust the placement of the photo, add stickers, filters, borders or whatever you like before saving them to your console or even uploading them to social media. These edited photos don’t affect your overall score, and you can unlock more editing tools by completing requests.

New Pokémon Snap Review

Slaking’s sweet dreams in the Re-Snap mode!

New Pokémon Snap Review – Visuals

The core entries in the Pokémon franchise on the Nintendo Switch have not been shy of criticism of its visual design and polish. Stiff battle animations, empty fields to explore, and a general lack of creative liberty have weighed down games like Pokémon Sword and Shield, while bland visuals and a horrendous technical performance dominates most conversations about Pokémon Scarlet and Violet. I am, however, extremely pleased to see that this isn’t the case with New Pokémon Snap. The game is quite simply the best-looking Pokémon game I’ve ever played. The environments are lush with detail and personality. Translucent water shows off rich reefs on the seafloor. The jungles are filled with vibrant foliage moving with the creatures that inhabit them. Pokémon lit with the Illumina orbs shines amongst crystals, blizzards, and plumes of lava. Each environment has been lovingly crafted and takes full advantage of the Nintendo Switch hardware, looking great and running fantastically in both docked and handheld mode.

New Pokémon Snap Review

A stunning sunset with plenty to see!

The greatest praise I can give the game as a long-time Pokémon fan is that the monsters behave in a way we’ve never seen before in a video game. Mantine fly through the air before crashing into the ocean. Bidoof scurry past with sticks and twigs for their dam. Squirtle blows bubbles into the air, and Piplup slides over the ice. These creatures are all active and reactive in this world, their personalities shining through and behaviours constantly changing depending on how you interact with them or how they interact with each other. It’s so refreshing to see Pokémon actually act like Pokémon.

New Pokémon Snap Review – Audio

The sound design in New Pokémon Snap is fairly average. While the Pokémon themselves sound great, and hearing each react to the Melody Tool as you move from location to location is intriguing, it’s a shame that the rest of the game’s score is simply serviceable. Pokémon is known to have some incredible overworld and battle themes. Unfortunately, that same level of quality isn’t here. It’s not bad, just forgettable. I wish it were utilised better to elevate the game’s immersion. In any case, the score never detracts from the sounds of the creatures and environments around you, which are quite polished.

New Pokémon Snap Review


New Pokémon Snap Review – Conclusion

There is a tonne of things to do and see in New Pokémon Snap. Pokémon fans looking for battles or a deep story won’t find it here, but they will find a spin-off that captures the nuances, charisma, beauty, and life of Pokémon. Simple and accessible mechanics are mixed with deep, creative level design, allowing any amateur photographer to get lost for hours in this world. A bevy of unlockables, challenges, and cute moments will keep you playing long after the story ends. Despite some pacing issues and a weak score, New Pokémon Snap not only resparks the magic of its predecessor but serves as a celebration of over 25 years of Pokémon.

So, why should you play New Pokémon Snap?

  • You love Pokémon!
  • You enjoy taking cute photos.
  • You get excited over unlockables, secrets, and surprises.
  • You are looking for a relaxing game you can play for hours or in short bursts.

But why shouldn’t you play New Pokémon Snap?

  • You play Pokémon for battles and action.
  • You get bored with repetition.
  • You don’t like Pokémon.

Looking for more great Nintendo Switch games? Then check out our Splatoon 3 Review and join the chat over on the Official Qualbert Discord!

Author: James Grech

James is a writer and absolute dork who is as passionate about making puns as he is about video games. From Melbourne, Australia, when he’s not playing Dungeons and Dragons or rocking out at karaoke, you can usually find him engaged in some kind of story. Keep up with James on Twitter, or check out his Folio for more game reviews!

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