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New Pokémon Snap: Exactly What We Wanted

Credit: Unsplash

Time to dust off that camera.

The original Pokémon Snap came out for the Nintendo 64 in 1999. It was a pretty simple game, just roll through some pleasant scenery and take pictures of a few of the first 150 Pokémon being cute and living their lives. Since the original generation, though, there are now over 900 different Pokémon, and through every single subsequent generation, people have asked: “when are we getting another Pokémon Snap?” Well, it took literally 22 years, but we finally got one, and it’s exactly what I wanted.

The aptly named New Pokémon Snap has a fairly similar premise to the original; you’re a young newbie Pokémon photographer who has been hired on by Professor Mirror to aid in his ecological survey of the Lental Region, a gathering of islands with various climates where Pokémon roam freely. In addition to taking pictures of Pokémon, though, you’re also tasked with researching the mysterious Illumina phenomenon that causes Pokémon to emit a strange ethereal glow. That’s pretty much the extent of the story, but really, a framing device is all that’s necessary for a game like this.

Seated in the NEO-ONE research pod, you’ll move automatically through various locales of the Lental region, taking snapshots of Pokémon in their natural habitats. It’s a surprisingly involved process; to get a perfect shot of a Pokémon, you need timing, patience, and good aim. Though, on your first run through a new course, your photos will probably all come out terrible because you’re too distracted by all the Pokémon being cute and interesting. It may be a skill-based process, but it’s also quite relaxing.

In addition to your camera, you also gain several handy tools, such as soft fruits you can throw to Pokémon (or at their heads), a music box to make them boogie, and special spheres that make them light up. There were similar tools in the original game, though something new here is the Scan function, which reveals any Pokémon that may be hiding nearby and can also analyze suspicious spots in the environment. By interacting with Pokémon and courses in particular ways, you can open up branching paths that lead to new photo discoveries. Combining those branching paths with the fact that many of the courses have both day and night variations, and you have a lot of locales to explore.

After you take pictures, you can select one from each category of Pokémon to show to the professor. This is where the biggest departure from the original arises; in the original game, Professor Oak would give you a flat score based on the composition of the photo and whether or not the Pokémon in it was doing anything unusual. If your composition wasn’t good, he wouldn’t even accept it. Professor Mirror is much more lenient; he’ll accept literally anything you give him, albeit with lower scores. Strange as this may sound, it takes a bit of the fun out of it when he’s willing to accept absolutely awful photos. Though, unlike in the first game, it’s not just one photo per Pokémon. Every Pokémon has at least four unique behaviors, all four of which must be captured on film to complete their page in the PhotoDex, so even if your composition isn’t that great, you can still channel your skills into trying to find the rarer behaviors.

A friend of mine put his thoughts on this game rather succinctly: “the moment I pressed that shutter for the first time, that old serotonin started flowing freely.” While it’s not an identical experience, New Pokémon Snap scratches that precise itch that’s been sitting in my head for the past 22 years. Hopefully we don’t have to wait another 22 years to get another like it.