New Pokemon Snap Review: An Impressive Sequel to a Great Game

New Pokemon Snap is an improved version of one of the most beloved Pokemon games of all time and absolutely provides countless hours of discovery and fun. For many Pokemon fans, Pokemon Snap was one of the first moments where the popular franchise truly came to life. While Pokemon Red and Blue and the Pokemon anime principally concerned themselves with the capture and training of Pokemon, Pokemon Snap was all about observing them in the wild. The game offered a chance to see these Pokemon's personalities come to life on their own and through coaxing Pokemon out of their hiding places with several cleverly designed stages. Players have begged for a sequel for decades and Bandai Namco Studios finally delivered New Pokemon Snap after over 20 years of waiting, giving fans a straightforward sequel that improves upon just about every aspect of the original game.

Like its predecessor, New Pokemon Snap is all about taking pictures of Pokemon while slowly roaming along a fixed path. The gameplay itself is deceptively simple -- players simply point their camera (using either gyroscopic controls or their joysticks) and take pictures using the A button. However, finding all 200+ species of Pokemon will require players to revisit each course over and over again, trying different combinations of items and techniques to draw out the Pokemon and have them show off their valuable 4-star behavior.

This time, New Pokemon Snap provides players with a slightly modified set of tools to help them with their exploration of the Lental region. The fluffruit are just about identical to the apples of the original, providing players with a tool to either lure out Pokemon or pester them by hitting them repeatedly. Likewise, the Melody function operates similarly to the Poke-Flute of Pokemon Snap, with some Pokemon reacting to the singular tune by dancing or singing along. New to New Pokemon Snap are the Illumina Orbs, globules of energy that temporarily light Pokemon up that can also cause noticeable changes in behavior. Players can use Illumina Orbs either directly on the Pokemon or to light up Crystabloom flowers scattered across the region. These Orbs also tie directly to the central plotline of New Pokemon Snap, which involves investigating the Illumina phenomenon of the region and its ties to ancient ruins and an old adventure story involving several mysterious Pokemon. The final tool is a new Scan feature that can be used to locate hidden Pokemon, discover tantalizing clues, or simply cause Pokemon to react to its noise.

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(Photo: Nintendo)

One thing that surprised me about New Pokemon Snap is just how much is stuffed into each course, despite their rather modest lengths. Each course has multiple "levels" that add new Pokemon and new variations of behavior to explore. Players unlock these new levels by adding photos from their course runs to their Photodex, which can actually be a bit challenging after completing a few runs through each stage. Scoring photos of Pokemon doing different things is critical, as is unlocking the branching pathways that occur in just about every course. These range from relatively benign, such as players choosing to travel along a well-worn path or make a brief detour over a freshly constructed Bidoof dam, to major decisions such as sticking to the main route through an underwater level or choosing to venture into the depths of the ocean, causing major changes in which Pokemon you'll encounter.

Because of the branching pathways and level-upped courses, I was still discovering new secrets about the opening course nearly 20 hours into the game, finding new Pokemon and new little bits of behavior that could be unlocked through using the different items at my disposal. The game helps with this by providing various optional Research requests from NPCs, alerting you to possible behavior that might otherwise escape your notice. Honestly, these Research requests were invaluable in helping me discover several hidden Pokemon that I probably would have missed otherwise, and I've only completed a handful of those challenges through the natural course of the game. Clearly, there is a ton of content to discover in New Pokemon Snap, and that's not even including the challenge of scoring the perfect shot once you find a Pokemon pulling off some fun or ridiculous pose.

In terms of relatively minor complaints about New Pokemon Snap, the game's Scan function can be quite distracting at times. The game will spontaneously alert you to the same handful of prompts over and over again, no matter how many times you've completed a course. At some point, the game simply doesn't need to tell me about the presence of Crystabloom flowers on a particular course after I've lit them up hundreds of times previously. Those pings often come at the worst possible moments, which leads me to my second relatively minor complaint. As with the original Pokemon Snap, there's no way to stop your automated vehicle. Part of that is to help provide a challenge when trying to score that perfect shot, but it can be a bit frustrating trying to chuck a fluffruit across a course while moving at the same time. Because the courses are relatively short, these are minor annoyances at best and did not overly impact my enjoyment of the title.

New Pokemon Snap could very well be the next "chill" hit for Nintendo in the vein of last year's Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The game itself has very low stakes, but there's still lots to explore and find, and it should be a great distraction for players over the rest of the spring and summer. New Pokemon Snap is an impressive re-debut for the Pokemon Snap franchise and should hopefully give Nintendo and The Pokemon Company motivation to make additional Pokemon Snap games. Less than a quarter of all Pokemon species is represented in New Pokemon Snap, so there is certainly room for more exploration, more discovery, and more photos in the future.

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5

New Pokemon Snap is set to release for the Nintendo Switch on April 30th. A review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was played on a base model Nintendo Switch.