I struggle to think of a franchise as dominant as Pokémon.
For 20 years, these cute monsters have continued to take the world by storm. Game after game, Anime series, expensive merchandise, the Pokemon cafe in Toyko (which I hope to visit at some point in my life), and so much more, this superpower in the entertainment industry shows no signs of slowing down.
And on the 30th of April, we got yet another video game in the franchise, a reboot of sorts in the new variant of Snap! I have to admit going in, I was nervous about New Pokemon Snap, but let’s have a stroll down memory lane.
Pokemon is in a weird place on the video game front. They continue to sell like few other franchises in history, and yet…something is off about the recent additions. We’ve had eight generations of Pokemon now, and the Sword and Shield generation has been the most controversial and divisive yet. For many fans of the franchise, Sword and Shield really felt like a rushed cash-grab. From the Dexit nonsense to the rather lukewarm reception, 2019’s latest game in the main Pokemon franchise annoyed many. And yet, Sword and Shield was one of the best sellers in the franchise. This made many fans fear that Pokemon knew it could do whatever it wanted. And let’s not kid ourselves, with that massive fanbase, this proved their point. Why care if you know you can print the equivalent of crack?
Generation 8 suffered from terrible route design, bad performance, and a lazy story, all the symptoms of rushed development. With two more Pokemon mainstream games due to release at some point in 2021 and 2022, people are rightly concerned about how this will go. Let’s hope they do improve. Personally, I enjoyed Sword and Shield quite a lot despite their significant problems, but it was a serious downgrade on previous generations.
Sits in my box booting up Pokemon Platinum Ahhh, my happy place. I’ll probably do a Pokemon series ranking at some point.
Onto Pokemon Snap. Originally a 1999 superstar hit on the Nintendo 64, people have wanted a new version for years, so when it was finally announced, people jumped on it like I do whenever I see Nandos.
I have to admit, Sword and Shield had me worried. The price jump to 60$ did not mean a jump in quality for that series, and Pokemon Snap was a concise game back on the Nintendo 64. Very memorable, perhaps, but short. How was the new Switch going to handle this rebirth? Nintendo titles tend to have good quality but often push the limit of ‘value’ in my eyes, not helped by the lack of discounts. That’s a conversation for another day, but people were a little worried. Still, I was excited. Pokemon Snap was wonderful back in the day, and if they did their jobs right, it could be amazing. When I slotted my cartridge into my Switch, I was ready to take a trip back to nostalgia’s lane.
How does Pokemon’s latest giant hold up? Honestly, it holds up quite well. Game Freak had nothing to do with this one which is probably a blessing in disguise. Animation and charm are the winners of Pokemon Snap, and it feels wonderful to play. Starting as a small, plucky Pokemon photographer, you join up with Professor Mirror and his assistants Rita and Phil in the chill Lental Region. You’re immediately set to work doing the grunt tasks Mirror doesn’t want to do. Nostalgic fans will have a nice surprise when Todd, a big character in the original, returns in the sequel. I felt a warm fuzzy feeling seeing him again, and it ties in the world rather well.
This takes you through seven areas and over twenty different stages, documenting all the wonderful Pokemon as you explore the secret of the Illumina. It works just like its origins, giving you an on-rails shooter as you try to snap as many Pokemon as possible. While this was a little disappointing (I personally wanted it to be an open-world thing), I can’t complain much about this. The environments are stunning and lived in, and the Pokemon animations do better than any other game in the franchise. That’s just as well, giving the game design.
The Pokemon feel alive, at last, and the environments feel believable. You get Aipoms scurrying about looking for food, water Pokemon basking in the sun, Swanna and Ducklett waddling about and swimming together like a swan and his babies. This is one of my favorite parts of the game: it takes Pokemon from the unrealistic worlds of the mainstream games and brings them to a nature reserve. This only works because of the improvements to the animation and visual design, and Snap 2.0 (I’m going to call it that from now on) nails this aspect. It felt right to play, and its quick gameplay meant it was easy to pick up and play. The photography and motion controls do brilliantly with the Switch joycons as well.
There are over twenty stages in Snap, and completing all the challenges can take a while. Expect the main storyline to take around 11-12 hours if you focus on the tasks ahead, but there’s plenty of requests to keep you occupied, and you’ll need to replay the stages many times to take the best shots possible. This was both the strongest and weakest points of the game: the grind. On one level, it felt great leveling up and returning to old stages to see what was different. As you level up, Pokemon get more interactions, and you get more tools to explore. You can probably get around 20-25 hours from this game as a median estimate.
I have to bring up some of the weaker points of the game (Not so many big weaknesses, but critiques that can bring down the score). You’re going to need to repeat many tracks to get the photos you want, and your reactions have to be lightning quick to get the requests you need to advance. Getting everything takes time, and I admit I got a little frustrated during the quirkier sections. While this new Snap has advanced in some ways from the original, it is basically that: the original Snap. To those who wanted bigger changes, you may be a little disappointed. There are not as many secrets as there were in the original game. Finally, while the number of Pokemon is a major improvement over the original, there are only 214 in-game, less than a quarter of the entire library. For those who wanted more, that might be a minor grievance. Personally, it didn’t bother me too much, though more Pokemon means more content and more photos to snap! There’s room for expansion, and I hope the devs return to it in the future for future updates. More courses, more Pokemon.
Nostalgia may be a hell of a drug, but I don’t think that hurts the new Pokemon Snap much. It’s a simple design that does what it set out to do efficiently and enjoyably, and I certainly came away from my 15 hours of playtime with a smile on my face. The animations and visuals are great, and I loved seeing the Pokemon at home while I snapped photos. While the game’s more frustrating aspects in needing lightning reaction times and the sometimes excessive grind bring down the scores a bit, I can stamp a recommendation on this long-awaited sequel.
Sometimes, maybe once in a blue moon, the wait is worth it.
- Stunning visuals and environments
- Controls work well on the Switch
- Pokemon habits are realistic and a joy to watch
- Some good challenges to keep you on your toes
- The grind becomes a slog after several hours
- Mostly the same as the original Pokemon Snap
- Could use more content