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For many of us out there in our late 20s and early 30s, the original Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo 64 holds a special place in our hearts. So much so that for the past 20 years we've been clamouring for a sequel, a remake - anything - to fill that wholesome Pokémon wildlife photographer void in our hearts. And after years of torment, The Pokémon Company finally answered our wishes when New Pokémon Snap was revealed in June last year - and oh boy, did it look beautiful.
Since then we've had our fair share of glimpses, with new trailers popping up every so often. But now I've seen New Pokémon Snap in action, I have plenty of things to tell you.
If you like your information in video form and would like to check out brand new gameplay, please enjoy this video breaking down everything I saw. Otherwise, read on below for a more in-depth breakdown.
It should be obvious, but the Nintendo Switch is considerably more powerful than the iconic N64, and so it should be expected that there's more than the 63 Pokémon seen in the original Pokémon Snap in the 2021 sequel. And, sure enough, that's the case. This time there are 200 creatures to take delightful pictures of from the comfort of your NEO-ONE buggy. A considerable step up, and it features Pokémon from across the generations - your subjects aren't held back to the first generation, this time.
In our demo we were shown the beach level, which we were told is not the first course in the game. Levels in New Pokémon Snap have alternative versions that can be unlocked by increasing your research level - which is done by taking pictures of different Pokémon (who would have thought). Not all levels have the same number of alternative versions, but in our demo we saw the beach at both day and night.
Pokémon seemed to have different reactions depending on the time of day. For example, at night two Pikachus interacted with Crabrawler; whereas in the day just one Pikachu was seen, and the cheeky blighter ignorantly ran right past the player without taking any interest in the fruit being thrown towards it.
In addition to the said fruit, New Pokémon Snap introduces Illumina Orbs, mysterious balls that can cause Pokémon to glow when they interact with them. The whole narrative of the game focuses around this mysterious phenomena, but gameplay wise these orbs can also affect Pokémon behavior. Throughout the Lentil Region there are Crystabloom Flowers, and in our demo an Illumina Orb was thrown at one of these causing it to glow, which brought out a sneaky Seviper from hiding!
As you can tell, Pokémon are just as reactionary as they were in the first game. If you throw fruit at an Alolan Raichu, it will bail out from riding its tail, whereas throwing an Illumina Orb at a Crystabloom flower near an Octillery will make it react by spraying ink.
Now, here's something that might shock fans of the original: I'm sorry to say that the Poké Flute is gone. That's not to say the function is gone entirely though, as the new NEO-ONE has the ability to play a melody, which as we saw in the demo can cause certain Pokémon (such as Bellosom on the beach level) to dance.
Speaking of features, players now have the ability to scan Pokémon in their environment to hopefully spark interesting interactions. For example, scanning a Pyukumuku will cause it to give you a lovely wave. Interestingly, scanning can also bring up the option to take alternate routes through levels, experiencing and discovering Pokémon you wouldn't have originally found on the default track.
According to a Pokémon representative, the game should feel natural to players of the original - although this time there is the option to play with gyro controls. If that works as well as can be hoped - I never actually went hands-on in the preview - it should help bring out that authentic feeling of actually holding a camera and taking photos in the wild.
As New Pokémon Snap is set in the new Lentil Region, there is a new expert grading your photos, Professor Mirror (sadly, this means we can't expect any "WoNdeRfuLs" from Oak). Along with a new professor comes a new grading scale - this time snaps will be judged on pose, size, direction, placement and other Pokémon. If you have already taken a snap of a certain Pokémon before and have it stored in your Photodex, Mirror's score will actually be put head to head with that of that new picture, allowing you to replace the photo you already have.
After grading and filling up your Photodex further, players can alter the photos taken on that course (including ones that were not evaluated) in two different editors. To me it felt a strange choice to have two different photo editors, but I assume it was to keep the "professional" alterations separate from the more comedic and fun ones.
The main editor is the Resnap function, which works like any other photo editor you would expect in a modern video game. It lets you alter the focus size, focal point, zoom/crop, brightness, blur and add a filter - all the good stuff - as well as add a Snapchat-like caption. Then there's the Photo Editor (I feel like these names should really be switched), which is more for fun, adding silly stickers and frames and more "cartoony" filters. I doubt this is a feature players who care more about the art of photography will use - but this Machamp sure does look dapper in a hat.
Players can upload all their snaps online for other players to vote on with Sweet Medals, which will increase popularity, and along with that is global leaderboards. As you'd expect, all online features need a paid Nintendo Switch Online account to use; but if you just want to share your Pokémon snaps with your pals, the screenshot button on your Switch is right there, *wink*.
Something I personally didn't expect (but is very welcomed) is that cutscenes in the game arefully voice-acted - something that didn't exist in the original game. This doesn't translate into gameplay though, so any time a character pops in to give the player advice or praise, it will be a generic soundbyte.
While we're talking about characters, it seems like customisation will be fairly limited. At the start of the game players will be able to choose from a selection of different avatars, picking between hair styles and skin colours, but after that there will be no going back, and there are no options for altering clothes either.
Despite this, New Pokémon Snap is looking to be a worthy successor, although it should be said we still don't know how long the full game will be. As this is a full-price Switch release and will cost £49.99, I still feel that cost needs to be justified... especially if it's only as long as the original N64 game, which could be cleared in an afternoon.
New Pokémon Snap releases April 30th 2021 on Nintendo Switch.
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