It’s a good thing no one had a camera on me during my first playthrough of New Pokémon Snap, because I probably looked and sounded like a total dingus. Without fail, each time I played a new course a Pokémon would appear out of nowhere, or do something cute, or react to something I did in a surprising way, and I (this is not an exaggeration) would sit up on the couch, point at the screen, and go “Aaah!” in delight.
I love the way The Pokémon Company has, in recent years, begun letting more companies outside Game Freak (think Niantic with Pokémon Go, or Legendary Pictures with Detective Pikachu) make media that shows off Pokémon not as collectibles or as static RPG party members but as lovable, intelligent creatures. After successfully digging into their combat prowess in Pokken Tournament, Bandai Namco has been handed the far more peaceful reigns of an on-rails nature photography game and charged with portraying Pokémon as wild creatures in living ecosystems to be observed, befriended, and only “captured” via camera. Given the timbre of my happy yells every time a Wooper said “Woooh!” at me, if my neighbors had known what I was doing they’d probably agree that New Pokémon Snap is a delightful success on this front.
Despite its flaws, I was a big fan of the original Pokémon Snap on Nintendo 64 back in 1999. The classic on-rails photography game had a very fun premise, sending you on a nature safari to try and get the best photos possible of Pokémon living and interacting in their natural habitats. Though the idea was sound and many of Pokémon Snap’s best moments are still memorable to this day (the Jigglypuff concert! Charizard popping out of the lava pool! Surfing Pikachu!), it was painfully short, with only just over 60 Pokémon available across seven courses that were precisely the same every single time. Even with the meat of trying to solve a few puzzles to line up some rarer shots, 1999’s Pokémon Snap inevitably left me wishing for so much more.
If “Pokémon Snap, but more” were the baseline for New Pokémon Snap being any good, it would handily clear that simple bar.
22 years later, I had a real fear that New Pokémon Snap would end up similarly repetitive or limited in either sheer Pokémon numbers or in course availability. But I am happy to report this was a non-issue: If “Pokémon Snap, but more” were the baseline for New Pokémon Snap being any good, it would handily clear that simple bar with far more courses, available Pokémon, and possible photos than its decades-old parent managed. It even has more (in a sense) of what made old-school Pokémon Snap’s final course, Rainbow Cloud, so special – though I can’t say more about it here due to Nintendo being overly precious about that part.
New Pokémon Snap also has far more story to drive it along, with a Pokémon professor named Mirror and…