Thursday, June 3, 2021

New Pokémon Snap (NSW) Review

Pokémon, photography, and fun--that's what you get with this next game reviewed on SuperPhillip Central, and the first review for the month of June. It's New Pokémon Snap, so without further ado, let's snap to it and get our cameras at the ready for the SPC review!

Pokémon photo fun for almost everyone

The original Pokémon Snap launched on the Nintendo 64 within a year of the Pokémon series' Western debut. Poké-mania was officially in full swing. For two decades, fan desires of a sequel to Pokémon Snap fell on deaf ears. Even with systems like the Wii and then Wii U offering perfect avenues for possible new innovations for snapping Pokémon on film, a sequel never arrived. That is until now and with the Nintendo Switch. New Pokémon Snap is essentially Pokémon Snap's foundation only with a lot more added to it to not only give the game some much need longevity, but also give players enough value for its $60 price tag. What the game ends up being is a soothing, relaxing, and most importantly, enjoyable sequel well worth the 20+ year wait.

New Pokémon Snap puts you in the shoes--and behind the camera lens--of a beginning Pokémon photographer. This player avatar is yours to customize at the beginning--though the options are incredibly limited, but this avatar is an extension of you all the same. You arrive in the Lental Region and help a professor named Mirror with his research of mystical and magical Illumina Pokémon, going as far as to reveal the secrets of over two millennia that the region possesses. The story isn't anything mind-blowing, but it serves its purpose as to present some motivation if somehow the fun and thrill of capturing Pokémon (though on film this time around) in their natural habitats doesn't already serve that purpose.

Something tells me that you're going to be a natural with that camera!
And yes, New Pokémon Snap is all about taking photos of Pokémon through its dozens of levels. Your ride inside the ZERO-ONE is automatic, moving on its own as you spin the camera around to attempt to get the best shots of Pokémon possible. This time around, not only are there day and night versions to snap photos in, but there are also alternate versions of levels, earned by gaining expedition points from photos snapped. These alternate versions have distinct differences, some more obvious than others, such as simple as having different Pokémon or as varied as putting you on a different path through the level. The very first level of the game features the beaver Pokémon Bidoof busily building a dam in the original version of the level. By the final alteration of this level, the dam has been fully built, offering an alternate path along the dam to reach a completely new area of the level. 

Have you shutter button finger ready--there are Pokémon photo ops to be found!
New Pokémon Snap keeps things engaging whether you're on your first run through an area or your seventh. There's always something new to discover, whether it's an alternate path through a level--and some of these take some serious work to figure out--or a new way to interact with the plentiful Pokémon you'll encounter along your photographical journey.

Starting out in New Pokémon Snap, you're simply armed with your trusty camera device, a roll of film, and an infinite supply of Fluffruit to toss at Pokémon and to coax them into all sorts of shenanigans, whether it's leading them to where you want them go, or simply getting a rare photo op. As you progress in your adventure, you earn all sorts of helpful gadgets and tools, from Illumina Orbs that light up and trigger various reactions from Pokémon, to a melody that can make various Pokémon react in numerous, entertaining ways.

Though not mentioned in the review body, it should be noted that sometimes you'll be required to snap these mythical Illumina Pokemon in their natural habitats. These "levels" were less than thrilling for me.
Unlike the original Pokémon Snap, this Switch sequel features more to it than just getting one excellent photo of a specific Pokémon and then calling it a day for snapping that particular Pokémon. Instead, there are four unique star ratings for each Pokémon in New Pokémon Snap. Each series of star ratings--one, two, three, and four-star ratings--occur from coaxing your Pokémon subjects into specific poses. For instance, a one-star rating of a Pikachu is as simple as taking its photo while it's standing or walking normally around, while different star ratings come from rarer, more interesting poses, such as it eating a Fluffruit or performing its patented Thunder Shock attack. 

Depending on how well you capture your specific subject on film, you're awarded a certain number of points. This is where New Pokémon Snap more closely resembles the original's scoring system, with points awarded for the Pokémon subject's pose, size, how centered it is, if it's facing the camera, if it has other Pokémon in the picture, and so forth. If you want to earn a Platinum score (which is 4,000 points or more), you'll need to time your shots appropriately and with a lot of patience and precision. With four ratings per Pokémon, over 200 Pokémon species in the game, and Platinum ratings to earn for each (optionally, of course), there is plenty of photographic fun to be found in New Pokémon Snap.

Different poses of particular Pokemon mean different star ratings to be had.
Can you discover and photograph them all?
That's not even the extent of the longevity and replay value to be discovered within New Pokémon Snap, either. Within the game are requests from various NPCs that unlock after each initial expedition through a level. These requests generally involve luring Pokémon into specific situations and capturing them on film at the correct moment. A lot of these require plenty of experimentation in levels to do. Many times you'll need to trigger something earlier in an expedition to make something happen far later in the level. 

Now, now. You're just showing off, Machamp!
Then, there's knowing what to do from the somewhat limited hints each request gives you. Case in point, you're required to do a lot of toying about with your tools--Fluffruit, Illumina Orbs, Melody, scanning, and more--in order to figure out exactly what exactly a request requires in order for you to complete it. Then, there's the struggle of sometimes being oblivious as to what the game actually wants the subject of the photo to be. You'll occasionally need to have more than one Pokémon in the frame to satisfy the request. It can be really tedious to not satisfy requests when you think you have, and because you can only select one photo of a given Pokémon to submit to Professor Mirror per expedition, this can be quite annoying. If there is one key to not burning out on requests that I have to offer players, it's that you shouldn't actively go out of your way to complete requests until you gain a late-game upgrade for the ZERO-ONE. You'll know what it is immediately once you get it.

I call this photograph: "The predator and the prey".
Still, it's beyond rewarding to finally figure out what a given request requires you to do, because you'll get an opportunity to capture a Pokémon performing a truly unique reaction, whether it's a Gengar spooking a Toxicroak, a Pidgeot swooping up a Magikarp from a lake, or the arrival of a Pokémon you didn't even expect to appear during your expedition. While requests are of course optional, they do reward things like player icons, frames and stickers to decorate your photos with.

And now, we've reached the dance number portion of this review.
One of my favorite parts of New Pokémon Snap is the ability to view and share photos online. You can add filters, unique unlockable frames, stickers, and even caption your photos and post them online. While it's a shame that you can only have six personally selected photos from your own curation at one time on your online profile, you can remove and add new photos at any time you like. You won't lose Sweet Medals, which is the currency awarded for other players "liking" your photos, for doing so either, which is nice. 

Requests may generally be a pain in the neck to figure out, 
but once you do, they produce some fascinating and fun moments such as this.
New Pokémon Snap is without question the most technologically and graphically impressive Pokémon game to date. The Pokémon are adorably expressive, the environments are large, vibrant and colorful, and the game is just a solid treat for the eyes. That isn't to say that there aren't moments where technical issues reveal themselves, such as one blatant, frame-rate-tanking example featuring a whale-like Pokémon emerging from the ocean waves, but overall, New Pokémon Snap runs well and looks wonderful. The game also features some voicework as well, which sounds pleasant enough, and the music, while nothing that will top the original's soundtrack, offers suitably soothing sounds all the same.

As a much awaited sequel to the original Pokémon Snap, the less-than-imaginatively-titled New Pokémon Snap serves as a much welcomed, much improved, and worth waiting for game. It's basically "Pokémon Snap Plus A Heck of a Lot More: The Game". I guess "New Pokémon Snap" serves as a better title than my own offering, but you get the gist. With 10-15 hours of playtime to complete the initial campaign, and dozens of hours more to snap every Pokémon, fully explore every area, and earn every title (achievement-like challenges), New Pokémon Snap is very much worth its price tag. It won't enthuse every player out there, but if you're the type who loves Pokémon, the idea of seeing them in natural surroundings, and taking pictures of some Pocket Monsters, then I certainly recommend that you snap up New Pokémon Snap.

[SPC Says: B+]

No comments: