Is photographing Pokémon still fun? Or better yet, was it ever? That’s the question I found myself mulling over while watching over 25 minutes of New Pokémon Snap gameplay – and it’s one that I’m still not quite sure I have the answer to.
Back in 1999 when Pokémon Snap released on the N64, cameras weren’t exactly mainstream. I can vividly remember arguing with my mates over who’s turn it was to hold the disposable camera on holiday, only for it to be stashed behind a bin with the intention of picking it up on our return. Camera phones were still in their infancy back then, and yes, we totally forgot to collect it on our way back.
Cameras are everywhere now of course: they’re in your pocket, on practically every device you own, which means they’re no longer a novelty, even for kids. Photography is more accessible than ever, too, and the art of doctoring a photo to make it look just right takes nothing more than a few taps.
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I guess what I’m getting at is that the simple pleasure of snapping Pokémon in the wild seems pretty outdated, particularly as New Pokémon Snap sticks to the original game’s rigid on-rails format. Your trainer sits inside a protective pod, called the Neo-one, as it slowly moves along a set path (new routes can be discovered, but don’t deviate too much from the main route). From here, you’re tasked with photographing every wild Pokémon you encounter, which includes an eclectic mix of familiar Pokémon spanning multiple generations.
Seeing the Pokémon interacting with each other and playing in their natural environment is admittedly adorable, but you’ll need to put all that aside and concentrate on getting the perfect picture. Simply line up your subject in the viewfinder, ensure that they’re in frame, and snap away. It’s as easy as that.
Pokémon picture day
You can control the camera by using the analog sticks or, if you’d like a more challenging experience, by using the Nintendo Switch’s built-in gyro controls. It means that the game will arguably be more accessible than Pokémon Snap was on the N64, as younger players won’t have to deal with the three-pronged controller and C-stick buttons that will have stumped a fair few folks back in the day.
New Pokémon Snap isn’t just about taking cute pictures of Pokémon – ok, it is – but if you want to fill up your digital Pokédex and snap ‘em all, you’ll need to prove you’re a top photographer and not just some amateur happy snapper by taking quality pictures.
Taking a pic of the backside of a Pikachu is one thing, but it’s another to ensure your subject is clearly captured in all their glory, and better yet, caught in the middle of a candid moment. You can give your unwitting models some encouragement in this regard by feeding them Fluffruit, which can open up new actions that could earn you more points. Some Pokémon will also perform time-sensitive animations or react differently depending on what’s happening around them, so it’s a good idea to experiment. You never know what you might uncover.
Once you reach the end of each stage, you’ll have the chance to pick out your best pictures to present to Professor Mirror, who will judge them accordingly. You’ll be scored based on the size of the Pokémon pictured, their placement, type and whether you managed to catch them in the act of doing something that made you go “aww”. (Ok, I might have made that last one up, but you get the point.)
The higher your picture score, the higher your research level will become. You’ll unlock new abilities and stages that will ultimately help you coax out more Pokémon and uncover new species, which means you’ll be revisiting stages on multiple occasions to scour every nook, cranny and skyline in the hunt for that perfect shot or elusive pocket monster.
New Pokémon Snap really wants you to treasure the photos you take, too, as the new ‘Resnap’ functionality lets you spruce up your favorite pics. You can edit and amend your pics in various ways, like adjusting the brightness, focus size and adding filters. You can then personalize your photos in the game’s ‘Photo editing’ mode, which lets you decorate and add stickers, frames and other overlays.
Nintendo Switch Online members can upload photos for others to see, and competition-style events will be held to award those with the best photography skills as voted by the community. You can earn medals, and might even get featured on the main New Pokémon Snap page. Sadly, this functionality won’t be available to those who don’t have an online membership, but you can still use the Nintendo Switch screenshot function to capture your photos that way and share them on social media.
Out of film
While it’s obviously hard to say anything truly definite about a game without going hands-on, it’s clear that New Pokémon Snap could prove divisive. Some will take pleasure in spotting Pokémon and sifting through their pictures, while others may find it a painfully dull affair, like how you feel when you’ve been on a children’s amusement ride as an adult.
Sure, there’s something to be said for nostalgia, but New Pokémon Snap seems like a safe successor to a game that was released when the world was a different place.
After being stuck inside for so many months and having so much of the real world be off-limits, I think I’d rather go outside to take some actual pictures than snap a procession of Pokémon.
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