New Pokemon Snap Successfully Modernizes the Classic N64 Formula

The main objective of the game is to fill up your Photodex—each Pokémon has four star-ranked poses to capture, and it’s challenging to figure out how to elicit all four poses from each species. It becomes a bit of a puzzle game of sorts as you try to capture your perfect Pokémon pics. Because your movement is restricted, you’re forced to bring the Pokémon in close and influence their behavior by using a variety of items and tools. Being that the Neo One moves ever forward, you’ve only got a few moments to make your moves and position the Pokémon where you need them to be for your snaps.

Watching the Pokémon move around the environments, interact with each other, and essentially do what they do in their natural environments is incredibly entertaining to watch, particularly on your first few runs through a level. Whether it’s two Charmander chatting with each other across a magma river, a family of Onix catching some Z’s under the night sky, or a Magikarp awkwardly flailing in the air, lunging at a thrown Fluffruit, the animations and scripted scenarios look fantastic. 

The artists and engineers at Bandai Namco nail the presentation, and all of the levels are absolutely teeming with life, which adds to the sense of immersion. Cruising through the reefs and beaches of the oceanic levels is wonderfully serene, and the roiling lava streams and rising embers of the volcanic areas are a sight to behold. The environments can stale a bit on multiple playthroughs, but there are day and night variations of most levels, and raising the research levels adds variety as well.

Overall, the game looks pretty slick, with relatively well-detailed character models and environments that pop with color and personality. The game would’ve likely benefited from a more robust lighting system (there are some environments, like the misty forests, that would look absolutely spectacular with more atmospheric and dynamic effects), but the visuals are eye-catching all the same. Some of the larger Pokémon are downright majestic to behold when you get up close, and to that point, the sense of scale is something that the mainline games are sorely missing.

The sound design is solid, too—you can hear Pokémon outside of your field of vision, which comes in handy if you’re an active listener. It’s still a wonder why a company as profitable as Nintendo can’t afford to provide full voice acting in a game like this, which isn’t exactly brimming with dialogue in the first place. But still, the human characters at the lab provide a nice break from all the cacophony of Pokémon sounds you’ll hear on your excursions.

The story is thin but cute and totally appropriate: You’re a research assistant for Dr. Mirror in the Lental region, where you’re gathering photographic data on not just different Pokémon species, but a phenomena called “illumina,” which involves mysterious flowers that cause Pokémon to glow and alters their behavior. If nothing else, the human cast of characters’ excitement toward the Pokémon and your pictures adds to the fun and reminds you how cool it is to see the cute critters and towering beasts so close-up.

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