Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. It’s an unattributed quote you often see as an inspirational caption to beautiful holiday vistas, but it could easily have originated in Pokémon Snap.
Back in 1999, Nintendo released the first-person photography simulation game. The slogan “Gotta catch ‘em all” was translated from capturing pocket monsters in balls, to capturing them through photography. A review at the time in CYBERCULTURE said that the concept “should never work,” before conceding that “it is one of the most creative and entertaining games on the market.” Over twenty years later, Pokémon Snap is back for another shot at video game photography.
A new lens but the same spirit
The timing of New Pokémon Snap’s imminent release (set for April 30th) is fitting given the recent surge in photography games — titles no doubt partly inspired by its predecessor. According to a Wired article by Lewis Gordon “video game photography is arguably enjoying a golden age.” From AAA to indie, many games now have a dedicated photo mode.
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New Pokémon Snap is inspired by the 1999 Nintendo 64 game, to the extent that the original team was consulted, though this version is being developed by Bandai Namco. New Snap makes use of the Switch’s gyroscope to emulate the experience of controlling an actual camera, though you can use the joystick for this as well.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Bandai Namco director Haruki Suzaki explained that New Pokémon Snap “is a simple game of taking pictures in a world where Pokémon are alive and well in nature, but at the same time there are a variety of contemporary ways to play with photography.”
In the original Snap, the Nintendo 64 cartridge could be taken to a Blockbuster and your Poké snaps printed on stickers. New Pokémon Snap has leveled up to the Instagram age, allowing you to add stickers, frames, and filters to photos before sharing them with players around the world (if you have Nintendo Switch Online membership).
Illuminating new gameplay
Nintendo recently released an ‘Overview Trailer’ which provides the fullest picture so far of what we can expect from the game. Unsurprisingly, it shares the same core gameplay and mechanics as the original. Snap is quite literally on rails, as you ride through the landscape on a motorized buggy called the NEO-ONE.
As you travel, the aim is to take photos of the eponymous critters in their natural habitat. If that description sounds suspiciously like the ‘It’s A Small World’ ride, fear not. For one thing, New Pokémon Snap definitely isn’t a small world: it’s set in the new Lental region, which is made up of an archipelago packed with various ecosystems.
The official Snap website describes the game as “an ecological survey,” and this is reflected in the player building their own Photodex. Captured photos are rated by Professor Mirror according to certain criteria like how large the Pokémon appears in the frame, whether they’re facing you, and what poses they’re making. There are now almost a thousand Pokémon across the mainline games, so understandably not all of them will feature in the Lental region. Still, there will be over 200 in the game (including the wonderfully rotund Wailmer).
New Pokémon Snap looks to be a kinder game than its predecessor. The 1999 version encouraged players to throw pester balls at Pikachu and friends to knock them out or stun them. New Snap trades that in for Fluffruit (an apple-looking fruit that pokemon seem to love), which can be tossed near Pokémon in order to trigger reactions. As you complete more research on a particular course, your research level will increase and Pokémon behaviour will vary, providing some incentive for replaying each area.
Perhaps the flashiest fresh feature in New Pokémon Snap will be its nighttime phase. This is when the party gets started: nocturnal Pokémon appear and you’ll be able to throw light-up balls called Illumina Orbs rather than those mysterious Fluffruits. Due to something called the ‘Illumina phenomenon,’ some Pokémon and vegetation glow in the Lental region, so you won’t need to pack your ring light.
To celebrate the release of New Pokémon Snap there will be a special event in Pokémon Go between April 29 and May 2 which will allow you to catch a shiny version of Smeargle (not to be confused with one Smeagol). Otherwise, it’s not long now till the release of New Snap on April 30 — let’s hope Pikachu is ready for their close-up!
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Article author: Florence Smith Nicholls can be found on Twitter via @florencesn