For all of its beautiful beaches and exciting new monsters, New Pokemon Snap doesn't appear to offer anything new in the gameplay department. It’s clear from the stunning new trailer that, two decades on the series' debut, New Pokemon Snap is following in the footsteps of its predecessor. As before, you'll be patrolling lush habitats in a glass-topped vehicle, unable to stray from its course or leave its confines, as seemingly the classic David Attenborough rules still apply: never interfere with nature. It's understandable – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – but this could be why we find ourselves with New Pokemon Snap, rather than Pokemon Snap 2 or 2 Pokemon 2 Snap. What we’ve seen so far suggests that the 1999 classic has been handsomely reskinned and painstakingly repackaged for the modern era, and maybe that’s why New Pokemon Snap looks more like a remaster than a sequel.
Check out the trailer below:
But, realistically, that doesn't really matter. Fans have had their fingers crossed for years hoping for a sequel to the cult N64 title, but few expected it to materialise. To really understand why so many fans have such fond memories of Pokemon Snap, you have to transport yourself back to 1999. The Matrix was in theatres, the Spice Girls were topping the charts, and a Pokemon photography game was sitting under millions of Christmas trees across the world. The models may look chunky now, but this was the first time fans saw their beloved 2D sprites converted to fully-animated 3D models in the wild. Instead of being confined to appear only in long grass, Pokemon peaked around boulders, clambered out of trees, and splashed in shallow water.
Pokemon Snap didn’t only represent a step forward in the graphics department for the series, it revolutionised the very nature of Pokemon games and how we interact with the pocket monsters. Instead of forcing them to fight until the point of exhaustion, players photographed them in their natural habitats, fed them berries, and set up beautiful compositions. Suddenly you were the David Attenborough of the Pokemon world. You found yourself muttering documentary-style narrations as you snapped pictures of Bulbasaur, Pikachu, and Haunter – making sure to capture the perfect composition, the ultimate victory pose, and the rarest monsters.
Pokemon Snap is, and was, a reminder that the Pokemon world continues around you, and you’re privileged to play a tiny part in documenting it. The trailer shows a Dodrio eating some kind of treat – likely an apple, used to lure rare Pokemon to the forefront of your scene. We also briefly saw a Pidgeot feasting on an unsuspecting Magikarp, an almighty Wailord breach the water’s surface, and a lumbering Torterra carry the serene, sleeping bodies of Scorbunny and Pichu. It's more realistic than ever.
The original game let you capture 63 Pokemon of the original 151, but now we’ve nearly 1,000 Pokemon that could possibly appear, so it's going to be interesting just how many of them will be available to photograph in New Pokemon Snap. Combine the sheer number of Pokemon and the possibilities of more beautiful environments to explore, it’s clear that we’ve only seen a glimpse of what’s in store.
Regardless of whether this is a sequel or more of a reimagining of the original, the ocean currents reflecting the dying rays of a burning sunset and it becomes immediately clear that New Pokemon Snap is an enormous graphical upgrade on the original. Of course, the Switch has twenty years of technological advances on the N64, but the beautiful vistas and high-definition Pokemon are also a vast improvement on the visuals of Pokemon Sword and Shield, released just last year.
However, the Switch offers more than just processing power and plentiful pixels. Taking your photography skills on the move will turn your commute into a safari, and a combination of touch screen and motion controls could make for exciting camera play if done well. With the right application, this could transform your Switch into an immersive photography simulation.
Speaking of transformations, the Nintendo Labo is creeping into New Pokemon Snap conversations, albeit mentioned in hushed tones to ward off inevitable disappointment. But imagine it! Nintendo’s innovative cardboard contraptions already include a camera complete with a working, focusing lens, so why not incorporate this functionality into Nintendo’s foremost photography game? The Switch would become a real camera and we could become real photographers, documenting the Pokemon you find roaming about an uninhabited island.
One thing’s for sure: the Switch will also bring us budding Poképhotographers together like never before. While New Pokemon Snap seems like a single-player game, we can now save a screenshot of our favourite photo with a click of a button, and upload our most National Geographic-worthy shots to social media with a couple more. It seems inevitable that we’ll see online communities form as players compare imposing Wailords and adorable Grookeys with each other, all chasing the perfect shot.
Sir David Attenborough once said, “I just wish the world was twice as big and half of it was still unexplored”. For Pokemon fans, the world of Pokemon Snap has just grown to twice its size, and exploration awaits.
Until then, check out what other upcoming Switch games we have on the horizon...