The world of Pokemon has been spun off in ridiculous ways.
Players have seen fighting games, which come naturally to the franchise, but it’s also had its share of card games, pinball series, puzzle titles and dungeon crawls. The Pokemon Company even approved a project that gamifies and teaches kids to brush their teeth.
At times, there seem to be as many “Pokemon’ games as there are typings in the franchise. One of the early and ingenious ones is “Pokemon Snap.” It’s a title that essentially lets players be a wildlife photographer, but instead of shooting lions, tigers and bears, they take pictures of Squirtles, Bulbasaurs and Charmanders.
When it was released in 1999, the game gained a cult following, but that fandom didn’t translate to a sequel until more than 20 years later, with the arrival of “New Pokemon Snap.”
AN UNCONVENTIONAL ON-RAIL SHOOTER
The gameplay will be familiar to fans of the original. Players enter a pod called the Neo-One, which trundles along a predetermined path almost like those “Jurassic Park” Ford Explorers. While touring in the vehicle, players can look around and snap images of the creatures. At the end of the tour, players choose images to present to Professor Mirror, who scores them based on six categories: Pose, size, direction, placement, other Pokemon and background.
It’s an unusual system that gives players leeway to express their creativity. The images that players produce to hit the high scores aren’t always the best-looking ones or the most artful, but the venture does require patience, timing and a good eye for composition. All of this technically makes “New Pokemon Snap” an on-rail shooter similar to arcade classics like “Time Crisis” or “House of the Dead.”
The big difference lies in the approach and emphasis that’s put on shooting effective images. While other on-rail shooters amp up players with frenetic action, “New Pokemon Snap” is more meditative and strategic. It helps to go through a level more than once so that photographers will know the ins and outs of the stage.
Memorizing the location of Pokemon and how they dart through the route lets players anticipate the best position and setting for pictures. “New Pokemon Snap” also throws in tools such as Fluffruit, music and Illumina orbs. These items let players maneuver pocket monsters into favorable spots or reveal unusual reactions. What’s notable is that as players go through the route and have their photos judged, they increase the research level of the stage and that introduces new Pokemon and other fresh wrinkles.
There’s a lot to take in initially but the developers at Bandai Namco Studios ease players into the experience through a decent story campaign. Players take on the role of a research assistant to Professor Mirror in the Lental Region. He tasks players with studying the Pokemon of the islands by taking pictures and investigating the strange Illumina phenomenon that’s distinct to the archipelago.
A DIVERSE REGION
Players travel to six locales, with an optional stop at the Research Camp. The isles of Florio, Belusylva, Voluca, Maricopa and Durice each have distinct biomes and present its challenges. Players have to experiment with all their tools and see how the Pokemon of the area react to them. Eventually, they’ll unlock encounters with special Illumina Pokemon and uncover clues about the final encounter on the sixth island, Aurus.
With that being said, the campaign isn’t built for marathon sessions. “New Pokemon Snap” is best in spurts because of its repetitiveness. The creative aspect helps mitigate this and it dovetails nicely with the collection element of the gameplay. Players have to snap photos of different Pokemon for their Photodex and try to capture diamond-level scores and higher-starred moments.
On top of that, they can fulfil requests by their research partners or Professor Mirror. These usually involve capturing a specific moment, and players have to figure out how to create it. It’s a puzzle aspect to the “New Pokemon Snap” that rewards players with items to customize their images.
Eventually, when the campaign is complete, Professor Mirror introduces a course score, where players try to rack up points for all the images they snap in their 72-shot roll. That and the leveling aspect for each course creates incentives to keep playing after the credits roll.
For those who don’t care for that, “New Pokemon Snap” has one more trick up its sleeve. The game lets players share their best images online and compliment ones they like through Sweet! medals, which are essentially social media “likes.” This is where players can express their creativity using stickers, frames and filters. It’s a feature that’s a no-brainer nowadays, though it could be more robust, letting players search for more images than the few available. Thankfully, players can also share their images via Twitter.
It’s not perfect, but “New Pokemon Snap” is an update that does enough to make fans happy while bringing new aspects into the picture.
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