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New Pokémon Snap brings the N64 classic to the Instagram era

Nintendo Switch sequel lets you perfect your imperfect Pikachu pics

A Pikachu and Crabrawler frolic on the beach in New Pokémon Snap Image: Bandai Namco/Nintendo
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

When the original Pokémon Snap was released, the promising young Pokémon photographer of that game, Todd Snap, was still using rolls of film on his island expedition. Consumer-grade digital cameras were still relatively new in 1999, so Todd and Professor Oak were constrained by the technology of the time. Whatever pics Todd took on his trip were the final product.

That’s no longer the case with New Pokémon Snap, which will embrace the digital photo-editing tools of smartphones and apps like Instagram. And with the ability to share your New Pokémon Snap photos online, the act of Pokémon snapping will be more social than ever before.

New Pokémon Snap, out April 30 on Nintendo Switch, otherwise holds closely to the formula established by the original game. Players will take an on-rails vehicle called the Neo-One out for a spin through a variety of environments, grabbing photos of Pokémon in the wild, and hoping to land that one perfect shot. Players will fill out a Photodex, the Snap equivalent of the franchise’s Pokédex registry, with their best pictures.

A Corsola chills on a rock in a screenshot from New Pokemon Snap Image: Bandai Namco/Nintendo

Players can expect much more variety in the new game. The original Pokémon Snap featured less than half of the original 151 Pokémon; New Pokémon Snap will include many, many more. In a demonstration of the game held over Zoom, I saw Pokémon ranging from classics such as Pikachu, Lapras, and Exeggutor to newer monsters, like Crabrawler, Inkay, and Sandygast, frolicking on the beaches of the Lental Region, an all-new area of the Pokémon world. (Don’t expect any brand-new Pokémon, however. Nintendo said the Lental Region will not introduce new variants or species.)

At nighttime, different Pokémon will emerge, and players can light up the environment with a new item called the Illumina Orb. Capturing photos of rare Pokémon behaviors is a big component of New Pokémon Snap’s gameplay, and players will have to experiment to seek out these moments. One interaction I saw involved luring a Sandygast out of its hiding hole, spooking a nearby Octillery who scurried off to a nearby sandbar.

Interacting with the game’s Pokémon works similarly to the original Pokémon Snap. Players can lure Pokémon with fruit or scan the environment to elicit reactions from nearby creatures. Playing the Poké Flute may inspire a Pokémon to dance, leading to a picture-perfect moment.

An edited photo of Machamp wearing a hat from New Pokemon Snap Image: Bandai Namco/Nintendo

After each trip on the Neo-One, players’ photos will be graded by Professor Mirror, who will rate them with one to four stars, based on a variety of factors: a Pokémon’s pose, size, direction, and placement in the shot, and whether other Pokémon are in frame. If you didn’t quite land the perfect shot, you can edit your photos after the professor grades them using the Re-Snap feature. That feature is purely for personal use, however. Your in-the-moment shots are what Professor Mirror will judge, not your touched-up, reframed, and refocused work.

Re-snap lets you adjust your photos in a variety of ways. You can recenter subjects, re-crop, and change an image’s brightness levels, blur, and focus. You can even add filters, stickers, and frames, then save your Re-Snap edits to an in-game album that exists separately from your Photodex. It’s a feature that will no doubt take off on social media, as players capture strange, amusing, and adorable moments on the Lental Region’s archipelago.

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