From the moment New Pokémon Snap was revealed, fans everywhere wondered how Nintendo would revisit one of the strangest (but beloved) corners of the Pokémon franchise in a way that honors the original game while updating it in ways that will help them recapture its unique magic after all these years.
Based on the reactions to an extended preview of New Pokémon Snap that Nintendo recently showcased, it seems that their plan is to recapture the magic of Pokémon Snap by not changing many of the things that made the original title work while introducing at least one major new concept that brings New Pokémon Snap into the social media age without forcing a square peg into a round hole.
In many of the ways that matter most, New Pokémon Snap appears to be Pokémon Snap. That is to say that each level follows an “on-rails” format that slowly guides you along a designated path as you take pictures of various Pokémon. You’ll be able to “force” pictures of Pokémon by utilizing objects that trigger environmental actions, but because it’s never entirely clear how the creatures will react to these interactions, you’ll need to experiment with various combinations of items in different situations to capture every possible photo. That’s really the core of the “discovery” aspect that makes the whole concept work and be much more than a novelty.
That sense of discovery is enhanced by Metroidvania-like elements that encourage you to replay the levels in order to open new paths and new possibilities. There were some fears that Nintendo would trim that element of the game in an attempt to streamline the Snap experience, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Ultimately, the goal is to present the best photos to a professor at the end of each level (Professor Mirror fills in for Professor Oak this time around) so that they can grade them. Your grade will determine how many points you receive, and those points are used to open new areas, tools, and changes to existing levels.
This is where New Pokémon Snap does something very interesting. While it makes sense that Nintendo would encourage fans to share their Snap photos via social media (how weird would it be to have a game about photography in 2021 that doesn’t?), there were some who wondered whether or not those social media sharing ideas would become the focus of the game and essentially replace the franchise’s more traditional gameplay goals.
Nintendo wisely sidesteps that problem via a new feature called “Re-Snap.” Basically, Re-Snap allows you to edit the photos you take in a level and add filters, effects, costume items, and most of the other things you’d expect to see in a modern video game photo mode. These tools are clearly intended for social media sharing, but crucially, you’re not able to present these tweaked photos to Professor Mirror for points. Your grade will be determined by the quality of the photos you took in the actual game.
This elegant feature gives you all of the assets you’ll need to share New Pokémon Snap photos on social media that are so much more than just screenshots. At the same time, Nintendo seems to recognize that not everybody is into sharing video game photos on social media and some players are just interested in that core Pokémon Snap experience. If New Pokémon Snap had given you the ability to submit your modified photos for points, then Nintendo would have been forcing players to embrace social media-focused features. Instead, they’re letting you play the game the way you prefer.
Even better, this feature perfectly pays homage to the infamous Blockbuster photo printing stations released alongside the original Pokémon Snap game. Those stations gave you a tool outside of the game that you could use to share your photos and give them a life that extended beyond the confines of the cartridge. While New Pokémon Snap is obviously not going to feature a similar promotion with Blockbuster (for many, many reasons), the spirit of that concept lives on in Re-Snap. Maybe modifying your photos via Re-Snap won’t feel as novel as printing them out at Blockbuster, but that feature preserves the idea that part of the fun of Pokémon Snap has always been being able to take your work outside of the game and share it with others.
As we’ve sometimes seen in titles like the Let’s Go Pokémon games and (let’s be honest) most of Nintendo’s mobile games, Nintendo sometimes struggles to embrace new technology and appeal to a wider/younger audience while retaining the things that make those games appealing in the first place. In Pokémon Snap, they seemed to have found the perfect way to acknowledge and embrace the impact of social media without dragging you to endure their experiments if you just want to play a game.
We’ll see if their good ideas come together to form something great when New Pokémon Snap is released for Nintendo Switch on April 30.