Pokémon Snap is a beloved classic spin-off of the Pokémon series, meaning its sequel, New Pokémon Snap, had a lot of hype to live up to. The original Pokémon Snap was released in 1999 and 2000 across the world on the Nintendo 64. Although it received a lot of love from fans, it wouldn’t see a sequel until 22 years later with New Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo Switch and the original game only recently arrived on NSO.
There was definitely awareness of the interest in a successor to Pokémon Snap leading up until 2021, though. Mainline games Pokémon Sun and Moon included a feature that allowed players to take photos of Pokémon in the wild. The games’ follow-ups, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, enhanced this gameplay element even further with the addition of Photo Clubs, where players could pose their own Pokémon – and themselves if they wanted – against a variety of backgrounds. They could even add stickers to customize the scenes even more. These fun features reminded players of the genuinely enjoyable gameplay of Pokémon Snap and perhaps helped paved the way for the series’ return with New Pokémon Snap.
Some elements of New Pokémon Snap are naturally going to be improved over the original game, such as the graphical presentation, but other parts aren’t guaranteed to be better. Still, New Pokémon Snap manages to polish the original’s solid point-and-shoot gameplay all while adding completely new features that weren’t available in the original. Editing New Pokémon Snap photographs with filters, stickers, and more is one such addition. The massive entourage of capabilities included for editing will ensure it doesn’t feel half-baked. Missions also make their debut, giving players even more to achieve while out hunting for their perfect shots. In general, New Pokémon Snap tends to win out over the original Pokémon Snap (even on NSO) precisely because of the way it increases what the original already had without sacrificing the finished product’s quality.
For players who prefer less narrative in the games they play, the original Pokémon Snap has a slight edge over its sequel, so those people may want to check out Pokémon Snap on NSO first. The only characters are the player and Prof. Oak, and the lore of the game’s location, Pokémon Island, is as simplistic as its name. But New Pokémon Snap’s increased storytelling compared to its predecessor isn’t overly invasive, letting the game focus mostly on the photography gameplay. The inclusion of Lumina Pokémon adds a bit of mystery to the story and, as a result, another compelling hook to keep photographing Pokémon and learning about the new region. The cast of New Pokémon Snap is also quite charming, with a friendly and somewhat silly new professor and the return of the protagonist from the original game, Todd, making for a pleasant blend of new and nostalgic.
It seems natural that New Pokémon Snap has more Pokémon featured than the original game. There were only 151 possible Pokémon the original Pokémon Snap could have featured at all, while there were nearly 900 to choose from by the time New Pokémon Snap was released. Still, the original Pokémon Snap’s 63 Pokémon across its 7 stages pale in comparison to New Pokémon Snap’s 214 Pokémon across 24 stages. Each stage also has research levels that change how the Pokémon in them behave, adding even more to see. New Pokémon Snap’s free 2.0.0 update also added 20 more Pokémon and 6 extra stages, driving up its impressive numbers even further.
Aside from completionist-worthy optional goals, such as taking pictures of every single Pokémon and getting the highest score possible on each photo, the primary aim of the original Pokémon Snap is to find Mew, as shown in the short opening video. In order to find the elusive mythical Pokémon, Todd must make his way to the Rainbow Cloud stage that looms over Pokémon Island. But the Rainbow Cloud is a very simple stage with just a flat “ground” underfoot, the starry sky above, and Mew. It takes skill to juggle tossing Pester Balls and speeding up just enough to get that perfect shot of Mew in Pokémon Snap. However, it’s still a stage devoid of the interactivity and purposeful environment players enjoy from the rest of the game. This is made even more questionable when considering that Mew is found in a tropical forest area in the opening sequence, yet it actually lives completely detached from the rest of Pokémon Island.
In New Pokémon Snap, there are numerous Legendary and Mythical Pokémon, and they all live together with other, regular Pokémon within proper environments. Even the classic Mew returns in New Pokémon Snap, ready to live among the forests and with the other Pokémon that inhabit it. Even if they’re highly elusive, Legendary Pokémon are still a part of the world around them, and it’s always much more interesting to see them interact with their surroundings rather than have them be entirely detached from the world they live in. New Pokémon Snap’s Legendary and Mythical Pokémon are implemented in a way that keeps them rare, as they should be, but also gives them the same chance to be brought to life in their environments as the other Pokémon are.
In a similar respect, the development capabilities now available mean the Pokémon in New Pokémon Snap are able to perform more kinds of actions compared to those in the game’s predecessor. The creatures in New Pokémon Snap really feel alive with all the different kinds of things they can do and how they behave with each other. Each stage has its own impressive collection of unique interactions between different Pokémon. For example, just in the Maricopia Islands’ water-centric stages, players can find Sharpedo chasing Squirtle, Wingull catching Finneon, Frillish dragging Magikarp down into the depths of the sea, and many, many more. A lot of these happen as the player uses New Pokémon Snap’s Illumina Orbs and otherwise interacts with their surroundings, adding an element of meaningful interactivity to the already fun primary gameplay of taking pictures.
This isn’t to say the original Pokémon Snap is inherently lacking in this area, however. Even if the interactions between Pokémon and their environments are much simpler in the original game, they still have their own charm. Most importantly, they give players the chance to see familiar Pokémon in a new light, showing how they live in a real environment in a way that the mainline games of the time didn’t allow for. Although New Pokémon Snap is stronger in every respect than its prequel, that just goes to show how much care went into developing the long-awaited title, ensuring it would live up to the high standards of the original. New Pokémon Snap is as fantastic as it is partially because the original, standalone Pokémon Snap was already such a strong game to begin with. Thankfully, both games can now be enjoyed on the Nintendo Switch since the original Pokémon Snap is now on NSO.