Monday, August 8, 2022

New Look at Pokémon Snap – Capture by the Sea

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More than two decades after the launch of the cult classic original game, the photo-loving part of the Pokémon franchise is finally getting a follow-up entry with New Pokémon Snap. This new game puts you behind the lens as you travel along predetermined paths to photograph Pokémon in their natural habitats. Despite various trailers, we haven’t had a chance to see the full parts of the levels in New Pokémon Snap yet. However, earlier this month I got to watch someone at Nintendo play through the same stage at different times of the day.

My New Pokémon Snap demo takes me to Blushing Beach, one of the tropical locations players can expect to walk to to fill their Photodex. In New Pokémon Snap, players can choose to enter day or night stages, which gives them different opportunities in the same areas depending on what time of day they embark on their photographic expedition.

The first Blushing Beach playthrough I see is during the day. As the player character appears on the sandy shores, I am treated to a vibrant and beautiful environment. Right off the bat I see a couple of Exeggutor frolicking on the beach as a Crabrawler rushes into the shallows, a Pikachu playfully passes by, and a Lapras swims through the shallows. In the distance, I see Vivillon and Wingull hovering above the sea.

Immediately I remember the fond memories I had with the release of the Nintendo 64. This scene, with Exeggutor basking in the sun while other Pokémon go about their lives, brings me back to the first stage of the Pokémon Snap. original, where a flock of Pidgey flies towards the camera before a scene where Pikachu, Doduo and Butterfree are hanging out on the beach. While New Pokémon Snap is certainly better than the original, it’s more important to me that Bandai Namco seems to have captured the same spirit of the original game.

We throw the Exeggutor a fluffruit, an apple-shaped object used to lure Pokemon into better shots, and it gleefully picks it up and swallows it as we break. We continue along the predetermined Blushing Beach path, but another Exeggutor is on the way, stopping our NEO-ONE capsule. We could lure the big guy to clear the way, but instead we look to our left and notice something stirring in the bushes. At this point, the player must figure out how to lure the Pokémon out of the bushes. Using the Melody Tool, which plays a little jingle, we lure two Bellowers dancing out of the bushes. As players of the original game know, if you can catch multiple Pokémon doing something unique or exciting, you’re well on your way to getting a much-loved pic.

Now that we’ve lured the Bellowers out of their hiding place and taken some awesome photos of them, it’s time to move on. We throw a fluffruit and pull the Exeggutor out of the way so we can continue. While you can’t manually stop your vehicle whenever you want, some encounters like this will give you a little extra time to figure out how to optimize your photo opportunities.

Continuing on the path, the NEO-ONE leaves a solid ground to float among the waves. Weaving between the rocks sticking out of the sea, we have a multitude of opportunities available to us. Are we photographing the Machamp dragging on the ground or are we focusing on the Pyukumuku lying on the rock next to the Corsola? We end up scanning two types of water on the rock, causing an adorable reaction as Pyukumuku waves to us and Corsola smiles at us.

Finneon swims under us as we return to shore. This trip through Blushing Beach is almost over, but not before we see a Stunfisk lying flat on the beach. We take a picture of it and then head straight for the goal, exiting the Blushing Beach daytime race.

After completing each step, you sort the images you have taken, selecting the ones you want to share with Professor Mirror. Each photo receives a rating of up to four stars. This is important, because your Photodex can contain a photo of each Pokémon on each rank. Once you’ve presented your favorite shots to the Professor, he’ll grade you based on pose, size, direction, placement, other Pokémon in the shot, and how the background looks. You then have the option of replacing the current image in the Photodex with the new one.

If you think you can improve one of your shots a bit with a few tweaks, New Pokémon Snap gives you the tools to perfect it. Seemingly inspired by the Instagram era, New Pokémon Snap lets you “re-snap” your photos by adjusting the zoom; fine-tune brightness, blur, focal size and focal point; add a filter; and even change the caption. Unfortunately Professor Mirror will only note your raw photos, and therefore you can only save the originals to your Photodex. Don’t worry, however, you can always save the captured photos back to your in-game album and share them.

Based on the photos you provide to the Professor, you earn Expedition Points, which increase your research level for the stage you just played. Once you hit a certain threshold, you unlock new levels for that area and that time of day. While each level of research generally follows the same path, you may see some differences along the way.

After chatting with Professor Mirror and completing the Photodex, we return to Blushing Beach. However, this time we are going at night. As you might expect, the Pokémon you spot after sunset are often different from the ones you see running, flying, and swimming during the day. Even as the character phased into the environment, I spot a Drifblim in the background. From the start, an imposing Zangoose walks along the path. We throw a fluffruit at Zangoose and get a great pic of him smiling as he enjoys it.

As we approach the bush where the Bellossom was during the day, we scan the area again. The tool says something looks like sharpening a blade. This time around, we’re not honored by the playful swirl of the grass-type smiling Pokémon; instead, a stern Seviper emerges just in time for a photo. Good thing we scanned early, as there is no Exeggutor to block the path at night.

The night path is the same as we walked during the day, but the opportunities are very different. As soon as we step out on the water, Inkay is floating and we see a sleeping Magikarp on the rock where the Pyukumuku was located during the day. We could take a picture of the sleeping Magikarp, but what’s the fun in that? Sweeping doesn’t do much to wake up the sleeping Splatterer, but by throwing an Illumina Orb at him, the Magikarp comes to life and turns from the rock and into the water. We capture his acrobatics on film before moving on to the next rock.

This time an Octillery is perched on the rock next to a Crystabloom factory. We launch an Illumina Orb, special items that can make Pokémon glow and perform unique actions, at the Crystabloom Factory and the Octopod reacts by spitting an ink fountain directly into the sky. We take a photo, then we throw a fluffruit at it, and the Pokémon waves at us with one of its arms. As we continue to monitor our surroundings, I spot a Bellossom and a Zangoose resting on the beach, but just above them a Mareanie peers down from the cliff, presenting us with a new Pokémon to photograph; we do not waste the opportunity.

While we are at sea, an icon appears between some of the protruding rocks. If you scan this, you can follow a different path through the stage. However, to fully explore how the night and day versions of the scenes really are different, we choose to stay on the main path.

We return to shore for perhaps the most exciting occasion of my entire demo: several Sandygasts lurk under the beach, while an Alolan Raichu sleeps on the shore next to another Octillery. We throw a fluffruit at the Sandygast to bring it out of its hiding place and give us a fun pose. By the way, the Raichu wakes up, hops on his surfboard-shaped tail, and rides him in the waves. Just before reaching the objective, we throw another fluffruit into a Sandygast next to the Octillery. When the Spooky Sandcastle Pokémon emerges, it gives Octillery a huge fright, and the Water-type Pokémon panic, fleeing in the middle of the ocean, arms fighting.

This hilarious scene is just one example of how players can not only conjure up interesting reactions, but also exciting interactions. The environmental puzzles in New Pokémon Snap seem to be just as fun as they were in the original.

From the images I saw, New Pokémon Snap is effective in recovering the magic of the first title. With a new region, new mechanics, and a vastly expanded collection of Pokémon to shoot, I’m excited to see how this entry improves upon the original. The new Pokémon Snap will launch on April 30 on Switch.


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