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New Pokémon Snap developer discusses the game's big changes from the original

Players can photograph more than 200 Pokémon in New Pokémon Snap.

NINTENDO

By SHANNON LIAO | The Washington Post | Published: April 30, 2021

The original Pokémon Snap, released in 1999, featured a young photographer (Todd Snap) taking photos of more than 60 Pokémon types with cameras of the time. Released on Nintendo 64, the game charmed players with its focus on photography and impressing Professor Oak with skillful snapshots.

New Pokémon Snap, which was released April 30 on the Nintendo Switch, brings that formula into the smartphone era. Players can photograph more than 200 Pokémon, earn ratings from Professor Mirror and share favorite moments with friends.

"The world in which wild Pokémon live is rendered to the best of the Nintendo Switch's hardware capabilities, and the aim of the game is to investigate that world," Haruki Suzaki, New Pokémon Snap director at Bandai Namco Studios, wrote in an email to The Washington Post. "Once you've taken a photo, you can edit and share it online with people around the world."

"We took that concept [of photographing Pokémon in their natural surroundings] and adapted it to the Nintendo Switch's hardware in a way that fits today's photo culture," Suzaki wrote. "The result is a simple game of taking pictures in a world where Pokémon are alive and well in nature, but at the same time there is a variety of contemporary ways to play with photography."

Instead of catching Pokémon, the goal in this game is to capture images. Players can work toward completing the Photodex picture album by taking photos of each Pokémon. Shots can be edited, cropped and filtered.

The game takes place in the new Lental Region, composed of islands of varying environments, such as beach and forest. Pokémon including Pikachu, Squirtle and even newer ones like Scorbunny and Sobble will be present. Interacting with those Pokémon by playing the flute can make them dance, which generates better photos.

Pokémon Snap on the Nintendo 64 featured a point system that awarded players if Pokémon were well-positioned in a photo. The 2021 game adds to this with a star system that rates pictures by rarity.

"The system is designed to help you get to know a Pokémon better by capturing various scenes of it, from ordinary to special moments," Suzaki said. "For a certain Pokémon, for example, walking is one star​, eating is two stars​, playing is three stars​ and dancing with friends is four stars​."

Suzaki said the original developers of the Nintendo 64 Pokémon Snap were consulted for this project, though a new team is responsible for the upcoming title. With the Switch's updated graphics, the new game shows more-detailed environments and the playful creatures' expressions.

It also has a nighttime phase, which was not present in the 1999 version. At night, nocturnal Pokémon will appear and players can use a new item, the Illumina Orb, to get different reactions for their photo shoot.

New Pokémon Snap also uses the Switch's gyroscope to sense when the controller is moved, emulating the sense of "controlling a real camera," according to Suzaki.

The game has grown more progressive. In 1999, players threw Pester Balls at Pokémon to knock out or stun them and generate an irritated response. In 2021, the game replaces this with Fluffruit, which resembles an apple and triggers reactions from Pokémon that can make for interesting photographs.

“There is no Pester Ball. ... One of the reasons is that the ball can be perceived as something a little less kind in current times,” Suzaki said. “However, the Pester Ball was an important element to bring out a Pokémon’s reaction in the Nintendo 64 Pokémon Snap, so we decided to add the role of the Pester Ball to the Fluffruit in New Pokémon Snap.”

There is still an element of player choice involved.

Suzaki added: "Even though Fluffruit doesn't hurt when it hits a Pokémon, it makes sense that some Pokémon don't like being hit by Fluffruit. So we designed the item to leave it up to players whether they place it near a Pokémon or throw it at a Pokémon."