New Pokemon Snap is one of my most anticipated games of the year, and with the release just a couple of weeks away, that anticipation is only rising. I love gaming, photography, and the intersection between them, and it has been long enough since the first game that I only remember the good parts and none of the jank – now is the perfect time for New Pokemon Snap.
This anticipation has me rewatching all of the trailers, even the six minute long Japanese one I don’t understand a word of. From all of them, what has stood out the most is how much the Pokemon interact with each other throughout the game environments. And it’s weird that, despite the series being 25 years old, interactions like this still feel like a rarity.
The main games focus on Pokemon battling, so almost every creature you encounter is in a combat scenario. You’re either training your ‘mon up, weakening a wild one to catch it, or fighting against other trainers who have done the same. The games talk about togetherness and friendship, but they encourage a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality where you ditch your weakest companions at the first opportunity. In cutscenes, we might see certain high profile trainers interact with their trademark Pokemon (Marnie and Morpeeko being the most recent example) but we rarely see the ‘mons in their element. The games are about the human characters first and foremost.
New Pokemon Snap is different. You stay in a Jurassic World-style glass dome and move through the world on rails. You’re never allowed to leave the role of observer, and that puts the spotlight back on the Pokemon. The footage we’ve seen so far is limited; the trailers together barely total 10 minutes of viewing, and that’s including some of the footage that repeats across multiple promos. Still, the world seems bursting with so much more natural communication between the Pokemon.
We see Octillery and Seviper fighting, before Seviper scurries off – side note; who knew Seviper could swim? – as well as Wailmer blowing a much smaller ‘mon away, and Grookey and Pichu chilling together. There are some other clashes, like Pigeot swooping down to pluck Magikarp, but we also have interactions within species. A group of Bellossom are gathered on the beach, dancing, while we see two baby Duckletts swimming behind a Swanna. It’s not until you see these creatures so free and so natural in the wild that you realise the main series rarely let us see them in this light.
It’s not the only Pokemon game to do this, of course. There was the last Pokemon Snap, and the PokePark series. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon throws the spotlight on the Pokemon too, but it tends to anthropomorphise them in a way New Pokemon Snap does not. Mystery Dungeon is an important entry in the Pokemon canon, and this Disney movie-style humanisation of the Pokemon is a brilliant way to explore their personality, but all the ‘mons living in a little village and Kangaskhan running its own corner shop isn’t really what Pokemon is about.
I’ve written before about why Island of the Giant Pokemon should be in a game, and not just because of the aforementioned giant Pokemon. In that episode of the anime, the humans and Pokemon are split, forcing Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander, Ekans, Koffing, and Meowth to work together. Meowth can speak English, but aside from that, the Pokemon aren’t turned into cartoon caricatures here. They’re allowed to remain as animals but still communicate and interact – that’s what Pokemon needs more of, and New Pokemon Snap looks set to provide the best roadmap yet for how to get this interaction into a game.
There’s a lot to be excited for ahead of New Pokemon Snap, but most of it will rely on the built in nostalgia and charisma of the ‘mons themselves. The interactions, and the opportunity to see the Pokemon relatively undisturbed in their natural environment, is where the game is set to really shine.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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