I have no gun, but I must shoot.

This bidoof is glowing with excitement.

Nintendo

Hey, slow down, scorbunny. Have some fruit!

Nintendo

Scanning points of interest can give valuable info.

Nintendo

Throwing a lumina ball at certain plants can generate a glow that attracts monsters.

Nintendo

Nintendo

An icon like this means you can choose one of two branching paths.

Nintendo

Well, if you’re not gonna wake up, I’ll just take a picture of the top of your head, I guess…

Nintendo

When you get down to it, “shooting” in a video game is really just a way of projecting a directed line of intent from your character to another visible point on the map. This basic fact is a large part of why shooting a gun has become such a natural means of interacting with games from a first-person perspective. If your character is looking at something, shooting a gun lets you instantly and easily engage with whatever you’re looking at.
There’s one other major real-life action where this simple point-and-shoot mechanic applies: photography. Nintendo was among the first game-makers to realize this over 20 years ago, creating Pokémon Snap for the Nintendo 64 as a new type of first-person “shooter” (it doesn’t hurt that cameras fit much better than guns with Pokémon’s family-friendly branding). In the years since, though, only a handful of games have taken Nintendo’s lead and replaced “shoot a gun” with “shoot a photo” as the main verb.
So it’s down to Nintendo to revive and expand its own good idea with the awkwardly titled New Pokémon Snap for the Switch. Though the update can get a bit repetitive and tedious at times, this secret-packed photo safari is a great mix of chill moments and competitive personal striving for the best shots.
Ride the rails

New Pokémon Snap [Switch]

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

If we’re comparing New Pokémon Snap to gun-based shooters, it bears less resemblance to a Call of Duty and more resemblance to an arcade light-gun shooter like House of the Dead or Time Crisis. That’s because the game, like its N64 predecessor, limits your movement to a preset path, automatically pushing you forward as you tilt and zoom your camera to try to get the best shots (the descriptor “rail shooter” is popular enough to have colonized Wikipedia).
To be fair, you do unlock a few subtle ways to change things up as New Pokémon Snap progresses. You can eventually revisit each course during the night, for instance, completely changing which pokémon are present and how they might act in front of you. You can also earn your way to higher “research levels” for each course, introducing further slight variations on the available fauna. Some courses also have branching paths, letting you see new parts of the level if you trigger a preset marker. Advertisement

Still, the game’s strict on-rails design can be frustrating, especially if you’re accustomed to open-world shooters that let you explore every last nook and cranny. Pokémon will sometimes remain stubbornly far away or keep their backs turned to you, creating awkward shots that would be easy to fix if you could just take a few steps to the side. Being on rails is also frustrating if you miss a carefully planned shot, forcing you to restart the entire course from the beginning and wait to get back to that same position before trying again.

Look at this absolute goof.

An example of how the game scores photos.

Nintendo

I am kind of surprised that the photo on the right scored better, to be honest.

Nintendo

Getting Pokemon to interact with each other is a great way to get high scores.

Nintendo

If you can tell which of these “compare” photos is “better,” you’re superior to me.

Nintendo

It takes at least four trips through a stage to fill up a Photodex page like this.

Nintendo

I really have no idea why some of these photos are “1 star” and some are “4 star”

Nintendo

How majestic. Such grace.

Nintendo

Well hello there.

Nintendo

This game is just packed with unique beasts.

Nintendo

The slow-paced way the game unlocks new tools and areas seems designed to encourage these kinds of repetitive runs through its largely linear environments. This feeling is exacerbated by the limited methods for filling up your in-game Photodex of Pokémon (a photographic version of the usual Pokédex).
Getting a full Photodex requires finding at least four different photos of each monster that ranks at each level from one to four stars. This ranking process can be inscrutable, but photos of rarer poses and actions by the pokémon generally earn better star rankings. The star rankings are made even more confusing because each photo also gets a bronze-to-gold color rating as well as an individual score rating based on factors like size, centering, and the presence of other pokémon in the photo.
In any case, at the end of each run you can only choose one photo per monster to submit to the professor for final evaluation and addition to your Photodex. Even if you snap dozens of photos at every star ranking in a single run, in the end you’ll have to throw most of them out and give the course another go to capture another pose for the Photodex (you can save unused pictures in a more permanent photo album, though, just for posterity and in-game online sharing).