Welcome to the Lental region - a small archipelago featuring a crucible of radically different environments, teeming with over 200 species of Pokémon (this may sound like a paltry roster relative to the nigh-on 900 that exist in the wider world, but rest assured that it’s a perfect fit for the purposes of this game). You’ll be met immediately by Professor Mirror and his erstwhile assistant, Rita, who will show you the ropes of your kit; you’ll later be joined by old Snap stalwart Todd and his acolyte, Phil (and boy, has the former Longbottomed in the intervening years). You’ll swiftly discover that Lental has a unique secret called the Illumina phenomenon, whereby strange local flowers can cause Pokémon to glow and display fascinating patterns, most notably the Meganium featured in the game’s first significant trailer.
The Pokémon themselves can be a little intimidating, too; a colossal Arbok is the undisputed king of the jungle (at least, until Slaking wakes up) and you’ll never look at a Minior the same way again. The creatures that populate this land ooze character in a way that the main series titles have yet to convey outside of Pokédex entries. Hardcore fans may feel let down given the strong likelihood that their favourites are not present in Lental (broadly, the game features more ‘natural’, animalistic species over urban or downright odd ones), but New Pokémon Snap will manage to make such players love even Bidoof with equal passion.
If there’s a primary limitation of the experience, it’s the pace of progression. The game’s initial generosity in granting access to new routes slowly but surely gives way to tasking you with revisiting areas for particular shots, often related to the Illumina phenomenon. There’s still some variance in the species that can be encountered even within the same level of a single location, but after three or four passes you’ll likely have seen all it has to offer, and that can become a slog when you’re required to repeat it three or four times more to unlock particular behaviours via Professor Mirror awarding your photos the necessary points to progress. It’s easy enough to mix things up by cycling through each location in turn, but there’s little escaping the fact that you’ll have to watch a pair of Cacnea get fruit stuck in their spines several times over to dig deep into the game's content.
Ultimately though, these are small blemishes in an otherwise delightful experience, and ill will after a couple of grindy treks will dissolve in the face of a Wailord breaching the water’s surface nary feet in front of the camera, soaking the player’s vision. This is a beautiful, gentle, fun adventure for anyone familiar with the franchise and a very easy recommendation for such a crowd. Those completely new to the series may be left a little underwhelmed by streamlined and slightly repetitive gameplay, but it won’t be won’t be long before the Lental region and its charming inhabitants win them over.