New Pokemon Snap has released to much praise and excitement. After 22 years, the Nintendo 64 cult classic spin-off finally has a continuation courtesy of Bandai Namco. Fans are already eagerly digging into the game, discovering the many different Pokemon, areas, and secrets New Pokemon Snap has hidden within its Lental region. It’s successful in its endeavors by doing the single thing Pokemon Snap fans have been asking for: being Pokemon Snap, but more.
However, as older fans dive deeper and deeper into New Pokemon Snap, they can’t help but recall what has been left behind. A few mechanics from the old game have been sacrificed in favor of new ones, such as Pester Balls being replaced by Lumina Orbs, and some of the iconic lines from the original have been set aside to make way for smoother photo evaluation, editing, and even online sharing. However, one absent mechanic that wowed many a Pokemon player back in the day was evolution. Pokemon evolving into stronger forms is a core aspect of the franchise, and the original Pokemon Snap took great pains to preserve this feature and show how it might happen in the wild.
In a normal Pokemon game, a Pokemon evolves through training in combat. Once they reached certain level thresholds, certain Pokemon evolved into a new, stronger form. This mechanic has been built up throughout the Pokemon series in a variety of different ways. Right from the get-go, some Pokemon could only evolve through trading and via special items. Later on in the series, there were Pokemon who could only evolve by levelling up in certain areas, by gaining a certain amount of affection for their trainer, by levelling up while holding a certain item, or even by levelling up while one’s handheld was upside down. Special mention goes to the creepy Ghost/Bug Shedinja, which was a bizarre derivative evolution from Nincada and Ninjask that required a spare slot in the player’s team.
That wasn’t all, either. Come Generation 6, covering Pokemon X and Y and Pokemon Omega Ruby and Soul Sapphire, Mega Evolutions became the talk of the town. These special evolutions were accessible as temporary power-ups mid-battle, and could be accessed after the player had found Mega Stones that corresponded to certain Pokemon. Mega Pokemon were made to look like an extra evolutionary stage for their particular species, and a couple Pokemon even had access to two of them. Mega Evolution was present in Generation 7 as well, which encompassed Pokemon Let’s Go and Pokken Tournament DX in addition to the mainline games, though the feature was not in focus by this point.
Evolution in Pokemon Snap is an interesting case, especially considering that players are only taking pictures of Pokemon and not picking a starter and going out to fight with it. Snap is a photography game focused on showing what Pokemon look like while in their natural habitats, a 3D slice of daily life in the Pokemon world that the mainline games don’t normally provide. Pokemon are seen playing, fighting, eating, sleeping, and otherwise moving around and living in environments largely untouched by humans. The few monuments to human presence are all seemingly abandoned, and the reasons for their presence are unclear and unexplored. As a part of this, players get a special look at how wild Pokemon evolve without the help of trainers.
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