New Pokemon Snap’s Worst Map Is Actually Its Best One

The vast majority of maps in New Pokemon Snap are excellent. Despite serving as the tutorial level, Florio Nature Park is teeming with intricate little secrets, while biomes designed to be standout setpieces like Elsewhere Forest, Fireflow Volcano, and the Ruins of Remembrance all have their own distinctly brilliant atmospheric qualities. For a while, I thought every single level in the game was going to be phenomenal.

But then I got to Shiver Snowfields, where I was just like… what? What is this place? It’s not so much a winter wonderland as it is that kind of mucky sleet that appears under car tires after a long bout of rubbish, half-hail snow. Honestly, a hill, a little open space, another hill, a cavern with the ice cream Pokemon, and a frozen pond? What about tundras? What about snow-capped mountains? Icebergs, aurora borealis, inch-thick glacial sheets that Dewgong bursts through to say hello? Nah, hills. Two of them. Great.

I wasn’t too fussed about replaying Shiver Snowfields after completing its necessary story arc, despite the fact it’s the only place in the game where some of my favourite Pokemon are found. Weavile is a mainstay on my team in every single game it’s available in, and I’m a huge fan of Alolan Vulpix. I couldn’t care less about Furret, though, and Piloswine – my favourite ‘mon in the Swinub family – is the only ‘mon in the Swinub family that’s not here. I really like Skarmory and Piplup, but Beartic? Braviary? Snorunt? Jynx? Snom? Give me a break. At least Froslass is decent.

Despite my misgivings, I did eventually make my way back to Shiver Snowfields, mostly because my course scores there were awful and I was trying to earn a respectable rank on the leaderboards. I’d also heard a cheeky little rumour about Suicune being in the game, and having already found Manaphy in Maricopia Reef… well, Suicune was hardly going to be 20,000 leagues under the sea, and I didn’t really expect to find it lazing about on the beach either.

So I went back to Shiver Snowfields and started experimenting a bit. I eventually noticed that the Alolan Sandslash on my left reappeared on a higher ridge if I used an Illumina orb on it, so I started messing around and hit it with another one. To my surprise, this unlocked a whole alternate route. I was ecstatic, thinking I was finally about to meet Suicune, my favourite Legendary Pokemon in the entire series (for what it’s worth, Lugia is my second-favourite, and Mew, Jirachi, and Celebi are my favourite Mythicals, so I’ve been pretty blessed with Snap).

Nope, massive snowstorm. I’ve read a bit about this section online after discovering it and it seems people weren’t too pleased with this, but I reckon the snowstorm is brilliant. Sure, you can’t see all that much, but it’s better than yet another hill (although there is, in fact, a hill here too, which I realized during the next step of my odyssey to locate Suicune).

I went back a couple of times during the day to no joy, my efforts being thwarted by the ever-raging snowstorm. Eventually I had the bright idea to try again at night time – the swamp route is originally unlocked in Founja Jungle during the day but soon becomes available at night, right? Why shouldn’t it be the same here?

And I was right. No snowstorm after sundown, at least until Abomasnow gets annoyed at Crabominable and whips one up, enticing Froslass to come out and lead us to yet another secret route. This last area – the massive, ice-laden cavern leading out to the open arctic sea – is my single favourite section in New Pokemon Snap. Again, I don’t care for Snorunt or Beartic, but the Piplup here are wonderful, the Skarmory encounter is thrilling, and after all my arduous exploring, I finally managed to find Suicune. It’s safe to say this is the most complex but rewarding encounter in the entire game – I’ve gone through the whole map about a million times since just to experience it again.

When I first arrived at Shiver Snowfields, I thought it was rubbish. Following up Elsewhere Forest with this icy mess? And then using it as the primer for the far superior Outaway Cave and its stacked roster of fan-favourites like Gengar, Crobat, Jolteon, Goodra, Hydreigon, and loads more besides? What a terrible design philosophy. What a silly decision!

More like what a silly thought process for me to have entertained. As soon as I gave Shiver Snowfields a single ounce of credit, just one last chance to redeem itself, it proved to me that it was not, in fact, the worst map in the game. It’s the best one by a considerable margin because of how meticulously well-designed its structure is. Then I got it to rank three and all of a sudden Glaceon appeared – honestly, why did I ever think this map was anything less than perfect? Clearly this is why I don’t make games.

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