Mega Evolution or Baby Pokémon?
Mastering Pokémon’s formula to success is something that several developers have tried to emulate, with very few finding any sort of major traction in this attempt. Moving to mobile would seem like an easy win for The Pokémon Company, but unless you’re looking for spin-off experiences, this still hasn’t come to fruition, thus allowing for some competition to breed on the platform. Nexomon, the first title in the Nexomon series, started on Android and iOS and garnered a lot of success taking up the banner of the monster-catching RPG. The follow-up to the original is Nexomon: Extinction, a fully-fledged console iteration that—while unabashedly taking a swing at Pokémon—uses their model with a set of unique systems and oft-asked-for mechanics, but ultimately falls short of the goliath it tries to one-up.
Utilizing a darker, world-based story than you’d find in Pokémon’s kid-friendly palette, Nexomon: Extinction takes place following a catastrophic war between Nexomon and humankind. Following a dragon leader known as a Tyrant, these Nexomon attempt to rid the planet of their co-inhabitants. From this fight sprouted the Tamers—humans who capture and befriend the Nexomon—turning the fight back against the Tyrant overlord. After this conflict comes to a head, the humans with their Nexomon partners prevail, but for how long will the peace last? The protagonist of this title starts as an orphan who has finally reached the age to become a Tamer and thus begins this journey, where all manner of quest and adventure is ready to be had. While offering some aspects of the story that are much, much deeper than the reiterated versions you’d find in Pokémon’s titles, it still copies several of the tropes and base plot points from the Pokémon series. Even the dialogue regularly breaks the fourth-wall—generally through your cat-humanoid sidekick—to make a comment on the genre, make fun of some aspect, or the like. With that being said, Pokémon has never found its strength in storytelling, so because Nexomon follows it so closely, neither does Nexomon: Extinction.
While the battle system mimics Pokémon as well, with four moves per creature, nine types of creatures with strengths and weaknesses to each, and six Nexomon on your team at a time, Nexomon: Extinction changes up a few mechanics—for better or worse. First of all, rather than using PP to limit the uses of each move, Nexomon: Extinction has a stamina system for the creature as a whole. This means that your stronger moves must be saved for dire straights or strategic strikes, where your weaker moves are necessary to give your beast longevity through the fight. Because of this, you will find swapping Nexomon during fights much more of a prevalent strategy. While the type differences are present, each attack rarely does enough to one-hit-KO enemies, unlike Pokémon’s meta which hinges on it. This means fights are much more difficult in general, as you juggle stamina, type differences, and the health of your team with each encounter.
Pair that with the fact that Nexomon level up much more slowly than in Pokémon and you have a second reason Nexomon: Extinction is a tougher experience, making this one feel like grinding is necessary, à la more traditional JRPGs. Taking an entire team from start to finish becomes a little less possible unless you’re extremely dedicated, as keeping the experience points to a couple of your favorites while swapping out for tougher Nexomon in new areas makes for a smoother time overall.
Catching Nexomon also follows the same formula as Pokémon, but adds some really player-friendly ways to maximize efficiency. Using traps instead of balls, you are presented with a screen prior to attempting the capture that shows the exact percentage chance you have to catch the Nexomon in front of you. Utilizing their favorite foods, type-specific traps, and properly completing a time-based activity that has you pushing buttons in a certain order, allows you to increase your chances at making a successful capture. Rather than sitting there guessing which ball to use while tapping the buttons in whatever superstitious pattern you’ve used since Pokémon Red and Blue, you get everything spelled out for you, which is an incredible feature.
Traversing the overworld takes a more classic Pokémon approach, with the top-down, grid-based movement of the original few releases, while upping the graphics nicely. The game looks and runs great, but beyond the base performance, Nexomon: Extinction takes how you get around a step further by actually letting you go wherever you’d like—something fans have been begging of Pokémon for years. I am the type of person who checks every corner of the available space given to me for secrets before moving on to the next section, so it was surprising when I found myself turn in the opposite direction of where the story told me to go, which took me to a random island filled with its own set of NPCs and story to discover. The main quest is still linear in a normal Pokémon-esque fashion, and the side quests and locales aren’t that interesting in the ways a game like Skyrim could have you spending hours away from the main portion, but Nexomon: Extinction allows you to explore at your own pace and blaze your own trail, which is refreshing for a title such as this.
Interactions with NPCs in Pokémon are often pretty drab, where the most exciting thing is usually getting an item given to you or the occasional trade offering. Well, in Nexomon: Extinction, this gets taken to the nth degree, where side quests pile up with random characters needing various supplies in exchange for some upgraded loot that you’d be happy to take. It was a surprise to even find a number of NPCs looking for specific Nexomon, where you could exchange them for items, rather than simply in a ‘mon-for-’mon trade. This makes each conversation way more enticing.
As you can see from this review, Pokémon is the main aspect for comparison. While that is partially unfair as it is a stand-alone product, the fact that Nexomon: Extinction takes its identity as a Pokémon clone so seriously—it does everything but namedrop its rival series—means these comparisons have to be made. For the Pokémon super fan, Nexomon: Extinction will more than likely offer some fresh takes on a genre you adore, meaning you’ll have a decent time. But there is just something that makes it feel like a mere copycat. The charm, the nostalgia, and the world of Pokémon can’t be repeated, so while it is nice to have a title make some improvements and pull a few punches, at the end of the day, Nexomon: Extinction knows it isn’t going to be Pokémon, and that’s the best way to offer an iteration such as this.
Nexomon: Extinction is clearly inspired by Pokémon from top to bottom. While they change up a few mechanics and make some definite improvements here and there, not enough is done to consider this among the elite of the monster-catching RPGs. An interesting title to spend some time in for the right price, Nexomon: Extinction will be something the Pokémon hardcore will want to check out, while everyone else might just want to find a Game Boy and their copy of Blue version.