I want to be the very best, like no one ever was, because I know it’s my destiny to catch ’em all. That’s been my mantra for many years as a trainer and it has served me pretty well through a plethora of Pokémon titles. There’s no doubt the Pokémon franchise has dominated that niche, monster-catching RPG corner of the gaming market for decades, but now a wild challenger has appeared. It’s Nexomon: Extinction, which could prove strong enough to be a new contender to the throne. Or is it merely a pretender that’s lacking the originality to ruffle some feathers?
While the sheer prospect of any new franchises actually dethroning Pokémon is nigh-on impossible, Nexomon: Extinction shows that it can mix with the best of them. It’s simply refreshing to witness a take on the monster-catching genre that’s different enough for players to dismiss claims of being an outright clone. Sure, Nexomon borrows ideas, but it puts a unique spin on them and even excels where others fail to shine.
Nexomon: Extinction is a 2D RPG adventure in which you’ll play the role of a rookie tamer who’s looking to rise up through the ranks of the Tamer’s Guild – so far, nothing out of the ordinary. Unfortunately the world is in a bit of a state, with creatures known as Nexomon fighting amongst themselves in order to reign supreme over humans and beasts alike. The previous King of the lands, an evil Nexomon, was toppled long ago and its Tyrant ancestors are now baying for domination. The Guild needs your help to stave off the possibility of a Tyrant Nexomon in such a position of power and to restore the balance of power. Could a lowly orphan, still learning the art of taming, really play an important part in this epic struggle? Apparently, yes!
Without spoiling anything, the narrative is certainly impressive in the way it hooks you immediately. It may only feature text dialogue and still screens, but you’ll feel obliged to read every conversation for fear of missing something interesting or worth a giggle. You see, this isn’t some boring tale of woe that has you challenging a childhood rival at every juncture and just so happens to get embroiled in a dangerous plot. Instead, there’s an intriguing air of mystery surrounding the protagonist and it’s not by chance that they’re in this tricky spot. Thankfully, it’s not doom and gloom either, with the supporting characters offering light relief throughout the main quest line.
As a game, Nexomon: Extinction is tremendously self-aware too, mainly using Coco – a companion who speaks on your behalf – as a mocking tool that highlights the ridiculousness of certain situations. And the witty nature shines further during the optional side objectives picked up from talking to memorable NPCs, like the forgetful mailman that sends you on a wild goose-chase or the giant, devious looking tree who needs friends. These provide fairly decent and rewarding tasks, ranging from standard fetch quests to full on battling; the latter of which requires a Nexomon.
In the very early stages, you must decide upon a starter Nexomon to give you half a chance for the perilous adventure to follow. There are nine options – one for each elemental type including water, plant, ghost, wind and more – and it feels like the biggest decision of your life, which it should be. While spoilt for choice, the disappointing aspect is that it matters little as these really aren’t special Nexomon. Having chosen the fiery Lume, it wasn’t long before I had encountered and acquired most of the others – the opportunity even arose to catch another Lume. Your first Nexomon has to be more important, but it isn’t and that’s a darn shame.
The gameplay essentially consists of three main aspects: roaming, battling, and catching. For a big portion of the time, you’ll be roaming around and navigating the world in a top-down view similar to how it is Stardew Valley. Chatting to folks and obtaining missions leads to some interesting conversations, but the action hots up when you step foot into the shrubbery sections in which shaking bushes signify a wild Nexomon is present. These encounters lead to a battle, however it’s entirely down to you as to whether you defeat it or try and trap it. Other fights ensue as a result of confrontation with fellow tamers and Tyrant Nexomon, where multiple Nexomon must be taken down in succession. Both situations are fruitful in terms of garnering experience points and coins, which can be spent on various items such as potions, food and Nexotraps.
All battles play out in a turn-based manner, with the aim being to drain the opposition’s health bar to nothing. Each Nexomon has a maximum of four moves in their arsenal, which can be used as many times as their stamina allows. The fact that different element types have dissimilar strengths and weaknesses means a strategic approach is necessary. If a tamer’s team consists of mainly fire, it’s a safe bet to switch out your plant creatures and wheel out the wet ones. While everything about the age-old battle system works well, the developers VEWO Interactive make a silly error in assuming everyone knows the elemental resistances and such.
Quite frankly, that’s one of my minor gripes, moreso on behalf of newcomers; certain features either aren’t explained or the accompanying tutorial arrives a bit too late, after you figured it out. Heck, even I didn’t realise everything off the bat, which suggests Nexomon: Extinction has dropped the ball on that front. Fortunately, the trapping – or catching – mechanics are better showcased, albeit with a slight oversight.
Collecting all of the 381 Nexomon in the game is the ultimate goal and it swiftly becomes addictive to acquire them from the wild. There are a few neat ideas that factor into your chances of trapping a beast inside a Nexotrap. Aside from damaging them until within an inch of defeat, these include feeding them – because food is the key to everyone’s heart, right? – afflicting statuses like sleep, and using Nexotraps geared up especially for specific Nexomon types. It even incorporates a quick-time event to add excitement, however you may not notice it the first time given that there isn’t much attention drawn to it. Nevertheless, the trapping side of proceedings is much more engaging compared to equivalent methods seen in other games of this ilk.
Once you’ve acquired a squad of six Nexomon, with additional ones sent to storage, it requires a conscious effort to ensure rotation occurs; otherwise you’ll end up having a powerful Nexomon alongside a team of weaklings who receive no XP if not involved in the fight. Fortunately, cores can be equipped to each team member, which offer XP boosts and sharing as well as improvements to attack, health, speed and more. Although cores are given as rewards occasionally, it’s good that you can also craft them from shards mined on your travels. Having the possibility for Nexomon to earn XP without fighting provides a great opportunity to level-up those newly caught ones, leading to plenty of choices when the toughest encounters occur.
Credit must be given for the massive amount of Nexomon variety and the brilliantly creative names that have been bestowed upon them. The most obvious case for the latter is the ghostly Skerdi, who evolves into Aferaid and then Dreddiful – it’s so silly, but there’s a charm about it. In terms of designs, the Nexomon come in rather obscure forms that resemble little piggies, mice, and dogs, all the way through to lightbulbs, dreamcatchers and lanterns. They’re all fascinating due to their uniqueness, with only a small selection being reminiscent of the comparable creatures in the Pokémon franchise.
Despite leaving the visuals until last, they’re perhaps the first to leave a lasting impression in this world. Whether you’re admiring the autumnal vibes of the orphanage, the fiery depths of New Ignitia, or just the cherry blossoms blowing in the wind, Nexomon: Extinction is simply stunning. The colour absolutely pops when the occasion suits and, if the environment demands it, applies the necessary effects to create something like a spooky atmosphere, without becoming dull. The fact it’s complemented by a fitting soundtrack really helps to set the overall tone, which is generally quite melancholic.
In conclusion, Nexomon: Extinction on Xbox One is a great alternative to the Pokémon series, because even though it doesn’t have the legacy, there’s a hell of a lot of elements it gets right – especially the gorgeous visuals. The narrative is interesting and witty, while the majority of characters are oozing with personality. As much as the battling doesn’t offer much in regards to freshness when compared to other turn-based games, the art of trapping is different and that’s a welcome change. Conjuring up such a huge amount of Nexomon is worth praise and the designs are pretty good too. It’s not perfect though, with a few oversights that could hinder newcomers as well as veterans.
Still, Nexomon: Extinction is an addictive RPG that should be embraced by anyone who enjoys Pokémon or has ever been tempted to give it a go.