I want to play Coromon. I cannot play Coromon in full as it does not come out until next year.
As such, I’m working my way through Coromon substitutes and today we’re going to look at the Nintendo Switch version of Nexomon: Extinction. It probably doesn’t take too much figuring out that a video game with a “mon” in the name is a monster-capture role-playing game. The game boasts over 300 monsters and critters to catch, raise, and evolve, and tries to break the mold a little with their gameplay, featuring an open-world style adventure focusing on story and side-quests.
The game is available on Steam, the Playstation 4, the Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. But since I’ve played through its key competitors whilst using the Switch, this review is going to be based on that version of the game. Nexomon Extinction is currently $30.00 AUD on the Nintendo eShop, and the game plays pretty well on the console, even in handheld mode. I didn’t notice any dramatic frame drops, nor were there really any other performance issues like tearing, or painful textures, in comparison to other versions of the game. So, don’t worry about getting a watered-down version if you want to play the game on the go.
Now that you have all the context and exposition about the game that you need, or are likely to get from me, let’s talk about what the game tries to do that will set it apart from other games in the genre, what it has in common, and whether any of those are done well.
I will say that Nexomon Extinction puts infinitely more effort into telling a story than any mainline Pokemon game in the history of the series. It’s not terribly original – there is a calamity, there are otherworldly big bads, you are chosen to forge a team to destroy all the big bads and save the universe like only a protagonist can. You know, the usual. But there is plenty of effort, and I appreciate that.
Pokemon knew that despite their target audience growing up and getting older, they didn’t have to ship their games with a compelling story, or put any effort into telling that story throughout the game. It’s just something they like to tack on to your quest to get all the badges and become the league champion. From Generation Three onward, it has been about the end of the world if the bad guys aren’t stopped – I know I’m oversimplifying, but you get the idea.
This is why I say that Nexomon Extinction isn’t terribly original. The story revolves around generally the same elements; the key difference is effort. Nexomon wants to tell a story. It’s not just there because they need to have a context for you traveling around the continent collecting monsters. It’s there because the team crafted a specific story they wanted to tell, and they have. It’s good. It’s not original, but it’s good.
Another key difference is the volume, and effectiveness, of Nexomon Extinction’s storytelling in comparison to Pokemon. Whereas Pokemon might sprinkle the story every now and then, tripped by flags on your very linear game progression, this is something that Nexomon strays from – and this is a good thing. The story provides context to your every activity from the very beginning of the game and this is something that is very gripping. I’ll try not to spoil it too much, but the game’s first few hours include a meteor-like dragon exploding onto an orphanage, and you discovering an underground lair that features a legendary warrior.
It might sound like a lot or a bit over the top, but the point is that the story is compelling from the get-go. You’re probably going to guess what happens along the way if you’ve played any other game ever, but the point is that it’s going to be exciting regardless. So, in this regard, Nexomon has infinitely better story-telling, in terms of volume and effectiveness, than any Pokemon game there is.
But, there is one key problem with this. The competition that we’ve based our comparison on has never set the bar high. Why is this a bad thing? Well, it’s not. At least, not directly. The problem is aaaaactually…Digimon.
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth – Hacker’s Memory has one of the most beautiful and touching stories that I have ever experienced in a video game.
That’s the pitfall for Nexomon’s story. If you’re going to play a monster-capture RPG, and you want to experience the best story possible, it won’t be in this game. You should play Hacker’s Memory instead if that is the experience that you want. All of the praise that I gave Nexomon’s story is still absolutely still valid, it’s just not the best. And considering that the main competitor in this regard is available on all the same platforms, well, if you want a story-driven experience, there is no reason to choose Nexomon over Hacker’s Memory.
Again, I think the story and direction of Nexomon’s overall narrative deserves praise for its effort, if not for its ability to make me care about individual characters and plotlines to the degree I expect from this genre now.
The monsters in Nexomon Extinction are both its greatest asset, and its biggest downfall. Having so many monsters and so many evolutions from straight out of the box is a fantastic way to build a monster-capture franchise, and it’s one of my favourite things about Nexomon Extinction. There is a huge level of variety in the game, and that variety comes in a few different forms. First off, there are a plethora of different types to choose from, including:
Whilst all of these are going to seem pretty familiar, there are a few key differences that really opens the Nexomon designs. Taking rock and ground types from similar games and turning them into mineral, or taking flying or bird types from other games and turning them into wind, really relieves a lot of design restrictions from the typing name. No longer is flying type restricted to just birds, or rock types needing to be directly made from a stone type. You can really tell that freedom when it came to design was important in development, and I think the game really benefits from it.
Unlike some other games in the genre, there doesn’t feel like a whole lot of repetition. If you’re looking for an example, take Pokemon. The games always include an early flying type Pokemon, for type coverage and for the allowance of the Fly HM in most games.
These are all different Pokemon, but they certainly don’t feel like it:
You can really tell from these examples how restricting having these type names can be – “flying” type is mostly restricted to bird lookalikes, and it makes building a team really boring. Yes, they’re all slightly different, but their differences aren’t profound enough to make them interesting, and this is something that Nexomon Extinction does really well.
So, let’s take a look at some of the “Wind” Nexomon for comparison:
See what I mean? Just from these examples, you can see how much more variety there is within the same typing group in Nexomon Extinction than in one of its key competitors in Pokemon. This is something that I really enjoyed about the game. I’m a planner. I love to plan out my group of six monsters for these types of games ahead of time, and work towards them as I play through. This experience is infinitely more enjoyable than normal with the vast level of variety in Nexomon designs – even within the same typing group.
Now, I know mentioned that the designs of the characters are both Nexmon’s greatest and weakest point, and you might be a bit surprised by how that could possibly be based on those designs. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great. But the key problem is that the designs across the board reeks of just too many designers trying to go in too many directions. I have no idea how many people contributed to the designs of the Nexomon bestiary, but alas, they really have some contrasts that make them seem too far away from one another to be from the same franchise, let alone the same game.
Unfortunately for Nexomon, this is something that its key competitors in Pokemon and Digimon have always done exceptionally well. I’ll give you a few examples:
You can see here from the Charmander into Charizard line, and the Gible in Garchomp line, that whilst these two Pokemon are from entirely separate generations, and share no similarities in terms of family or typing, they are clearly from the same franchise. It’s easy to recognise from their shared art style that they are from the same video game.
The same can be said of Digimon:
Much like the Pokemon example, it’s really easy to tell with these that despite the Agumon into Metalgreymon, and Veemon into Aeroveedramon lines coming from different generations, and having nothing to do with each other family and evolutionarily, it is easily recognisable that they’re from the same franchise and from the same video game.
This is where the designs in Nexomon fall short. Sure, the diversity is great, but such are the many different art directions that the monsters follow that they can often feel really disconnected from one another, and that contributes to pulling the player out of an immersive experience.
Here are some examples of what I’m referring to:
You can see that whilst these two evolution lines might look great individually, they are pretty inconsistent in terms of level of detail and art style. It really does feel like several different people wanted to take the game in several different directions. And that’s great for variety – there’s cool Nexomon, edgy-looking ones, cute or adorable ones, funny Nexomon designs with punny names. And whilst that does make team-building really interesting, it’s quite jarring to have these Nexomon all lined up and having them look from entirely different games.
That’s something that I would outline as a key flaw; there really is no synergy across the Nexomon design, and I don’t think this is something that is fixed by adding more monsters, but from starting from scratch with games of the future in this series.
This is the part of the review where I have nothing but praise for Nexomon Extinction. It’s like
VEWO Interactive Inc had a look at the big games in the genre and made a list of every feature that those games should have, every quality of life improvement that those games need, and every little thing that fans of the genre have wanted for decades, and decided to make a game that just fixes all of that.
Every part of the game’s user interface is sleek and smooth; it looks like it was designed by Steve Jobs in heaven. It all flows extremely well visually and is super easy to navigate even if you have no familiarity with the series whatsoever.
Managing your team is super easy, all the information that you could want or need is there at a glance. Managing their held items, managing your inventory, sorting through settings and customising your character on the fly – everything is really accessible and runs well even on the Switch’s limited hardware.
But that’s just the start. The real reason that Nexomon Extinction deserves so much praise is their “Custom Mode” feature. This is really where you can play the game how you want to, and really find some depth and longevity in the experience. I’m going to go over them directly here:
- Copy a Nexomon Team from another Save File.
- Copy a Nexomon Storage from another Save File.
- Copy an Inventory and Wallet from another Save File. Some items won’t be copied (such as charms).
- Randomize Starters:
- Only unevolved Nexomon.
- Include evolved Nexomon.
- Include evolved Nexomon and legendaries.
- Randomize Wild Encounters:
- Scramble the official distribution (i.e. pools are moved around).
- Completely random from the entire roster (no distribution at all).
- Randomize Tamer Parties:
- Keep the original evolution stage.
- Use an equivalent or greater evolution stage.
- Use any random evolution stage.
- Mutate Tamer Parties:
- Every time a tamer is defeated, their party is re-randomized so each encounter is different (“Randomize Tamer Parties” must be enabled).
- Allow Story Boss Randomization:
- Allow story-related enemies to be randomized when “Randomize Tamer Parties” is enabled.
- Capture Restriction:
- Only the very first Nexomon encountered in each map may be captured.
- Randomize Overworld Items:
- Randomize items found on the ground and in chests:
- Randomize Ore Boulders:
- Randomize items found in ore boulders
- Max Level:
- Disable level cap (actually it becomes 999).
- Early Evolved Encounters:
- Allow evolved stages to appear in the wild even early on.
- Increased Difficulty:
- Boost the overall level difficulty of all encounters, up to +90 extra levels.
- Permanently Faint Nexomon:
- Fainted Nexomon cannot be restored. Losing the game causes this setting to be disabled so it can be played normally.
- Fainted Nexomon cannot be restored. Losing the game causes your save file to be permanently locked.
- Limit Battle Items:
- Set a limit from 0 to 5 items that may be used in a battle.
- Disable Shopping:
- You cannot buy or sell items.
- Flee From Battles:
- Disable the Flee command.
- Boost Coins (wild and tamer encounters):
- Up to 300%
- Boost Experience:
- Up to 500%
- Starting Level:
- Set the level of your starter. This also resets the level of any copied Nexomon from other save files. Up to lvl 90.
- Recalculate Evolution Stages:
- Recalculate the evolution stage of any copied Nexomon (so if you reset their levels to something low, they should be tier 1). This setting would also cause them to evolve if their new level happens to meet the threshold.
- Randomize Skills:
- Keep the original element.
- Completely random.
- Randomization Seed:
- Affects random patterns. Changing this after the initial setup can cause duplicate skills to be learned.
- Lock Settings:
- Disallow the player from changing these settings after the initial setup.
I would like to direct specific attention to a few of these features and their importance in the genre.
The first of which is the ability to increase the game’s difficulty. This is something that I know that Pokemon fans have been begging the Pokemon Company to include in their games for forever, basically. Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 had a challenge mode, then the idea was just abandoned. Multiple difficulties are absolutely necessary with such a huge variance and diversity in target audience ages.
The second is that you can enable perma-death for your Nexomon, in effect you are given the terms to create your own Nuzlocke challenge within the game. This is just another example of the developer looking at and understanding the desire of the genre’s community, and making their game specifically designed to answer that community’s frustrations. It’s fantastic.
The third and final point that I’d like to bring specific attention to is the ability to basically randomise every feature of the game. If you’re playing through and you’re loving the experience, but you’re bummed that it’s coming to an end, well, fear not! With all these randomisation options, the game gains an incredible amount of replayability. Not just through taking on a different team through the story, but really changing all the aspects of the experience to give yourself something fresh each time. It extends the playtime of a regular monster-capture game by a ridiculous amount.
Overall I would say that Nexomon Extinction is strictly better than Pokemon Sword and Shield by a long way, but falls a little short in comparison to Digimon Story: Hackers Memory.
How will it stack up when Coromon comes out early next year? We’ll have to wait and see, but best believe we’ll be comparing the two extensively.