With the highly anticipated The Crown Tundra expansion soon releasing for Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, Pocket Monster fever is certainly in the air. What better time would there be to review the relatively recently released Nexomon: Extinction. Following the early accessed Temtem, Nexomon: Extinction is the next in a long line of Pokémon “clones.” As Mewtwo once learned, being a clone is not necessarily a bad thing. With story-driven gameplay and beautiful HD sprites, Nexomon: Extinction could very well be a worthy spiritual sequel to this long-running franchise.
Is Nexomon: Extinction more than a cheap imitation?
As with any main series Pokémon title, Nexomon: Extinction begins with a helping of world-building exposition. It tells this fantastical tale of how humans and Nexomon live together in harmony. This is a lie. The monsters of legend wanted nothing more than complete domination and the annihilation of the human race. Only by teaming up with the monster masses were the human heroes able to defeat the would-be King of the Monsters. As much as modern Tamers would love to believe in this happy ending, things are not quite finished. With legendary Nexomon known as Tyrants continue to appear throughout history, the days of this false peace may soon be numbered.
After selecting a name and appearance, the scene opens inside a humble orphanage. The player character, who will be referred to as Heihei, wakes up to what will be the first day of the rest of her life. The house’s patriarch and local guild master summon Heihei and her could be rivals. Without offering a proper starter of their own, the elders send the three youngsters off to fend for themselves. Great idea right? Not really; at least according to the resident loudmouth cat.
Barely stepping foot outside her hometown, Heihei is attacked by a vicious dragon. Rumored to only attack Tyrants, Heihei is completely defenseless without even a starter monster of her own. Prematurely arriving at death’s door, Heihei is approached by a mysterious woman. She offers Heihei not only a starter Nexomon but cryptic answers as well. After narrowly escaping the dragon’s rage, the stranger asks something in return for the help. She requests that Heihei not tell anybody about the event, not even the guild master herself.
At the end of the day, the Pokémon franchise is rarely known for its strong storytelling. There are certainly timeless moments in the series. Climactic battles including Red vs. Blue, Gold vs. Red, and anybody vs. N have each gone down in history. Pivotal gyms, leagues, and enemy teams aside, the stories of Pokémon generally take a back seat. Perhaps in light of this, Nexomon: Extinction goes in a different direction.
Nexomon: Extinction starts like any Pokémon title. Rather than challenging official gyms or trials, however, Heihei instead seeks out ancient Tyrants. While still daunting in strength, they can no longer hold a candle to the competing youth. Only by defeating these ancient antagonists does Heihei stand a chance to defeat the greater threat. While the story is even darker than the Pokémon Black & Pokémon White tetralogy, it is not without its humor. Heihei’s cat companion, Coco, is an otherworldly delight. In any event, he’s not afraid to make fun of his game, Pokémon, or Role-Playing clichés in general. If the series is ever greenlit for a movie adaption, Ryan Reynolds would be a perfect fit.
Coco isn’t the only notable character in the game. In terms of world-building, Nexomon: Extinction succeeds where even AAA JRPGs have fallen short. As a guild member, Heihei holds various ranks throughout the game. Starting with her Bronze badge, everybody initially looks down upon her. NPCs change their tune however as Heihei proves her worth. This is most immersive after a climactic fight. While everyone and their mother may forget the newest reigning Pokémon Champion, the people of Nexomon: Extinction will never forget the lives that Heihei once saved.
Pokémon X Nexomon
In terms of gameplay, Nexomon is something of a Pokémon lite. The combat is closest to Pokémon‘s now-legendary Second Generation. Any veteran Pokémon Trainer should feel right at home when stepping into the world of Nexomon: Extinction. Much like any Pokémon, Nexomon can only remember a total of 4 moves at any given time. Unlike Pokémon games, however, these moves cannot be learned manually through the use of an HM, TM, or Move Tutor. Instead, Xenomon can only learn moves that they would from traditional leveling up.
Move Reminders are the only special means for a Nexomon to learn a move. While this removes some variety from team compositions, it also adds to the challenge. Also, each attack has its own speed stat and SP cost. With Nexomon having a single SP gauge rather than multiple PP allocations, Ether use and switching out will become very common practice early into the game. Especially when even the least notable of tamers commonly hold 3-5 Nexomon of their own.
As with Pokémon in their First and Second Generation of games, Nexomon do not possess any passive abilities. Also, stats are consistent between each Nexomon of the same species. For better or for worse, IVs, EVs, and personality Traits are completely non-existent. While this concept would be the norm for most any JRPG on the market, it may be a turn off for the competitive focused Pokémon fans looking to min-max their characters. The only real form of customization is by the use of held items. Unlike Pokémon, Nexomon can carry up to four items at a time. These items can offer a plethora of bonuses including stat buffs and experience increases. Although this offers variety, by mid-game players may elect to only select the rarest few.
Throughout the game, Heihei will find some obstacles in her path. These can range from bodies of water, cliffs, and even smoldering flame. Much like Pokémon, Heihei will need to obtain hidden techniques to advance. Following Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, these powers do not need to be learned by a Nexomon. Instead, Heihei finds her own way to navigate these obstacles without the needs of an “HM Slave.”
The world of Nexomon is shaped much like any Pokémon region. Notable towns fill the region, each with diverse designs and themes. Admittedly these civilizations are generally larger than those found in Pokémon titles. On the flip side, the routes between towns are relatively smaller in scale. This simplifies things during frequent backtracking. While this is often due to completely option quests, it can also be a necessity for clearing the main campaign.
Black and White
Up until the releases of Black 2 and White 2, the main Pokémon series was made up of ever-evolving 2D sprites. Pokémon X and Pokémon Y marked the first time the main series made use of 3D models. Nexomon: Extinction looks like a “what if” situation. These could have easily been the type of visuals shown off by Pokémon had the series retained its 2D design.
The overworld sprites are beautifully high definition. Sprite animations include walking, spinning, falling, and even giving victory signs in the case of Heihei. On top of that, expressive thought bubbles frequently appear above emotional characters. The level of detail given to even the most random NPCs is something to take notice of. In addition to standard character sprites, the game also features static art of the majority of humans. Unfortunately, they mostly come off as pretty generic. While some like Lydia and Xanders really stand out, others look like fan-made parodies of themselves.
There is a reason why Pikachu has a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Pokémon franchise features some of the most notable character designs in the anime, manga, and game industries. There have admittedly been multiple missteps for series in terms of individual designs. Each game as a whole however has always offered a memorable assortment of mon. This fact is probably one of the greatest challenges of any game trying to capture that same magic. Unlike some competitors, Nexomon: Extinction actually pulls it off.
Nexomon: Extinction features a nice mix of original concepts and parodies of existing Pokémon. The Nexomon Blublub is undeniably a parody of the Solosis evolutionary family. On the other hand, Nexomon such as Couplet are truly one of a kind and unlike anything, we’ve seen in the Pokémon world. These original concepts are effectively recreated within the game’s battle screen. Despite being made up of 2D sprites, each Nexomon dynamically moves as they wait for their commands. It all looks so much like Pokémon that it’s sometimes easy to forget that it’s not.
Nexomon: Extinction does not just look like a Pokémon game, it sounds like one too. This is both an advantage as a disadvantage to the game. On one hand, much of the music may sound nostalgic to even newcomers of Nexomon. The battle tracks especially sound ripped straight from a Pokémon soundtrack. Unfortunately, this results in Nexomon’s soundtrack lacking much of an identity of its own. While each track certainly captures the moment, they can be easy to forget about whenever not actively playing.
As with every Pokémon title, Xenomon: Extinction‘s dialog is completely unvoiced. While this tradition should not come off as a surprise, it remains disappointing. Of course the same can be said about Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield; the first mainline games to also be released on a home console. This rings true with Nexomon: Extinction. While perhaps slightly higher quality, Nexomon sound just like their Pocket Monster counterparts. Anybody that has ever played even a single Pokémon should know exactly what to expect. Remember what Pokémon Trainer Red once said, “…”
Overall Xenomon: Extinction serves as both a parody and an evolution of Pokémon. The game has no qualms with mocking either itself and its spiritual predecessor any chance it gets. Xenomon’s story-driven gameplay surpassed a depth ever explored by the Pokémon series. The battle system is a unique twist of Game Freak’s tried-and-true formula. Nexomon: Extinction would undoubtedly be a fine catch for any Pokémon Trainer.
Hey! Hey!! Listen!!! gives Xenomon: Extinction 8.9 Tyrants out of 10.