Pokémon is a franchise I’ve indulged in for as long as I can remember, from my first with Platinum to the classic that has left a hook sunk into many hearts with Red, Green and Blue. However, despite loving the pocket monster extravaganza, I’ve never looked particularly far beyond Game Freak’s pearly gates. As such, Nexomon was the first Pokémon-like that I’d ever played and it felt exactly as you’d expect, like an homage to days gone by.
There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with paying your dues to the franchise that left a hefty mark, inspiring your own title. Half-Life doesn’t hold back in its handwritten love-letters to Doom & Quake and you’ll be hard-pressed to ignore the Dark Souls intricacies interwoven into Jedi: Fallen Order or Nioh. That being said, there’s taking what a classic does and building upon it and then there’s banking on nostalgia a little too much. Nexomon is a stellar experience with plenty of polish – it plays like a classic Pokémon title with its slick UI, intuitive gameplay, sluggishly long tutorial and incentive to catch ’em all, but it also fails to progress archaic game design and ends up faltering at the first hurdle – movement.
In an open world, albeit from the perspective of birds-eye-view, movement has evolved significantly since the 90s. The left, right, up and down restrictive d-pad system has been out of the window for some time now, with diagonal integration lending its hand to smoother traversal. Nexomon opts instead to go retro, a little too retro for my tastes. Being restricted to a grid feels jarring and janky which can take some getting used to, especially if you’re jumping into the fold because you can’t afford Sword/Shield or Let’s Go and are itching for a modern Switch Pokémon journey.
That being said, once that initial hill has been crossed, it’s smooth sailing then on. With it being a no-holds-barred return to classic Pokémon formula, there’s all the beats to the genre, whether that’s the variety of types and their weaknesses, such as ghost, earth and fire, levelling systems and evolutions, a customisable team of six and so on. Whilst being such a blatant re-hash of another game entirely, it doesn’t come across like Lords of the Fallen did to Dark Souls 2, rather standing tall as a slick monster-catcher with its own quirks and personality.
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Graphics / Art Direction
The first Nexomon was a mobile game and that kind of style has bled into the design of its sequel with large-headed, black-lined sprites and a colourful palette splattered onto vibrant sceneries. It doesn’t do anything particularly new but still looks stunning. The standout noteworthy aspects have to go to the pocket monsters themselves, particularly in fights, as they give Pokémon a run for their money with their beautiful designs and charm. The imposing Graloon in particular oozes similar vibes to Giratina.
On top of that, Nexomon has far more complex battle sceneries with faint silhouettes of towns lingering in the distance as the drop-dead gorgeous sunset blissfully glides over the skyline. That, alongside the crisp animated cutscenes and full-versions of the smaller sprites, and Nexomon succeeds in spades when it comes to telling a visual story in a captivating manner. From the second you load in, the sublime art will sink its teeth into you.
Story / Personality
Whilst a sequel, you won’t have to play the predecessor to get the gist of the story and, if you’ve played Pokémon, it’ll all make sense anyway. You’re a kid in a small town who has grown up to reach the right age to become a trainer – that sentence both sums up every main Pokémon entry and Nexomon – however, the big bad foe of the narrative is a Tyrant, not to be confused with Resident Evil, who wishes to take over the world, not caring who crosses their path. They themselves are a Nexomon. It’s a little cliched, a little generic, but the characters are well-written enough and the cutscenes expressive enough to make it an entertaining and wholesome journey that lasts around twenty hours. Given the price tag, that’s absolutely worthwhile.
Final Score: 78%
If you’re not sold on the major changes made in the latest Pokémon or can’t afford them, Nexomon is a decent alternative. It returns to the genre’s roots, if not a little too much at times, and manages to stay charming and polished rather than stumbling onto the scene as a soulless clone with a bucket beginning for your cash.
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