In 1996, a lot of parents up and down the country said that those pocket monster games were ‘just a fad’ and will go away like POGs, Tamagotchi, and the strange grow-your-own alien things. Twenty-five years later and this fad has not only evolved into a culture, it is going from strength to strength, becoming one of the highest grossing video game franchises ever. A true test of a fad however, is not only the volume but the quality of knock-off products that spring up, trying to get a slice of the pie. On the face of it, Nexomon from indie studio LimeTurtle Inc (and ported to consoles by Ratalaika Games) may seem like the latest in a long line of monster catcher games but I’m here to tell you that it’s not as straightforward as that.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Tight story|
+ Good character & monster design
+ Visually pleasing
|Negatives||– Clunky menus|
– Annoying music
– Straightforward, unchallenging gameplay
|Price (When Reviewed)||£7.99|
|Our Playtime||15 hours|
|Available On||PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Stadia|
Nexomon is presented as a top down RPG set in a bright and vibrant world where humans and Nexomon – our knock-off pokémon – live in harmony. The humans catch the monsters in the wild and they train together to battle other trainers. It’s all in the name of fun until there is a threat to the way of life. In a typical Japanese video game trope, a child with little to no life experience sets about putting things right, because everyone else seems naive to the issue. If this sounds familiar, you’d be spot on, and it’s not helped by slipping into typical Pokétropes. Nexomon however, does change things up when it comes to the game’s story…
Instead of an introduction from a spunky professor telling you how brilliant it is that monsters are caught and pitted against each other for our own sick entertainment, Nexomon takes things in a different direction that is enough to set the game apart from the competition. I was told that thousands of years ago the Nexomon were at war with the humans. As one power was vying for total control over the planet there was a lot of death and despair, and on the brink of destruction, peace was negotiated and both sides began to live in harmony. Fast forwarding to the present day, King of the Nexomon, Omicron (yes, I found that somewhat ironic too!), wants to seize total power and is gaining an army to restart the war. It’s up to a young child to stop him before things get out of hand. This brutal and bleak outlook was not what I expected when the game’s menu icon shows children and monsters laughing and smiling out in the world.
After an introduction that gave me emotions that I didn’t expect, I was introduced to the bright, colourful Nexoworld. Here I selected my appearance – boy or girl, was introduced to the support characters and got to pick my first monster. This was much more familiar territory but again, something was different… The visuals were absolutely stunning! Environments were crisp and vibrant, characters were bold and unique with a cartoonish charm and the monster designs were surprisingly well put together and distinct. As I moved from the city setting, through high mountains to deep underground environments, the design was a credit to the developers who obviously poured a lot of time making sure the game stood out visually.
Once the pleasantries were taken care of, Nexomon unfortunately started to show it’s cracks as it began to slip into similar tropes to other titles. Adventuring through the Nexoworld involves fighting and catching monsters and building a team of six. As the monsters fight, you can exploit different elemental strengths and weaknesses. When they’ve gained enough experience, they evolve into more powerful beings. Along the way, you find trainers who can be battled for experience and coins. If my team ever needed to recharge after a day’s battle, a trip to the NexoCentre would be in order to heal my team.
It’s very by-the-books and once I found the story objective, which usually consisted of speaking to a powerful trainer that you had to battle, more of the story was unlocked. This pattern was repeated until the game’s credits rolled. Granted, the first major boss is rather tongue-in-cheek, being the owner of a gym where people get buff, and other bosses are presented in different ways, but in essence I was sent from one point to another, then another, (etc.) until the end of the game. After such a strong introduction, it was disappointing to see Nexomon instantly slipped into a Pokéclone rhythm. The game could have benefited with a more open approach where you could travel to any town and find things to do, or having additional objectives, but ultimately I was told where to go and once I completed it, I was directed to the next location in the map.
Unfortunately, the lineartrack approach to Nexomon isn’t the only thing holding it back. The game’s key mechanic – catching monsters – is an unbalanced mess that left me staring at the screen in both anger and confusion. Much like the story, things start off in a familiar fashion; battle a monster and when its HP gets low enough, throw a Nexotrap at it and bag the critter. Except as far as I could tell, grabbing a monster was based on dumb luck more than anything else. Too many times I had a monster with little HP and I still ended up wasting fifteen traps. Even using status effects like sleep, didn’t seem to make a jot of difference. To test the theory further, I started chucking traps as soon as I walked into battle and instantly had more success.
The hours of frustration trying to catch monsters, compounded by listening to the repetitive 30 second snippet that passes as battle music, doesn’t let up at all. All three hundred and ten monsters appear in one version of Nexomon, so if *ahem* catching them all is your primary aim, then you’ll have no choice but to grind, grind, and grind some more. Luckily the Nexopedia, which should have been called the NexoDex, provides information about if a monster evolves and at what level (there are no special stones to rub on your team), and while the post-main story content allows for a faster grind, for the completionists it will still take a while.
The lack of multiplayer in Nexomon feels like a double edged sword. On the one hand, I concentrated on my own experience and got through everything the game threw at me, but not being able to trade monsters, or battle against other real players felt like Nexomon was missing something. Perhaps that’s to do with the community Nintendo have built around their franchise but it ultimately felt like collecting all of the monsters was a fruitless endeavour, as I’d never be able to share or battle with them once the game was completed.
Nexomon isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, the story is surprisingly well thought out and the game does look rather impressive. Yes, the lack of trading and PvP battles removes a depth to Nexomon that other franchises are known for and it leaves a void in the experience. But, to its credit, all of the monsters can be caught without the aid of requiring two different versions (I’m looking at you Nintendo) of the game and the story really does engage in a way that other similar games don’t dare to tread.
Despite all of the shortcomings, Nexomon is a fun video game to play, especially factoring in the cost of the game. Even at it’s full price, there is a compact RPG that you can play and enjoy the visuals and story. There is a tough grind that feels like a slog early on, but this isn’t a game that offers more than 30 hours of gameplay, nor does it pretend to. The simplicity of the gameplay means that even after an extended break away from playing, which is probably caused by using the stock of twenty Nexotraps, you’re always able to pick up where you left off with relative ease.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.
Remember in the 1990s when your mum was saying that all of these monster battling video games were just a ‘fad’? Well mother, looks like you were wrong as the genre is still going strong today. Nexomon is the latest game where you catch cute critters and pit them against others in order to bring peace in the world, and it’s coming to consoles in September.Read On