Finally, Pokémo- I mean Nexomon for your phone
Where do I even start with this game? The TLDR is that Nexomon: Extinction has some fun plateaus and some horrible pitfalls, at least in the mobile version.
There was once a time when Pokémon on my phone would have been crazy exciting to me. The thought of catching Pokémon, battling, and trading with your friends via a smart phone app is great. And while we still don't have straight ports of classic Pokémon games available on mobile, Pokémon has come a long way on phones over the years with games such as Pokémon Go that take advantage of the mobile format. So while maybe in the early iPhone days I would have wished for Pokémon on my phone, I'd argue that we actually got that with Pokémon Go and the myriad of other Pokémon games available for mobile (Unite, Shuffle, the upcoming TCG Live app, etc.).
Nexomon: Extinction is the second Nexomon game in what is sure to at least be a trilogy, and yes, it's 100% trying to be Pokémon. To be fair I think Nexomon is technically the closest Pokémon style game that you can find on the app store if you're looking for that classic monster catching experience. The game is also available on PC/console so I'd say that puts it in direction competition with the core Pokémon series. Does Nexomon: Extinction bring something interesting to the table so that it can compete with Pokémon? Well mostly no, but once in a while yes.
We're going to start off with the good before we get into the bad and the ugly.
Just a ripoff?
Nexomon is indeed trying very hard to be an alternative to Pokémon. It's exactly the same concept - You catch wild Nexomon to add to your party of 6 while you travel from town to town on your quest to save the world. Those wild Nexomon are hiding in patches of grass, there are medical centers to heal your Nexomon, and "tamers" are waiting on the routes between towns to challenge you in battle.
Along your journey you are trying to stop super powerful Nexomon called "tyrants" as they destroy towns in their quest to replace the previous game's enemy - Omnicron.
Incidentally this review is being published in January 2022 so it's just sort of morbidly funny to note that I'm playing this game as COVID-19's omicron variant runs rampant. Coincidence? ANYWAY...
You start off in a small town before being sent into the woods to obtain your first Nexomon... Sound familiar? One thing this game DOES do better than Pokémon is the writing. So much of Pokémon is child-friendly and based solely on a quest to defeat gym leaders in each town. In this game the bosses are city-destroying monsters and the writing is full of memorable characters. Take for instance your cat partner who follows you around everywhere - He is constantly breaking the fourth wall or making fun of the typical JRPG situations you might find yourself in. The writing in this game is often very funny, which is a breath of fresh air for the genre.
The overall story is much more interesting than anything I've seen in the core Pokémon series, but this game also has one other key differentiator going for it as well. Nexomon: Extinction is open world. While the game certainly pushes you in the direction of the story, you can wander off anywhere. The strength of enemy Nexomon scales with the level of your party, so you don't have to worry too much about exploring anywhere you want. That said, I found it pretty easy to get lost. There's no town map or any map system beyond a very high level view when warping to previously visited locations.
Otherwise the battle system is 99% the same as Pokémon. Each monster has 4 moves to choose from, and they are all of varying types with strengths/weaknesses against each other. It's a bit disappointing that Nexomon can only have moves of either their own type or normal types, so no water Nexomon with wind type moves. Instead of limiting the number of times each specific move can be used, your Nexomon has an overall stamina meter and its attacks drain a specific amount from the meter. Once your Nexomon is close to running out of stamina it's highly encouraged to switch out, as reaching 0 stamina will cause the monster to rest for 1 turn which only grants it an additional 10 stamina. Battles and catching Nexomon are fun but you have to remember that this is all based on Pokémon's already established system.
Pocket monsters, but without the charm
There are a staggering 381 Nexomon to collect and they range from cute to ugly to an overall blandness that I found it hard to shake. Just as an example, here are two that I quite like and two that I don't care for:
Cute and semi-original designs - I like these:
Ok now you're just straight copying the answers and changing them a little. I think these designs are lazy and bland:
If anyone reading this knows their Pokémon, or perhaps you're from my local Pokémon Go Discord, you'll know that the latter two above are straight up copies of Fletchling and Totodile (with some Krokorok thrown in). And that's not even including their evolutions.
Perhaps beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I found that I only liked a handful of the Nexomon designs while I actively disliked the rest. Many of them are bland copies of existing Pokémon, although perhaps you could say that about the entire game.
The music in Nexomon: Extinction, with a few exceptions, is also incredibly bland. It will be instantly recognizable that the soundtrack is trying to sound like Pokémon, but I actually found most of the music to be fairly annoying to listen to. At the very least I can tell you that my wife finds the sounds of this game to be annoying.
To give credit to Nexomon's art department however, the battle backgrounds and splash art are gorgeous. The hand drawn artwork really goes a long way in making everything feel alive, although I am less optimistic about the look of the overworld.
All of that said, we actually still haven't talked about the ugly part of this game yet.
The in-app purchases, oh god, the in-app purchases
Alright so I should warn you that up until now I have tried to review Nexomon: Extinction based on its own merits and what is available in the base game. I am playing on mobile, but on PC/console you can buy the full game for $20 MSRP. The price of this game on mobile is totally different, and honestly really unfortunate.
On mobile Nexomon: Extinction is free to download. The game will ask you pretty quickly if you'd like to purchase the full experience for $3 USD - Awesome. My thoughts on the way mobile games are priced aside, I assumed that I was paying for the full game when I paid that price.
Less than one hour into the game you are prompted with the option to buy loot boxes. I actually think the ability to buy shiny/cosmic color variants in a loot box could be an interesting discussion, but I digest, loot boxes aren't a great look. Loot boxes where you simply buy the Nexomon with real money are egregious, but on the flip side I suppose I am more than capable of ignoring loot boxes. I've ignored them in other games and I can ignore them now.
The problem is that loot boxes aren't the only thing you can buy. No, Nexomon: Extinction LOCKS GAME FEATURES BEHIND IN-APP PURCHASES. Are you kidding me? The ability to warp to previously visited locations from anywhere, the ability to change your party without visiting a "Pokécenter", discounts for changing your Nexomon's moves... All locked behind IAP. Not only that, but you can use real money to buy boosters that significantly alter gameplay - There are boosters that increase XP earned, gold earned, attack power, defense power, and more.
Is this why Nexomon doesn't have multiplayer? All of the in-app purchases are horrible. For $20 USD you can even buy an unlimited supply of golden nexotraps which have a 100% catch rate (equivalent to an unlimited supply of master balls in Pokémon). Pay 20 bucks and you don't even have to battle the Nexomon to capture them. All of this just makes me sick.
The next mon game for you?
I actually don't care that Nexomon is trying to use the Pokémon formula. If anything I welcome competition for a developer to step in and make a better version of Pokémon. Nexomon: Extinction has some good elements - The writing is incredibly well done and being able to explore an open world is perfect for this style of game.
However, it's really hard to push past some bland art design and the atrocious use of in-app purchases on mobile. If you do play this game, I highly recommend staying away from the mobile version... Which is unfortunate because this is a website about reviewing mobile games.
The writing is funny and story is often engaging
Open world game design is something that even Pokémon hasn't fully achieved
Bland art design
IAP purchases totally ruin the experience on mobile