Nexomon: Extinction Review — A Tame Monster
If someone told you about a monster-catching game in which you play as a young child exploring a big world while taking on challenges to become a stronger tamer, you’d probably think they were describing Pokemon.
Enter Nexomon: Extinction instead, a sequel to the original Nexomon game, although you'd be forgiven for thinking it's another Pokemon.
Like its predecessor, Nexomon: Extinction unfolds in a dynamic world with an interesting story to tell. It has the potential to be a unique monster taming game in its own right — which makes its attachment to Pokemon that much more baffling and unnecessary.
Nexomon: Extinction Review — A Tame Monster
In classic RPG fashion, Nexomon: Extinction starts with a flash-forward to a terrible event where the protagonist has somehow “betrayed” their colleagues and brought destruction to the world. As you start questioning what’s going on and why, everything snaps back to the present.
The great traitor is just one among a handful of orphans picked every year for training with the Guild, and Guild tamers operate out of the nearby capital city, with the primary goal of protecting the capital from vicious Nexomon. Unlike in Pokemon, Nexomon’s critters would be perfectly happy destroying all traces of human civilization and has done so in the past.
Events take a bit of a detour before getting to the capital, though, with a loose tie into the first Nexomon game and plenty of foreshadowing about the plot and how it develops. Nexomon: Extinction’s story doesn’t shock and awe, and it’s mostly predictable.
The flash-forward at the beginning and the events surrounding your first Nexomon add a nice element of tension. Even when you can guess what’s going to happen, it still unfolds in a satisfying way.
It also makes the world of Nexomon: Extinction interesting. The fight between humans and Nexomon leaves visible scars all over the landscape, and the Guild members and other high-ranking tamers scattered throughout the world serve as an ever-present reminder of how dangerous the world is.
Not that you need much of a reminder. Nexomon: Extinction and its war between humans and Nexomon get pretty dark at times, at least for a monster taming game.
All the lore and talk of humans on the brink of destruction actually serves a purpose the further you progress in the game. While the worldbuilding itself doesn’t get under your skin quite like Monster Crown does, Nexomon: Extinction puts its setting to good use, coming closer to the Digimon anime.
Anime or an older Saturday morning cartoon works as a good description for Nexomon: Extinction in general. It presents you with a vibrant world and events that, even though they aren’t strictly linear, do unfold in an episodic way.
It’s also full of wacky personalities, some who just exist to add flavor to the world and some who end up joining the story for more important roles. No one gets too much of the detailed treatment, but like a story arc in Pokemon, it’s just enough to keep you interested and to move the action forward.
Most of the time, it's funny, too. Nexomon: Extinction wears its inspirations on its sleeves so it can poke fun at them. Your friend Coco exists pretty much just to explode the fourth wall, though some other NPCs do it too.
Comments about RPG story tropes, game-y things like showing items off to the world, even poking holes in its own story and characters at times — nothing is sacred in Nexomon: Extinction.
These jokes land well, for the most part, although they’re a bit too frequent early on. The non-fourth-wall-breaking dialogue also relies a bit much on negativity at times, though both issues become less prevalent later on.
In short, Nexomon: Extinction is a story based monster RPG that adds more RPG than most. It gets dicier with gameplay, though.
Nexomon: Extinction wears its gameplay inspirations just as openly as it does with story inspirations. If you’ve played Pokemon, you know what to expect for the most part.
Tamers have teams of up to six Nexomon at a time, wander about small, restricted paths, and battle each other. Nexomon span a number of different types that aren’t named after Pokemon types but may as well be. And as you’d expect, there’s a rock, paper, scissors system governing strengths and weaknesses.
Battles play out in the usual way. Pick an attack, bam. Get attacked, ouch.
A couple of features shake the formula up and keep it interesting. One of them is the Core system. You can buy or create Cores of different types to augment your Nexomon’s powers or boost the experience it receives.
Nexomon skills tend to have more status effects attached to them than Pokemon or Digimon skills, so there’s a slight extra element of strategy in each encounter.
Battles are still a bit too basic, more like miniature wars of attrition than anything requiring a lot of planning. Moves, even ones with power stats of 120 or more, don’t dish out that much damage, so even basic battles take four turns or more. Fortunately, they move fast enough where it’s not a huge problem.
Tamer opponents eagerly challenge you to rematches, which is good because you need all the experience you can get. The Guild and its mission give a good reason for why random tamers wander the world too, unlike Pokemon.
You know that Picnicker never stands a chance at taking on the Elite Four, but the Guild uses tamers of all skill levels for a variety of different tasks. Running into them makes sense.
And they play a bigger role apart from battle fodder. Part of your role as a Guild tamer is solving problems and handling requests from NPCs. The Guild assigns you most of the major ones, but there are a good many other smaller requests you can take on, things like trading Nexomon, obtaining items for something good in return, or a few little mini-game side quests leading to treasure.
What they’re doing and where changes from time to time. For example, one bridge early on is completely devoid of human activity. A short while later, it’s full of people chatting, playing jump rope, and just being. It’s a small, simple touch that makes Nexomon feel alive in a way more games should copy.
Speaking of copy, it’s impossible to talk about Nexomon without mentioning how it obviously copies Pokemon. Battle style, catching mechanics — minus a little button input segment Nexomon adds — types, even how Nexomon look and evolve all come straight from Pokemon.
It even pulls item names from Game Freak's creation. Potion and Super Potion might as well come straight out of Pokemon. Ether and Elixir are common enough items in RPGs, but Nexomon's function exactly the same as Pokemon's.
Then there's Revive, an item with plenty of alternative names to pick from without sounding like the same thing you'd buy at a PokeMart.
Sure, you're just as likely to see these items in other games. But when Nexomon: Extinction is so similar to Pokemon anyway, it makes the name choices stand out more, and not in a good way.
I’m not sure why it's like this either. Nexomon’s setting and style are strong enough to establish their own identity, but with holdovers like these and a lack of differentiation in some other key respects, it’s almost like Vewo wants people to see Nexomon as a budget knockoff.
Positioning it as an old-school monster catcher doesn’t help. It’s not all that old-school outside of higher difficulty, but the higher difficulty feels artificial.
It’s challenging because your Nexomon need a ridiculously high number of experience points to level up, points the game restricts to give a sense of heightened difficulty. Even a level five ‘mon defeating a level eight Nexomon earns maybe a quarter of the points it needs to level up.
Challenge is good, but it should be organic. Expect to grind more than you might want to.
Nexomon: Extinction Review — The Bottom Line
- More RPG elements than most monster catchers
- Good, if predictable, story
- Fun characters and mostly fun writing
- It's classic monster-catching gameplay, but not tied to Nintendo systems
- Sense of challenge is artificial
- Old school doesn't have to mean grindy
- Too reliant on Pokémon to stand out on its own
- Some of the jokes get stale fast, and the tone strays into negative a bit too often
Nexomon: Extinction has plenty to offer for just $19.99, even if a chunk of it is grinding. But for whatever reason, it's not willing to forge a new path and let go of its inspirations completely.
It doesn't make Nexomon: Extinction a bad game — by any means. It's just not as good as it could be.
[Note: PQube provided a digital copy of Nexomon: Extinction for the purpose of this review.]